Worship As B-Roll

We had an interesting moment in worship this morning. I was in my usual place, sitting with the choir in the loft, when I looked up and noticed a TV camera crew in the back of the sanctuary. The camera man was shooting some B-roll, while the reporter was just standing there, watching the service happen. They recorded for about ten minutes or so, and when I glanced back there again, they were gone.

B-roll,” for those of you who haven’t done video production, is video shot of backgrounds, buildings, and other scenes. It is used as intro and outro shots, or to have something on the screen during a voiceover. Since our church is been indirectly in the news this week due to the marriage equality ruling, I wasn’t too surprised to see the TV crew. As I was watching them, though, the thought occurred to me:

How often do we approach worship as B-roll?

We all know what worship is supposed to be — a time for us to encounter God, first, and a time to reflect upon God, second. We attend a worship service planning to do the second, and hoping for the first. Offering praise, reading or listening to scripture, hearing a sermon, working the liturgy — all of these are acts through which we reflect and encounter.

If we’re honest, though, sometimes we are neither reflecting nor encountering. The service is happening, we may even be participating — but it is like B-roll playing in front of us, while our mind is doing a monologue over it. We are physically present, like that camera crew, but we are not emotionally, mentally, or spiritually present.

How can you tell if you have relegated the worship service to B-roll status? If you can leave, disengage, without a sense of incompleteness. I’m sure the camera crew left without any sense other than being glad that was over. They weren’t invested or connected to the arc of worship unfolding around them; they were just there to observe dispassionately, record efficiently, and leave quietly. I’ve done worship that way, and I bet you have too.

So, the next time you are in a worship service, check whether you are simply observing and recording, or reflecting and encountering. Are you there to observe, to report, or to engage?

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