Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Emotion in Worship

In our call to worship this last Sunday, I mentioned our call to worship the Lord with all that we are. . . with our heads, our hearts and our bodies. Pastor Al forwarded this to me this morning. It's written by Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries as part of his email column, Worship Matters.

Are displays of emotion in public praise unbiblical? Should a Christian feel moved when singing songs to God? If you do feel moved, should you hide it? How do we know whether or not feelings in worship are honoring God or simply gratifying a craving for personal experience? What part do emotions play in the worship of God? To answer these questions, we need to look at the place of emotions in Scripture. From there we'll look at what, if anything, our feelings reveal. Finally, we'll seek to establish some biblical guidelines for emotions in congregational worship.

Our attitude toward emotional expression can be influenced by a number of factors including our culture, family background, temperament, and what we've been taught. For instance, extroverts are often the product of outgoing parents. People from Western cultures tend to be more expressive than those from Eastern cultures. However, Scripture seems to allow for and even encourage many different kinds of emotions. Joy, fear, awe, sorrow, anger, and love all seem to merit God's approval at different times. We see in Jesus Himself an example of varied and intense emotional expression. He wept. He rejoiced. He raged in righteous fury at those who turned God's house into a den of thieves. He also felt compassion for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd.

Probably the most helpful biblical teaching on emotions in worship is the book of Psalms. There we find David and other writers pouring out their hearts to God in a way that many of us would find problematic, if not disconcerting. Talk about a range of emotions! One moment we overhear the worshiper pouring out his heart to God in despair, grief, and anger. The next moment, we find him in another place exuberantly celebrating the goodness and faithfulness of God through shouting, clapping, dancing, and loud singing.

Given such evidence, it would be difficult to argue from Scripture that emotional expression is out of place in the worship of God.

I think its fairly safe to describe Grace Church, SLO as on the more stoic end of the spectrum when it comes to expressions of emotion in worship. But I think we are growing in this area, too. Let's keep growing.

I want us to think great thoughts about who God is and what He has done, but I also want us to feel strong emotions toward God too. Worship should be grounded in Biblical truth, but it should also be passionate. God wants us to love Him and worship Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength!

What are some of the emotions you experience in corporate worship? Do you feel free to express your emotions in our worship services at Grace Church, SLO? If not, why not?


Amy Kardel said...

You heard Dan Stevens two weeks ago, a significant number of us used to be Presbyterians....

Pastor Tim Theule said...

That's funny, Amy!

Tim Weaver said...

I grew up in an Evangelical Covenant church. That is half a step livelier.

Seriously, I think that Grace's culture is reserved and that culture is more comfortable for me than the more expressive House of Prayer style. I'm comfrtable raising my hands in worship, though I rarely do. I'm not comfortable dancing, but that's good 'cause I can't dance anyway.

Dancing also rarely expresses my emotions which are usually along the lines of humble gratitude or stunned awe.

Anonymous said...

It would be easier to show emotion if the lights were turned down during the singing. I wouldn't be self-conscience about shedding a tear if the lights were dimmed and I wasn't worried about what other people might think. I know I shouldn't worry anyway, but I have visited churches that dim the lights during singing and prayer. I feel it helps me concentrate on God - kinda like closing your eyes when you pray. Just my opinion - don't get me wrong I love our worship together.