Worshipping in the Dark: Why I Turn Off the Lights

During my time as a pastor who leads worship on a weekly basis, I’ve tried many different things to help people meet with God on our Sunday morning worship service. Despite recent criticisms, I’m not ready to stop going to church regularly, and it’s for many different reasons than simply because they pay me. One of the most recent things I’ve tried to do is to create a better environment in which people are able to connect with God easier and without distractions. The way churches are currently set up it’s incredibly hard to get away from all the focus being on me as the worship leader, but there are some ways I try to keep the focus off of me, and one of the things I’ve started doing is turning off the lights during the worship through music on Sunday mornings. Here are some of the reasons I’ve started doing so:

1. It eliminates the distractions of those around you.

When the sanctuary is dark, it helps you to focus on what you’re singing instead of the kids fidgeting next to you, or the person sitting down, or the person raising their hands. It has seemed to help created a place where people feel free to be more expressive in their singing. Yes, I’ve addressed before that we should be “addressing one another” (Eph 5:19) in our singing, but that doesn’t mean we need to be able to see each other perfectly.

2. It gives you more freedom to worship as you would like.

This is tied in to the above note, if you aren’t as concerned that people will be looking at you, you’ll feel more free to express yourself, whether you’d like to raise your hands, or kneel, or even sing louder because people won’t be staring at you.

3. It keeps the focus on the cross.

At the church I serve, it literally does this as the cross is the focal point of the front of our sanctuary. The main things you see up front are the words to the music and the cross. It helps to eliminate our selfish wants and desires and should point them to the cross, where our needs and wants find their fulfillment.

One of the things I’m emphasized before on this blog is the “others” aspect of our weekly gatherings (Heb 10:25, Eph 5:17-21). We are generally too focused on our own wants and the music and sound we want and not focused enough on those around us we are called to minister to through our singing. So the natural question arises: “aren’t the reasons you just gave selfish and individual focused?” Yes and no.

I want people to be able to feel free to connect with God through whatever means is most natural to them. Some people are naturally more expressive than others (watch a Matt Chandler sermon, then go watch a John Piper or David Platt sermon), so when people are able to connect with God better on an individual level, it encourages the whole body to be more engaged with God. And the worship of God isn’t just audible, but should involve our whole bodies, which is part of the reason we stand when we sing.

This isn’t a complete list of reasons why I turn the lights off when we sing, but I’d love to hear any other thoughts on why or why not you do this.

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