Set the Stage
by Pierre Smith (Every Nation Somerset West, South Africa)
A stage is an interesting thing. What was originally purposed to be a simple construction for practical purposes of communication, has become an inexhaustible playground for musicians, designers, artists, and preachers alike. An empty canvas for great and definitely good creative expression, but also, sadly, fame.
Dating back to approximately the year 400 B.C., we see that the stage was already used in biblical times. King Solomon made a bronze platform to kneel on and pray in front of the assembly of Israel and worship God (2 Chr 6). Later on in Nehemiah 8, we read about the scribe, Ezra, and his band of brothers, who was asked by the congregation to read from the Book of the Law.
Nehemiah 8 (ESV)
“The ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose . . .
And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground . . .
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.” (Neh 8:3-6, 8)
We as worship leaders, preachers, and artists in the house of God have a singular use for our wooden, steel, or concrete platforms—to set the stage for the proclamation of God’s Word!
The moment the purposes of our stages become anything else, our center shifts from Christ to ourselves. What I am not saying is that we should settle for empty, ugly stages, with no creative output. A beautifully designed stage with good AV in the mix is part of our worship, and in fact, when done in a correct manner, it promotes the proclamation of His Word effectively and powerfully. The way we do our Sunday services and conferences here is through using the canvases of media, music, creative items, and design to encourage and emphasize the message of the Gospel.
However, the danger of the stage is that it has a way of becoming more than a simple tool for communication. The subtle draw of the spotlight, and the coveted, elevated corner of our church buildings have become, for many, their space to live out personal dreams, ideals, and desires, and in this case, one meter is the highest you can fall.
As leaders we should see the stage as a privilege, a simple means to a far greater end: Proclaiming God’s Word. We learn from the story in Nehemiah that the they used the stage for this purpose in three ways:
To communicate God’s word with clarity to the people, which caused a celebration of God through worship.
The entire congregation not only heard, but also understood God’s Word with sense, and every single hearer erupted in worship. My favorite part is how the scripture says: “All the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground.”
It doesn’t mention any musicians or worship leaders, no five-song list, just simply the Word and expressive worship with hands held high and faces to the ground in honour of God.
Next time you consider your part to play on the stage consider this story. Set the stage for only God’s perfect, infallible, beautiful Word to be celebrated and communicated with clarity, and stand back to see your congregation respond to God, and to God alone.
About the Author:
Pierre, together his wife Helena, founded and lead the South African worship movement Wholehearted. Currently, they are the senior leaders of our Every Nation Somerset West Church, just outside of Cape Town South Africa, and have one daughter named Alika. Pierre served as the Productions Director for our EN2016 World Conference, and co-wrote the new EN Music video single "We Stand In Awe."