Thinking Out Loud

October 27, 2013

Church Life: Pleasing Everyone is Hard to Do

I’ve never actually been in a church where the color of the carpet was an issue, but the topic stands in for a host of other topics when people are discussing superficial things they don’t like about a particular place of worship.

Still, there are some superficials which impact how effective ministry can be. For example, why is sometimes the pastor seems to really connect with people during the sermon, and other weeks when people are less responsive. It may have to do with things you don’t think about.


  • If the sound is turned up too high, people feel like they are being shouted at. It’s the live equivalent of me typing a sentence in CAPITAL LETTERS, back when people actually interacted in groups. Of course, there are some Pentecostal and Charismatic churches where the preacher’s words are amplified at rock concert volumes, but I think we have natural defenses that want to shut off any message bombarding us at high decibels.
  • If the sound is turned down too low, I believe that even if you’re hearing every single word, you’re using some mental processing capacity to strain to catch those phrases and sentences,  at the expense of being able to use that capacity to process the actual content of the words, and their applicability to your situation.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle, and find a way to keep it consistent week-to-week.


  • If the Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system is turned up too high, people feel sticky in the summer and sleepy in the winter. If the temperature makes you feel comfy and cozy like you’re lying under a couple of blankets, you will indeed nod off.
  • If the thermostat is turned down too low, people are squirming or perhaps even needing to use the restrooms. Preservation instinct takes over, and the message processing capacity diminishes.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. Sometimes, if you’re not sure, you need to take 15 seconds to survey the audience on this one.


  • The modern church spends a fortune on stage lighting, which includes something called “backlighting” which helps give definition to people on the platform. However, depending on where you are sitting, these lights can be shining directly into the audience seating. After the first five minutes it gets annoying and after as little as fifteen minutes you have a headache.
  • On the other hand, some churches are so dark it’s creepy. (We covered this topic in the list link a few days ago here.) Combine the absence of light with a high temperature and you have a perfect recipe for slumber once the sermon starts.

What you want is to find the sweet spot in the middle. One church I know turns up the lights for the sermon so people can follow along in their Bibles and make notes. Trouble is, in other auditorium contexts, when the lights come up it means the show is over!

So what superficials have affected worship in your past experience?


  1. We’ve found that all too many Christians believe that pleasing God means a perfecting of the worship service or the environment. How far from the truth that is. Christians can be the most persnickety bunch, we’ve found. I’ve been persnickety (great word, I know) in the past as well for one reason or another. But as I’ve matured, I’ve come to realize how little the ‘optics’ or ‘sonics’ matter. They should be important and reasonable, but last time I checked, Christianity was about mercy, grace, outreach and brother-to-brother/sister-to-sister tolerance and acceptance. When in doubt, read 1 Cor Chap. 13 and hit the reset button once again.

    Comment by Flagrant Regard — October 27, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

    • I think there is a balance here. When Jesus preached to thousands on a hillside (and they were getting hungry, too) sound and temperature controls weren’t in view.

      What I’m trying to say here is that now that we can fine tune those things, it’s important we do our best to get it right, so that there are fewer things that can impede communication. Throughout the article, I tried to use ‘superficials’ so that we’re all clear that these are not the things that matter most; but at the same time, I’m trying to say these things are worthy of consideration.

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — October 27, 2013 @ 3:27 pm

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