The modern Christian home, both its arrangement and substance are a fundamental factor in how we practically and creatively manifest the gospel. The home provides far more than shelter and the simple necessities of survival; it is a forum for community, a medium of self-expression and a means of ministry. Both internally and externally the home has become an extension of our identity, conveying a complex message about its existence and purpose to all who encounter the dwelling. The dynamics of a home significantly influence us, even to the degree of altering our perception and interaction with the world, by imposing a constant reminder of who we are and how we have chosen to arrange our lives. The home is often the largest possession an individual owns, and its affect on our life is equally substantial; shaping how we engage our community, express our identity and attribute value to relationships, tasks and objects.
Message of Redemption
Regardless of the final form that our home takes, it retains a considerable amount of information regarding our lifestyle priorities. This retained information is then conveyed to everyone who experiences the home in any manner; whether walking past its exterior, crossing its threshold or residing within its walls for a period of time. The home tells a story of all who have altered its form, from the craftsmen that first converted its desolate skeleton into a place of shelter, to the resident that painted its walls and brought life to the interior. Those who interact with the home leave an impression of their identity and purpose, one that is received and translated many times throughout the day. The impression of the home, once a mere sketch on an draftsman’s table, hidden from public view, has been manifested and transformed, standing today as a herald to all who will listen.
The message that the home can convey has already been significantly solidified by its architect and even further decided by the location upon which it resides. Thus, as one who seeks to obtain and reside within a home, discerning the extents or limitations of the pre-existent home to serve as their medium, is no less important than a sculpture selecting his stone. The home will always retain a portion of its origin, one that can serve to enrich the message of redemption; as an old structure is given new life through renovation, decoration and the impartation of residents.
The origin of the home, as well as our innate desire to create and reside within one, which transcends mere utilitarian requirements, is neither a modern nor man-made pursuit. The desire to integrate beauty, symbolism and function through the medium of a residence; has as transcendent an origin, as God himself. From the formation of the heavens, to the creation of the earth, the concept of created space for the purpose of residing is an entirely God ordained concept; one that is rich in artistic attributes. Perhaps, the nearest to our own capacity as individuals to enter into this divinely ordained undertaking can be seen in the construction of the tabernacle. “As the house of God on earth, the tabernacle was a supreme statement of eternal values. Its design and ornamentation thus serve as a divine endorsement of symbolic, representational, and nonrepresentational art.” The myriad of aesthetic nuance, symbolic presentation, and functional arrangement of which the tabernacle was comprised were all embedded within significant conceptual truths. Even those aspects of the tabernacle that were without intrinsic symbolism still existed to convey an air of solidarity with those elements that contained such truth.
Accordingly, every facet of the tabernacle was saturated with meaning as a result of the careful attention that was give to the arrangement and crafting of every feature. The diligent and decisive efforts of those who constructed the tabernacle, were motivated by both the divine commission of God and their appreciation for art’s capacity to imbue substance; which can direct others to glorify God through architecture that reveals truth. Even the catacombs of the early Church, manifest the value of the gospel through the medium of interiors. “A main medium for early Christians was fresco painting on the walls of the catacombs, and primitive carvings on the outside of sarcophagi of deceased Christians.”
This manifestation has continued throughout history as evidenced in churches and cathedrals around the world; whether located in third world countries or Vatican City. And, it is still evident today on a personal level, as we see the incredible capacity of the modern Christian home to receive, retain and ultimately convey the message of God’s presence and imposition on our lives. This capacity, as well as Gods divine appointment to utilize all measures of our existence to reflect Him, should motivate us to critically access the manner in which we arrange our home. Through exploration of the varied elements and aspects existing in the home, we can determine those that contain an immense capacity to serve as a tangible manifestation of the gospel; then its impression upon our soul and lives shall be made apparent. It is important to retain those elements which give meaning to the innate value and capacity of the architecture, design and arrangement intrinsic to the home.
“Design is a series of decisions that result in a series of consequences, good or bad. Good design results from making informed decisions from a knowledge base, realizing that each choice we make has a real and lasting impact on the lives of the people we serve, our communities, and the world at large. It could even be said that, as creators of environments, we are on divine assignment. What an awesome responsibility!”
Three primary categories of our home should be recognized as containing communicative capacity: aesthetic, symbolism and function. Within the three, it is essential that a Biblically inspired interpretation of these attributes be found. Any element of the home, no matter how seemingly mundane, often carries with it, some level of mediated significance by either imparting a concept or altering your perceptions of your environment. In my interview with designer and Christian Katherine Ankerson I asked if interior design was an affective means of communication? Her response was an emphatic, “Absolutely yes!” further she said, “our environment affects all of our senses, and thus has a tremendous impact.” This impact is not a moderate sense of aesthetic accommodation, but an embodiment of ideals, concepts and truths that are lived out in our home; who’s expression can only be seen and felt by those who enter within it’s doors. The home is a unique and tangible canvas for expression of our identity, one that reflects our position in Christ.
If we are to reflect our identity, the intended message that the home is to convey, it should come from a synthesis of personal conviction and Biblical responsibility. Take time to consider the elements of your home and how they communicate, asking yourself how you could alter your home to better convey your message and accommodate your lifestyle. Be conscious of the affect that the elements can have on your daily tasks. Even the simplest attributes of your home can substantially impact you lifestyle, determining the manor in which you approach your priorities. Our environment affects all of our senses, and thus has a tremendous impact.
“Design sets the stage for all activities within a home. For instance, quiet, restful areas for reading (with proper lighting), arrangements that promote quality conversations, or that take advantage of views outward. Good design also creates a sense of peace, important in family life! It can create activity areas where people spontaneously gather (by design, of course!), and much more.” –Katherine Ankerson
How the Home Communicates
All the elements of your home can serve as message holders; objects that retain a specific meaning and communicate this to the individuals who observe or interact with them. Take time to consider the message that the objects within your home are communicating, it may be the art that graces your walls or the furniture that fills your living room. However, many of these elements are wordless communicators that need an interpreter, accordingly you should be well versed in the language of your home, be ready to interact with and interpret the message that your home is attempting to communicate. If you have intentionally chosen to forgo a coffee-table in your living room to accommodate more seating, don’t be ashamed to express your decision to your guests, this can be an opportunity to convey your priorities. What may appear as a simple oversight on your part, can be transformed into an opportunity to communicate what you value the most. If you select and arrange furniture that provides additional, comfortable seating because you value having guests in your home, then you are communicating intentionality, which will bolster the integrity of your witness. Guests cannot deny that you truly value community when they can tangibly see that you have designed your home in a manor that serves to accommodate the lifestyle you have chosen. Though you may claim to value community the impact of inviting them into a home that has been intentionally arranged for the purpose of fostering relationships, validates true hospitality.
There is admittedly no uniform model of manifesting the gospel through the medium of your home; just as sharing the truth of the hope that is within you will be unique to you, differing from others based upon the myriad of experiences that constitute your special relationship with the Lord and the community with whom you are sharing. Similarly, determining how you should arrange your home will be a personal, creative, communal and spiritual matter, one that should be intentionally considered.
Foremost in developing a design strategy for your home, is fostering a sense of identity for yourself, then deriving what characteristics of this identity you want to convey through the elements of your home. Accordingly, before you begin altering any aspect of your home take time to reflect upon the uniqueness of yourself, your life and your home; allowing your personal spiritual identity to determine the steps that you will take to arrange your home. Katherine Ankerson stated, “not only does design communicate to others, but it reinforces a sense of self-image.” If this image has not been defined through your relationship and time of reflection with the Lord, you will simply mirror the model of the world. It is an easy temptation to pick up the latest Pottery Barn or Ikea catalog and arbitrarily select the most trendy, expensive or aesthetically appealing elements without having first developed your own identity. The home should be a reflection of your own individuality, embodied through the medium of the physical elements that comprise your residence. You should be leery of adopting wholesale, the culturally determined standards of design without considering your motivation for arranging your home. If you do not know who you are, you cannot even begin to reflect your identity in your home. You must first take time to be intentional about exploring yourself and your motivations. “We do not know who we are or what we think. There is a desperate need to learn who we are so that we can live well.” Therefore, “A major key in personal development is being able to reflect on where you’ve been, what you thought before, and who you were before as contrasted with where you are, how you think, and who you are now.” Without personal reflection and a time of communion with God to guide your evolving identity, you will not be able to manifest yourself and Christ’s love in your home, you must start with a contemplative approach to your life and then apply what your heart reveals through the elements of your home.
Ephesians 2:19- Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.
While the medium of home design is an incredible opportunity to express to others the impact that Christ has had on our hearts, homes and lives, it is hardly a comprehensive expression of Christ’s love. “…our extensions are not enough to communicate the Gospel on their own… A message of love must be expressed through loving; a message of forgiveness must be expressed through forgiving. Some Christians prefer to hide behind their art, but by removing themselves from the context and trying to let their extensions speak for themselves, they compromise the clarity and potency of the message they mean to communicate.”
Accordingly, while your home may present itself as the essential medium for conveying the truth, it is equally valuable if used as a venue of love. A setting, where the gospel will be experienced as individuals engage in community with one another in a home that is suited for this cause. The home lends itself to a unique and incredible open-ended invitation to express the hope that dwells within you. Unlike other mediums, inviting someone into your home is almost entirely unobtrusive and well received. Where street evangelists, Christian artists and pastors can work for hours striving and pleading for their audience’s attention; a simple request to have someone join you at your home, can result in hours of engagement inside an intimate and transparent setting. You should not undervalue the incredible opportunity and capacity that your home offers. Nor should you selfishly preserve it solely for you own pleasure, but engage with your community and allow your home to serve as a location of relationship building and God honoring community formation. By intentionally arranging your home as a way to serve and minister to guests, you communicate their value in your life, “we take out our best for those who we value most.”
As you reflect upon the state of your own home, don’t allow the trends, obligations or personal desires to overshadow the sense of urgency that God has laid on all believers hearts to be relational with others as a means to encounter and share His love. Allowing the impression of your relationship with the Lord to compel your home design is important, but a deeper desire to see your home filled and relationships formed within its walls should be your foundational motivation for intentional home arrangement.
Learn the Language of Design
“Design is a holistic, creative process approach to solving a problem or need. It requires clear definition of need and a good understanding, derived from research, of the physical/functional needs of the solution and where it must serve. In addition, the artistic design influence of scale, emotion, form, materials and color are embedded in what we call cultural content.”
As a Christian sensing and learning to rely upon the motivations of the Holy Spirit should be our primary source of inspiration. By educating yourself about how design speaks, you can learn the language of design and execute your home design with excellence. However, learning the language of design does not mean you have to adopt the culturally imposed message from which you learned. Rather, through intentional reflection you can redeem the art of design by utilizing it as a form of worship, spiritual expression and ministry. When educating yourself about design it is essential to differentiate between blind adoption and redemptive adaptation.
Romans 12:2- We should not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds,
Therefore, consent to learn the medium of home design and the opportunity to implement the skills you develop should not become an excuse to adopt worldly trends of consumerism, status and design for the sake of earthly gain or recognition. Rather, the challenge is learning how to utilize the assets the Lord has provided; learning how they can be invested and presented as a means to glorify Him with excellence.
Intentional arrangement of ones “life” should be the goal of any Christian. In the parable of the “good steward” (Matthew 25) Christ is teaching us much more than financial responsibility. He is speaking of the many gifts and assets that God has provided as a means to honor and glorify Him throughout our lives. Being intentional and responsible with all the resources He has bestowed upon you is an incredible opportunity to glorify Him by manifesting the value the gospel has upon your heart and in your life. The asset of your home, your creative capacity and a desire to convey the truth of His love through the means He has provided, should be the focus of our thoughts, in every aspect of our lives, including the interior design of our home. You glorify God by employing your resources with skill and intentionality, “We hold the world’s most powerful message in our hands, and we need to communicate it with excellence.”
“It’s about recognizing the cultural shift that’s taking place where we do less talking and more listening; where we create content that’s easily shared and spread; and it’s about being willing to tread in unfamiliar territory…”
I live in an area where home interiors are a consuming trend; design is discussed, observed and responded to with great attentiveness. And a great deal of money. Consequently, I have been made aware of how the incredible opportunity of instilling meaning and intentional arrangement in a home will allow me to express my faith and it’s influence upon my life. How I manifest this, is unique to my personal identity, community and spiritual conviction. Thus, my home will appear significantly different than others; this is a beautiful expression of diversity and personality. Achieving a home that is genuine to your person takes time and attentiveness; this is not limited only to those with a vested interest in design, but rather it is for anyone who desires to express themselves with the resources God has provided. Listen to your community and discern how your home can serve as a medium for expressing God’s love; unique to you and those to whom you minister.
Vulnerability and Sacrifice
1 Peter 2:5- You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Perhaps the greatest burden for some in this endeavor may be the sacrifice of vulnerability. “Vulnerability in my mind is equatable to a kind of social, spiritual, emotional, or psychological nakedness before others.” When you have taken the time to be intentional about the manner in which you arrange your home, particularly if your taste or financial limitations place you outside “designer trends”, it can be intimidating to associate your identity with your home. However, if you feel your home respects the imposition that the spirit has laid upon your heart, then inviting others in to engage in relationships and express Christ through the venue of your home is a God honoring sacrifice. Just like any artist or ministry leader, you too, are stepping into vulnerability which can be wrought with fear; but knowing your motivation and preparation have been steeped in prayer and reflection allows you to take hope. Culture may tell us to be ashamed of our homes, our condition, and ourselves, but Christ calls us to take hope as we find our identity in Him. If, in the privacy of your relationship with the Lord, you are confident that your home design is honoring Him, then take joy in sharing this tangible reflection of your dedication to God so that others may learn and be blessed by your diligence. Your home may not resemble the cover of Dwell, but your expression of Christ’s love, lived out through the medium of your home can be an even more substantial manifestation of beauty, the beauty of Christ’s love.
1 Corinthians 3:16- Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
Holy Spirits Dwelling
By developing an interest and understanding of design, you can deepen the capacity to manifest and communicate your spiritual convictions, while fostering an appreciation for the capacity of design to convey the gospel message. Through intentional interior design, a dwelling can become a visceral and influential medium. It serves to bolster the message of your faith by framing the gospel in a manor that reveals the luster of God’s love; retaining the evidence of your daily life and tangibly revealing the significance of your values and their impact upon your living.
Keep in mind that far beyond the medium of your home, lies your own personal expression of Christ’s love. Certainly, for the Jewish nation the tabernacle served as God’s temple and home. But, because Christ extends His compassionate love for all men; those who have accepted His truth, now serve as a host to the Holy Spirit, God Himself dwelling within you. Thus, everything that has been articulated here must be understood as an extension of the communion we share with ‘God in us’. Utilizing the resources of your home to convey the gospel is an important task, but must never take precedence over maintaining your heart, the very dwelling place of your Lord and Savior. Take all that you have read here and make it a discussion between you and God. He dwells within you and desires to manifest Himself through your body and the home in which your body dwells, pray that you may grow to be open and yielded to His plan.
 Tricia Stutzman, Throwback: Art History Informing Today’s Church Media, OJCCC.
 Vicki VanStavern, IIDA, LEED AP, President, VanStavern Design Group Inc.
 Chuck Saylor, Founder, Chairman and CEO of Izzydesign
 Ibid. Nicholas Masi.
 Caleb Scales, Vulnerability and Church Community through Theater, OJCCC.