The Power of Visual Faith
Here’s the problem: Our people aren’t reading the Bible. Our people are confused by the Bible. It is simply very difficult to live a vibrant faith in Jesus Christ when we can’t engage the primary source of the story and ongoing power of our Christian faith.
And part of the problem is the way the church approaches Scripture–the word of God, as words only. To be sure, Scripture is God’s Word to be studied, taught, parsed, contextualized and interpreted-even eaten, but we focus on the words. The words of Scripture are supposed to be creating pathways for the ideas and practices of the Christian faith that will orient, shape and change people’s lives. But can words alone do that? Can words alone do that today? Yet, we also believe that God’s Word is alive, and that Scripture is Sprit-filled and meant to be living and new for every age.
At Vibrant Faith, we know that Scripture must lead in the formation of faith.
Here’s another piece of the problem. Anyone under 40 has been socialized almost completely by images rather than words. That means that the way they have come to understand, experience, process, and make meaning in their world has come through what they SEE, supplemented and supported by what they hear or read. That doesn’t mean that words don’t matter to us or our thinking. It does mean that for most people sitting in your pews (or not), words alone don’t (can’t) open our hearts, souls, or minds and create space for the Spirit to move the way images do.
That part of the problem shouldn’t actually be a surprise to us. The fact that we are visual people actually reflects how God created us. We are wired for imagery. According to John Medina, neuroscientist and author of the 2008 NY Times best seller, Brain Rules, vision trumps the rest of the senses. In fact, Medina explains that as brain imaging has allowed us to more more fully understand how “seeing” happens, we now know that both of the brain’s storage areas for emotion and experience get drawn into the process that is becomes what we see. Our vision naturally, biologically engages our hearts and greater portions of our minds.
What an important privilege it has been for Vibrant Faith to have the opportunity to research and explore the power of pairing images with Scripture. The Visual Faith Project has spent the last year exploring the impact of paring image and Scripture and questions for the goal of spiritual transformation. We are learning exciting and valuable insights about what very naturally moves people to more deeply experience God’ word, and creates pathways into hearts and souls. We are going to be sharing what we’ve learned over the coming months, even as we keep exploring to learn more.
For now, take this with you into your day. Images have power that words do not.