Monday, September 24, 2007

From Vegas to the Pews...

I'm sorry. I tried to go for a witty title.

I just finished reading Mark Driscoll's blog post about his recent trip to Las Vegas where he got to watch UFC 74 and even got to meet Randy Couture. I don't care who you are, that's just plain cool.

But what struck me about his post was one on the last things he did on his time in Vegas. He and Mars Hill's worship pastor made the rounds of some of the hotel clubs on the strip to see how they set up their lights, sound and video because they are currently doing some renovating at one of their own buildings (the Ballard campus).

Then I start to ponder. Most churches I've been in look like churches, not clubs. Many churches have bad color, horrible seating, bad lighting, questionable acoustics and lackluster video. I'm not saying that we need to go for some "wow factor" or some dazzling pyrotechnics but could we at least make the room aesthetically pleasing? Isn't it ok to make people feel comfortable and relaxed in a room?

Look around the room this week in which you worship. How many people just look uptight? And how many of them could be set at ease if we were more proactive about the way that we set up our buildings?

Sure, comfort isn't our number one priority. But if we want to engage people for extended periods of time, shouldn't we do everything to remove physical distractions?

So, what do you think? Is it a good idea to be getting some ideas about our church decor and layout from clubs?


jon or angie said...

as long as we remember that our current evangelical fiasco of church decor also came from trying to respond to the culture we were in. (from a time where they were seeking simplicity, sterility, and eliminating the distraction of aesthetic)

as much as i am tired of the bland and drab evangelical church setting if i go to a church with lights like las vegas i don't know what i'll do first: puke or leave. but that's just me.

Knotter said...

I, for one, am all about flash for the sake of flash. Kidding, of course.

But is it ok to have a building that actually appeals to people? Or does that mean we've sold out? Is it ok to be current? Is it ok to bring creativity and current cultural items to our buildings? Or have we missed the point?

I'm wrestling with a few of these questions which ends up seeming like a "which came first? the chicken of the egg?" type of thing.

I may go back and forth depending on what day it is. Today I like the idea of stealing room ideas from something like a club.

theoquest said...

We're currently talking about redoing a large room in our building and I just keep coming to the question of how do we design a space that's accessible and usable for the community - not just a couple hours a week.

Knotter said...

Another good thought. We too have a good sized room that is our "youth centre" but it acts more as a multi-purpose room. And there are outside groups that use it from time to time. I sometimes wonder what they think of it.

And I often wonder if our buildings could serve more help to the community if we designed them differently. It might help us build some more bridges and develop new relationships within the community.

I heard of one church that shows movies during a local film festival. Now that's thinking outside the box!

Mike, I'd be curious to see what you come up with. When are you planning to have it done by?

jon or angie said...

i think i am okay with the worship environment being whatever. i personally would find lights and glitz distracting but on a theological level i find it to be distracting as well, unless it finds a creative way to exalt Christ, rather than merely make us comfortable.

I think Christ can be exalted in contemporary, cutting edge ways, but i often wonder if that is what we're doing when we decorate, sing, or whatever.

if las vegas lights are drawing people in, i say whoop-de-doo, unless they serve to point away from themselves to Christ.

I certainly don't like the empty walls of evangelicalism, because they point to nothing. But I don't like the glitz and show because the louder they point the harder it is to see what they point to.

I think perhaps the answer is to stop worrying about what appeals, and just to construct our worship and our worship setting according to who we are and how we speak. If we are truly salt of the earth it will be relatable. But too often we come from outside the world and try to impress the world with our incredible ways of relating to them and appealing to them. But if it is fake it isn't worth doing. If it is real, and it is offered to God in Christ and points from self to HIm---then it is good.

Knotter said...

Does everything we do have to point to Jesus?

What about the pews? The paint colours? The bulletin arrangement? The parking set up? The carpet design? The name tags?

I'm thinking that there are a pile of things within our churches that are there for primarily one purpose: comfort.

I agree with you Jon that we need to "construct our worship and our worship setting according to who we are and how we speak", and I think that this is exactly what's happening. Mars Hill is using a language that their community speaks. It may not work in yours or mine, but it certainly could in theirs.

I would tend to think that lights, video and sound ( or even the pews and paint colours) aren't necessarily there to point to Jesus, but rather to facilitate someone on their journey. And that's ok. They can understand the language and hear the message without distractions.

Though I suppose a case could be made that one person's distraction is another person's comfort.

Maybe someone should do a class on the Theology of Church Decor!

jon or angie said...

i'm not sure i want to make a big deal about this, but i guess my question is: facilitating the journey to what?

i'm not talking about pews standing on end in order to point to Jesus or something silly like that, but if comfort is what we're after are we facilitating a journey to Christ or are we facilitating consumerism spirituality.

i'm not saying every little thing is a black and white pointer or non-pointer to Jesus but I think it takes a gut-check for a church to know if it is anything other than a shopping mall or stop on the vegas strip selling another feel-good experience.

if they have vegas lights and are something other than that, great. i just cringe at how much evangelical art feels like we're being wannabes.