Creating a Worship Experience or Affection for Christ?

I came across this quote from one of my older Parchment and Pen posts. The quote was from Jared Moore, SBC Voices, where he wrote on corporate worship experiences. I thought it was worth reproducing here.

You do not want to create worship services that make Christians want to return to your worship services again; instead you want to create worship services that make Christians long to be with Christ.  If your hearers, regardless the age, are not responding to the gospel, but are rather responding to the atmosphere you are creating; then you are making it twice as hard for them to come to Christ.  I beg you, stop trying to create an emotional attachment to an experience invented by crafted services that are meant to induce emotion.  What you are doing is creating a feeling, a “high” in the individual which he or she will try to duplicate throughout the rest of his or her days unless he or she is corrected by the Scriptures.  Thus, you make it twice as hard for them to respond to the gospel for the rest of their lives, because they think that in order to respond to the gospel, they must “feel” a certain way.  They also equate the value of all worship services based on how they feel instead of on whether or not Christ is exalted.  Thus, if there is anything negative in their lives, or any negativity taking place in the church, then they will not be able to create the original feeling that they felt in the past regardless if God is pleased with His worship service or not.  You may be growing crowds, but nostalgia cannot and does not last.  You are dooming all of these individuals for failure eventually.  Bad things eventually happen… and appropriated theology, not feelings, will sustain them through these terrible times.  You are not growing disciples, because services that are designed to induce feelings communicate that the gospel alone has no power to induce such feelings toward God.

Here is a test to see if you are creating nostalgia or gospel-centered saints.  When people respond, ask them why.  Ask them why they responded.  If they point to their feelings instead of to repentance, you need to thoroughly examine them to see if they are responding to the gospel or to the atmosphere.  If they respond because they “felt the need to,” you must question them, making sure they are responding to the gospel.  The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ reconciling sinners to His Father via faith alone, not some arbitrary feeling or emotion.  An atmosphere response is not a gospel-response! What and Who they respond to are essential!  If you are really concerned with God’s glory and the salvation of sinners, then do not try to manipulate!

hands-lifted-in-worship1Having spent my fair share of my Christian life in emotionally charged worship settings, I think he raises some valid points. Creating a worship ‘experience’ can actually make it harder to place affections of Christ. I’ve become much fonder of congregational singing that has removed the theatrics and concert feel. I do believe our worship should fuel affections for Christ not aim at heightning an emotional experience. As we gather corporately the singing should forge unity among believers with words that remind us of who is our great God and who we are in him. The aim is to sing together. Emotionally charged settings will do just the opposite and tend to promote one-on-one time with Jesus. You can do that at home.

I think relying on emotionally charged atmosphere’s can also create unrealistic expectations for the rest of the week. It conditions people to equate a high level of emotions with worship, which will ultimately fail in the mundane and trials of life. I wonder just how many think they don’t worship when its not an emotionally charged experience.

Also, to be fair, I’m talking about gathering as a body to worship together. That’s not to say there isn’t a place for concerts.

This is a quick sketch and I think much more can be said about it. I have a draft of a longer post on the subject but pressing obligations do not permit its completion at the moment. In the meantime, T. David Gordon has a good post here that I think gets to the heart of what corporate worship should be.


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