Traditional Better than Contemporary? Really?

Church Solutions recently peeked my curiosity with LifeWay Research that was released. The research is a poll of unchurched folks regarding their preference of worship space.

They surveyed,
...1,684 unchurched adults, and the respondents, when given photos of churches with varying styles, elected the Gothic-style cathedral by a 2-to-1 ratio over contemporary design churches.
Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, said, “Quite honestly, this research surprised us."
One respondent wrote, “I like the smell of candles burning, stained-glass windows, [and] an intimacy that’s transcendent.”

What surprised me was that Dr. Stetzer was surprised. As I have visited new churches with members of our launch team, many of whom have come back to church in recent years themselves, one thing we've all been looking for is a church that creates sacred space.

So far, City On A Hill UMC in Canton, GA has done the best of anyone I've seen. It wasn't just a feeling about being in church but an anticipation there was something bigger than a concert about to happen.

Young people in the survey overwhelmingly preferred the gothic design and the older adults preferred contemporary. Stetzer seemed to think it had to do with history and while that maybe true, I think it had to do more with meaning. Contemporary tends to strip the meaning and imagery from the sanctuary. One of the best classes I ever took in Seminary was Professor Don Boyd's "Servant as Liturgist," where we learned about the meaning of worship space and the order of worship.

I think this is an excellent insight and one not to be brushed off as easily as the article seems to. It seems to me the unchurched recoginize the mystery and wonder of God and faith. You can't manufacture that or market it - it must be lived.

May I Ask: What religious symbol is most meani ngful to you? Why do you think that is?

May I Suggest: Visit the site Symbols in Christian Art & Architecture to learn more about the symbols used in Christianity.


Susan Preece said...

Is it useful. I always remember a term I heard in a theology class of "ADIAPHORA". I remember it being described as "useful, but not necessary."

Of course candles and stained glass and paraments are not necessary, but I find it very useful to me in my worship of the Almighty.

I love a simple altar area that uses everyday items, or symbols of the current sermon theme, or seasonal pictures that help tell the story and enhance the message. A church in a small North Carolina farming community adorns their altar during October and November with harvests from their gardens: Squash and pumpkins and dried corn stalks and hay, home canned vegetables, mums and a cornucopia of fall apples give honor to the Creator who blesses us again and again.

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