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Visual Scripture
By: Jason Moore

There’s no doubt that we live in a visual culture, and that culture has become less and less interested in the institutional church. While we have the most powerful story to tell, the way in which we tell it is often the least powerful way for the time in which we live.

Quite often, the reading of scripture in worship is the least engaging moment of all. Rather than approaching scripture as story, scripture is often shared in a dry, emotionless way or done as a broken, monotone, congregational reading.

With screens so prevalent in worship now, the most common approach to scripture in worship is to just put the text on the screen and hope that people read along. 

Are any of those methods really very effective for our visual culture? Probably not.

In the informal polling we do in our Creative Worship seminar, the vast majority of participants identify themselves as visual learners when given the choice between, seeing, hearing, and reading.

While the screen is a visual medium, it can be used in non-visual ways. Reading from paper and reading from the screen are basically the same thing. The only difference is the direction the eyes are pointing.

While verses on the screen or readings won’t completely prevent people from learning from scripture, a more effective approach would be to create what we call “Visual Scripture.”

Sometimes this is as simple as creating an image that represents the story.

For example, instead of showing the text of Philip and the Ethiopian, show an image of a road to Jerusalem, which creates a visual backdrop and invites people to place themselves into the biblical story, rather than remain detached, simply analyzing the story.

By doing so, people begin to make greater connections to the biblical story than they do whenever playing the bouncing-ball-on-text game that having blocks of type on the screen can create. Of course, you can always place the text in the program or bulletin for those who want to follow along word-by-word.

Another more advanced and possibly more effective approach would be to create a video backdrop with key words being emphasized throughout the reading. One example is a piece I created for Ginghamsburg church, where I serve on the worship design team.

To make the scripture more experiential/engaging, one of our team members created a script based on Psalm 145. I recorded, edited, and synced the script with an inspiring music bed. Key words and phrases were then added to the piece to facilitate reflection.

In the live worship setting, the narration of the video was removed and several “readers” read the scripture in sync with the video. The experience was captivating. This fresh approach to scripture really brought it to life.

Jason Moore is a founding partner of Midnight Oil Productions, www.midnightoilproductions.com.

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