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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What Should a Church Sanctuary Look Like?

If you are not careful you will think its all about opulence when you read the story of Solomon building the Temple. Sure, there was no expense spared but I really don't think it was about how much was spent or whether it awed the people who entered it. I believe it was an attempt to build something worthy of the presence of the Lord God Almighty.

I have worshiped in other countries in tin buildings which represented the best the people had to offer.  The worship was rich because it was from the heart. The heart which is committed to loving God without reservation is also the best that humans can offer.

A church sanctuary, the place where the people meet to worship, should be the best those people can offer. The looks will change because of the cultures but the heart of the people will remain the same. They will say, "This is where we meet with our God. We welcome Him here and are prepared to give Him our best."

Giving your best is not mere attendance. That is how sanctuaries were built for some time. They were built with as many seats as possible so that people could attend. Worship is participation. It must invite the congregants to participate. It must leave room for commitment.

The sanctuary is not a stadium for people to watch others perform. The platform in the sanctuary should be a place for worship leaders to bring those gathered into the presence of God. The worship leaders are not performers to be praised by those in attendance. They are leaders who share their own hearts through music, sermons, prayers and testimonies. The platform should promote the use of the worshipers' senses. The words and music must be heard clearly. The leaders should be seen without obstructions.

The sanctuary needs constant maintenance and even renovations. The cracks in the walls must be fixed the broken seats must be replaced when they can no longer be fixed. The stained carpet must also be replaced when it can no longer be cleaned. We must always remember that this is a place that honors God. It should represent our best.

I have been in some beautiful sanctuaries filled with people who had no more worship that wooden posts. I have been in crude sanctuaries filled with people whose hearts echoed their desire to give God their best. But I have never been in a sanctuary which was unclean, filled with broken seats, stained carpet and people who treated their own homes much better than their church sanctuary who really understood what real worship is.

You see, I have found that a committed people want to give God their best. There is no way to give Him your best without worship. That place of worship should represent the best we can offer.

What will you do to change this if this is not true of your church sanctuary? Should we find the glory of the Lord resting on the people who are giving God their best?

2 Chronicles 7:1-3 (NIV)
1 When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. 2 The priests could not enter the temple of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled it. 3 When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the LORD above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, "He is good; his love endures forever."


Kelly Turner said...

I love this, a place of worship isn't a place to observe; but to sit at the feet of God to me taught.

high-expressions said...

A good write-up for such a topic.

Although what is done in a sanctuary, in today's context, is more than worship in the form of singing praises and worship songs accompanied by music unto the Lord, generally speaking, this text of Ps Prentis, I like:

"Worship is participation. It must invite the congregants to participate. It must leave room for commitment."

Especially for praise and worship, participation of congregation is imperative. And please, church leaders must participate, too. It will be a mistake for church leaders to ask for participation from congregation when they themselves, while in the services, do NOT participate; also it is equally a mistake to exhort unity of hearts from congregation when church leaders themselves are NOT united. The corporate atmosphere must include the part coming from the church leadership. Don't say these things do NOT happen; yes, they do, in churches where there are several pastors and leaders. It is foremost, the leadership must be united.

Talking about commitment, there are more than one angle to it. The obvious one is that of commitment of members to come to such services, typically we call them the weekend worship services. But there is the whole commitment of seeing each service is "run" to meet the desire of God; after-all, it is all about God.

If it is all about Him, then it is about what He would like to have us do, and more importantly, He must be given priority, over all frivolous desires of men of what they (men) think they can do, and want to do. God to come; that is what we want to see, but how does God come into our midst? He comes by His Spirit; His Holy Spirit comes, and along with the angels assigned for the church and the people. If it is all about God, we must NOT prioritize ourselves higher than the Holy Spirit. You think nobody would do that. No, people do that all the time; prioritize themselves higher than the Holy Spirit!

I know we have to, as a norm, keep to some kind of schedule, i.e. we got to finish the service by a certain time. Although that too, at times we have to bend it, but I am NOT particularly targeting at that, but rather, in our schedule, do we or do we NOT, allocate time for the Holy Spirit to minister, especially when it quite clear that the church has entered into a time and season of witnessing the Holy Spirit moving people to release words of knowledge and prophecies, and ministering healing, breaking bondages and yokes, rendering wholeness, and giving breakthroughs in people’s impasses?


high-expressions said...

Cont. from above

Do we quench the moves of the Spirit, with pretexts like “It is messy doing ministering to people in services”, “Such would eat into the time of other line-ups, like the sermon”, etc? You say these things don’t happen. Well, I have had request from worship pastor to release words of knowledge at the second song, and NOT later (at the end of the praise and worship segment); the pretext was that the worship team find it difficult to do a double peaks, first peak at their intended end of segment, and then another peak with the ministry going on. Look, I felt like telling the worship pastor, “Go tell it to God or the Holy Spirit.” I don’t dictate when God is going give words to release, hello! Furthermore, I was also told by the Senior Pastor (retired, now), he did NOT want words received before I came into the sanctuary (meaning, I could NOT wait upon the Lord at home before I come into the sanctuary, for words. For that, to honor the Senior Pastor (NOT that I thought he was right!), I got into the sanctuary 1 hour before first service of 8.30am (and I still do), to pray and intercede, just so that the words were received in the sanctuary!). I suspect the worship pastor wanted to look after the interest of her ministry, wanted to achieve her so-called high point in every praise and worship; “interruptions” hinder. In the first place, there is no requirement of a double peaks, all that was required was that the congregation worshipped on, as the ministers prayed and ministered to people at the sanctuary front. We all have to be mindful that it is NOT an issue of us scoring points, but for the Holy Spirit to score!

If you are the Senior Pastor but you are NOT yet doing these things, releasing words of knowledge, prophecies, praying for the sick with anointing, and with manifestation seen such as, people getting slain, and people showing signs of being demonized, people getting healed, and miracles like legs growing, what do you do when your congregation, members, are already being used by the Lord in these? Do you facilitate or do you discourage and cut off the opportunity for such to take place?

It is NOT difficulty to dish out, and such pastors do, dish out all sorts of reasons like, “We should NOT be concentrating on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, rather the Word is more important!” Look, 10 minutes of a 2 hour service, I don’t think that is concentrating too much; Yes, the Word is important, but the Word is NOT impotent – the Word is of power, and so, let the Word manifests its power by the moves the Spirit. The Word is important, but a practical working of the Lord in equalizing the length of the legs of an individual, that is good testimony of the Word, and clearly showed God was, is and going to be the same; it showed God is real, NOT that God is NOT real. Sermons, men’s attempts, are important, but the direct moves of the Spirit are even more important; I or any of the ministers, don’t heal or give the breakthroughs to people’s impasses; it is purely the work of God, His Spirit. If we truly embrace our coming together, is all about Him, let Him do what He wants to do; if His Spirit wants to minister, let Him ministers.


high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

Who are we to dictate when and where God is to work! Sorry, we cannot rationalize away the ministry of the Holy Spirit in services by such reasoning as these: There are so many of us at our seats, there are only a few of them needing ministry at the front, and we have to defer to them; shouldn’t we prioritize to give majority the priority; we shouldn’t have to have the majority wait for the few (wake up, the ways of the Kingdom is NOT necessarily going by the majority, my friends!). Or why, can’t they just fix up appointments to separately see the ministers of various ministries of the church, to meet behind closed doors, instead of having us, the so many of us, waiting at the seats, wasting our time! No, this word from a sister echoed the right attitude, “If God indicates He wants to heal someone NOW, we do it NOW. It is as simple as that (ok, we observe order, at the same time). You don’t tell God, He should heal the person He wants to heal 2 months down the road when an appointment is fixed, and He has to do it without wasting so many people’s time!”

If you are sincere about His Spirit should have the highest priority, and you want to facilitate the Holy Spirit ministering to people, my recommendation is to have the ministry time, just after the praise and worship segment, which, usually is taking place at the front end of the service. If we truly talk about commitment, then please don’t do this, “If we have the time left over, then we will have the ministry (at the sanctuary front) at the end of the service.” If you are doing that; what kind of commitment, priority and best is that! (I am NOT saying we cannot have ministry time at the end of a service, per se, but it is the attitude of priority we accord to the Holy Spirit that is material here).

I have talked much about the going-on in the sanctuary rather than the physical aspect of the sanctuary; well, Ps Prentis also has somewhat skewed his article that way, too. Afterall, the best is NOT the physical, per se, but the best is to be first of all, of our heart aligning to the heart of God.

If you have accumulated much money for a church extension and refurbishment, and God suggests to you to give the money for missions, what do you do? Rightly, you should still make do with the existing state of your church building, and use the money as directed by God. In this case, it is still the best sanctuary as far as God is concerned!

Of course, Ps Prentis is right, as a matter of norm (until God directs you otherwise), to glorify God, the right thing to do is to give the best as the house of God. If we hold Him to the highest esteem, we should be giving God the best we could afford. King David painted for us the right heart attitude when he said that he had then settled into a nice and grand palace; God, being his highest esteem, ought to be offered a greater house. Although he was NOT to build the Temple, he spared no effort in storing up the best for the Temple which was then built by his son, King Solomon, who succeeded him.


high-expressions said...

COnt. from above

Ps Prentis illustrated it well, if the carpet is stained, something has to be done about it; if the seats are broken, something got to be done about it. “Yah, yah”, echoed the congregation; but you, members of congregation, got to do your part; if money is needed, will you do your part?

It is NOT always about money, though, but about the heart. I give another example. If you don’t dirty the sanctuary, then the beauty of the sanctuary last longer. The carpet got stained, how did it happen? Someone stained it. So, people, you need to take care of the sanctuary more than you take care of your house. I don’t generally pick up every single piece of paper, tissue bits or loose scraps of wrapper and things like that, on my house floor, but I would pick them up when I see them at the sanctuary front. Do you do that, or you just pass it by, and think that someone can pick it up; it does NOT need to be, by you? These small little things tell on the reverence you have for your God.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

Anonymous said...

The sanctuary should be set apart. It is a place like no other. We can enter in and worship and praise without the world interrupting; such as a phone call, someone at the door, kids or television. It is holy and should be revered, yet I am dismayed at the worldly videos used to illustrate a sermon. Young girls that do not dress appropriately. Swirling lights, strobe lights, and loud music during worship. do those really glorify God, or are they used to "keep" people from being bored by the old ways? Santa Clause making an appearance during a Christmas program, with thanks and applause. Easter eggs and a rabbit on hand to entertain the kids. It is so hard to worship God in spirit and in TRUTH? We are reverence His sanctuary. He said, "My house shall be called a house of prayer." If we want to change the world, then we cannot be like the world. They have to see a difference when they enter the church. Yes, we are the church, but God's sanctuary must be respected, reverenced, and be kept Holy. God never changes, neither should we when we enter in. If holiness is what we long for, then lets let Him be the focus.