The Idolatry of Image: Worship in a Digital Age

jesusbathroomphotoIn a time where many things are done digitally, or in “the cloud,” it’s no wonder that worship practices have followed in the same vain. Image is what it’s all about. At the heart of what it means to live in a Digital Age is how many times someone notices you, likes your status, shares your comment, or yes, views your new look. Vanity of vanities? Some churches in a spirit of self-promotion look for various ways to showcase their image. They put together “worship packages” with a heart breaking story of one man’s journey from cocaine to Christ. Another puts their books and music in the church’s store hoping for recognition. Others simply attempt to draw crowds in with their production; the lights, the sound, and the action. We crave it and want more of it.

But is all this image sensory helpful?

Nothing is wrong with a man who overcomes addiction through faith in Christ.
Nothing is wrong with recognition so long as it isn’t boastfully sought.
Nothing is wrong with productions.

Nothing is wrong with these things, but as they relate to worship perhaps not so much. Don’t get me wrong, we can and should preach about the mercy and grace of God that brings sinners out of addiction and into the assurance of Christ’s love and forgiveness! But should we have a video clip of it at church? We can be recognized for a good works, even at church, but should worship be centered around the inspiring works of men or Christ’s inspiring work and Word? We can enjoy productions at plays, but ought worship have the same theater like showmanship?

Lutheran liturgy invites sinners to hear God, to be known by and know God. Liturgies of image want you to experience God, yes perhaps even to hear His Word, but image based worship is just that, all image no real substance. In this way, seeker sensitive churches can show you God, but to be known by and know God yourself is unattainable. To “be a good Christian” in a Digital Age you must put on the image of a perfect life. Or worse, you are encouraged in your doubts because being a Christian isn’t about answers but the journey. What does the end of that journey look like? This is worship in a Digital Age, where how we see ourselves as Christians (perfect or journeying along) is more important than knowing we are Christians! Faithful worship, and the best liturgies of the Church, are founded in knowing God knows you. After all, you were created in the image of God. Snapchat that!

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