Emotions and Corporate Worship, Part II
See below for an opportunity to hear Bob Kauflin
lecture in Louisville, Kentucky, March 10-11, 2005.
EMOTIONS AND CORPORATE WORSHIP, PART II [See Part I at www.wqotw.org.]
The Bible portrays the worship of God as an activity that involves our emotions. Although the lively, expressive worship of an ancient Hebrew culture may look outwardly different in many respects from our worship today, there is no indication in Scripture that we should check our emotions at the door when we gather to worship God. Outward expressions may change: the truths that motivate them do not.
But what should that emotional expression look like? When do our emotions cease being an evidence of a worshiping heart and start becoming a hindrance or distraction? Also, what is the line between wholehearted worship and worshiping our emotions?
These are important questions for the people of God. Because we desire to do everything for God's glory, we must seek to understand how our emotions should function in corporate worship.
First, we must acknowledge that emotional engagement with God in worship is not an issue of temperament, but obedience to His Word. Half-hearted worship is no worship at all. Whether we consider ourselves outgoing, reclusive, or somewhere in between, God is to be desired above all things. As we encounter the truth about God in a fresh way, we are to respond accordingly, whether it be in delight, peace, awe, or comfort. When we are convicted by the Holy Spirit, we should be grieved. These are all natural responses that flow from a genuine relationship with the living God.
Second, emotional expression is not a matter of individuality, but of mutual edification. Although biblical worship can involve a wide range of emotional responses, we are guided and restrained by the scriptural injunction to behave toward other Christians only in ways that build them up: “Make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). I lead worship in a church where emotional expression is rather free. At different points on any given Sunday you will find people clapping, dancing, bowing down, crying, or singing energetically. In such a context, if I am motivated by the kindness of God in sending His Son to redeem me, it wouldn't be out of place for me to lift my hands as an expression of gratefulness and surrender.
However, if I'm worshiping God among a group of people who come from a less expressive tradition, I will exercise self-control and seek to respond emotionally to God without distracting others. My understanding is that in showing love to my brother, I am showing love to God.
Finally, we should avoid pitting the proclamation of truth against an emotional response to that truth. God desires both. Our knowledge of God and His grace is meant to inspire a greater passion for Him. Likewise, the experience of joy as we worship God provokes a thirst to know Him better.
It should be obvious that not everyone will be affected in the same ways, nor will one person always respond emotionally to the same degree. But we must not let the fear of man, wrong teaching, or complacency keep us from loving God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. For the wonders of creation, for the miracle of the new birth, for the sacrifice of His only Son in our place, for the peace of His sovereign care, for the blessing of His Word -- for all these and infinitely more, God deserves our highest, purest, strongest emotions.
Stay with us, as next time as we begin a brief but illuminating look at the history of congregational song. [Now, doesn’t that make you want to go to www.sovgracemin.org/worshipmatters and sign up for Bob’s weekly column?]
—Bob Kauflin, in a recent issue of his e-mail column “Worship Matters” for www.crosswalk.com. Kauflin is a gifted songwriter, performer, and arranger. He serves as director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and as worship pastor at Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, Maryland. I strongly recommend Bob’s weekly column (www.sovgracemin.org/worshipmatters) and the various worship resources available from www.sovgracemin.org/music.
[See below for a list of lectures that Bob will present on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 10 and 11, 2005, as part of our INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. All lectures are free and open to the public. Please e-mail your friends who may be near Louisville, Kentucky.]
Have a great week,
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN
with BOB KAUFLIN
THURSDAY, March 10, 2005
10:00 A.M.--Bob Kaulfin leads worship at Thursday Chapel
11:30 A.M.--”Writing Songs for Congregational Worship” — Cooke Choral Rehearsal Hall
12:30 P.M.--”Ten Core Values of Biblical Worship” — Cooke Choral Rehearsal Hall
1:30 P.M.--”Worship Priorities for the Long-Term: Serving Future Generations” — Cooke Choral Rehearsal Hall
FRIDAY, March 11, 2005
2:00 P.M.--”Arranging the Rhythm Section for Contemporary Worship” — Alumni Memorial Chapel--THIS 80-MINUTE LECTURE/DEMONSTRATION WILL FOCUS ON THE MUSICAL FOUNDATION OF THE CONTEMPORARY MUSIC ENSEMBLE. PLEASE COME.
ALSO: For those of you who don't have church responsibilities on WEDNESDAY evenings, you are invited to hear Bob at Clifton Baptist Church, WEDNESDAY, March 9, 6:30pm. He will be speaking on Psalm 63, “What Should I Do When I Don't Feel Like Worshiping?”
This is Bob's fifth visit to our campus. His earlier lectures for the Institute for Christian Worship can be accessed at www.sbts.edu/icw. Please consider sharing all of this information with pastors and church musicians who may benefit from these presentations.