from the email bag – part two

today’s post builds on the conversation from last time.  the same young lady that asked about “hymns of invitation” replied to my response.  here is her follow-up question/comment:

Thank you so much for the explanation. I think that the church has gotten so “tired” of emotions and confused with emotions that we have begun to turn them off and focus solely on the logic of things.  We tend to lose people to lack of understanding.  We have been to several different churches and there wasn’t anything particularly wrong with them, they just lacked one acting component…the Holy Spirit. People need to Feel God just like they need to learn God.  I worry that we have tried to steer so clear of the cookie cutter way things have been done that we have taken out a few really good things.

hers is a common complaint in my circles, and i relate to her frustration.  here is what i wrote to her…

it’s plain to everyone that the system is broken.  there is a vast chasm between church culture and real culture and everyone can see it. society is staying away from the church in droves and even the most traditional church leaders readily admit that our methodology has to change if we are going to see people come back to church.

i’m pretty sure that god has called me to teach love and acceptance to people who think they are loving and accepting.  if i can, in some small way, change the way people think in my little corner of the world (inside the church and out), then maybe the next generation of church leaders will have the opportunity to build the church that jesus had in mind–a light on a hill.  but first the perspective of people inside the church has to change so the perspective of people outside the church can change.

all that being said…

one of the biggest struggles i face is the one you reference in your note.  maybe its because we live in the bible belt, or maybe it’s because we embrace a pentecostal heritage, but most church people i know want to “feel something” when they come to church (and i don’t blame them…i do too).  i think we’re out of balance, though, based on what i see and hear.  you’ve probably heard someone say, “we had such an awesome service this morning…the preacher didn’t even get to preach” (does that mean that a church meeting is better when there is no teaching?), or “praise and worship went an extra half-hour this morning.”  it seems to me that people use goose bumps to measure the depth of their church experience.  if i felt something then god showed up, and if i didn’t feel anything then god wasn’t there.

the preacher failed me.  or the worship leader.

you talked about churches that “lacked one acting component…the Holy Spirit.” i completely agree that we have moved away from being led by the spirit.  i believe he wants to more active in our meetings (and our lives!) than he has been allowed to be (check out “forgotten god” by francis chan). and i know what it means to “feel god.”  but we have to be very careful because feeling lie.  feelings are unreliable because they are carnal, unspiritual.  we rely on god’s word as it is absolutely reliable.  i want to teach my people that god is present and active whether we feel him or not.  i want my meetings to be orchestrated by the leading of the holy spirit, whether there are overt manifestations or not.  i want the people in my fellowship to worship god, and not their feelings.  i’ve seen church leaders that were expert at manipulating a service…they could make you feel something every time!  and, sadly, they have tricked many people into believing that “emotional rush” equals the presence of god.  i sincerely hope mine is not a knee-jerk reaction to manipulative charlatanism, but i operate my a simple axiom:  if it’s not god, i don’t want it.

i’m pretty sure that if we gather for the purpose of exalting jesus, he will present himself.  god promised, “you will seek me and find me with you seek me with all your heart”  (jeremiah 23:19).  i want the type of meeting that paul described where unbelievers “fall down and worship god, exclaiming, ‘god is really among you'” (1 corinthians 14:25).  i can’t do that…no leader can.  god’s got to do that.

i am interested in your perspective, dear reader.  comment away!


7 thoughts on “from the email bag – part two

  1. You said, “feelings are unreliable because they are carnal, unspiritual”

    I don’t think that feelings are unspiritual. I think God made us very feeling and emotional beings. (Especially women). Jesus wept, felt angry, cried, felt great compassion, etc. Was he carnal or unspiritual? No way! Psalms is like a roller coaster ride of David’s emotional state, yet he was a man after God’s own heart.

    You said, “I’ve seen church leaders that were expert at manipulating a service…they could make you feel something every time! and, sadly, they have tricked many people into believing that “emotional rush” equals the presence of god.”

    Do you think the average believer can’t tell the difference between God speaking to them in a service and a “manipulated emotional rush”? (Just wondering…).

    I agree that feelings are un-reliable, we can’t base our entire walk with God on that alone. However, a walk with God completely devoid of feeling or a service completely devoid of it, leads to a very dry relationship or very dry service, whichever the case may be. We can’t rely solely on feeling, but we can’t negate it completely either. Jesus likened his relationship to the church to that of man and wife. A human relationship completely devoid of feeling is not very fulfilling to be in either. I know, it’s not all about ‘feeling’, but there has to be an emotional connection at some point, don’t you think?

  2. @grateful

    Good comment. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. Feelings are reality.

    The focus of this topic is the Holy Spirit. If we focus on him and pleasing him and doing things his way he becomes responsible for the reaction by people. When Peter spoke full of the Holy Spirit the people had an emotional response. They were cut to the heart. They had no choice.

    Church without the Holy Spirit there is empty and void of the power that Jesus told us would be our helper.

  3. I agree with you. The church (and our lives) are both empty and void without the Holy Spirit. No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws him. I’m just saying it isn’t all a ‘head’ decision. There is an emotional aspect we can’t deny. Some of us are more easily influenced by what appeals to our intellect and draws us intellectually and others are more influenced by what draws us emotionally. The Holy Spirit knows the heart of every man/woman and draws us each accordingly. So we can’t negate the way He draws someone else just because they’re different than we are. On either side we can still have a ‘form of godliness’ but deny the true power of it, using emotions OR lack thereof, as a front.

  4. a minor point of contention, grateful (and it may simply be a matter of semantics).

    i stand by my contention that feelings are carnal. while we are emotional beings (as was jesus), that does not mean that feelings are spiritual. we see this difference plainly when we compare “happiness” and “joy.” happiness is a feeling. joy is a fruit of the spirit. we say that we “feel” joy, but joy has nothing to do with feelings, it is an effect of grace in our lives. in the same way, we say that we “hear” god or that we “touch” god. that’s the best way we have to describe what we’re experiencing, but the spiritual has nothing to do with our five senses. all of us are acutely aware of what its like to be in the presence of god, and we say we “feel” god (and i love the way it “feels”), but it is not really feelings.

    that’s what i mean when i say that feelings are carnal and not spiritual. the point i am really trying to make is that feelings (re: “goosebumps”) should not be used to measure the effectiveness of our worship experience. god may be doing something powerful whether it feels like it or not. is that okay?

    a friend of mine (and he is one of the most godly men i know) told me that he was at an oklahoma football game on a saturday. he told me about standing with that massive crowd at the opening kickoff as they held their fingers in the air and shouted, “oooooooo-you!” he described the amazing rush of excitement he felt at that moment. then, he went to church the next morning at felt that exact same feeling during worship. he asked a good question: was god moving at the ou game? were those feelings me and these feelings god? and if it feels the same, how do i know the difference?

    good question.

    • Randy,

      Your reply to Grateful, in my view, is something to reflect deeply on. You have come very close to why I named my blogsite Spiritualway. The person at the OU football game moved into a “state of mind” using the “ooooooo-you” as a mantra, you could say. Same for worship service the next day.

      I think by replacing the words fellings and emotions and using the word conscientious might get closer to what you are describing. It is in that stillness that we can reconnect our relationship with God and for a moment be “one with God” from which we came.

      Randy, the penacostal tradition of speaking in tongues does the same thing it seems to me.

      I could go on with this topic of discussion, but I do not want to be in any way disrespectful to anyones tradition or spiritual path.

  5. I agree that we can’t base our worship experience or walk with God entirely on feelings.

    I can agree to disagree on the other point.
    ( I don’t think feelings are always ‘unspiritual’.)
    Jesus felt a full range of emotions, just as we do and he was not ‘carnal’.

  6. Here is a direct quote from Paul when he went to Ephesus. He questions the believers there and says “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? Did you take God into your mind only, or did you also embrace him with your heart? Did he get inside of you?

    This shows us what we all should be in pursuit of. Repentance and belief is step one. Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the next step. That’s Bible.

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