The year is 2015. It’s the year that, according to Back to the Future II, we were supposed to have hoverboards. With the common schoolyard lore being that we were always only a couple years away from having the right technology, I’ve been waiting to get my hands on a hoverboard since 1989.
In fact, by October 21 this year, we were supposed to have flying cars, jackets that auto-adjust to our sizes, and the kids these days were supposed to be wearing their pants inside out. Not exactly the case. However, cars are beginning to drive for themselves, we all carry computers in our pockets, and scientists at MIT are claiming they are close to being able to create a real-life lightsaber, just like in Star Wars.
The obvious question is, “How are you going to use a lightsaber in your worship service?”
Here at worship leader we have long highlighted the distinction between “idol” and “icon” as a valuable one. An icon, such as a stained-glass window or a beautiful refrain of a worship song, points attention to God. It is masterfully crafted and intricately designed, but it has a purpose: direct attention and glory to God.
An idol, on the other hand, has no such intentions. The purpose of an idol is to point to anything other than God. Idols usually point to themselves, but sometimes they can be sneaky in sending our attention in a hundred different directions.
So again, “How are you going to use a lightsaber in your worship service?” Will it be an idol or an icon?
Our current issue of Worship Leader is basically a list of amazing things for you to use as you lead your congregation. Products, resources, websites, shiny new toys, and more guitars to add to your probably-already-too-big collection. But theoretically, it is more than that. It is a list of possible icons to help worship leaders point to God. Do you need all, or even any, of those things to accomplish this? Absolutely not. But similar to artists throughout history, we have the opportunity to develop Christian devotional and worship arts in conjunction with cultural developments. In fact, this is a responsibility for many of us.
Of course, forms of prayer will always change. But the essence of prayer and its centrality to engagement with God will endure forever. The mission then for each of us is a common one. We don’t need to vilify technology or worship resources. But we do need to prayerfully implement our cultural tools understanding that, with poor stewardship, every item we use has the potential to become an idol rather than an icon.
So, lightsabers for cutting the communion bread? Maybe not. But visual technology that lets us illuminate Scripture and lyrics with dramatic, immersive pictures representing the life of Christ? Why not? Experiment, communicate, be careful, but also be adventurous. When we worship, we take part in the most exciting, powerful, and dangerous story in the history of the world. And it’s not happening in a galaxy far, far away. It’s here, and it’s now.
Jeremy Armstrong is the managing editor for Worship Leader magazine. Subscribe today!