I read an article by Russell Moore of Christianity Today this morning. He was discussing some of the different ways Christians respond to God in worship. I was struck by how quickly what he said touched my heart. He was drawing comparisons between how the staid and conservative —and the free and charismatic believers expressed themselves (primarily in a church service) in response to God interacting with them through His Spirit. He illustrated this by reciting an experience he had at a particularly conservative church: “Once when I was preaching in a church that’s more on the “decently and in order” side of Christian liturgy, my host warned me that one woman there was a lot more demonstrative than the rest of the congregation. “There are certain songs we sing that make her start crying and waving her hands,” he said. “And that’s fine. We just want to make sure that we don’t move into a kind of emotionally driven worship.”
I’ve been chewing on this concept of worship for some time now. I’m “stranded” here in Davao City, wondering what the Lord has for me here . . . And not coming up with any good, substantive answers. What I have wondered is whether I’ve really been worshiping Him. Typically, I’ve seen worship as singing. Period. Sure, I know that prayer, time in the Word, and other Christian activities demonstrate a kind of worship. But do I really give myself to worship?
Specifically, do I allow emotion to invade my worship? I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t often allow that. In fact, I was surprised at my immediate emotional response to the article. As I consider my own worship, I have to conclude that I do pretty much everything possible to prevent emotion. Somehow I hold it in, and now I wonder at that. Why don’t I allow emotion in my worship when I regularly tear up at the end of a Hallmark movie?
I suspect it goes way back to being taught that men don’t cry. I can still hear my dad saying, “You want to cry? I’ll give you something to cry about!” And he didn’t mean words. I’ve pretty much always stuffed my emotions, except in those safe places where it’s just Sherry and me.
Moore finishes this part of his article by saying, “Only sometimes do we truly perceive how God is reaching us at that deeper place of the heart. We can’t engineer it or manufacture it. But we also shouldn’t ignore it or squelch it.
Maybe the recovering drug addict in the pew in front of you sobs when he sings “Amazing Grace” because he knows how lost he once was. Or maybe singing “Amazing Grace” is what changed him enough to want to be found.
Maybe the Christian whose emotion embarrasses her church in worship is just seeking an emotional dopamine hit. Or maybe what she’s doing is losing all the self-censoring image maintenance that keeps her from crying out, “Abba, Father!”
Maybe underneath all of that, there’s a Holy Spirit who still changes lives.”