Eyes Open

“I loved OUTCRY this year,” he said, “but I just think it was too produced for a worship event. Just too much.”

Have you ever had a log-jam of thoughts? So many things flying through your brain that you end up saying nothing? Or just frowning and nodding like an idiot? That was me that day.

As I stood in that circle of people I respected and looked up to, I was so surprised by this comment that my brain froze. I thought “Too much for Jesus? Does more production mean less heart?”

We’ve all heard the comments. Worship services that are “too distracting” or “not tasteful” or (my personal favorite) “too much of a show.”

But does a gifted lighting director or stage designer not have a place in worship? What about gifted producers, graphic designers or video editors?

Is worship only genuine when you put less effort into production?

Kari Jobe has always been such an inspiration to me. Over the years I have been a part of nearly 50 events with her and Cody, and have seen such a genuine heart for Jesus and purity in worship. I’ve also seen an amazing amount of creativity and boundary pushing in her art.

I recently went to her Garden tour. Everything about it was so thought through. The video content was amazing. The flow was purposeful. The pre-show music was garden sounds as you entered. They even pumped a scent into the air when they started! And her opening comments struck something deep inside that I’ve been longing to hear.

“Tonight, we have put a lot of thought and intention into everything. The video and graphics have all been designed to take you on a journey. Tonight, try worshipping with your eyes open.”

With your eyes open.

God cares about art. He cares about beauty. He created it. And when artists in the church are released to dream and execute with excellence, the message of Jesus is amplified and glorified through his bride in new and compelling ways.

In Exodus, we catch a glimpse of God’s heart for intentional art. Art that doesn’t just look good, but it means something. And artists who are filled with the spirit of God to accomplish their calling.

See, I have called by name Bezalel.. And I have filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship,  to design artistic works…and I have put wisdom in the hearts of all the gifted artisans, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tabernacle of meeting, the ark of the Testimony and the mercy seat that is on it..

–Exodus 31:2-7–

The tabernacle and the ark were highly produced visual art commissioned by God. It was authentic and intentionally-created with excellence. Both of these occupied the same space.

Authenticity and production are not mutually exclusive. The heart and intention behind production matters, but the production in front of the heart and intention matters too.

Church, let’s stop pinning authenticity and production against each other. They can—and should—occupy the same space in a healthy and authentic way.

The more grace and freedom we allow one another, the more beauty and diversity we will see in our churches. Ultimately, we will see the church take her rightful place as the most creative family on earth telling the greatest story in history.

Ryan Romeo
Ryan Romeo lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife, Blake, and their three children. He is a founding member and Creative Director for OUTCRY.

More information at ryanromeo.com
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