We are all affected by our surroundings in one way or another. It either has a positive or a negative effect on us. To help you understand this, let’s look at a couple of examples:
Imagine you go to two 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 affect 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 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 family. The menus are clean. The tables are clean. Everything seems to be good. This environment will affect 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 two hotels. One was built in 1970. It was modern in its day, but over the past 40-plus 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 traveled back in time to 1970. It’s really no longer a relevant environment. And you’re hoping the bed is newer than 35 years old.
The other hotel was built the same year. The difference is it just underwent renovation to bring it up to date. It will still serve the same 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 we make our choices of restaurants, hotels and even movie theaters because we like their environments. 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 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?