An Over-Emphasis on Atmosphere and Emotional Experience in Church Worship?

Is there an over-emphasis on atmosphere and emotional experience in church worship today? Are we manufacturing it deliberately, creating moods with our music and our sound pads, writing lyrics that encourage the seeking of an experience? I love good flow in worship music, in fact I believe in it so much I named my former worship team, FLOW. And I would do it again with my next team! I believe that corporate worship in church services should lead worshippers from the outer courts into the holy of holies – the deeper place where we encounter Holy God and quietly hear Him speak and He does speak to us through His still small voice, not only from the Bible, though whatever we believe we hear from Him must never contradict the Bible. When He does, everything changes, our lives are transformed. I love 1Cor.14:25 where the non-believer saw amazing things happened in church, the exercise of spiritual gifts, and he fell to the ground, worshipped and exclaimed, “Truly God is amongst you!” Wouldn’t it be great if both church members and visitors in our churches leave every Sunday exclaiming, “Truly God is amongst you!”? I would love that – and I have prayed for it many times. Yet at the same time, I am truly concerned that we might consciously or unconsciously over-emphasize atmosphere and experience and make them the all-sufficient end in themselves. And when it comes to the Bible, we appear to be a lot less enthusiastic. How do we check ourselves? Just look at the lyrics of the songs we sing in church. How much of it focuses on experience – and I’m not saying we shouldn’t emphasize experience and encounter – they are important, crucial even, but we must not OVER-emphasize it. And do our lyrics cover the whole counsel of God’s Word or just the parts of the Bible that are inspiring and encouraging? We have many songs that focus on the cross – about the love of God demonstrated on the cross, Jesus paying the price, His death and His resurrection and the empty grave. That’s all good. But what about the cross we are to carry today as Christians? What about the price we are to pay living the truly Christian life, serving God wherever the Spirit leads us including places that are challenging, uncomfortable and even life-threatening like how Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil? How about songs about putting to death the carnal man in us, songs about living holy lives in eager anticipation of the Second Coming of Christ, and in anticipation of His final judgment? How often do we sing songs about that? When we don’t, we are skewing the worship experience and worshippers only learn a few things and not everything about God through our corporate worship and songs we write. No wonder shallow faith is not uncommon amongst God’s people today! While we emphasize the importance of experiencing God in corporate worship, let’s be careful not to over-emphasize it. I find this philosophy I heard about three decades ago very helpful: “All Word and no Spirit, you DRY UP. All Spirit and no Word, you BLOW UP. But with both Word and Spirit, you GROW UP.”

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