Monday, November 15, 2010

Who Messed Up the Chairs?

The last 2 Sundays our "rearranged chairs" produced a number of responses including confusion and being uncomfortable. Yet, the overwhelming response has been greatly positive. I believe the encouraging responses reflected a desire for something deeper in our fellowship - a longing for keeping Jesus central, greater participatory worship and a step towards ongoing community. Does church architecture, the color of paint and the arrangement of seating really matter?Ultimately, when the Spirit of God moves, it matters not whether we are in a cathedral, a grass hut with dirt floors or in an old gym. Even so, our arrangement can reflect something about our fellowship or encourage something better.

Historically, church buildings during the first few centuries were set up with the Lord's table and pulpit in the center with the seating gathered around. It reflected a church that was focused on participatory worship, centrality of Jesus and a community gathered around the teaching of the Word that encouraged dialogue. Many centuries later the architecture of the church began to change. People wanted high ceilings and grand buildings and so to support the vaulted ceilings they had to construct the buildings long and narrow. Truth is - this reflected a changing orientation of God's people. Seating was put into straight rows and the Lord's table and pulpit were put in front. the longer the church buildings became, the more distant the people were from the events of worship. The building reflected a church that was no longer participatory, there was no dialogue and even worship was something done "up front" while everyone else just watched.

I believe they way we "set up" church can encourage better things. It can remind us that the church is a group of believers who have all been given gifts, who are all "called" to engage in worship, dialogue, community. The Lord is pleased when we are "gathered together" not just showing up to watch a few people talk and worship. I like the picture of Acts 1:12-14 which describes a little group of believers, squeezing together in a small upper room after a week in their various worlds to participate together with "one mind" praising God and growing up into Him who is the head - even Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Chris. Marshall McCluen said once, "The medium is the message". The history of how we arrainge chairs shows a progression to the lay people becoming spectators and watching the front. I quite like the effort to change the feel of our meeting together.


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