Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How Do You Feel About Worship?

Is it a sin to not have feelings of affection toward God when lifting your voice in worship to Him? If an unbeliever witnessed your worship, would it testify to them of your love for God? Read below for John Piper’s quote on the engagement of the heart in worship.
The engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of the feelings and emotions and affections of the heart. Where feelings for God are dead, worship is dead. (John Piper, Desiring God, 68)


jim c said...

Interesting thoughts Scott.

I'll be honest in saying that I'm not entirely sure what my take would be on the situation because I think there are a couple of ideas mentioned that I agree with, but not for the purposes mentioned.

IE - Do I worship with the idea of what unbelievers see? Or do I worship with the idea of a) what God sees and b) being real.

Person A with their head skyward and arms in the air versus person B with their hands at their side and their head bowed... I find them both legitimate, heart-felt responses.

I also wonder... do we partake in worship because we are obligated and/or obedient or do we worship because we desire (from the heart) to do so?

I'm just thinking out loud... I mean take prayer for example - we are to be thankful for all things. ALL things. There are times where my mind knows that, but my heart has trouble with it. Is it the same when we are talking about worship? Does my mind take over when my heart is having trouble?

My personal hope and desire is that someone watching me worship would see me doing just that... not trying to act a certain way or be invoked toward a certain response... but simply before God praising in whatever manner. God as my focus, not an audience.

I'll readily admit that I desire my personal worship to reflect my heart more than my mind... wherever that puts me in relation to Piper's quote. :)

DISCLAIMER: I'm not suggesting that proper knowledge (biblical) isn't a good thing... I'm merely stating from very recent experiences that I've found schools of thought that seem to take "Father, Son and Holy Ghost" and turn it into "Father, Son and Holy Book". Knowledge without heart is equally as bad as heart without knowledge.

John Carlson said...

Many people, especially men, are not in touch with their feelings, emotions, and affections. We all know this to be true, and many of us are even in that state in some ways.

I find it interesting that one of our CHIEF goals of weekend seeker services when I was at Willow, through the use of "thought/emotion/feeling provoking" music, drama, media, art, spiritual moments, prayer, etc. - all leading up to teaching bringing it all home - was the goal of helping to engage and open up the heart of people towards God and towards the Bible. (and our target person was generally the typical male not in touch with their feelings.)

Noted and famed author Lee Strobel came to Willow an atheist. He was a hard nosed skeptical, cynical, legal affairs editor for the Chicago Tribune at the time. He decided he would use his normal day in day out journalistic process to either prove the claims of the church and Christianity either true or false. If he found it true, he'd commit. If not, he'd expose it for all that it was not. What he didn't expect was that, as he calls it, the arts, as used by Willow in the first half of our services, did a run around and snuck up on him from the behind and truly opened his heart to the Lord in ways that he never expected, which in turn helped lead him to Christ as a major part of it all. He says he never saw it coming and it caught him by surprise. And yes, his journalistic process could not prove the claims of the church and Christianity wrong. But he still credits the arts as being the major component that he didn't expect that captured his heart and opened up and freed him from his cynical and hardened heart.

Now, some would say that what we were doing with the arts was not "worship" in the sense that we normally think of worship today. (We did of course have typical worship services during the week.) HOWEVER - those of us writing and singing songs for people such as Lee, playing our heart out on an instrument, writing or acting in dramas - those were all true acts of worship to us, was it not? It was for me. And we did it all as an act of sacrifice and worship and in order for God to take it and use it as He may - just like He did to open Lee Strobel's heart.

SO - in all of this - and with John Piper's words saying "engagement of the heart in worship is the coming alive of feelings and emotions and affections of the heart" (I imagine he's meaning "towards God" in all of this) and that's just what happened in the largest of ways with an AETHEIST of all people . . . who has gone on to lead probably thousands if not more to Christ by his ministry - someone please tell me why, in some circles anyway, seeker churches, seeker programming, and mega churches like Willow are thought of in less than desirable ways like they are today?

- John Carlson

scooterpastor said...

Jim and John… what would I do without you guys! Thanks for the comments.

The whole idea of how our affections in worship can influence unbelievers is an interesting discussion. I do want to make it clear that I do not feel Christians should feel the need to “look worshipful” in order to win the lost. I do think that there is often a correlation with how we look and the state of our heart. By saying this I am not asserting that we should be happy all the time either. Sometimes the most sincere affectionate response to God is contemplation, sometimes sorrow, sometimes laughter, etc…. One thing for sure, to “rejoice in the Lord always” is to have a life filled with joy.

I think it makes it a lot easier to understand when you imagine our relationship with God compared to a good marriage. Have you ever met a husband or wife who does a good job at expressing love to their spouse? Maybe they look at them sincerely and smile when they enter the room. Maybe they say encouraging words about them. Maybe they say things to other people like “I can’t wait till Friday because my wife and I are going on a date.” Now, we don’t all have marriages that are always that overtly affectionate, but I imagine that most of us who are married would like to.

It should be the same thing with our God. If we are building a healthy relationship with our God we should enjoy being with him and other people should be able to tell that with how we express love to Him either verbally or physically.

Jim, I think you are right that there are times our love must be expressed in obedience. Sometimes I struggle after a long day at the office to enjoy a long talk with my wife in the evening, but of course, I still need to give her my time because that is the right thing to do. All this to say, the most flattering thing for my wife would be for me to not only endure an extended conversation but to actually long for it and to express that with how I interact with her throughout the conversation. In many regards that should be the kind of relationship we should aspire to have, both in marriage and with God.

ratherbflyin said...


I don't think it is necessarily a sin to not have "feelings" of affection when worshipping God. There are many times, for example, when I'm not having those "warm gushies" & affectionate feelings toward members of my family. However, that doesn't mean that I love them any less.

In fact, for me worship is a way to combat harboring bitterness. I know no better way of correcting my attitude than to crank up the worship music. I will start worship w/my head,heart & soul in the "wrong" spirit. However, in the continuing process of coming to God, He works on me, improving my view on things.