Why We Sing With the Lights On

singing at church

I’m a pastor at a church plant primarily comprised of Millennials in an up-and-coming city. Our church is a prime candidate for loud, attractive music sung in a dimly lit room with an impressive worship team. Yet the music sung in our service isn’t loud, not necessarily attractive, and though it is extremely impressive to us, it wouldn’t be so to many outside our congregation. Furthermore, when singing at church, we are in a completely lit room; no lasers, no candles, no dimmed lights or anything of the sort.

Strategies for Singing at Church

While this might sound strange to some who find themselves in the same age bracket as our congregants, we do it on purpose—out of conviction. So then, why do we sing with the lights on and why would I consider this important enough to be the topic of this article? Here are a few reasons:

1. Fellow members are evidence of grace   

Part of the wonder that comes when we sing in a congregational setting is the opportunity to sing alongside the trophies of God’s grace—His church. When singing at church, you get to lift up your voice with once dead sinners who’ve been made alive in Christ and the words should have a fresh meaning. The brothers and sisters who are next to you singing on Sunday morning, like you, are miracles of God’s saving grace. It would be a shame if you couldn’t witness them praise the author and sustainer of their faith for the sake of mood lighting.

There is something utterly soul-stirring about watching a struggling member, with whom you’ve walked through self-hate and guilt, sing these words with passion:

“When Satan tempts me to despair

and tells me of the guilt within,

upward I look to see him there,

who made an end of all my sin.”

To watch that new believer who was baptized only a few months ago sing of the joy they’ve found in Jesus serves as an encouragement to you, and it could be a catalyst for your church’s continued evangelism. Whatever gain there might be in lowering the lights during worship, it’s hard to imagine the advantages of a dim room could outweigh the wonder found when you observe blood-bought saints around you praise their King.

2. Christianity and the corporate reality

By the grace of God, I’ve witnessed the mindset of individualistic faith take a major hit in the past few years. Singing in a fully lit room can act as another dagger to our hearts prone to self-centered faith. One of the arguments for a dimly lit room during service is to eliminate distractions so that the attendee can focus on what they sing to Jesus. Yet I fear that in our attempt to eliminate distractions we’ve also eliminated the corporate reality of worship.

Christianity is a corporate faith where we all march together toward the Promised Land. It is in this corporate identity that we are given the charge to “see to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God” (Hebrews 12:15). Those fellow members that you might be tempted to count as distractions are the very ones who will make sure that you don’t die on the banks of the Promised Land.

It’s not lost on me that singing in a room with the lights on won’t win back the beauty of the corporate reality of the Christian faith, yet it’s a step, and it acts as an incredible lesson for the body of Christ.

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Ronni Kurtz is the Pastor of Teaching and Equipping at Emmaus Church, a church in the metro of Kansas City, Missouri. He is also a student in the PhD program at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is happily married to Kristen Kurtz. You can follow him on Twitter @RonniKurtz