Imagine you go to 2 restaurants. One has paint coming off the walls, the table is kept from rocking by some cardboard shoved under one leg, a dead fly is on the table when you sit down, the menus have some sort of sticky residue on them, and you’re treated like you’re intruding on someone else’s time. This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat. You order a steak, but you’re not certain that’s what they brought you. The end result is that your experience was less than perfect. The other restaurant has just the right lighting, not too bright, not too dark. You’re treated like you’re family. The menu’s are clean. The tables are clean. Everything seems to be good. This environment will effect your attitude toward the meal you are about to eat. You order a steak. It’s just what you were hoping for and as a result you’ll definitely be back.
Imagine you go to 2 hotels. One was built in 1970. It was modern in it’s day, but over the past 40+ years it’s lost its’ appeal. The burnt orange carpet is no longer ”fancy”. The dark paneling is dented and scarred from years of guests coming and going. Even the clothing worn by the front desk personnel is dated. It’s almost as if you walked back in time to 1970. It’s really no longer a relevant environment. And you’re hoping that the bed is newer than 35 years old. The other hotel was built the same year. The difference is that it just underwent renovation to bring it up to date. It will still serve the save purpose. It’s just a little more relevant. A fountain and greenery were installed in the lobby. Large tile floors, abstract painting, new furnishings and much more were included in the renovation. You can immediately feel a sense of relaxation when you walk into this environment.
The truth is that we make our choices of restaurants, hotels, even where we want to watch a movie because we like the environments that are there. Environments are important to how we respond to situations. This is true for our worship as well. As far back as Genesis, we find environments of worship being created. In Genesis 8:20, Noah built an altar for a sacrifice to God. This had to be built before he could worship. We also find that Solomon built the temple. Following God’s leadership, he built it with only the best gold and precious jewels. Nothing was spared. This was to be the house of God. The environment had to be suitable. We even have current examples of environments of worship.
Today, God doesn’t dwell so much in a place as much as he does within us. However, to be able to reach the world that we live in we must be aware of the importance of environments. The world around us uses a variety of gadgets, computer graphics and technology to communicate in large environments. Because of this, we have to be aware that what we do in an environment of worship is important.
Our goal is to create worship environments that are appealing, relevant, changing and current. Probably the best example of what we attempt to accomplish is our own homes. When we have people over, we attempt to make them feel welcome and comfortable as our guests. We put our best foot forward by making sure our house is clean (usually). We want the decorations to look good and for everything to be in its’ place. We don’t hold back! It’s only the best for our guests. And we may even surprise them with a few unexpected things.
So what does this mean for us as we develop environments of worship where we are? How do we create a relevant environment for worship and what exactly does that mean? There are a few things that are important.
1. The People. We need people who are contagious. This is the most important aspect of setting our environment. Attitude counts! We’re not a looking for a fake personality, but a genuine excitement for what God is going to do. From the time people arrive on any day of worship, we set the stage for worship. A Guest Services team should be ready to greet people at the door to invite and encourage them to worship. They create an environment in the refreshment area and meet and greet people there. Praise singers, audio visual, children’s workers, instrumentalists, greeters and others all play a vital role in creating an environment of worship. That’s why people are a vital key to a successful environment.
2. The Decorations. Cleanliness is important. We should have an inviting place to come and worship and for our guests to come and worship. Don’t be afraid to change things up. Create fresh looks by using new banners and graphics. Change is a good thing because it helps keep us from falling into a rut or a routine. We set the stage for our environment by providing a visually stimulating environment. Everything works together. Those who work on cleaning the property, maintaining the property or decorations all work together to help create an important aspect of our environments …
3. The Gadgets. We live in a technical world. Any concert you go to is maxed out with lights and sound and visuals that are top of the line. Check out the computer graphics in movies these days. It’s amazing what can be accomplished by the stoke of a key on a keyboard. To reach this computer driven age, we must be relevant. Our technology and audio visual is important in creating a relevant and current environment. It’s important to realize how these just aren’t extras if we want them anymore. They are things that are expected as much as hymn books were expected in many churches.
4. The Unexpected. Everyone likes being entertained. Although church is not “an entertainment”, it’s not intended to be boring either. One of the main reasons people go to different concerts, movies and more is because they’re looking for the unexpected. So let’s plan to be unexpected in what we do when we worship God. We can change our flow of worship, change how things are presented, and even change how things look. As we create the unexpected in our worship, we must always stay true to the truth of the Bible. That is one thing we cannot change! Scripture demonstrates that God has been worshiped in a variety of different ways throughout history. As we do things that are unexpected, it allows us to worship God in fresh ways.
We need to realize that we all have a role in creating an environment of worship whether we’re the Pastor or have just been worshiping for a short time. Because of this, we need to plan ahead. What attitude do we need to have? What needs to be cleaned up? What needs to be changed or added? What are some creative things that can be done to engage people in worship? How can we have a sense of worship that is contagious? Everything we do works together to create an environment of worship. Our Worship involves the whole body. Once the environment is set, we can let the worship begin!