Worship and Emotion

Last week I started talking about worship. Today I want to take the thoughts a little further.

It is a fairly common usage for people to refer to the music portion of the service as the worship. As you saw last week I defined worship as the living out of your personal relationship with God. Music invokes emotions, and many people have mistaken the emotions as the worship.

Once you begin equating the emotions, the feeling of God’s presence, with worship, you also begin expecting worship leaders to take you there. No doubt a skilled music leader can do that, in fact a good sermon can do the same. So the next step in the progression is to put the responsibility for your worship emotions on the worship leaders, and therefore you have someone to blame for the quality of your personal worship.

There is more than one problem with this, but the one I want you to see is, the emotions are valued more highly than the relationship with God. The most important parts of a relationship are non-emotional, things like commitment and trust. The best worship will include a worshipper who trusts God to be present and working in them whether they feel it or not. The best worship will include a worshipper who has lived in obedience without expectation of an emotional payoff.

This is not to imply we should attempt to drive emotions out of worship. God made us with an emotional component, and having emotions is not a mistake. When the connection with God in worship touches our heart it is a moment worth celebrating. But let me encourage you not to be dependent upon those emotions, but rather consider them an additional blessing of the relationship with God. During those times when you are not feeling it, continue living it. Your obedience will glorify God, and strengthen your faith.

 

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Exploration of Worship

I believe one of the activities a Christian should participate in is worship, but I also believe worship can be a highly variable experience.

It can be either an individual experience or a group event. It can be a highly structured liturgical service or a single person in a stream of consciousness conversation with God. It can be centered on prayer, music, singing, listening, preaching, Bible study, rhythmic movement or any number of other things.

The only thing which is really fundamental to worship is human beings living out their personal relationship with God. God deserves to be worshipped. Humans have an innate need to worship Him. These two factors come together in the moment of worship. In this equation, God never changes. Therefore when the moment doesn’t come together, it isn’t the God side of the equation that is at fault.

Neither is the music, the message, the hardness of the pews, the passage chosen or the temperature of the room. It seems to be a common practice to blame something external when worship is dry or lifeless. But in reality it is always the fault of the individual, not the setting. We have gotten so spoiled by worship leaders taking us into the moment of worship, that we blame them when we fail to worship. Or even worse we have mistaken being entertained with worshipping God.

If this last conjecture is correct, then a lot of people in church, thinking they are worshipping, have never really done so. The reasonable response to this conjecture is to examine yourself in worship, even going back to consider the validity of your initial salvation experience.