Separation, Reunion, Gospel, and Video
This week’s offering connects directly with my other blog at www.paulclarkjr.com that is written with a bit more general readership in mind, since I have regular readers from many faith traditions, locations, and that would have no knowledge of churches and/or individual names or stories of Tennessee Baptists. Nevertheless, I wanted to further explore the “Separation – Reunion – Gospel” theme with you who are generally a little closer to home. In this blog, as we reflect on renewing worship in our churches, our contextual setting can be viewed more particularly. In the other blog I have written in response to a movie I saw this weekend, Red Tails. In this essay I want to consider worship in our churches a little more closely, though I wish to consider where movies fit into our church worship contexts as well.
Granted, we can all probably think of people or things from which we might like some separation. Generally, though, separation hurts. Applied to those we love, it is especially painful. Applied to our spiritual foundation, our Lord Himself, separation is the most horrid thought possible. The fallen nature of the world promotes results in that which separates. There was no darker hour than this:
Around the ninth hour, Jesus shouted in a loud voice, saying “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” which is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46
Then we have the power of our Loving Heavenly Father and the redemptive work of Christ in whom all things hold together. (Col 1:17) Gospel! Good news! We were dead (separated) in our sin but we have been redeemed (reunited) in Jesus, and He has given us the ministry of reconciliation. So powerful, is the Gospel message. And it is resplendent in life stories around us. I think about (and yes, get emotional about) my dear brothers and sisters in Christ who have adopted children; David and Heather Platt, Todd and Amy Brady, Jon and Angie Tyler, Andy and Charity Morris, Justin and Allyson Barden, to name a few. There is Gospel here; separation and reunion, the Lord bringing resolution.
I want to encourage your thinking in relation to what we use in our worship services and how we use them if I may. These things tend to cycle, but consider; in recent years there has been a trend in churches who are technically equipped, of using movie clips in worship. Some of these come from popular movies, some from a so-called Christian film industry, and some from church media teams who have made video either for their own use or for a growing commercial market of sermon illustrations and the like. Churches film testimonies for play in worship. All of these have been and still can be used in positive ways in Christian worship. My experience has been that we have churches of all shapes and sizes in Tennessee Baptist life who make use of all of these applications. I have several things I use in my own presentations and work of encouraging worship renewal in our churches. They can certainly be effective.
As with music and all art forms, someone needs to monitor the quality of message and medium in these forms. Just because something is attractive, does not mean the message is clear. Powerful effect can be induced by musical scheme, dramatic lighting changes, and simple volume changes, but none of these assure Gospel centrality in the use of video in worship. If that centrality is not obvious in a clip itself, then it seems that care needs to be exercised to follow with some explanation whether spoken, written, or demonstrated in other ways. In fact, I wonder if our worship were more effective in forming our people into Christ-followers and worshipers, if those worshipers would not then be better equipped to see Christ in the movies they attend at the theater, books they read from the bookstore, and songs they hear on the radio or concert hall. I wonder if we should spend more spiritual, emotional, and artistic energy in that direction, and less on getting Hollywood techniques into our worship services.
Worship planners, leaders, musicians, let us be diligent to keep the Gospel central in our worship as we worship in spirit and truth.