I have a confession:
I struggle to sit in a worship service these days.
Churches no longer resemble churches.
Curtains are drawn to block out natural light.
The spotlight is on the singer at the front.
Some churches take it a step further and include smoke machines, a light show for the stage and a background screen showing various camera angles of the worship team (in case you can't adore them enough from your perspective in the pew).
How did we get here?
How did this become acceptable in mainstream Christianity?
Should we blame churches like Hillsong and Bethel for popularizing rock concert Christianity?
It's become such an issue for me that I often walk outside during worship and get some sunshine while the congregation worships in a blackened hall.
The symbolism is striking.
I thought I was alone in thinking like this but a quick Google search brings up many results of people concerned about the same thing so I know it's not just me.
This is my time with God!
I've posed the question of darkened worship to numerous church leaders.
This is the most common response I hear:
"It allows worshippers to focus on God without getting distracted."
At first glance, this sounds logical.
Let people focus on their intimacy with God.
But is that what Christianity teaches? When did corporate worship become about "your intimacy with the Lord" and "avoiding distractions" from people around you?
Here's the truth:
Church should be 100% about you getting distracted.
The people sitting around you should be a welcome distraction - that's what you're there for. You're there to be part of community and to break bread with fellow believers.
In fact, a truly authentic church service should be almost entirely a group of people engaging with each other in conversation, prayer and a meal.
Church has become a selfish and self-absorbed, feel-good experience.
The music (including the lyrics to most modern worship songs) and the lighting are all designed to make you feel completely disconnected from the community around you.
Community has become a "distraction" from the fuzzies we get from our intimate God time in the dark.
Traditional churches saw the beauty in natural light
Compare today's trends with some of the old, beautiful churches and cathedrals.
How did previous generations value light in worship?
Some of the most beautiful and ornate stained glass windows were positioned above the altar and all around the building to let as much natural light into the building as possible.
They rightly included sunlight as part of the worship experience - sunlight reminds us of the glory of God.
Even today in 2019, when you stand in a centuries old cathedral and look up at the stained glass artwork with the sun shining through it, it takes your breath away.
It invokes awe.
Why have we moved away from this?
Don't put your lamp under a bowl
"Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." - Matt. 5:15
We still (for now) live in a time where public worship is legally permitted.
Why not open the curtains and let the lost see people worshipping God together, breaking bread and loving each other?
On the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the believers, scripture says there was a crowd outside that heard what was going on, and were "utterly amazed" (Acts 2:7).
So that means that wherever the believers were having "church", outsiders were able to spectate.
Now, I want you to imagine this:
Imagine if the believers were in a dark room, hidden away from spectators who couldn't witness what the Holy Spirit was doing in the meeting.
Would those three thousand people have been saved that day?
God is light.
We are carriers of that light.
Church should never be a place of darkness.