Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Ministry (DMin)



First Advisor

Daniel L. Brunner

Second Advisor

Charles J. Conniry Jr.


The ministry problem addressed in this dissertation is how can visual symbols become aids to worship, particularly in small churches with limited budgets and traditional architecture? Chapter One defines Christian Worship as the Body of Christ encountering and responding to God as revealed in Jesus Christ, and asks how visual symbols aid or hinder that encounter. A survey of leading authors on worship gives a basis from which to examine the place of visual symbols within the postmodern church. Chapter Two looks at the roles of the tabernacle, the ark of the covenant, and the Temple as visual symbols which were important in Hebrew Worship. The Second Commandment's cautions call for consideration of the nature of worship and of God. Chapter Three examines the roles played by icons, the altar, and stained glass within Christian History. Chapter Four looks at a variety of ways in which visual symbols are aids to contemporary worship. These chapters demonstrate how such symbols have been important throughout the history of Christian worship. Concerns about idolatry and symbols as entertainment or decoration are also addressed. Chapter Five develops an incarnational theology after having looked at the biblical roots of such a theology, revealing the essential connection between the material and the spiritual. It concludes that the ultimate place of the material is to articulate God's praise. Chapter Six turns to the fields of education and learning theory to show that the use of the visual speaks especially powerfully to some people and so the use of visual symbols may be particularly useful to such people in their encounter of God. Chapter Seven applies the conclusion that visual symbols can serve as aids to worship with two sermons using visual symbols, both of which do so in small churches with traditional architecture. A series of worship committee study sessions demonstrates the ways in which a deeper understanding of worship, idolatry, and incarnation can assist churches in deepening their appreciation of the roles of visual symbols in worship as means by which to encounter God.

Included in

Christianity Commons