(Lisa Robinson)

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.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    13 replies to "A Theology of More III: Worship"

    • Don

      Absolutely fantastic explanation on the necessity of gospel-centered, Christ-exalting worship. Emotional experiences can be amazing, but they do indeed fade soon after we walk out of the church doors, leave the camp, or turn off the iPod and once again enter “the real world”. Christ alone can sustain us once the emotions fade.

    • John from Down Under

      In most contemporary churches the concept of worship is limited to music and is inextricably linked to it.

      The fact that the NT is completely silent on the subject of ‘music ministry’ leaves a lot to be said about how important the apostles thought music was in creating a worship experience.

      Case in point, I was ‘born again’ in a Pentecostal maternity ward, and the fist church I was affiliated with was into non-instrumental singing (sounds like an oxymoron for Pentecostals but such church does exist). They didn’t even have a formal worship time, but sang songs between prayers that were always taking place before and after the sermon. No drums, electric guitars, keyboards, choir or light show. Just your vocal cords and your hands to clap.

      I know we’re not discussing style here & I’m not advocating for non-instrumental being the better style, but it is a completely different experience in that it is almost manipulation free.

    • Ed Kratz

      John, not even a Hammond or drums? 😉

    • John from Down Under

      “not even a Hammond or drums?”

      Nope – all a capella. When I asked them to explain it to me, basically they said that ‘since the NT does not command instrumental music we prefer not to have it so it does not detract from our worship to God’

      Now you would think that a church like that would be full of old fuddy duddy’s, but in fact they had one of the largest youth ministries by comparison. The most poignant thing for me was that they also had one of the largest concentrations of ex-drug addicts and convicts. On one annual youth conference in particular, they asked for everyone whom the Lord had delivered from drug addiction to stand up and they counted approx 800 people standing.

      The lesson here is that the power of the HS draws people to Christ without the need for fancy pantsy services to ‘attract’ the unchurched sinners!

    • mbaker


      Glad you brought this aspect of worship up. Interesting that the Bible speaks of worship not so much as singing. That’s praise, according to scripture, but as Romans 12:1 says:

      “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

      Unfortunately in our modern day church culture we seem to lump praise and worship together strictly under the umbrella of music, when worship in God’s eyes is intended to be so much more than that.

    • cherylu

      John said,

      The lesson here is that the power of the HS draws people to Christ without the need for fancy pantsy services to ‘attract’ the unchurched sinners!

      Thanks for telling us about that church, John. What a testimony to the power of the Spirit.

      It makes me sad when I think about all of the “hoops” that get jumped though and gimmicks that sometimes get used to try and accomplish what only He can really do.

    • Seeking an experience rather then seeking God is a dangerous mistake. I think this can happen in any type of church (it is simply a different type of experience). But experiences will always fade over time (and sometimes cause people to look for a bigger and better experience to keep their faith going). I think the issue is not what style you use but where your focus is. Is it on Christ or is it the experience.

    • John from Down Under

      Some further comments if I may.

      I spent a few years in a church (not the one mentioned above) with ankle-deep theology, 90% of the congregation being under 35, where people use the words ‘like’ and ‘awesome’ in every sentence, & where you are always asked to ‘turn and around and say’ something to the person next to you.

      The manufactured euphoria in these services can become a form of emotional addiction for its constituents and it creates a need for people to want to come back for more, like an addict wanting his fix. It is the epitome of ‘experience religion’ and in the absence of biblical literacy some folks treat their emotional response as a barometer for divine approval (i.e. when I’m feeling high ‘I feel the Lord’ & when I’m ‘not feeling Him’ he must not be too pleased with me).

      It produces the tyranny of guilt and steers people away from the assurance and comfort of the scriptures onto a false system of emotional validation.

    • david carlson

      Youth groups can be the worst manipulators.

    • Roger E Olson

      In response to John from Down Under and the fact that he was involved in an a capella style worship service, it isn’t all that unusual. My wife’s family comes from the Apostolic Christian Church and they never have musical instruments in their services. They do not have typically trained preachers, just laymen that come to the front and preach (usually in multiples) and they even exercise the biblical command to “greet one another with a holy kiss”, including men to men. On that one I feel they cheat a little bit (The men do not pucker-up when kissing another man!)
      Anyways, just saying that throughout this ol’ world of ours there are many differing interpretations/applications of God’s truth. The main point I think as Sista Lisa points out is worship needs to be about the Lord, not our preferences. So Brother John, enjoy your past-present-future experiences of joyful worship of the only One that deserves being worshipped. God bless!

    • John from Down Under

      Thanks Roger.

      Due to my meandering journey in the church landscape, I have learnt to worship God with the happy clappy songs as well as the a capella, though I’m finding as I get older I am more drawn toward this.

      Music was never a serious attraction or deterrent for me, but the truth is that many modern Christian worship songs are too sappy, mushy, effeminate and very me-centered (how I feel about God).

      Example: Hillsong is Australia’s greatest exporter of CCM and Darlene Zschech one of its most prolific songwriters. One of her most famous songs (which has great music btw) is “Worthy Is The Lamb” and refers to Jesus as “The darling of Heaven…” I used to cringe every time that would be up on the projector screen. Know what I mean?

    • John from Down Under

      Ok Roger you got me thinking now…so you don’t think I’m a prude…. confession time.

      When I lived in the States, regrettably I didn’t know anybody that could take me to a church that sings like this which I also love!

      My CD collection includes an album by the Blind Boys of Alabama.

    • Ed Kratz

      Well, I confess that as a previous perpetrator of the ‘experience’ in my Charismatic worship team days, it was all about working up an emotional euphoria. This was equated to ‘spiritual’. God forbid if people were in the congregation not responding to the ‘worship’. We knew God was moving when people were.

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