I recently visited a church where they had the word “AUDITORIUM” written over the doors of the sanctuary in large capital letters. Something about it struck me as odd and I thought about that word for a moment. It made me feel kind of cold and detached; there was nothing personal or intimate about it. When I read the word auditorium, my memory drifted to elementary school days when we would meet in an empty gym of a public school—a cold and sterile room where our shoes squeaked on the floor as we ran.
Out of curiosity I grabbed my phone and did a quick Google search of the definition of auditorium and according to Merriam-Webster it is:
- The part of a public building where an audience sits.
- A room, hall, or building used for public gatherings; a large room or building where people gather to watch a performance, hear a speech, etc.; the part of a building (such as a theater) where an audience sits.
To me it seems strange to consider your place of worship an auditorium. I personally much prefer the word sanctuary as a true worship experience and my expectation of said experience:
- A consecrated place: as the ancient Hebrew temple at Jerusalem or its holy of holies; the most sacred part of a religious building (as the part of a Christian church in which the altar is placed); the room in which general worship services are held; a place (as a church or a temple) for worship.
- A place of refuge and protection; a refuge for wildlife where predators are controlled and hunting is illegal; the immunity from law attached to a sanctuary.
The church is not a “public building”—it is a place of worship. It isa place designed for us to come and worship together and meet God face-to-face; a place to receive teaching and spiritual impartation. That is what we are there for. Perhaps, if we were connected to the ‘WHY’ we were gathering there it would change the way we label it.
Our expectations make a difference.
As a worship leader I can truly attest to that. You can tell when your congregation comes expecting a move of the spirit, versus times when we show up out of habit. There is almost something tangible in the air when people gather in Holy expectation, instead of obligation.
As a congregation, we are not called to be an audience—a group of people who gather together to listen to something (such as a concert) or watch something (such as a movie or play); the people who attend a performance—we are called to be a congregation of people who actively participate in a worship service.
Ultimately, I don’t think it really matters what we label our buildings—our verbiage isn’t the issue—it is the heart that matters. But our Church culture has become so modernized, so Greek thinking, that we say things and label things absent minded, with little to no thought of what we are actually saying.
I don’t want to go to a large room to watch a performance—I want to go to a consecrated place, a place of worship, a refuge. I want to go to a sanctuary.
Did you read that? A consecrated place—a place that is set apart. It isn’t a theatre or a meeting hall. It isn’t a multi-purpose space. A sanctuary has been set apart for God’s Word and God’s worship. Not worship of another human. Not worship of any form of idol.
When I go to church I do not want to be seated where the audience sits eating popcorn and waiting for someone to entertain me. I want to step into the temple… I ultimately desire to have an experience that leads me into the Holy of Holies. THAT is my expectation.
The Hebrew temple actually had layers—the outer courts, the inner courts, and the Holy of Holies. The outer court area was accessible to all of Israel—the trumpets would sound and the gates would open for the people to enter. The inner court area was for the priests, the direct descendants of Aaron. It was there where the priests washed their hands and feet, brought their sacrifice, and then immersed into the Molten Sea (a full bodily immersion). These acts made the Inner Court a place of cleansing and atonement. It is recorded that from there fire, incense and gold led the way from the Inner Court to the Holy Place—it is here where an offering of incense was given and the priest would lay prostrate on the ground in full surrender and worship.
“Take Me In,” was a song released in 1989, but it still applies today:
Take me past the outer courts
Into the Holy Place
Past the brazen altar
Lord I want to see your face
Pass me by the crowds of people
And the Priests who sing your praise
I hunger and thirst for your righteousness
But it's only found in one place
Take me into the Holy of Holies
Take me in by the blood of the Lamb
Take me into the Holy of Holies
Take the coal, touch my lips, here I am
Here is the problem. We have not only labeled our church buildings as ‘auditoriums,’ but we are living like they are auditoriums with similar expectations.
We show up on Sundays and expect to be entertained. Very few are there to participate or even volunteer and serve—we are there to be served. And Heaven forbid the leader preach something that we don’t like—no, we want our ears tickled and our hearts encouraged. Tell me something good and show me something better. By all means: do not bore me!
We have put a demand on our speakers, teachers, pastors and worship leaders to compete with the world standard of entertainment and then go ahead and ‘save our souls’ while you are at. I dare say that this is especially evident in youth and children ministry.
We arrive with a ‘show me what you have’ mentality and leave mildly entertained and perhaps slightly spiritually charged. This is what happens when we treat our church buildings like auditoriums.
The sad part is that there are thousands upon thousands of gathering places for people—auditoriums, stadiums, theaters, etc.—but there are very few sanctuaries, very few refuges, very few consecrated places of protection and true worship.
At the end of the day we all need a sanctuary. We need a place to meet with our Father without the distractions of the world and her idols. We need a place where we can be embraced by the law of grace, and not the law of religious obligation. But in order to have this, in order to foster this environment, we have to come into our churches expecting a sanctuary experience and maintain a lifestyle that allows us to ‘enter into the Holy of Holies.’
We need to enter a consecrated place with consecrated hearts and a holy expectation about meeting our Father face-to-face. Expecting a place of refuge. Expecting a place of sanctuary.
MEET MEGANN MARCELLINO
As Curt and Christie’s daughter, Megann Marcellino has been part of the Curt Landry Ministries team since its inception. Even as a very little girl she had a heart for Israel and loves worship, writing, and working as part of the administrative team for the Landry’s various organizations.
Megann is happily married to Paul Marcellino. They have three children and they reside in Oklahoma.