Form vs. Function

I have more of the same this week. By that I mean more business influence in spiritual matters and vice versa. Monday, I was reading this post by Joshua Blankenship and was struck by something. In my past life as a usability analyst/interaction designer for the web, the concepts of design vs. content and form vs. function were constant balancing acts. While aesthetics are critical to the experience, they should enhance the content rather than overshadow it or become the focus. How often do we do this in our spiritual lives as individuals or churches?

The Individual

We all wear masks to hide our core. If you’re a church-goer, you’re probably very familiar with the concept of being one person on Sunday and a completely different person the rest of the week. It is not an easy task by any means, but how much less effort would we have to exert if we changed the content rather than the design? If we lived a lifestyle of worship, led by the Holy Spirit and allowed those fruit to come naturally rather than be a result of window-dressing, how much differently would we look?

The Church

For the local church, this can be taken both literally and figuratively. Do you care more about bodies, budget and buildings or the hearts inside the bodies, the ministries driving the budget or the people inside and more importantly outside the buildings? Take two churches side by side. One has all the marks of a church on mission – they’re growing in number, discipleship and reach in the community. The other seems to have plateaued on all accounts. The first meets in a brand new $25 million facility with the latest technology throughout. The second meets in a high school gymnasium built in 1960. What if you swapped locations? If the “content” is the focus, it won’t matter. That’s an extremely tough concept to grasp given cultural influence of media and those things that churches are seemingly “competing” with.

The Right Priorities

Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

Don’t get me wrong, a $25 million facility can do great things to get people in the doors. But if you don’t put God’s word at the center, you’re just putting lipstick on a pig (sorry, but it’s better than saying “polishing a turd” in this context). Allow God to drive the ministry that creates the need for additional facilities and technology. In the case of the church, function comes before form.

Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.

—JOE SPARANO

Just don’t try to force your way without God. Let the natural byproduct of His influence be transparent. If it’s not, you’re still just putting lipstick on that pig.