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Stained Glass to Video

April 8, 2008

i like stained glass. it is not really my style to display much in my home, and i attend a contemporary church where stained glass would look out of place, but i like stained glass. i have never been to the great cathedrals of europe or even the ones here in north america, but i have seen photographs and video on television. and that brings me to my main point. i was at a conference recently and heard mark batterson speak. he said something that struck me as particularly insightful. i do not know if it was original to him or not. this is what he said: “to a post-literate generation, video is the new stained glass.” this struck me as a profound statement. i have spent some time thinking through the implications of this.

i was at a funeral last year in an episcopal church. it was a beautiful old church building downtown. if you stood in the aisle and looked around the room, you would see beautifully crafted stained glass illustrations of key moments from the new testament. at the front of the room, above the alter, is a large window with the scene of the nativity. at the back of the room is a stained glass rendition of da vinci’s the last supper. all around the room are windows depicting other scenes from the new testament. there is jesus‘ baptism, as well as the crucifixion and resurrection. this church was modeled after the old cathedrals with their wonderful imagery.

the old cathedrals were largely built in a pre-literate culture. before the printing press with movable type, anything printed was expensive and only the wealthy had any books. the average person had no way to read god’s story of redemption. even in the church, which was primarily the roman church, mass was conducted in latin. people could look around the room and see pictures of the story of redemption in the stained glass windows.

as history has passed, we have gone from a pre-literate culture to a literate culture. with younger postmoderns, we are passing into a post-literate generation. it is not that they cannot read, they simply do not read. there are exceptions, but i believe these things to be largely true. young people read fewer novels, they watch movies. they read fewer short stories, they watch television and youtube. they read fewer newspapers, they get the news from television and the internet. even when they read online, it is often through interactive sites. they are allowed to comment and post video responses.

in church, video is the new stained glass. stained glass windows served to tell the story of god’s redemptive plan in a format the learner could understand. video is the format younger learners understand. i am coming to believe more and more that if you are not using video in your teaching of the scripture, you are not speaking the language of part of your audience. how are you doing? who do you know that does this well?

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2 Comments
  1. lana permalink

    I love you observation here. We have huge beautiful stained glass in our church but right next to them are huge video screens. It is powerful when we use video in a worship service and can set the tone. I was discussing this yesterday with our Music Minister and how much has changed in worship in the past few years and how exciting it is to be apart of it.

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