One debate which rages on within denominational Christianity is what worship in the church should look like. How we dress, what instruments we use, what our buildings look like, and how we present the truth.
The way things look, smell, and sound are different in every church. Some churches may seem (what some would consider) dry and stale. The lack of art, smells, and sounds are planned that way. They would say that art is a distraction to the worship service. Anything that looks artistic is considered entertainment, and we are not to be entertained in church, but to worship.
There is another push, as a pendulum swing to this movement. Ironically, once the pendulum swings 180 degrees, things begin to mirror themselves. The idea is that we try to make a modern church look nothing like a church. It’s a very secular idea of cubism. It resembles the look of a warehouse.
Within these there can be subsets of worship. One idea is that churches should be totally modernized, only appealing to the young; while others have buildings which could double as a nursing home. Both churches are attempting to do something with how their building and worship service are designed. When their goal is one subset of persons within an age bracket, often their goals are reached, but with consequences.
Lastly there is one type of church layout I am always trying to avoid. I jokingly talk with our decorating team at church by calling it the “garden party motif.” It’s where a church is decorated in a way which appears ready for a mid-day tea for a ladies meeting. This is great, if you are getting ready for a mid-day tea for a ladies meeting. But for young rugged men, this is often an unwelcoming feeling. While so many complain that there are not young families in churches these days, many churches need to take a step back, and look at what they are promoting at church, and who they are missing to reach.
Now when we talk about how we decorate, sing, speak, give announcements, or any other part of the worship service, let’s recognize why we are at church. It is to worship Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We need to make sure that everything we are doing is Gospel, Jesus, and Cross-centered. We must make Him the supreme center of our service, not guests or those who belong to the church.
One thing I think we neglect to do when it comes to worship arts is look to the Old Testament to study how they worshipped. Now I am not suggesting we head down to the local ranch, steal a cow, and sacrifice it to God. Neither am I saying that we should go to REI to purchase a large canvas tent for worship while we wander the desert.
If we were to study the Old Testament Tabernacle, we would see that there were sights, sounds, and smells. The smells of the sacrifices being offered to God; the animals which the priests would lay upon the altar filled the tabernacle with aromas. The table of bread and the incense found in Exodus 25:23-30 would have been other pleasant fragrances.
The sights of the tabernacle were beyond beautiful. The tapestries were woven with pictures of representation and of just pure beauty. The calmness of the flickering candles on the lamp stand. The Ark of the Covenant which glimmered with metallic designs to allure even a small child. Things were beautifully and wonderfully made according to the directions of God Himself.
The sounds of the tabernacle would have also had an impact on worshippers. The slaughtering of sacrifices would have been a reminder of the sin which needed a perfect lamb’s blood. The variety of musical instruments played for worship, and the prayers offered by the priests were all forms of worship which one could auditariary partake in.
As we can see, worship in the tabernacle was something which involved all of the senses. Things that could be seen, touched, smelled, and listened to echoed throughout the area of worship. Thinking about this, we too can enjoy worship services which appeals to the senses. Our senses are God-given, and therefore, were given, and can be used for His glory.
What is your church like? Are you pointed to and reminded of the cross of Christ and the sacrifice of Jesus? Is it a place which is stale and flat, or something which appeals to the senses? What artistic means can you use in your church in order to make it one which pulls at every creative direction toward God?
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