199 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 98.

Practical Applications for Evangelical Churches

The use of symbol and image is essential for effective ministry in our increasingly post-modern culture. Therefore, it is crucial that church leaders proactively introduce appropriate images in the context of worship. These are some practical suggestions that might help with this introduction. Of course, the possibilities are myriad. These are only a few.

Teaching on Images

In light of the negative perception about images that has historically plagued evangelicalism, teaching will be an important aspect of their introduction. In light of the fact that post-modern culture is very open to both image and historical ideas, the focus of this teaching should be a combination of church history and theology. Rediscovery of some of the teaching of St. John of Damascus as well as the conclusions of the 7th Ecumenical Council will be helpful for the introduction of icons. The Orthodox emphasis on incarnation is also very important. Evangelicals have historically ignored the world of created things as it relates to worship. Implied in this ignorance has been the error that the divinity of Christ somehow reduced his humanity. The introduction of image and its accompanying theology is an excellent opportunity to reemphasize the essential doctrine of the humanity of Christ.

In many evangelical contexts, icons are perceived with some suspicion. This may be because of some teaching against them in the past or simply because they are new to most people. As part of the introduction of icon, it will be valuable to begin teaching on the use of other similar mediums that are more familiar. For
example, a discussion around the use of music as a window for worship will help people understand the potential for image as a window to the divine. Beginning with the familiar will be very helpful in the introduction of the less familiar.

Included in this teaching must be an acknowledgement that the Bible itself is image. Written words are images of spoken words, which are images of ideas and events. As evangelical churches come to understand this, it will be easier to accept other kinds of images. It is essential, however, that serious consideration be given to the appropriate nature of the images introduced. There is very little discernment in post-modern culture. Symbols are embraced without thought, often simply because of association with a famous figure200. This should not be the case with images introduced into worship. This is why historical images are probably safer than contemporary images. New images have not stood the test and scrutiny of tradition and are more likely to be trivial. This is not to say that there should not be new images. It is just more likely that trivial images will be avoided if a relatively steady diet of established historical images is normative. In other words, consistent exposure to that which is historically excellent and true will help create an environment of discernment that can spot that which is not excellent and true.

200 The most significant example of this in contemporary culture is the use of commercial logos and name brands. If a celebrity wears a name brand or logo (often because he or she is paid to do it) others will desire to wear it as well.