Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Theology of Intelligent Design (But Not the One You're Thinking Of)

I saw this video online the other day and (because I'm a pastor) I immediately thought about it in terms of the church.

I should probably say that I find the field of design fascinating (I blame my college roommate who was an art/design major). While I don't consider myself a design expert, what I've come to understand and appreciate is that design isn't just about what something looks like, but how someone uses and experiences the product. Good design makes someone want to use the product and feel good while using it. Some of the best design solutions may even go unnoticed because they work so intuitively that we don't even think about how to use it.

So when I watched this, I started thinking, "How could the principles of good design help improve the church?"

Now whenever I use the word "church" in the same sentence with words like "business," "marketing," or "design," I see many Christians get a panicked look in their eyes that says, "He wants to turn the church into a shopping mall! It'll be Six Flags over Jesus!" So let me be clear, I do not think Jesus is a fully customizable pick-your-own-religion kit to be sold. The Gospel challenges and changes us, not the other way around.

However, as Mark Parker says in the video, "Good design is a part of any brand realizing its full potential." And unless I missed the memo where suffering and disease all ended, then the Church has not realized its full potential. Yet it seems like many Christians are so insistent on not being a "business" that we almost take pride in our buildings being hard to navigate and our worship services being confusing for visitors.

My point in appealing to good design isn't to offer a one-size-fits-all packaged idea to "fix" any church. My point is to raise a question. Parker says that design is "creating products and services that really excite and delight the consumer." So if Jesus is the bread of life and living water that quenches all thirst, shouldn't that be shared in a way that "excites and delights"? Shouldn't that naturally be something we want to use and feel good while using?

I have often experienced faith as a beautiful, mysterious, and endlessly fascinating thing that keeps drawing me back and deeper. But I know that some find their initial experience with faith/religion/church is quite the opposite and therefore miss glimpsing the "full potential" of the Church that "excites and delights" those of us who love her. So how do we pay attention to the design of church so that it feels more like "Double Rainbow Across the Sky" and less like Dana Carvey as the Church Lady?

“Be part of the miracles you see in every hour.” -10,000 Maniacs, "These Are Days"

No comments:

Post a Comment