Do paprika and peanut butter have a place in our worship services?
There was an interesting post over at Holy Soup this week. My friend Thom Schultz described a multi-sensory experiment in which worshippers consumed flavors and spices from small plastic cups. Using Psalm 34:8 as their jumping off verse, the participants were invited to “taste and see that the Lord is good” – and then reflect on the ways these flavors represent God’s work in their lives.
Some of the worshippers drew profound insights from this playful exercise, Schultz noted. But others were discomforted, as it did not fit their established paradigm for worship.
This got me to thinking: why do we accept certain practices as appropriate in worship, but reject others? Why do we see worship primarily as something we do with our minds and hearts – but not our bodies?
Blame it on Martin Luther.
Early Protestant theologians saw the need to distance themselves from Orthodox and Catholic traditions, so they stripped their worship spaces of icons, statues and paintings. Incense was banned. Preaching replaced the Eucharist as the centerpiece of Protestant worship.
This was a radical change for the church. Catholic and Orthodox worship involves all five senses: taste and touch (the Eucharist), smell (incense) sight (icons and statues) and hearing (the homily).
But we Protestants are people of the Word. We’ve bet the farm on one verse: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
So, beginning in the 1600s, Protestants eliminated almost all sight, taste, smell and touch from their worship. The plain clapboard sanctuaries of the American colonial era were the purest example of this trend.
For 500 years Protestants have trusted just two paths for God’s grace to flow: mouth to ear (preaching) and book to eye (study). The praise and worship movement has restored emotion to worship gatherings — but even that comes through the ears.
Now, some Protestants are trying to welcome all the senses back to church. The emerging worship movement is helping young people reach out to God by projecting renaissance art, iconography and early church symbols during the worship service. Communion is served from a common cup as incense and aromatic candles burn at the altar.Thom Schultz says our modern “population is being conditioned to expect and appreciate more interactive and sensory interfaces–everything from the Internet to Starbucks environments to interactive education. Meanwhile, the prevailing passive spectator model of the American church service is losing its shine.
So what do you think? How might we do a better job stimulating the senses on Sunday morning? Would this reach more men, or would guys see it as a gimmick? Would you invite your friend to a multisensory worship experience? Please – comment below or join the conversation on our Facebook page.
David Murrow is the author of the bestselling book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. David’s books have sold more than 175,000 copies in 12 languages. He speaks to groups around the world about Christianity’s persistent gender gap. He lives in Alaska with his wife of more than 30 years, professional silk artist Gina Murrow. Learn more about David at his Web site, www.churchformen.com, or join the conversation on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/churchformen. Don’t forget to share this page by clicking on the links below, or scroll down and leave a comment (right below those annoying ads that pay for this blog).