Like online church, we have visual and audible experiences when we show up in person. But, unlike watching a live stream, we also engage our senses of touch, taste and smell.
For instance, there are several touch experiences that we get at church that we cannot get from the comfort of our couch. A handshake or a hug. Holding or laying on of hands in prayer.
These are not secondary to the Christian, or human experience. Positive physical contact with other people is essential for our emotional well-being. It actually releases a chemical called oxytocin which, according to the APA, helps people bond, increasing our sense of connectedness, trust and generosity.
We also experience taste and touch when we gather together for church. This may be more obvious in high-liturgy worship where candles and incense are used, but even in less formal churches, we receive communion together.
I’m also convinced that this is a lot of what is behind the recent surge in coffee bars at church. In addition to giving us a place and time to gather, chat and connect, something as mundane as grabbing a cup of coffee in the church lobby engages our senses of smell and taste, drawing us in to connect with others on a deeper level.
Also, taste and smell are the senses most closely associated with memory. If you’ve ever had a nostalgic memory flood your heart without knowing why, it was probably triggered by taste or smell.
All of these are helpful in creating a richer, deeper, more meaningful church experience. And they better prepare us to put our faith in practice after we head out of the church doors.
Using What God Gave Us
Engaging our five senses is not why we go to church, of course. We go for worship, fellowship, discipleship and ministry – and to prepare to live and share our faith in the week ahead.
But if we really want to get the most out of those experiences, if we really want to become more fully-formed followers of Jesus, we should do it with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. And that certainly includes every one of our physical senses.
God had a purpose for giving us five senses, not just two.
When we use all five senses to worship him and interact with other believers, we honor him and his generous gifts.
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