How the Physical Affects the Spiritual
Have you ever felt too tired to pray? I remember reading a book on spiritual growth by John Ortberg and he said, “Sleeping can be one of the most spiritual things you can do.” It’s a quote that’s stuck with me throughout my ministry years that highlights an important lesson for the church – the physical affects the spiritual. We do our best at WMBC to create physical spaces that lead people to worship and grow in their faith. We try to remove as many distractions as we can so that people can have a spiritual encounter or experience with Jesus. One of the aspects of physical space that can impact us spiritually is lighting. For the last eight months or so we’ve gone with a more dimly lit setting for our worship experience on Sunday mornings and I’d to highlight some of the reasons for this that we hope are making a spiritual impact.
The decision was made to have the lights dimmer primarily because of our desire to focus on who we are trying to reach! We believe having the blind and lights down would create an environment that would enable those new to the church experience and exploring who Jesus is feel less exposed and more relaxed. There is a lot of science behind how types of lighting affect our mood. I think we sometimes forget how intimidating and even confusing a Sunday morning worship experience can be to those who are unchurched. We continue to see more and more people attend our Sunday morning service who are seeking answers about faith and Jesus, have not grown up in the church, and feel welcomed and a sense of belonging here at WMBC. So good!
Studies tell us that an area more brightly lit than our surroundings draws our focus and attention to it and helps us from being distracted. The benefits of not having large amounts of natural light coming in is that we are able to focus people’s attention to the stage, the music, the teaching, and practically speaking we’re able to more clearly see the screen. We’ve also experimented bringing up the lighting in the sanctuary for the message so it’s easier for people to take notes and read in their Bibles.
We have a large sanctuary that was designed for a single service environment, so while running dual services offers great flexibility and options for families to attend, the drawback is that it also divides our congregation over two services and spreads us out throughout the sanctuary. We want all ages in our Sunday morning worship experience to freely express themselves in worship without feeling exposed or isolated, and be willing to raise their hands, sit, stand, and not feel like they stand out. Dimming the lights creates safety both for those new to church but also for those of us who grew up in the church but still feel self-conscious and would like to be more expressive in worship.
Certainly arguments and reasons can be given for brightly light worship spaces too, so in the end some of this comes down to subjective preferences and what you’re trying to accomplish. When we don’t always agree on personal preferences, I admire how WMBC extends grace and remains united and committed in our mission to passionately lead people to love and follow Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.