Can worship lead people into an unhealthy expectation of what "normal" Christianity looks like? Do we use people's emotions as a way to introduce non-Christians to God? Do we (the church) place too much significance on a certain "moment" in a person's life and therefore try to recreate that moment for other people? Are emotions wrong?
I recently had a thought-provoking conversation with a close friend about emotions. What are they? Did God create them? Do Christians look for and expect "good" feelings too much? Do worship bands and churches manipulate people?
First, I hope that the church starts to engage charismatics and conservative Christians alike with the realization that Jesus unites us. I think we need to be more united around Jesus than fragmented around anything else. If our arguments lead us into unhealthy criticism and judgement then we are trying to build our own kingdom, not God's.
Emotions are a tricky topic because there is so much uncertainty about them. One minute everything is fine and the next it seems as if the world is collapsing. Emotions can lead people down a treacherous highway of decision making. As soon the element of emotional response is added, then that response could literally be anything. There isn't a natural progression of thought, of weighing the options and coming to a logical conclusion when its based on pure emotion.
People train themselves to make logical decisions when they are in tough or heightened emotional situations. Just think of paramedics, doctors, police officers, firefighters and many more. They are paid to make decisions in highly tense situations. Situations that could turn disastrous in an instant, and then they must live with the consequences of those decisions. For most of us, we have the privilege of sitting back and criticizing and judging their decision, which we didn't have to make.
Christian's misuse of emotions
Are those situations different than the ones made in a Christian context? Those emotional worship services that pull every string to get people to make a decision to follow Christ? Or for Christians who search for the emotional highs, are they searching for the One behind the emotions or the emotions themselves? Is the worship band putting on a show, rather than worshiping God?
Good questions. One that I don't have all the answers to. Here are a few of my thoughts, with the hope that I drive you into the loving arms of the Father and not away from them.
The church isn't perfect. There will always be opinions and ideas about what "church" should look like. What songs to sing, what instruments to use, how offering and baptism and services should be done. Each one of those things and many more can lead people away from Christ or down a path that leads to disappointment. People will get offended or have their expectations built up in an unhealthy way that drives them away from God and church. It has happened and it will happen again.
Our emotions must not dictate truth. Truth should influence our emotions.
When Truth is living and active in our lives, our emotions will be affected. God created our emotions so that we can enjoy Him and delight in the creation around us.
He gave us emotions such as fear as an indicator. If we walk past a poisonous snake, the emotion of fear will allow us to react. He created emotions FOR us, not so they can control our decisions, but for our benefit.
I think there are two ditches we're prone to fall into: we either enter church and shut off our emotions, or (such as in the charismatic scene), we allow our emotions to control us.
If we allow God to rule our emotions and allow Him to take them where He wants, we will find a healthy balance. A balance in which we may "make mistakes", but one that gives God the access to move in our lives to greater depths.
When our emotions are given sovereignty rather than God, we're blown about like a tumbleweed based on the shifting winds of the moment. But, when emotions are ordered in their proper place, God will use them toget us past our own thoughts and judgements and take us deeper.
There's something about emotions that God loves (because He created them). For the disciple, worship music shouldn't dictate the level of worship. The disciple shouldn't come to church for the music, but to lift up the name of Jesus.
My challenge to myself and the reader: Let's not allow our emotions to dictate truth, but let's not shut off our emotions when we enter church.
Jason LaLone was on staff at YWAM Brisbane and is currently in South Africa working with YWAM. He is passionate about discipleship, taking Jesus' command to make disciples a practical reality that he can live on a daily basis. He loves lasagna, cats and used to dislike Monday's, making him most like Garfield.
Jason LaLone's previous articles might be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/Jason-LaLone.html