We were all seated in a conference room, about 100 of us, listening to our captivating guest speaker. He was a natural storyteller, and we were spellbound with his artful verbal skills.
At one point, our future-trend speaker said, “It is vital for us to understand the power of images in our generation, and the capacity for storytelling the Kingdom of God through visual means. Images can be far more potent than words – don’t deny them their place.”
This was a curious statement, as he had come unprepared with a PowerPoint, Keynote, MediaShout or other type of visual addition to his presentation. Only a few of us in the room seemed to have noticed this glaring omission, but his prosaic teaching was creating pictures in our minds’ eye.
Then, something unforeseen happened. As he uttered these words on the power of images, one of the technical people manning the dormant projector at the back hit a button, and an image of his attractive screen saver flashed up on a side wall, almost out of the site line of the attendees.
At that very moment, every eye in the room jerked away from the speaker – still in mid-sentence – and locked in on the image now resting on the side wall of the venue.
For a few seconds, even the speaker didn’t connect with the irony of the moment. Then, laughter and revelation filled the room. An image had literally stepped out on the stage, grabbed the eyes, attention and thoughts of every person in the room, and demanded their focus. The speaker may as well have had the microphone taken away. The image won the day.
It was a messenger. It was an angel. It bore a story. It sounded its trumpet, and like Mary, we sat in awe and listened.
In other words, the image was storytelling, messaging to us, and it’s oratorical skills dominated the imaginations of the crowd even if only for a few seconds.
It has been said that theology is “faith seeking understanding.” Great visual presentations can literally lead a soul backward, forward and side to side. Envisioning the future in worship will demand that we take seriously the profound strength of images, be they borne by cathedral walls, cinema screens or church projectors. A picture is not worth a thousand words – it is beyond the quantifications we apply to our utterances.
An image can be worth seeing, hearing, feeling and following. An image can stimulate the soul to missional action, amplify a character trait of God, or hold us in the palm of its hand and comfort us. An image can be an angel, a messenger of hope, if we will turn our attention to its declaration.
Use images wisely in worship, in your home, in the spaces in which you live. Allow them to be vessels through which God speaks to you, and to those you lead.