Monday, July 11, 2011

Worship and Architecture

Worship & Architecture

Can the design of a building help us worship God? I would suggest that the answer is yes…but not for the reasons you might think. It is a question many of us in the church ponder with greater frequency as we watch the amount of our outstanding debt rapidly decrease due to your generous giving.

Let me first say this very clearly: A building should not be the impetus for our worship. The building itself is not a “sacred space” (see link below). It troubles me to hear believers talk of “feeling closer to God” when they visit ornate churches or historically significant buildings of worship. While it is appropriate to praise God for the creativity He has given His creation, our contemplation of man-made buildings should not be the cause of our worship.

This is not to say that the design of a building is unimportant or unrelated to worship. There is, I believe, such a thing as God-glorifying design in building. A well-designed building helps us in our worship in the following ways…

1. A well-designed building will help us proclaim the Word of God effectively. The auditorium, sound system, and classrooms in a God-glorifying structure will help the church fulfill her task of teaching Scripture.

2. A well-designed building provides us with space to serve others. A God-glorifying structure is designed with the needs of others in mind.

3. A well-designed building will point people to God and not us. This does not mean it should be an elaborate structure. It means that the building should not distract people from God. As we build a church building, we are not designing a Tower of Babel that will serve as a shrine to ourselves. It will not be so ornate that it distracts people from the contemplation of God.

4. A well-designed building will ensure that we have resources for doing ministry. A wise church will not tie up so much of its financial resources in its building that it is unable to do anything else.

5. A well-designed building will demonstrate to the community our commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ. Building a church gives the community of faith a common goal and our shared giving reveals a willingness to sacrifice for the sake of the gospel.

As your read through this list, notice that a building is not essential for our worship to take place. A well-designed building is an outgrowth of worship and not a prerequisite for worship. I can proclaim the Word of God with or without a building. The building simply helps me do so more effectively. I can serve others with or without a building. The building simply helps me do so more effectively.

My friend Luke sent me a link to an ongoing conversation at the Gospel Coalition blog: As you can see, some godly men are wrestling with how best to construct God-glorifying buildings. I am sure our own church will wrestle with these questions as well as we think about how best to implement these principles.

Praise God for His continued provision…and pray that God would give us wisdom as we consider the church building in which we will gather to glorify His name.


Anonymous said...

Pastor - regarding your statement: "...notice that a building is not essential for our worship to take place. A well-designed building is an outgrowth of worship and not a prerequisite for worship."

Although I really do agree with this statement as it pertains to worship, I want to encourage you to look for a building with a sanctuary conducive to fellowship - more specifically, with pews. My recent experience moving to the new larger sister church building has not affected my worship per-se, but has greatly affected my fellowship - which used to by an add to my joy of worship. I really believe the design of our sanctuary has greatly hindered and made fellowship more difficult due to the new individual chair stadium seating. The individual seating - although comfortable - have physically and mentally created small walls of “personal space” that keep our eyes forward and squashes the compulsion or responsibility to fulfill our role as the body of Christ to be connected with or at least familiar with other believers.

Note, I am not looking to give excuse to my need to now change the way I have to seek out fellowship. But I guess that statement would be my main point - especially for new visitors to the church. I think it was easier and even more natural to speak to the person next to you in a pew because the space between us wasn’t so cavernous or barred up with the small elbow height walls. The tendency to seat yourself with two to three seats between each family/individual seems more prevalent in our new church. I feel a sense of lose because of this.

Just something to think about as you consider your new building.

kellysem said...

I agree that a building is not a prerequisite for worship, but since we worship in buildings anyway, why not design them in ways which make us consider the nature of God in meaningful ways? Architecture starts with an IDEA. Maybe we start with an idea that the design of our worship spaces helps us consider our brokenness in the context of the hope of God's redemption, through specific materials, lighting, scale, transition from one space to another, or a number of other ways. Maybe as we worship, our surroundings help us consider God's great mercy, or his infinite grace, or perhaps more importantly our buildings speak to our visitors about who God is. It is not the richness of materials, but the richness of ideas, as Daniel Libeskind says. That's where we should start.