This third installment kind of touches on Tim’s post, The Crazy Worship Lady. But it is not to discuss what is or is not appropriate in a worship setting. As in A Theology of More and A Theology of More II: Full Gospel Christianity, I want to address a philosophy that treats a particular methodology as having some more over someone who does not practice that same methodology. In this case, it is looking at the idea that physical expressions are symbolic of true worship. The greater the physical expressions, the greater the worship.
Now please understand that I am not seeking to be divisive by highlighting expressions that are usually represented in more Charismatic circles. But I am looking to address the consistency of what we consider appropriate with the Biblical witness. I am seeking to build unity by addressing what can divide us. In this case it is an attitude of superiority that says I have something that others in the body of Christ do not; I have something more. The same principle can apply to non-Charismatic assemblies concerning other facets as well.
For some, worship will entail a physical energy and movement that must be present in order to believe that one is effectively worshiping. So more worship is sought through more physical expressions, more energy, more volume and more movement. But the more can really just be seeking an experience over Christ himself.
Hear the words of Jared Moore (SBC Voices) from his blog:
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!
Do you hear what he is saying? When we craft worship services with the philosophy that more “atmosphere” will necessarily lead to more worship, it can be contradictory to effective worship. The “more” actually becomes “less”, because the emotional platform only sets one up for failure since the “feelings” cannot be sustained outside of that experience. Moreover, when the experience replaces Christ, it becomes more difficult to respond to Him. In this case, “more” definitely becomes “less”.
More worship necessarily has to be centered in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the Word of God, not in the atmosphere. It has to be centered in understanding the object of our worship, not just how we feel. That doesn’t mean that worship will not involve emotion or physical demonstrations, but that we are not seeking such as a symbol of what constitutes true worship. In fact, I’d say the greater we understand the object of our faith, it cannot but provoke emotions to varying degrees.
Worship involves surrender and sacrifice to Christ, which may or may not lead to emotions but should translate into obedience. If there is any ‘more’ we should seek, it is obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This kind of obedience will physically work itself out in a variety of ways, including the relinquishing of our rights, service to the people of God and the sacrifice of our time and resources for the sake of the kingdom. That, my friends, I think IS the heart of worship, that transcends denominational lines and should create “more” unity in the body of Christ.