Excuse a picky point, but as a writer I know that an individual word used correctly can be powerful and used incorrectly can entirely lead one astray.
So it is with the word stage which I have noted being used twice lately to refer to the part of the worship center (sanctuary) that used to be called a chancel.
Now, I know that chancel is not necessarily understood, especially by those who worship in non-liturgical churches that are light on symbolism.
According to Wikipedia the chancel is ‘the space around the altar in the sanctuary at the liturgical…end of a traditional Christian church building, possibly including the choir.”
In other words, it the space in the front where the pastor preaches, the choir sings, the band plays, mini-dramas are produced.
Or, in more common, contemporary terms it is the stage.
Except, it is not.
Again, according to Wikipedia, a stage is “a space for the performance of theatrical productions.” I suppose you could substitute musical for theatrical and still maintain the same definition.
And therein lies the problem.
A stage is something used in an entertainment venue. It’s where the actors act, the musicians play, the expert lectures. And all of the focus is on the stage and the people and events that take place there. While a drama, a concert, a speech may bring to mind things outside, the people or events on the stage are what draw attention and stay in our mind.
Which is not what our corporate worship is all about.
We assemble in a church, an auditorium, a large hall to worship the Lord God Almighty and his redeeming activity through Jesus Christ. We are there to remember Him, to proclaim His mighty acts, to hear His word, and to commit ourselves to Him.
No more, no less.
While the actors, musicians, speakers, films etc. are the focus of attention on a stage, God, our father is the focus and recipient of our worship.
Yes, there are people up front in worship. They lead us in worship, encourage our singing of praises, guide us in prayer, preach the Gospel from His word, and offer us a time of commitment.
But they are merely directors, enablers, behind-the-scenes technicians. Their job is to motivate us and lead us through the entire worship experience which is directed only at God.
So, here is a thought. Might it not be better to place at least some of those leaders out of sight so that we are focused only on God and not on those leading?
Many churches with classic architecture placed their magnificent pipe organ on a balcony at the rear. Around it is often an area for a choir if there was one.
So, here is a novel idea to think about: Instead of watching a choral group sing and dance, or band strumming away up front, could we consider placing our instrumentalists of any type in the back of the auditorium, leaving the front, chancel, stage (if you must) free from distraction and allowing us to focus on the Lord himself?
Perhaps the less we focus on the front area and the activities of people there, the more we will get away from the concept of a stage and the better we will, indeed, enter a time of praising God, worshiping Him, hearing His word, and committing ourselves to Him.
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