Worship, emotion and stability

June 14, 2009 at 9:37 pm (Christianity, religious experiences, religious practices)

A lot of people seem to be very excited at Chris Moyles apparently bigging up Christianity.

Here is the link to the youtube page itself so you can see the comments from proud Christians about how much fun and how exciting this type of service is. I think it’s clear that the last thing they want anyone to think about Christianity, is that it’s boring. Funny… I probably used to be just the same way.

My old church is having a mission week, and we just got a flyer through the door for it this evening. They are putting on a range of activities, including “special guests from Boston, USA [who] will perform music and street theatre to convey the relevance of God for the world today.” I’m not sure it’s appropriate to talk of the relevance or otherwise of the creator of the universe, but the relevance of church is clearly an ongoing concern.

I certainly found this type of church compelling, as I’ve described before (I won’t repeat myself). I have to admit that watching the video was a bit of a blast from the past for me; it reminded me of going weak at the knees, wanting to give in to the emotion of it all and join in with gusto. With my rational hat on now I can see that it’s all too easy to be swept away on a feeling, and for those who are inclined to believe in God and are a bit emotionally vulnerable, this type of worship is a very effective lure.

I’ve spoken before about Christians using this “exciting” worship style as a selling point, and how I feel that when they do this, they are trying too hard to attract converts for the wrong reasons. Calling people to the worship of God should not be reduced to the level of selling an experience. So I guess the point of this post is just to show some illustrative examples that have come to my attention this week.

Also, to think a little bit about worship and expression of emotion. I strongly believe in participating in worship on a heart level, which naturally involves the emotions. I believe the feeling of surrender to God can bring peace, and happiness, and that heartfelt praising of God can move one to tears. I also believe, now, that it should be based on knowledge and understanding.

My pentecostal adventure was characterised by emotional highs and lows: the ups and downs of my khushoo (I can’t think of an English word that works as well for that) in the twice-weekly congregational worship; my intermittent ability to think of things to pray about, and to dare to try; the fluctuations of my faith level depending on what sermon I had heard or who I had spoken to; and most of all, the meandering search for the voice of God.

I understood the power of music to affect one’s mood and thinking, and I fully agreed with its use within worship to provoke and express feelings. And yet there were times, after the first year, where I just wanted to go back to the calmer, simpler traditional format I had grown up with. It just all felt too intense, too introspective, too complicated. It didn’t feel grounded enough in reality. Because I guess for me, it wasn’t.

I now want to be on a more even keel. I want stability. I don’t want to let my zeal exceed my maturity. And so for me, spirituality now requires a bit more discipline, rationality, and long-term investment, and a bit less demonstrative loudness. I want to develop the soothing constancy of an intrinsic spiritual rhythm.



  1. Ellen (ellen557) said,

    I definitely understand wanting stability… I’ve only been to a more “modern” (for lack of a better word) church once and I really disliked it.
    I belong to a very traditional Anglican church at the moment and it speaks more to me than pulsing music and such. I feel very comfortable there – but one thing that strikes me (and seems very relevant to this post) is that I am probably the only one under 25 there! Actually, sometimes I’d be the only one under 40. It’s quite strange for me, but then I guess the more traditional aspects of worship don’t appeal to many young people.
    I’ve been to two “conventions”, if you could call them that, and almost everyone there was young! I guess it’s needless to say that there was modern hip hop music and dancing and all that.

    You’re right about the church trying to be more relevant – even my own does this sometimes. I remember a biggie was when they had a sermon about Brokeback Mountain; come to think of it, the sermons are the only modern thing about it.
    I, for one, like that. Perhaps that’s what draws me to Islam – you can be as rational and as quiet as you like. You don’t need to hold your hands in the air to feel God’s love. Perhaps you have the same feeling too?

    • Sarah said,

      Ellen – I do have the same feeling, Islam in general just seems so calm and moderate compared to happy-clappy church, but at the same time, deeply spiritual. That’s my impression but I haven’t tried it.
      I considered going to a more traditional church at uni like the one I grew up in, but I was looking for something really radical and all-consuming. I had all this energy and I was just looking for a cause to put it into!

  2. Ange said,

    i grew up catholic and was used to that traditional type of church service and one day my friend took me to her church and all they did was jump up and down singing to some christian rock. to be honest, even as a catholic at the time, it was a bit weird.

    • Sarah said,

      Ange – I can understand why you found it weird. Each to their own I guess!

  3. Lisa said,

    So I had no idea that you were Pentecostal sweetie.

    I can understand going slowly with Islam then because you grew up in a religion a little more rigid than my VERY easy-going, non-mission loving Lutheranism.

    I can also sympathize with you wanting the quiet peace. One of the best things about Islam has always been sitting back against the wall listening to the khutba, and just giving yourself permission to be.

    Habibty, please do check out Hon’s blog called God is Our First Love, as she is also Pentecostal.

    Hon emails me every single day with the most beautiful things about her religion. She sends me forwards about marriage and all kinds of cute things. Maybe you could go about it in this way. Have a quiet internet church of your own creation with just you and God. I can understand wanting to close your ears and just be one with the Lord. Love you sweetie.

    • Sarah said,

      Just to clarify:
      childhood: traditional church
      university: pentecostal

      Yes, it has scared me to move away from such a rigid belief system.
      But it’s for good reasons.
      I’ve seen hon’s blog and no offense to you or her, but I didn’t understand a word.
      I may as well be straightforward and say that I’ve no further interest in pentecostalism at this point. But I appreciate your suggestions! xx

  4. Lisa said,

    I totally understand what you mean about the blog over there! I’m not used to that kind of speech like the PUSH stuff, never heard of it before, but I love her and find it really interesting and moving! Love you sweetie.

    • Sarah said,

      Yeah, it’s moving and sounds very sincere, but when I try to break it down I can’t work out what it actually means. 🙂

  5. Achelois said,

    Will wait for your “looking back” post to see if you feel you are stable now.

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