Environments Affect Outcomes

Every morning, Monday through Friday, I wake up and am confronted with a choice that will ultimately have a huge impact on my day. I can walk the 10 feet to my “home office” and plop down and immediately start working here:

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Or I can shower, get dressed, hop in the car and drive to the office and work here:

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Either way, I’m using the same laptop, same number of monitors, have the same access to information in either place. I can do my job equally well in either location and I’ve customized both according to my personal preferences. But given the option, I’d pick my home office almost every day. Here’s why.

In my home office, I’m in control of everything. From the lighting, to the temperature, to the noise level; there’s very little I’m not in control of. I can play my music loudly, I can  take calls on speakerphone, I can open  the windows or crank up the AC. Other than Tuesday afternoons when they come to cut the grass, there’s very few things I can’t control and adjust exactly to my liking. All of this means that I can easily create an environment that’s great for me to get focused easily and stay “in the zone” for as long as needed.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of mornings when I don’t have this choice. Because I’m part of a team and that team has members that actually prefer being in the office, I have to be there too sometimes. Other times, there are meetings in the office or guests visiting that necessitate me being there. Sometimes I just come in for the free lunches. While I’m here, I give up a bunch of control over the environment. I can’t stop people around me from talking, I can’t quiet the door as it opens and shuts when people go to the restroom, and worst of all I can’t turn off these awful fluorescent lights above me. All of these things make it harder, but not impossible, for me to get work done here.

We live in a culture that allows us to have almost everything done according to our preference. This was made perfectly clear to me as I stood in line at Starbucks this morning (Sorry, Tara…) and listened to the ridiculous coffee orders the patrons in front of me had. My Trenta iced coffee (black) stood in start contrast to the quad pump, no foam, venti mochas being served around me. Because of this, countless people are not only willing to pay a little bit more for the ability to customize according to their preference, but would say it’s impossible to drink coffee without them.

Recently, I’ve been forced to re-think some of my attitudes about corporate worship. Like everyone, I am a creature of habits and preferences- all of which have molded some pretty strong opinions over time. I know my preferences in corporate worship and if I was given the opportunity I would choose to worship according to those preferences almost exclusively. But just like my job, I worship with a group of people with different preferences. And just like my colleagues who prefer to work in the office aren’t wrong, neither are those who have different worship preferences. The reality is, we’re both right and there are times when we need to be together doing the work of worship together. In those times when I worship outside of my preferences, it might require a bit more concentration, it might require a bit more effort to focus and it might be downright difficult at times to get “in the zone” but that doesn’t make it impossible- it just makes it work.

Expecting worship to come effortlessly and easily is misguided at best and dangerous at worst. Worship without cost isn’t really worship is it?  Good worship recognizes a great God who provided incredible salvation at an immeasurable cost. Who are we to complain when we have to work at it a bit? It becomes much easier to yield to the preferences of others, to do the work of worship, when I realize that we aren’t just people sharing a space but we’re co-worshipers. We have similar goals and expectations even if we have different preferences for how to accomplish them. Just like I can yield my preferences at work for the sake of the greater good, how much more should I gladly surrender them for the greatest good of all?

After all, we’re better together.

2 Replies to “Environments Affect Outcomes”

  1. Drew, this is awesome! What you write is a wonderful analog between daily life and congregational life (and worship). It is also a great encouragement to me as a worship pastor. Congregational worship is more about the collective life of the body than we have been conditioned to think. Thank you for spreading the perspective so clearly and powerfully.

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