What would happen if your church was built in the round?
What would happen if we had to look across at each other instead of looking up toward a preacher or band?
One can only imagine the first weeks of self-conscious avoidance of such things as nose picking and smart phone texting. Still, there might be a grudging advantage to having a “naked” church where everyone sees everyone else.
People find it very easy to hide in a big church building. No one in front of me knows what I’m doing and no one in back of me cares…unless I do something really weird.
What would it be like if we all had everyone in our sights all the time? Would we feign greater reverence? Would we practice piety with a vengeance?
A pastor in the Midwest decided to try an experiment. He moved his congregation out of their lovely, familiar, and much loved sanctuary and into the gymnasium. There, he had the chairs set up in a giant circle and all of the leadership stood in the center.
The following week he preached a sermon about his experiment. Here’s a direct quote:
“I had planned this radical worship shift for several months and my reasoning was that people might experience church in a new way. What I learned, however, was much broader and richer than what I have intended.
It seemed to change how people experienced our community. I heard several comments during the week from people suggesting that we were growing and getting larger as a congregation. The truth was that we had lost people and that the decline was causing great angst among the elders. The following Tuesday when the elders met, they were all talking about what attendance growth we had in the previous week.
I presume that their perception was a result of connection!”
We truly only see our congregations at the front door and over coffee. That’s a shame, because worship is supposed to be corporate and community-based. More often than not, however, it is simply a show performed in one direction.
Sure, over the years, I have seen many churches where a sort of horseshoe-shape was designed into the architecture. My experience in worshiping in those spaces was usually quite pleasant because I could view the whole of the experience from several angles. Those designs have fallen out of favor in recent times. Big screens and big shows have replaced them.
It would behoove us all to figure out ways to look at each other again, to take ownership of our kindred goals and ambitions. We are separated by decibels and darkness. Let’s turn on the lights and listen to each other instead of banks of speakers!
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