spent a good chunk of the day working on the church budget for next fiscal year. as we considered investing in some cosmetic improvements to the building our church community uses for our worship celebrations and offices, i was reminded of some interesting ideas about the power of context that i recently came across in Malcolm Gladwell's excellent book, The Tipping Point.
in it, he notes the precipitous decline in crime that New York City experienced last decade and sheds light on it's most direct cause: a crackdown on subway fair jumping and grafitti-free subway trains. apparently, the new head of the subway system at the time decided to invest a sizeble chunk of his budget and leadership equity towards making sure that anyone who tried to avoid paying a fare would be rounded up, taken to a police station, and prosecuted, and that no train would make its route if it had grafitti on it. as soon as a train had any grafitti on it, it was taken out of service until it was cleaned up, so that the grafitti artists' nighttime work never saw the light of day. the remarkable result in a very short period of time is that every kind of crime in the city declined. and dramatically. murders, robbery, assault, you name it. in other words, those small but noticeable changes to the environment created a "tipping point", such that a large number of people who might otherwise have been inclined to criminal behavior (and in previous years, had been) simply did not commit those crimes. simply because the environmental changes communicated ideas like: "someone is in charge here", among other things.
so anyway, got me thinking about what impact the physical environment in which we worship has on our worship and even on our common life together. what small things might create a "tipping point" that frees people to worship wholeheartedly who might otherwise have a low level of distraction or preoccupation or whatever, just enough to keep them from engaging with what God is doing at any particular time? could the transition from 2-ply to 3-ply kleenex create a tipping point? how about good lighting? fresh paint? well trimmed grass? what small things communcate ideas like: "God matters to us", "people matter to God", "there's more mercy here than we know exactly what to do with", "broken things get fixed with love", etc? seems like a fun idea to experiment with.