"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Monday, April 07, 2008

Architecture and the Glory of God

According to this survey, having a "church that doesn't look like a church" is actually a hinderance to the unchurched. If your church looks like a medieval church, the unchurched are actually more likely to want to go to it. This survey actually angers me. The church growth experts came in and stripped our services of Christian liturgy and architecture and said just put the gospel in the sermon and that's all you need and people will like it. WRONG! The high ceilings that draw our eyes upward, the cross shaped buildings that remind us of our being in Christ, and the crosses and stain glass that communicate the gospel in picture - NEVER NEEDED TO GO. Now, by principle and pragmaticism, we have to relearn that the gospel can be told through art, liturgy, architecture and more than just a sermon, and that worship is more than "music." We must learn again how to incarnate the word, within the bounds of Scripture - avoiding idolotry, but subjecting all things to the reign of Christ.


Aaron said...

Agreed! As our church has grown we have occasionally discussed moving to the gym for space. It has always been shot down by just about everyone. EWO is pretty bare compared to the picture you have but the pastor said he and the congregation seem to like the high ceiling and stained glass to focus us upward. Of course what is available and practical is to be taken into account as well. I would rather worship under a tree in the bush with someone trying to preach the Bible then sit through a dead liturgy in a grand cathedral any day. The sky is pretty high too. Ha!

Matthew Bradley said...


What is dead liturgy?

Liturgy is neither dead nor living. It is the Holy Spirit inhabiting his people in worship that alone gives us reason to describe worship as dead or living. Even then I am hesitant to describe worship as one or the other. What one person calls dead may say more about their own heart than it does about the worship. Is the worship true? Does it present Christ in his beauty? Then the liturgical form should not be blamed as a hindrance to someone's being able to glorify God.

I think this term "dead liturgy" is unfortunate. It speaks more to a person's desire to receive in worship than their desire to proclaim the glory of God.

We don't speak of "dead giving" in worship when the coffers are not filled. Instead, we assume it is a heart issue in the congregation. I submit that the same is true regarding the most prominent form of worship in the history of the church, namely a high liturgy.

I sort of used your comment to launch a sermon. Sorry...I don't mean to direct this at you. I get the impression we are probably closer on this than we are apart. But it is an incautious turn of phrase that I believe contributes to the very problem Jared is addressing in his post.

Aaron said...

No disagreement there I don't think. Revival can come to one person from a liturgy that has lost all meaning to everyone else in the room. But there are confessions and liturgies that I would say are "dead" in some sense. For example the PCUSA adding so many confessions to their constitution that it has lost meaning. Sure the Westminster Confession is there but there are other ones to contradict it. Or so I have heard. (See recent White Horse Inn broadcast or Piper's talk on Mechan). When you have people celebrating or promoting a liturgy because they find it more "useful" then "true". I did not mean to rip liturgy per say. God does not want to hear any of our noise be it "liturgical" or "non liturgical" (although I agree with my brother that every church probably has some liturgy whether they admit it or not). I got nothing against liturgy. Talk to my ex-Lutheran friends to get that take. I try to tell them about the dead liturgy of hip praise music and their eyes glaze over and then say I do not understand the people where he came from who are just going through the motions. Well, we can all do that with different motions. I don't think that is controversial is it?? Sounds like maybe I hit a nerve with an unfortunate buzz word. Did I use a theological curse word?
If I have to define dead liturgy I would start with people or person celebrating something devoid of the spirit that they do not even believe anymore but say it is useful. Christianity VS. Liberalism J Gresham Mechan type stuff. I was not getting into my form is better then yours. Good luck with the sermon. So if I listened to it and gave an "AMEN!" while you are preaching it would that be a break from "High Church Liturgy" and thus disorderly and unscriptural? ;-)

Jared Nelson said...

I think your (Aaron's) reply clarifies with good points. By that token, reading the Bible can be dead orthodoxy (did you do your morning devotions this morning? Do you remember them?). So the real choice would be that I would prefer to be in a dead worship church with liturgy than a dead worship church with a rock band - the liturgy (mostly derived from the Bible) can truly enlighten the mind to confession of sin, confession of who God is, and to the image of salvation in the sacraments, while the rock music stripped of any theological meaning ("I love you Jesus") can only move animal urges to mimick true religion. I don't think a church that uses an organ is better than a church with guitars and honestly I wouldn't object to other musical styles in worship. But the other elements (confession, Eucharist, profession of faith) are important since if we loss having our sin confessed, the Scriptures read, our faith professed - then we merely equate worship with music (whether organ or piano or guitar) and do not get the story of redemption told by the order of worship: We are sinners, the word is proclaimed and we partake of the exhibited salvation of body and blood.

Matthew Bradley said...

Well said, Aaron. Yep...a bit of a nerve. This has come up in several conversations recently where "high liturgy" was equated with dead orthodoxy, as if the two were synonyms. So I've been a bit on the defensive. The term is used more often than not to "rip liturgy".

Aaron said...

Matthew, that is cool. I get where you are coming from. Hey, name your sermon, “The dead liturgy of hip praise music.” That would be cool. But then I thought of it so of course I would find it cool. Ha!
Thanks Jared. Agreed on all points! I have thought if I ever moved I would look hard for something like a Reformed Baptist church or something with liturgy that did not go against my conscience with Baptism issues. NOT to start another rabbit trail!! Really all I meant to say is a grand church is not always available or prudent and that can be a beautiful thing too. (Just had an interesting conversation with a woman who had been to St Peter’s and St. Paul’s. She liked St. Paul’s but was offended by the gratuitousness of St. Peter’s which was built even more so on the backs of the poor. I can actually find a grand church an impediment to worship in that sense. But again another rabbit trail. Please don’t call me Judas. Just have to draw the line somewhere. Ha!)
On the dead issue I have heard many a Sunday school lesson and sermons on "dead giving" although it would have been put differently. Actually my pastor has preached on this when the "coffers were not filled"
Luk 21:1 Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box,
Luk 21:2 and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins.
Luk 21:3 And he said, "Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them.
Luk 21:4 For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."
Yep Dead Giving.
And then there is Dead Orthodoxy. Also has been preached from the pulpit of my church.
Rev 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: 'The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands.
Rev 2:2 "'I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false.
Rev 2:3 I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary.
Rev 2:4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.

Andrew said...

well it seems once again that Bill Hybels and American Evangelicalism are wrong again... Historic Christianity? popular? go figure. Good post Jared.