Visual worship has long been an element of the Christian faith. The natural beauty of Creation has been an inspiration from the beginning of time… The nation of Israel focused its eyes on the Tabernacle and the Temple… Medieval Christians valued icons and relics… And throughout the Middle Ages, into the Modern Age, the Church developed elaborate cathedrals with stained-glass windows that all served to inspire worship.
Now we find ourselves in an age that could be described as more visual than ever, thanks to advances in digital imaging and video technologies. So I’ve been wondering: What might it mean for our culture to freshly embrace visual worship?
One possibility that has recently intrigued me is the Parallel Bible app (developed by Andrew Breitenberg). It encourages its users to “Upload pictures, artworks and tag them with a verse. (Like Insta meets the Bible).” I’ve been experimenting with this platform, recently, and I’m encouraged by some of my early findings. I’m encouraging some friends to try this app with me and experiment with it as a means of promoting visual worship.
For those who would seek to explore opportunities visual worship among more established platforms (especially Instagram), I have a few recommendations, but these tend to be either visually-strong or spiritually-strong: not often both. Here are a few notables:
- @daily_bibleverses – 386K followers; inventively-structured text straight from the Bible, often with abstract photography (mostly nature-themed)
- @daily_bible_devotional – 45K followers; maintained by Greg Bryan (formerly of Kent State Navs!), simple text straight from the Bible, paired with camera-phone snapshots mostly of Hawaiian nature
- @shereadstruth — 190K followers; “an online community of women who study God’s Word together daily;” inventively-structured text (only occasionally from the Bible itself), with more imaginative imagery
More than just staring at our smartphones to seek God, however, I want to encourage us to open our eyes and ask God to help us worship in a visual way. To accomplish this, I would suggest the following:
- Pray with your eyes open, outside of established worship spaces, away from others.
- You can start with visual cues: taking time to notice little things and letting God guide you to His truth from there…
- Or you can start with Scripture: asking the Holy Spirit to help you connect visual cues with Scriptural truth (Romans 8:26-27, Luke 12:12) in the moment.
- Take record of what God says to you (this is where something like the Parallel Bible app could come into play), so you can share some of these observations with others. Again, this could be with the Parallel Bible app, but it could also be with Instagram, or a simple camera-phone picture, or with sketches in a journal.
You certainly don’t have to have a smartphone or any particular app to worship God in a visual way — but if you choose to “go social,” I’d encourage you to tag your post with #h2ovisualworship so we can encourage one another in developing this discipline.
In addition to these practical recommendations, I would suggest that some sections of the Bible are particularly likely to lend themselves to visual worship:
- The Psalms. Really just about anywhere in the Psalms. They are SO rich in visual imagery and in worship themes. But just for the sake of throwing out a few suggestions, I’d suggest you look to Psalm 18, Psalm 23, and/or Psalm 147.
- Job 38-41
- Revelation. Again, a very visual book in general. But for the sake of worship, I’d suggest you look to Chapter 4, Chapter 19, and/or Chapter 21.
In any event, let’s try and figure out how to better approach visual worship in the 21st Century. If you have any ideas that I haven’t thought of, I’d love to hear them!