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Seeing That Jesus Is More: Artful Worship on Sunday Mornings as a Visual Designer


One of the most critical components of art is the emotional journey it takes a person on. Whether it’s a song I hear, a painting I view, or a movie I watch, the emotional journey it takes me on is part of what sticks with me long after it’s over.

I remember hearing Ben Fielding and Matt Crocker’s song “This I Believe (Creed)” right after my grandmother passed away. The song spoke to my grief with an affirmation of who Jesus is and what he has done for me and my grandmother. To this day, I choke up when I hear that song because I connect with the lyrics and the music at an emotional level.

For me, the emotion of a piece of visual art is driven by its use of color. In movies, colors are used to convey emotions. For example, the 2015 Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, uses color to illustrate conflict. The villain, Kylo Ren, had to choose between affirming his loyalty to the evil First Order or joining Han Solo and the heroic Resistance. Adam Driver, the actor who plays Kylo Ren, was illuminated by red and blue light to convey his struggle. Then the blue light disappeared, leaving him bathed in red light, showing that he chose the dark side over the light. It is such a powerful, impactful moment in the film.

My role as The Crossing’s visual designer is to use lighting and set design to tell stories in the same way as in the Star Wars film. But rather than the fictional, larger-than-life stories of Star Wars, I join the worship leader in telling the story of the infinite God who rescued his creation from sin and death through Jesus Christ and dwells with his creation. Our task each week is to communicate this eternal truth in new, fresh ways that help the congregation encounter God in worship.

A great analogy comes from the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles. The Israelites have become a kingdom ruled by King David and his descendants. David’s son Solomon builds the temple and holds a ceremony to sanctify it for the LORD to live in permanently. No longer are they the people wandering in the desert with the tabernacle. The temple enables a fresh encounter with their same God.

On Sunday mornings, we want to create a worship experience that feels like we are leaving behind the old tent for this new building made of stone and wood and precious metals. We want to bring people into a new, bigger story.

One example is “So Will I (100 Billion X)” by Hillsong. This song is an incredible reflection on the God who created the planets, the stars, the mountains, and all the created world around us. And with it, we celebrate that this great God loves his creation so much that he took on flesh in Jesus Christ to rescue his creation from sin.

Visually, I want to change the room so that it feels like we are just one part of the infinite expanse of outer space, that earth and all the living creatures on it are just a small part of what God has made. So when we sing the line, “If creation sings your praises, so will I,” we are part of creation singing God’s praises. This means purple and blue hues mixed throughout the auditorium and stage. Greens and oranges are carefully placed to look like gases from nebulae. Stars are put on the back of the stage to finish off the effect.

so-will-i-the-crossing-march-2023"So Will I (100 Billion X)” at The Crossing on March 5, 2023

Another example of this kind of storytelling occurs when our church sings “Trinity Song” by Sandra McCracken. It is a beautiful, simple song celebrating the triune God that Christians worship. To highlight the triune nature of God, I’ve used three lights to emit the same pattern onto a white scrim, but each light uses a different color. It is a visual way to convey that God is one being (the same pattern) in three persons (different colors).

The song is not upbeat, so I chose not to use dancing, party lights. Rather, I used blue and green hues to soothe the worshipers as they calmly sing the song. In other words, the energy of the lighting fit the energy of the song.

trinitysong"Trinity Song" at The Crossing on March 12, 2023

A third way I tell story is by helping the congregation connect to action on stage. In movies and TV, light guides the audience’s attention, prompting them to look and see the information they need to see. Maybe there’s something in the background in a mystery movie or a funny action in a comedy.

In a worship setting, this means showing the audience where the main action is in the music and liturgy. I will light the lead singer or musician during an instrumental section. This helps the congregation to see where the main sound is coming from and engage. This also means making sure the lighting in the room allows people to connect with the worshipers around them as well—that we can see each other and sing with each other.

chely-sunday-the-crossing-3.19.23The Crossing, March 19, 2023

The core of my job is to connect people at an emotional level to the story of the King. I love coloring a scene, whether song or liturgy, that adds to the depth of the moment. I love helping people connect to what is happening on stage and with those around them. My mission at The Crossing is simple: to help people see that Jesus is more.


 Artistic excellence helps us focus on God. Spectacle takes the focus of God. So where's the line when it comes to technology in modern worship? Crossing pastor Patrick Miller considers church history and biblical imagery to answer this question.