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!