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The power of space to change and enhance worship is rarely considered, except perhaps when a building is (or was) being designed by an architect. The space and the furnishing of the place of worship directly impact people’s experience of God’s presence and how they perceive God and one another. The atmosphere, the visuals, the furniture, the spatial distance, the size of the sanctuary, the “look and feel” from inside and out, converge to influence and shape the worshipper’s response to God.
The important feature of Christian worship is that the internal experience of salvation in Jesus Christ, combined with immediate external expressions of this experience, has stamped the use of space in Christian worship with a particular character. Spatial arrangements differ as a result of varying emphases on table fellowship, preaching, baptism, the orders of ministry and gifts, and the sense of body ministry.
Worship in emerging churches as a holistic experience of the saving grace of God is created in part by space. The return of worship to the people, as a work of the people, permits greater use of artistic interpretation, Scripture reading and prayer. In that participatory experience, worshippers acknowledge and celebrate God’s mighty acts of salvation.
Worship is no longer something to be watched or listened to, but something to be done by the people. Thoughtful reconstruction of worship space in sanctuaries constructed many years ago can bring new life and direction to a congregation. Large aisles and larger chancel space allow for greater movement and participation in expressions of worship. Churches that invite people to come forward for prayer, for laying on of hands, and for other kinds of ministry need adequate space for these functions of worship ministry.
New attention is being paid to church architecture. New or refurbished church buildings need to facilitate the relationships of people to one another, renew the holy and allow for appropriate use of artistic symbols, sights and sounds. Above all, the church building must express hospitality and acceptance.
In Romans 12, worship is described as presenting our whole beings to God as living sacrifices because of his grace and mercy. These sacrifices are a spiritual act of worship, sacrifices of ourselves for God’s glory. God reveals Himself to us in worship; we respond to him in joy, praise and thanksgiving. He speaks to us through His Word: the story of His kingdom communicated verbally, visually, spatially and experientially. His Spirit convicts our spirits, hearts, mind and emotions; we are changed; we repent.
God extends his love and mercy to us and in worship, we offer ourselves to him, loving him with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls and our strength. We experience personal connection, personal healing and personal restoration. We experience joy.