Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rhetoric for Sundays

This is the first in another recurring post in which I will discuss some issue regarding the modern church's message.

In this inaugural edition, I want to speak about labeling in church buildings.  Specifically, I would like to note the name of the sanctuary in a church I visited yesterday for a wedding. 

As you can see from this wonderfully professional photograph, this church has renamed the Sanctuary "The Family Room."

Now, I must admit, I was a little judgmental of this church when I first walked in.  It has been some time since I have been in what one might call a "mega church," or even a large church, one that is greatly concerned with growing its numbers.  In fact, I do not even know if the desire to grow numbers was at the heart of this sanctuary naming decision.  Yet, everything about the church was foreign to me, from the coffee shop in the lobby, the receptionist desk, the computer kiosks to check in Sunday School children, the leather chairs in the waiting room.

In all of this, what struck me most was the name of the Sanctuary.  Lets take a moment to think about the rhetoric behind this naming.  I assume, that whoever renamed the sanctuary, "The Family Room" thought that "Sanctuary" was too Christianese and too intimidating.  Sanctuary implies holiness, right.  We don't want people to think that they have to be holy to enter the Sanctuary.  Lets make it a little bit more inviting.  Lets call it "The Family Room."  We, as a church are a family, and this is where we gather.  Yes, that sounds very inviting.

Now, lets bring in one more rhetorical aspect of this renaming, namely, that it is dripping with irony.  What is the connotation of family room for most people.  Yes, I assume it is where most families gather in their homes.  But, what do they gather around?  Yes, again, the Television.  The Family Room in most homes is the entertainment room.  I certainly do not think that was in the mind of those renaming the Sanctuary, but the irony is fantastic.  And, sure enough, walk in this church's "Family Room," and what do you find?  Two giant projector screens.  So, what was meant to be a welcoming name and message to visitors, becomes exactly what it really is, namely, "this is the place where our family comes to be entertained."

Is that what the church should be saying?

1 comment:

  1. I would add that the name "Family Room" is more anthropocentric than theocentric. The name doesn't connote worship of God to me.