A while back, a reader named Brad sent me this question: We seem to be developing a debate at our church in regards to turning down the house lights to “set the mood” for better worship. What is your take on that for church lighting?
Later I received this about church lighting from another reader, Jeremy:
I was wondering if you could offer any commentary regarding the use of lights at any of the WorshipGod conferences. I have memories going back to the “Psalms” conference [in 2008]. In each of the conference settings, it has struck me that the lights in the house are left active during the music-worship time of gatherings. Is that intentional? Is that unintentional? Is it because no one is available to run a lights scheme?
Glad you asked. Yes, we do have someone available to run a lights scheme, and yes, leaving the lights up is intentional.
A Very Brief History of Church Lighting
Churches have been meeting with little to no light for centuries. In pre-dawn and night services they depended on candles or torches, or met by moonlight. With the advent of electricity, churches that had once gathered in darkness could now meet to the glow of bulbs and lamps.
Some time in the late ’90s youth meetings started experimenting with dimly lit rooms. Leaders reasoned that near-darkness made teens feel less noticed and more comfortable. Low lights would give unbelievers an opportunity to hear the gospel.
Enter the world of rock concerts, seeker sensitive churches and modern lighting. We can control lights in every possible way, including the percentage of light in the room. We can focus lights. We can flash lights. We can color lights. We can cause lights to move. We can widen and narrow lights. For the first time in history we can use all the light we’d ever want or need.
But we don’t.
More and more churches have chosen to turn down the house lights when the congregation sings. Search for “worship” in Google images, and the majority are mostly dark or shadows.