Media in its many forms is a part of the modern world. As such, it can be a great tool to use within modern worship services, but it can also be a great distraction within a worship service, just as it can be a distraction in any context when it is not used within proper boundaries. People from different generations or different denominations will have varying opinions as to the role that media should play within our worship. There is no way to achieve total unity of opinion on this topic, but there are some biblical guidelines to consider that may help us define the role that media can fill within the context of a worship service.
God instructed the Israelites to not worship in the same manner or location as the pagans (Deuteronomy 12:1–5). They had specific ways and restrictions in which they were allowed to worship and approach God. There was a veil in the temple that only the high priest could pass through once a year to reach God in the Holy of Holies. When Jesus was crucified and died, the veil in the temple was torn in half from the top down, symbolizing a shift in our access to God (Matthew 27:51). We are now able to worship God in spirit and truth and draw near to His throne with confidence at any time (John 4:23; Hebrews 4:16).
The New Testament describes some of the ways the early church worshiped:
Prayed (1 Corinthians 14:15–16),
Sang (Ephesians 5:19),
Gave offerings (1 Corinthians 16:2),
Read the Scriptures (Colossians 4:16), and
Took communion, the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7).
The early church used whatever they had and found a way to honor God with it. In a similar way, we should use what is available to us and find a way to use it to bring honor to God. This means it is okay for us to utilize modern media such as video clips, PowerPoint presentations, or special songs in our worship services, provided we are using it in a way that enhances the focus on God.
Our worship services should help us to draw near to God, keep our hearts set on faith and hope, and spur us on to good deeds, love, and encouragement of one another (Hebrews 10:19–25). The use of media within worship services should serve the same purposes listed above: draw our focus to God, keep our hearts full of faith and hope, and encourage us to love and do good to one another.
Jesus shared parables, stories that illustrate a point, in many of His teachings (Mark 4:34). In a modern setting, a minister could utilize media in the form of a movie clip, for instance, to exemplify a point he is making. Both parables and any type of media can serve as a means by which people can more easily understand the truths of God's kingdom. The important thing is to choose media that is edifying. If choosing to utilize media clips, make sure that the root source of the clip is not profane or vulgar, so as to not set an unwise example of what type of media is acceptable to consume. While all things may be permissible, not all things are wise (1 Corinthians 10:23–24).
Media does not need to be used in a worship service, but things like having the words to the songs or the Bible reference being used projected on the screen can be helpful. On the other hand, asking congregants to bring their Bibles or look at the references in a Bible provided in the pews might be seen as beneficial in encouraging people to read the Bible for themselves. Different people will have different opinions on what type of media is useful and what type of media is distracting. Open conversation and seeking compromise with one another and wisdom from the Lord should help churches having a difference of opinion within their membership. Above all, "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Ephesians 4:3, NIV).
The use of media should by no means be prohibited, but the main thing is to ensure that the media is not being used in a way that would detract from the worship of God. When utilizing media in a worship service, ask: What is the motive behind using it? Does it enhance the worship or serve to illustrate a point during the sermon? If so, by all means include it. But, on the other hand, does it distract from the purpose it was intended to enhance? Take a pause and reconsider. Media should not be used to make a church appear more "relevant" or "trendy" or to manufacture a specific emotion. Instead, media should be utilized in a functional way to serve a useful purpose within the service and point people to God.
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