September 19, 2020

When “Worship” Is about Getting High

Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through external experiences. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multimedia theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”

No doubt many, like Moses, have an authentic encounter with God through these events. But new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs. A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God.

“The upbeat modern music, cameras that scan the audience and project smiling, dancing, singing, or crying worshipers on large screens, and an extremely charismatic leader whose sermons touch individuals on an emotional level … serve to create these strong positive emotional experiences,” said Katie Corcoran, a Ph.D. candidate who co-authored the study.

– Skye Jethani, “When Worship Is Wrong”

Back in May, Jeff brought our attention to a church in his hometown that is intentionally seeking the high described in this article — and refusing to apologize for it. In their “core values” statement, they say, “We like to rock out – We place a disproportionate amount of time, energy and money on the weekend experience because we believe that it matters.  It will be fun, it will be relevant, and it will be exciting!”

That’s our culture: it’s all about the energy, the enthusiasm, the “weekend experience.”

Nothing wrong with an occasional exciting experience, right? I’m OK with that.

But where in the Bible or in the wise counsels of the saints over the centuries do you find that a regular pattern of ecstatic encounters with God is the recommended path to spiritual formation and maturity?

Seriously, where?



  1. awhile ago Richard Beck wrote a post about the benefits of underwhelming liturgy.

    i hope you don’t mind a link :

  2. Looks up the etymology of enthusiasm…

    Are we really “possessed by a god” or by our selves?

    Another question that always enters my brain when attending or rather seeing a “pumped up” worship service: How does someone who is miserable for very good reasons deal with this, does he feel welcome, part of it all?

    On the other hand, I have been in services that completely lacked any emotion except for a serious frown and felt quite lonely, out of place.

    I guess there is a time for each:

  3. I realize that worship is that which you say and do when you are in the presence of the One you love.
    But even in our most earthly relationships, only newlyweds believe that their marriage will reach maturity by constantly focusing on the ecstacy and romance.
    Can you imagine asking a mature loving couple the secret of a long happy marriage, and they say:
     We place a disproportionate amount of time, energy and money on the weekend experience because we believe that it matters.  It will be fun, it will be relevant, and it will be exciting! That’s our marriage: it’s all about the energy, the enthusiasm, the “weekend experience.”
    So why do we assume that our relationship with God should have to go from ecstasy to ecstacy in order to mature?

    • + a gazillion and one!!!

    • Steve, that really is a great analogy!! I’ve been married 24 years and am finding it’s about the love and intimacy (not sex) of being with the one you love and know. When there are moments of thrill and excitement it’s fun, but it’s not what keeps us going, nor has it. At one time in our married life the Eagle’s Best of my Love lyrics fit us well: “Beautiful faces and loud empty places, look at the way that we live…….left us so little to give.” If we become adrenaline God junkies, how do we hear His whisper? Or be still and know?

    • Precisely right. But newlyweds slowly come to realize their method of growing together has its flaws: They fight, or otherwise have difficulties that reveal their true lack of intimacy. Experience-seeking Christians, unfortunately, can go years without ever noticing they’re having a fight with God—i.e. they’re not really following him, so he’s not really blessing them—because they know him so little that they’ll blame all their difficulties on the devil.

    • On the flip side of the analogy, neither do you want to be in the marriage where your loved one says: “I told you I loved you once, when we got married. So you don’t need me to tell you again. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.”
      Yet there are probably some colder Christians who treat their worship of God that way.

      • Sure. If we treat participation in corporate worship as nothing more than fulfilling our part of a religious contract with God — just doing what we’re expected to do or just doing what we think we have to do to get into heaven — then our relationship (if you can actually call it that) with Christ is going to be a pretty cold, loveless affair. It would be comparable to a marriage of convenience in which sex is a chore endured only to produce children and real intimacy is nonexistent.

    • “Can you imagine asking a mature loving couple the secret of a long happy marriage, and they say:
      We place a disproportionate amount of time, energy and money on the weekend experience because we believe that it matters.”

      Yes I can imagine that. That is a very important part of marriage and once a week isn’t any too often. Making time for each other in that way is one of the secrets of a long happy marriage.

  4. Somehow we’ve come to the point of trying to manufacture the mountaintop experience every single week. But that’s an illusion. Mountain top experiences are a rarity in the spiritual life. The growth happens in the valleys, in the ordinary, in the mundane, and in the lowest places of our lives and communities, for it is here where grace can sometimes make a difference, where hearts might be more open to Christ’s love in a time of need and hunger an despair. That is when Jesus walks with us in the most real ways.

    When we manufacture events, we make God in our own image. Healthy, peppy, joyful, and happy. Spiritual disneyland, and anything but real. Shallow and ultimately selfish, even if not intentionally so.

    • Joseph (the original) says

      The growth happens in the valleys, in the ordinary, in the mundane, and in the lowest places of our lives and communities…

      it is passing thru The Valley of the Shadow of Death where the greatest impact is experienced. this is when faith is tested (tempered like steel). this is where character is forged in the Crucible of Transmogrification. this is where the saint cries out in brutal honesty to the God they seek to preserve them. it is here where all the theological theory gives way to realizing our frailty & our utter dependence upon God even when we do not understand the wherefores & the whys…

      when the saint is preserved in the midst of the extreme disruption, they understand just how impossible it is to make it thru this world on their own effort, skill, resources.

      i have been thru such a process. i hope it was a one-time episode & that God has mercy on me. i would never, ever want to endure another, but i do know i would be here talking about it unless He did preserve me in the midst of it…

  5. But where in the Bible or in the wise counsels of the saints over the centuries do you find that a regular pattern of ecstatic encounters with God is the recommended path to spiritual formation and maturity?

    First: I am not saying this was right or not, just what was always explained to me.

    This is what I heard as a reason to have a Holy Spirit experience each Sunday – not for more money to make the church’s sound better – but the focus was on a strong weekly spiritual experience. Maybe not directly related to maturity, but to guard against falling out of love with God.

    Ephesians 5:
    18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • I should note that “drunk” and “filled” are in fact the same Greek word. “Don’t get drunk on wine – get drunk on the spirit!”

    • What, exactly, IS a “Holy Spirit experience”? Who decides what qualifies and who has the exact definition? I spent 20 years in a Pentecostal denomination and now attend a Nazarene church. Two different experiences and two different definitions.

      I’ve had MY version of a “Holy Spirit experience” while working in an empty Catholic church, while praying during a back packing trip in the Sierra mountains, while driving from job to job during the day and, sometimes, while reading this sites daily postings. All different, all true and valid. No one told me that it was a “Holy Spirit experience” except the Spirit itself, a revelatory, nurturing, at times admonishing, but always humbling experience.

      Rarely, though, do I remember a particular church worship time as a “Holy Spirit experience”. But this is just ME…

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        What, exactly, IS a “Holy Spirit experience”?

        Whatever I’ve had that You haven’t?

        • Nailed it. Endlessly perpetuating cycles of some inflicting self-doubt on others through their own inflated spiritual egos.

        • Really? So it can’t be that they are actually concerned about meeting God and not just one-upping you?

      • Yes, that is the better question.

        Different people/denominations/churches define this differently. I think some people would not appreciate the Holy Spirit showing up in a church where they don’t agree over some issue. I had a pastor at a Vineyard church who had been raised by a Pentecostal pastor, had pastored a Pentecostal church for a few years with his extended family, then, burnt out, had moved and been asked to pastor the Vineyard church he attended.

        He had some funny stories, since his brand of Pentecostalism would have questioned whether a Vineyard could ever have the Holy Spirit experiences due to x,y and z.

        Often, in a service, some people seemed to be moved and experiencing something profound, most others aren’t. In a conference more people seem to be experiencing something than not. Is it the cover charge that leads to expectations? The community feel? Alpha’s Holy Spirit weekend also seems to do this in groups that normally meet weekly and don’t experience this. Who knows, eh?

  6. Two words: sackcloth and ashes.

  7. I do get a “rush” on Sunday’s….but it is in the quiet time after receiving the Eucharist.

  8. But how will you get those who are deeply involved in the world’s culture of experience to enter the church, and keep coming back?

  9. I understand your point, Chaplain Mike, and for the most part, I agree. BUT…I also look around and realize that people seem to be “wired” to want to have mind-altering experiences. People drink and some use drugs. Children will spin around and around until they fall down dizzy. People go on scary carnival rides. People watch movies that make them anxious and scared. Many folks realize that this is never “enough” and they start to wonder if maybe the reports of people “experiencing” God can possibly be true and they wonder what it means. When you read the books of the Bible, it does appear that many of the people in those stories had some kind of actual experience of what they believe to be God.

    So, I cannot blame people for feeling like they want to be in a place where they are more likely to have an experience of “feeling” the presence of God. Now, some of us are more likely to have that experience during our private, quiet times of prayer. Others have it after having labored to reach a mountain top. Others have it while helping others. Still others have it in a crowd like these megachurches offer. I guess the danger comes if the megachurches tell folks that they do not know God if they do not have these ecstasy experiences. Nobody HAS to have any of these kinds of experiences. I believe that God wants us to love him and love people, not have ecstasy experiences. But Jesus also talks about joy and I believe God created us to be able to have that joy. We are physical beings and I have no problem in God using our physicality in a way of experiencing our spiritual connection to him. If people understand that God can touch them in a very “felt” way, they may be less apt to get involved in destructive things like drugs. My two cents!

    • As someone who has had my share of struggles with chemical addiction, I think you make a valid point.
      My struggle to get “clean” and my struggle to rediscover faith in God were very much intertwined and occurred during the same season in my life. And my initial re-entry into Christianity was in a very Charismatic context — and, at that time, my worship and my relationship with Christ was very much about experience and feelings. And, honestly, I think those spiritual highs actually did help ween me off my old need for chemical highs.
      On the other hand, I don’t think it’s healthy to stay longterm in an experiential or emotional focus in one’s faith journey. Seeking spiritual highs can become an addiction in itself — and even become a form of idolatry, in my opinion.

  10. “Do not be disturbed, no matter how great the dryness may be, but continue to keep a devout posture before God. How many courtiers go a hundred times a year into the prince’s audience chamber without any hope of speaking to him but merely to be seen by him and do their duty. We too, my dear Philothea, ought to approach holy prayer purely and simply to do our duty and testify to our fidelity. If it pleases his Divine Majesty to speak to us and aid us by his holy inspirations and interior consolations, it is certainly a great honor and the sweetest of delights. But if it does not please him to grant us this honor and he leaves without speaking to us, . . .we must not leave on that account. . . . Let us be content that it is the very greatest honor for us to stand before him and in his sight.” St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life.

    This seems to me a much sounder, saner understanding of our relationship to God in worship that the megachurch froth of excitement. It’s probably a healthy thing to balance the God-as-passionate-exclusive-lover language with this image of king and courtier.

    • This is a mindset that would be anathema in most evangelical circles. The response would be that praying simply to do their duty is legalistic religion, and that we would be having those “holy inspirations and interior consolations” if we had a real relationship with him. There must have been some unconfessed sin!

      I say all that sarcastically, but honestly, I really do struggle with guilt when I pray and don’t feel any different afterwards.

      • I am so feeling you here. I was raised on a diet of books that told me that if I would get rid of sins X and Y in my life, I would experience a deeper, more sensational connection with God in worship and prayer. And if you successfully ditch X and Y without hitting paydirt, you must be forgetting Z. There are always a few more hoops to jump through before you can feel guilt free. Well, it’s a good thing that reality isn’t determined by our feelings, or I’d be going to hell! It’s ok to feel guilty, as long as you can believe that you’re forgiven. That is the challenging part.

        Praying the Apostles’ Creed has been helpful to me in this regard. The more I keep telling myself “I believe in the forgiveness of sins,” the easier it is to get sick of beating myself up and quit from exhaustion.

        • You pray a creed? Isn’t that sort of like worshiping a doctrine?

          • No, that would be if you were praying to the creed. I’ll give it isn’t actually prayer, because you are repeating it to yourself, but it is a form of meditation on the revealed truth of God. And it is usually done within the context of a greater prayer, such as the Daily Office, where it might be preceded by the Te Deum and followed by the Our Father.

      • Well, where is the relationship with Jesus in the duty to prayer teaching? I would be fine with it if it was backed up by Jesus, except it flies against the idea of knowing the shepherd’s voice. How do you know Jesus if it is the same way you know the CEO of the big company you work for (as in, not known by him at all)? Sure, we should keep on praying (like the persistent widow) even if nothing happens right away (or very much) but I am for knowing my King’s voice – because he said we should know him – that is why he sent the Holy Spirit. If he were just an earthly king, this would make perfect sense, and show our loyalty, but then an earthly King can’t send his Spirit to us apart from his body.

        I hear where this is coming from, but I just can’t see it in Jesus’ teachings. He was much more personable that a distant King who may offer a nod once a year to a servant. If I am wrong, where does it say we should just plod on without expecting any acknowledgement from Jesus? He tells us to be his disciples – that is a little more personal than a company hire or a palace servant. To follow him, we must know him. Otherwise, this is no different from the Pagan gods of the ancient world, who expected obedience or else… I guess it builds discipline, but all the discipline in the world doesn’t make a relationship. If you cherry pick verses you could get anything out of the Bible, but disciples sit at the feet of Jesus and go where he goes.

        • One might argue that in Gethsemane Jesus was not receiving “consolations”

          Try to interpret the word “duty” widely. “do our duty…” as in “just pray like you always do”– over and against trying to manipulate God or some spiritual high, or guilt-tripping yourself cause you’re not feeling it

        • Forget the “builds discipline” part. If you love someone and want to spend eternity with Him but you never want to talk to Him now, when He’s told you He want’s you to turn to Him with all your concerns and joys and He will hear you? How can you love someone you never want to thank or praise? Jesus was God, yet He prayed to His Father every day (Luke 6:12, Mark 1:35). Prayer and reading scripture is a great part of our relationship with Him: speaking to Him and having Him speak to us, that and receiving the Sacraments, His gifts to us. There is no way you can maintain a relationship with God without prayer. In fact, St. Paul says that we should pray continually. (1 Th. 5:17, Phil. 4:6-7)This doesn’t mean down on our knees all day, but having Him in mind at all times while we go about our daily work. In Matt.. 26:41, we are told that prayer is necessary to avoid temptation. He has told us to give Him all our worries, call on Him when we are in trouble, ask Him for understanding and make our requests to Him, confess to Him our sins, thank Him for His gifts. In this way, we acknowledge our dependence upon Him and that He alone is our God and the source of our life, the One from Whom, alone, we look to satisfy all our needs. To turn to Him in prayer, is thus to honour Him and is an act of love and faith.

    • Damaris, that is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing it.

    • Randy Thompson says

      Thanks so much for the Frances de Sales passage; it was wonderful.

      It encourages me to give his “Introduction to the Devout Life” another try.

    • Inspiring, I am going to find this illustration very helpful in maintaining my own personal devotional consistency.
      …but I do have to take a slight issue with it. He does speak to us on a regular basis for our interior comfort when he says, “I forgive you all your sins,” and “this is my body and my blood, given and shed for you.” So much is said for our comfort in just those few words. It is an unspeakable honor just to be able to stand before God, but he does not, like a ruler with more important matters on his mind, leave us with his silence. But then again, those words are not spoken to us in private prayer, which is what I suppose he is addressing here.

      • I agree, and I also agree that daily reciting the Creed, as you mentioned, is a wonderful practice. Those two phrases, however, “I forgive you all your sins,” and “This is my body and my blood, given and shed for you” are the words of comfort and eternal life, and together with “you are Mine,” are the most wonderful words I know. These churches have neither Confession and Absolution nor believe in the Real Presence in the Sacrament of the Altar and try to substitute the comfort of those things with another “comfort” of their own making, which can never compare with the peace and grace of the sacraments. People are looking for an experience of God, an interaction with Him, but they are not looking where He has promised to be found and where He truly gives Himself to us.

  11. The last thing people need is to be handed themselves back to them at a worship service.

    The ‘seeker friendly’ churches have made a high art form of that.

    • Those churches prospered in the 80s and 90s though.

      Religious institutions may serve their deities, but they are also businesses. They need a certain amount of BitP and $ coming in to keep the institution going. To some degree, that does involve customer service and “giving the lady what she wants” to quote a certain Mr. Fields.

  12. I agree 100% that it is destructive to expect any relationship, including our relationship with God, to move from one ecstatic experience to another. I’m a little troubled, however, by what is quite possibly a false distinction in the second paragraph of the Skye Jethani quote: “but new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs.” It does not necessarily follow that since researchers have discovered a biological mechanism for a particular experience that that experience – and our explanation therefore – is thereby rendered less legitimate.

    • I see it, not as “proof” of the problem with ecstatic worship, but rather as one small piece of evidence pointing to the fact that we ought to be cautious about trying to manipulate peoples’ experiences.

      • Agreed. I get in trouble with my fellow Pentecostals from time to time when I point out that we can manufacture our own emotions. If we want to feel the Holy Spirit enough (and honestly don’t know the difference between feeling him and feeling the church’s subwoofers) we can easily create the mindset where we do—even though we know, from the scriptures, that he’s always present, whether we feel him or not.

        So how do we know it’s really him? Simple: Fruit of the Spirit. Transformed lives. That’s our evidence of a real encounter. Otherwise we’re just getting off on our own endorphins.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        Ah, yes… the emotional/experiential manipulation. I was around 19 when I realized that much of what was being called “spirit-led worship” at my congregation of the time was mere emotional manipulation and that much of the “spontaneous worship” was exactly the same from week to week. It was a very rude awakening that led me to react in the opposite direction. I’m just now (at age 33) learning to find more of a balance, though it’s often more of a pendulum swinging from one end to another rather than any real balance.

    • Marina,

      Thank you! You pretty much wrote what I intended to once I got to the bottom of the comments.

      I once had an acquaintance who believed in materialism tell me that I didn’t really love my wife. What is perceived as love can be explained by biological/chemical responses. It seems that this post buys into that same philosophy. It misses the point that just because all things must include biological/chemical responses, that doesn’t mean they are ONLY biological/chemical responses. And I guess Jethani is also implying that if I really loved my wife I wouldn’t use all those mood enhancers like music, candle light, perfume, and soft pillows. No, our romance should take place on the garage floor and be devoid of emotion. Otherwise we are experiencing nothing more than a chemical high.

  13. First I want to thank many of your for your prayers. I’m still working my way out of the woods. Nearly 3 weeks in a hospital and and 4 days in a “rehab” center (which was a nursing home…) was a challenge. I’m at home recovering and it will still be a while before I am back on my feet.

    But thanks for your prayers. I love each and everyone one of you here! 🙂 Your grace and love has challenged me and I have a lot of thinking to do.

    Now moving on to the post. I read this and smiled becuase I’ve said in the past that many evangelicals use praise and worship in the same manner that an alcoholic uses alcohol or a porn addict uses pornograghy. They do it for the high. Many evangelcials have transformed worship for and use it for the purpose of getting high. And I would n’t limit it to that…I’ve know people who do missions to get a high. I’ve known people that go to conferences to get a high. That was the reason why some people loved going to the Christmas Conferences in Campus Crusade. They needed a drug fix.

    • Welcome back, friend.

    • MelissatheRagamuffin says

      EAGLE!!!! Your post is an answer to many prayers.

    • Welcome back, Eagle! Nice to “see” you here!! I’ve been challenged by grace as well! It’s a comfortable/uncomfortable feeling to receive from another what you stood so firmly on would never happen because everyone was like “those” people.

    • Eagle!!!!! I am so happy to see you back!! Keep recovering – you and your insights have been sorely missed.

    • Eagle, so glad that you’re on the path to recovery!

    • petrushka1611 says

      Good to have you back, sir!

    • Glad to see ya back, Eagle.

    • David Cornwell says

      Great to have you back Eagle. It hasn’t been quite the same place without you and your counsel. Take care and get well.

    • EAGLE! My heart did a little leap when I saw that you had posted, so great to have you back! I concur with your thoughts on getting high, because that is what I did for years, ugh. I was taught that Jesus would fill the emptiness inside of me if I prayed, read my bible, served, I ran around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to find that one experience that would heal my wounded heart. Fast forward to the present, no more running from the sorrow & trouble life brings… It hurt like the dickens when I expected God to fill me with unstoppable joy and He seemed silent & distant. Took many years to accept that He hunkers down with me, weeps with me, and loves me in my mess.

    • Glad to see you Eagle. Peace be with you!

    • Eagle, it really is wonderful to see a comment from you! Continued prayers coming your way for the recovery process. And as a former conference addict myself, I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said…

      • Ryan M…. one of my friends who is a member of your former church movement (whatever the heck you call it…) asked me to write down on paper the reasons why I dislike John Piper, and why I dislike modern reformed theology. So with topics like “Fundamentalism 2.0”, “Reformed Industrial Complex”, “Did Jesus have bodyguards?” and “How women are treated…” Oh man I’m going to have a blast with this! 😀

    • Woohoo! Keepin you in prayer. And great thoughts, too.

    • That Other Jean says

      Eagle! Welcome back! I’m so glad you’re doing better.

    • sarahmorgan says

      Welcome back, Eagle, with continued prayers for a speedy and full recovery for you!
      As a musician and former worship leader, I’ve also seen people who “worship” (evangelical church usage here, i.e., “sing along with everyone else with the loud praise band”) for purely self-serving reasons…I found it difficult to explain to them that self-serving is not the same as God-serving, as they would just look at me strangely and tell me that God wants His people to be happy and feel good, so it’s OK to pursue those experiences that way. :-/

    • Eagle!

      Great to see you back!

      Do what those medical folk tell you so that you can recover fully. You don’t want to end up back in the hospital. Those little germs need to be good and dead – thank God for antibiotics.

      So, I’m off to Butte to visit my cousins for a few days; haven’t been there for 15 years. I’m not going to let so much time go by again. I’ll wave at the Berkeley Pit for you 🙂


      • I second the motion….you were terribly missed here AND I spent enough years as a home health nurse to know you are getting antsy and sick and tired of being sick and tired by now! FINISH all the antibiotics, do your therapy without pushing it too hard, and remember that lots and lots and lots of people care deeply about you and your health….physical and spiritual!

        As I say to the puppies….HEEL!


    • Randy Thompson says

      Welcome back!

    • Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeagglllllllllllllleeeee! Yay! So good to see you here! Everyone has missed you a lot. I hope that being back home & being able to play with your trains makes you feel more like yourself, & keeps your mind off all the rubbish you’ve just been through. You had us all really worried for a while there!

      Looking forward to seeing your posts all over here & the very interesting stuff going on at The Wartburg Watch. A lot of food for thought.

      Lots of love from England XXXXX

      P.S. Piper? Not even once.

    • Glad you are on the road to recovery.

    • Hey, Eagle, it’s great to see you back here! I hope you recover quickly and completely.

      • Everyone…consider this a hug. I love all of you, You have taught me a lot about mercy and grace. And I have a lot I am chewing on. I am still not out of the woods. I am on IV antibiotics from home, and a nurse visits. This has been one of the most challenging times of my life.

        • Good to see you, Eagle! My husband has to have periodic months of IV abx to treat his neuroborrelliosis. I know how tiring the process can be. Hang in there! He and I are praying for you.

    • Wenatchee The Hatchet says

      welcome back, Eagle

    • Naomi Wessels says

      Wonderful to have you back! Thank you Jesus!

    • What a pleasant surprise, sir Eagle! Welcome back!

    • Eagle, That is why the conference business is so profitable. This last year my wife and I got a call from an old friend who asked us to host a young man for the T4G conference because he could not afford a hotel.
      And he was broke. We fixed him food, made lunches for him to take and made sure he was gassed up for the long ride home. What bothered me, though, was that he had a wife and small child back home. And they were poor students barely making it. But he was sold out to this T4G group and thought he was in paradise.He really thought attending that conference would change his life. It really bothered me.

    • Welcome back, Eagle!

    • Klasie Kraalogies says

      Welcome back, Eagle! You were missed.

    • Welcome back, Eagle.

  14. The patht he bible talks of most in reference to spirtual maturity is suffering. Pure and simple. Wether it is Christ in his walk of suffering (known as the suffering servant by Isaiah) or Paul being called by Christ and told that he would be shown a path of suffering for the gospel. Peter explaining we must suffer to enter God’s Kingdom (Acts). James speaking of trials and suffering that are presented to perfect our faith. Suffering creating perserverance character and hope (Rom 5:3). Paul again writing of how he wants to share in Christ’s sufferings so he can know him better. That coming from someone that met Christ.

    Spirtual maturity comes through suffering for the Gospel. Suffering rids us of arrogance and pride, teaches compassion and empathy. Francis of Assisi – suffered. Hudson Taylor – suffered. David Linvgston – suffered. Infact any true pillar of the faith including the Christ – suffered. Such a message of course does not suit a society hell bent on remvoing suffering in any form. Sadly we remain shallow and lack the understanding or character suffering develops. One does not have to self inflict suffering. It comes. God disciplines and brings purpose from it. All eventually suffer. As a nurse I see this more clearly than pastors priests or blogologists. All grow old and all suffer eventually. Some suffer with dignity otehrs in bitter lament. The former learnt from experience the latter never grew in the first place.

    An article that outlines God’s purpose for suffering –

    Sensationalism is not a part of spirtual formation.

    • You are 100% right, but boy, do we ever not want to hear this message in this day and age…

    • Randy Thompson says

      Amen, and well said.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The loss of Lamentation has been a frequent subject here at Internet Monk.

      As for me, all I can say is when I get a spontaneous story bursting into my mind (instead of the usual hard preplanning), it’s usually Dark. A Lament.

      • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

        I’ve recently been thinking that a study of the Lament used liturgically could be a neat doctoral dissertation.

  15. Clay Knick says

    Seek Jesus, not an experience. Too many have the two confused.

  16. MelissatheRagamuffin says

    In 1 Kings 19, Elijah has an encounter with the LORD. The LORD told to go stand on the mountain and wait for him to pass by. First there was powerful wind that tore rocks apart, but the LORD wasn’t in the wind. Then, there was an earthquake, but the LORD wasn’t in the earthquake. Then, there was a fire, but the LORD wasn’t in the fire. Finally, there was a gentle whisper….”Elijah what are you doing?”

    I’m not saying there isn’t a place for thrills and chills, but if all our worship consists of is jumping around, shouting, rolling on the floor, swinging on the chandeliers, and generally acting silly – how are we supposed to hear that gentle whisper?

  17. You mean we aren’t supposed to get the “Gospel Bumps” on our arms at every worship service we attend?

    One of the things that led me into the “post-evangelical” camp was worship leaders who strived so hard to make their “audience” feel happy-clappy. The constant smile, the prompted shouts and hand-raising, and the “Don’t you feel the joy of the Lord this morning?” exhortations…It was just too much for me. There was no room for brokenness or pain. You couldn’t go to church and just admit you were having a bad morning, or a bad week.

    I get as excited as anyone about my faith, but it’s awful that we are forced to feel ashamed of any emotion other than ecstasy. Jesus accepts us as we are, not as a worship leader tells us we should be.

    • Yup. Worship needs to give voice to both the experiences of intense sorrow and emotional deadness when we’re feeling very disconnected from God in a way that a CCLI chart topper can’t fix.

    • Well said. My feelings as well (as I attend a church where the comfort of ecstatic worship experiences are much sought after and thought highly of…)

  18. I guess you might find it in the mystics.

    The biggest problem I have with the church statement posted is that the point is to feel exciting experience. They aren’t focused on people experiencing God. They are gathering ostensibly to worship, but the point is not to worship God but to have their worshipers feel good. At best, this is deeply selfish and at worst plain idolatry.

    • I don’t know, Brad. The more I read the writings of those considered by us to be mystics (Julian of Norwich, Desert Fathers, etc.), the less I see them pursuing a “feeling”, leaning more in favor of pursuing God himself. I think sometimes we give our mystics a bad name…they seem to be a popular target of some in the reformed camp right now, in particular. A couple I know in that mindset, and very up on the latest in reformed writers and pastors are on a kick right now of condemning contemplative prayer, Billy Graham, and Beth Moore. How they picked those three to be hot topics in one pile, I don’t know…

      • +1. The mystics abandoned all comforts, all the excitement of this life, and struck out in pursuit of God, regardless of whether that took them deep into the dessert or buried them in the cloister…

        • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

          Seems like we sometimes want the benefits of being a mystic without the discipline. In the muppet-y words of Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

    • Re. the mystics–all that I’ve read leads to a very different way of seeing worship and life from what is described in this post. They emphasized quiet time with God and lots of time serving others. The mystical experiences were not sought out, they just came very occasionally. And they rarely spoke of them, let alone gloried in them. The teaching is generally to keep such experiences private except to share with a more experienced spiritual guide–and that for the purpose of discerning whether or not the experiences were authentic encounters with God, or merely emotional experiences, or perhaps even spiritual experiences sent to delude the person. Those who wrote of their experiences generally did so because they were advised to by a spiritual mentor in order to bless others. I’ve not read any who sought out emotional highs. Of course I haven’t read everything, either.

      • Exactly my thoughts. I agree that the experiences the mystics did have transcended mere human emotion…They were divine. We don’t hear about divine encounters today, because we don’t seek them out.

  19. I understand what this article is saying, and I agree mostly. I think, though, I’d offer one caveat. I think that people seem to be equating highly experiential and charismatic worship with things like a great sound system, videos, tech, etc. My experience is that the most authentic worship experiences I’ve had don’t need these sorts of things. Actually, I think that churches that spend a “disproportionate amount of time, energy and money on the weekend experience” are simply trying to duplicate the real thing.

    Seriously, if you want to experience genuine Pentecostal worship don’t go to a megachurch. Go to a small church in the poor section of town. They will most likely have a crappy sound system. They may or may not have a video projector. But the people will be authentic, and God will show up.

  20. Leon Russell once said that rock & roll is “an artificially induced religious experience.” It seems that some congregations are trying to artificially induce a religious experience rather than seeking a spiritual one.

    This also jibes with the repetitiveness (is that a word?) of many “worship” choruses — the constant repetition creates a low-level hypnotic experience, akin to a Hindu’s or Buddhist’s mantra.

  21. Lets keep it simple! Gods amazing grace and love for us is what we worship and give praise for this is also simply outlined in this further atricle

  22. I’m worship leader of a small/large church (is 300 large or small?) and I tend to agree with many of the comments here. However, like most things it’s hard to tell the “intent” of a congregations heart when worshiping. I think Sunday’s worship needs to be evaluated by how people are living Monday through Saturday. Is there transformation in how we/I live? If yes, there should be a lot of freedom in worship styles and how it gets done.

    Also, I think it’s important to remember that Jesus was a Jewish man worshiping in the way of a Hebrew. Most all western Christianity worships more from a Greek Hellenistic mindset than from a Hebrew mindset. To me, the question people should be asking is- Does this matter? I think yes. For example, most western songs express the “I” when worshiping God. Hebraic thinking would express the “we” while worshiping. It’s moving from individualistic mindset in worship to community mindset worship. Individualism worship in my opinion is the root in the “why “people are longing for the personal worship goose bumps. I believe that if you lead a congregation out of the “I” to the “we” things like style, lights and sound can be used to glorify the Lord in a powerful way, but of course, it should be used responsibly as a tool. God bless you.

  23. Randy Thompson says

    The idea of cameras scanning the audience for their responses is something I find creepy. Worship, like sex, is something private and intimate. It is not something to be objectified and used for getting other people into a particular mood. I may be overstating my case, but I find pictures of people worshiping as inappropriate as pictures of people having sex. It might well be encouraging a kind of spiritual exhibitionism, on one hand, or a kind of spiritual voyeurism on the other.

    • So true! I don’t presently attend a church, but tried one a couple years back and felt awkward as awkward can get in letting loose my expressions (this coming from a woman who has no problem expressing anything) because I didn’t want it to appear I was making a show of it. Nor did I want someone else who wasn’t where I was (or am) spiritually to feel less than. This includes my husband who stood next to me during worship and isn’t on the same journey as myself.

      But, I’ll tell ya the most incredible moments I’ve had in my kitchen making dinner, or finishing getting ready in the bathroom. Or even just this past weekend – my husband and I went into the high country of Colorado to camp, pulled into our spot, I got out of the car and within minutes I see – carved in one of the many aspen trees – Jesus and a cross. Later I was resting in the camper (alone) and started to cry at the absolute wonder that He is with us always. There is no other comfort known to man than that (I’ve tried most of what’s offered (she said with a grin.)

    • Matt Purdum says

      All such churches will be empty, soon enough, less tha 2- years, I’m guessing.

      • I wish you were right, but I’m not that optimistic about the sheeple…at least not where I live – we’ve numerous massive multi-million “christian arenas” go up in the last 2 yrs, all built around this weekly worship show…

      • Matt, I wish it were true. But they keep reinventing themselves and offering new programs and recycling people from other mainstream denominations that are dying. However, if they are going to fail it will be because of the economy and they are hurting bad now. The spending of lots of money on buildings and sound systems is to convince themselves and others they are viable. (While laying off people who are going to lose their homes over it but not cutting leadership salaries) I know this. I used to be a mega church elder. And then I got saved.

        My former mega church declared 20 years ago they would NEVER do Tv. It is the refuge of evangelical scoundrals. Guess what? They started Tv sermons last year. And people do send money in from it. Amazing how that works.

  24. I’ve read A LOT in the comments about how worship/music that creates a feeling of “high” is bad, bad, bad. So I would like to ask the critics, what SHOULD the music we play and sing do to us? What SHOULD it sound like? No drums? Only acoustic/no electric guitar? A sound level between 50-60 decibels? Should we not use professional musicians, lest their musical skills and expressive capabilities cause the congregation to FEEL something? Maybe go back to organ? Or chant? Clunky old out of tune piano?

    I’ve had this discussion lately, and I have come to the conclusion that music, well selected, performed and skillfully executed, should add something that the text alone can not communicate. That is the power of music! If it does not affect you in some way – to feel joy, sorrow, awe, peace – then something is wrong, or at least not living up to it’s full potential.

    When used to glorify God, I am not afraid of the music that I hear on Sunday, or the feelings that I might experience. Music is truly a gift from above, and I can hardly believe that God is not pleased when he hears his people passionately lifting up their voices and instruments to praise Him.

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      Sacred music, especially when you’ve got a somewhat-fixed set of songs, functions kind of like a non-didactic catechesis. It’s how people learn who God is and who we are and how to relate to Him and each other. The question isn’t necessarily one of style, instrumentation, loudness, etc, it’s one of depth and content. A good example is Matt Redman’s very popular song, “Blessed be the Name of the Lord.” Compared to the vast majority of the popular CCM songs it is very rich in mature theological truth and communicates something we need to hear and sing (in this case, God’s sovereignty in both good times and bad, and our duty to worship him in both). By contrast, Michael W. Smith’s also-very-popular song “Deep in Love With You” is sappy sentimentalism that doesn’t SAY anything and in fact comes across a little creepy in its almost-erotic way of talking to God. But folks love it because it gives the desired emotional response. Worship is certainly emotional, and it SHOULD be emotional. But because it’s emotional, we need to treat the song selection with care so that we’re not misleading and mis-catechizing our flock with emotionally appealing bad theology.

      • +1. Right on. And that is why the church has historically made strong use of both scriptural passages put to music and the “ordinary” parts of the liturgy. They teach us good things about God while giving voice to the emotions we need to express as part of our journey of discipleship.

    • sarahmorgan says

      It’s not that the music is creating a feeling of “high” that’s the problem….it’s that so many people are believing it’s the Holy Spirit when it’s the sub-bass frequencies.

      It’s sad, but many folks in evangelical churches idolize music and worship their praise bands (or worship leader, or most talented lead guitar player, or the most beautiful female singer on the platform). I’ve played in places where worship=music every single time, and that definition was OK with everyone, including the pastor. When I was a worship leader, I got in trouble with the church leadership because they didn’t “approve” of me talking to the team about ways to worship without music.

      The backlash is just as sad. I find I can no longer play in local churches because if, as a musician, you are too skilled or experienced or if you come across as too professional, you get accused of (gasp) performing instead of worshiping.

      I wish I knew how this could be fixed. I know a few churches that get it right, even with a loud rock band in a theatrical environment, but they seem to be few and far between. It needs to come from the top, but so many pastors don’t believe you can worship God without the band.

      • It’s not that the music is creating a feeling of “high” that’s the problem….it’s that so many people are believing it’s the Holy Spirit when it’s the sub-bass frequencies.

        How can someone completely judge if someone is encountering the Holy Spirit or not, though? I do believe that there are a lot of people “faking it”, but in my experience, even in Pentecostal churches, these people are on the fringes. I know people sometime feel like there’s a lot of pressure to exhibit some sort of emotion they necessarily aren’t feeling at the moment, and I get why that’s annoying. But even in an Orthodox liturgy there are times when the congregation is directed to do things that certain individuals might not feel like doing.

        Personally, I’m still of two minds on this. I do think there are a lot of charlatans and a lot of time, money, and energy spent on manufacturing an experience. But I also don’t want to become so cynical that I automatically doubt a person when they claim to have an experience. Cynicism is really one of the major spirits of the age at the moment, and it’s kind of the opposite of being childlike. It’s that whole wise as serpents, gentle as doves things that’s hard to navigate sometimes.

        • Wenatchee The Hatchet says

          a bit of digging into research on architecture, infrasound and emotional reaction might have helped here. Too bad I don’t remember exactly where I read about some of the studies done on that.

    • Yes the challenge is that us humans have emotions and intellects that are not removed when we worship, probably the opposite in fact. Our reponse to our amazing God elicits both emotional and other responses. Keeping it real in the midst of what we ‘should’ do and be in whatever tradition we are in is the challenge

  25. Corporate worship is an ‘interesting beast’. I had a experience with it that I found both funny and frightening

    20 years ago I was in south Africa sitting in a large pentecostal church (3000+ in the congregation) at the sound desk with the guy who was responsible for all things sound in the church. He knew exactly the power of being able to harness the power of the crowd using the ‘power of the volume sliders’. he said to me ‘watch this’ as he subtly increased the overall volume of what was coming out of the front of house speakers during some ‘free worship’ time. The intensity and the volume of the congregations worship rose and similarly he dropped the volume, and would you know it, the crowd responded to the ‘move of the spirit’ by moving into a quieter time of reflection. The worship team did nothing different and probably had no idea as their monitor volume had not changed.

    Lots of reflections on this experience but the one for now is just how important it is for those leading congregational worship to understand their role as a facilitator and never to manipulate the ‘experience’. As the sound guy demonstrated it is all to easy to use this ‘power’ for evil rather than good 🙂

    • Dont you just love responding to your own post!

      It just made me think how one dimensional the ‘worship experience’ can tend to be in many places. Our church is just completing a month of teaching on suffering (try working the crowd up over that topic! ) and as part of that we had a service of lamentation giving people a chance individually and corporately to respond to pain, grief and suffering in their life. It was moving in many ways.

      I’m certainly not the first to comment on this topic but it is a much more challenging role to listen and prepare for our corporate worship than to just ‘pump up the jam’. Partially our liturgy and the lectionary can help us in that, but even if your color of Christianity does not overtly subscribe to that, the recognition that the human response to our creator provides a huge palette from which to draw in that incredible privilege of leading our congregations when we gather together

  26. But where in the Bible or in the wise counsels of the saints over the centuries do you find that a regular pattern of ecstatic encounters with God is the recommended path to spiritual formation and maturity?

    Would Montanism fit somewhat as an answer?


  27. After giving it some thought, I’ve concluded that there is nothing wrong with desiring spiritual experience, even ecstatic ones, of God in one’s life. In fact, the blatant lack of such phenomena has been a significant source of frustration in my own life. God’s word does has the power to move us in ways beyond the grasp of our intellect. However, problems begin when we start to try and manufacture these experiences. (aka spiritual masturbation) It usually hides under the banner of worship. Here’s all the experience you need in worship: To hear the words of God assuring you that your sins are forgiven, and to taste and see, with your mouth and eyes, that the Lord is good. If you happen get shivers in your spine, consider it the cherry on top. But to hear, believe, and receive are the essential experiences of the Christian life. They are more than enough to move you to tears or shouts of joy.

  28. 1 Jezebel 19:11-13

    11 The LORD said, “Go out and stand in the church in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

    Then a great and powerful set by the worship team tore the air apart and shattered eardrums before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the band gig. After the band there was a frenetic movie clip, but the LORD was not in the movie. 12 After the movie came a PowerPoint presentation, but the LORD was not in the PowerPoint. And after the service came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

    Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”


    3 The voice of the amplifiers is over the waters; the band on stage thunders, the amplifiers thunder over the mighty waters.
    4 The voice of the amplifiers is powerful; the voice of the amplifiers is majestic.
    5 The voice of the amplifiers breaks the cedars; the amplifiers break in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

    6:7b for they think they will be heard because of their many decibels

  29. Where?… no where but in the first chapter, v3 of Saint Circus Church written for the narcissistic evangelical consumerist sans discernment.

  30. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    That’s our culture: it’s all about the energy, the enthusiasm, the “weekend experience.”

    CM, Massmind, everybody:

    How does that differ from the Jimmy Buffet Parrothead culture, where the week is drudged through waiting for the weekend and the weekend is Party Party Party?

    • HUG, You would not believe the groupthink involved in planning a mega church weekend performance. I call them performances. They are. There is seriously an element of thought reform to it.

  31. “That’s our culture: it’s all about the energy, the enthusiasm, the ‘weekend experience.’
    Nothing wrong with an occasional exciting experience, right? I’m OK with that.
    But where in the Bible or in the wise counsels of the saints over the centuries do you find that a regular pattern of ecstatic encounters with God is the recommended path to spiritual formation and maturity?
    Seriously, where?”

    It isn’t our culture, it is the Bible:
    “The Levites were appointed as singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbal, to raise sounds of joy.” (I Chronicles 15:16)
    “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
    “Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises.”(Psalm 98:4)
    “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:2)
    “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit and I will also sing with the understanding.” (I Corinthians 14:15)
    “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands” (Psalm 63:4)
    “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph!” (Psalm 47:1)
    “Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, you righteous; And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:11)
    “Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and Harp.” (Psalm 149:3)

    Or how about the definition of “halal” (as in hallelujah) which in the NASB is most often translated “praise” but is also translated as acted insanely (1), arrogant (1), boast (9), boasted (1), boastful (3), boasts (4), drive madly (1), glory (8), go mad (1), going mad (1), mad (1), madness (1), make its boast (1), makes a mad (1), makes fools (1), making fools (1), race madly (1).

    Yep, sounds like just another Sunday of liturgy right?

    • Nothing wrong with proper joy and enthusiasm — though different personalities will and should be encouraged to express those emotions naturally and according to their own styles. What we’re seeing in the mega church show goes far beyond sincere praise. We’re talking about either blatant manipulation or a philosophy of “worship” that relies upon pumped-up volume and extreme levels of emotional intensity. Nowhere does the Bible or Christian tradition make this weekly “experience” a major part of spiritual formation. Weekly worship, yes. Weekly journeys into ecstasy, no.

      • I’m sorry but when you say they are going beyond sincere praise you are making an assumption that you have no way of verifying. You identify things like pumped-up volume and extreme levels of emotional intensity as indications that people aren’t really worshiping but if you read through the verses I posted above you’ll find they are full of those very things.

        There IS a problem out there with musical worship but it has nothing to do with emotion or worship forms. It is a heart issue and therefore hard to diagnose by looking at the external behavior of a group of people. All you’ll get by doing that is a bunch of other people condemning whatever they don’t feel comfortable with.

        • TPD, you are missing the point. Can’t you see a difference between someone offering sincere praise and a church intent on creating a “worship experience?”

          The critique is pointed at the church and the theology of worship, not the individual worshipper, who may indeed be sincere. He or she is, however, being manipulated and is ultimately not well-served by a church that manufactures “worship.”

          • I can see the difference. I guess we disagree in that I don’t think that difference can be detected by reading a churches web site or maybe even visiting one service.

        • I’m really hesitant to embrace your assumptions here. You really can, and should, make judgments about what people are doing based on externals. In fact, externals are really all anybody has to go on when they make any judgment at all. The assumption is sometimes made that there are two categories in play: the heart, and then the visible realm of tangible elements. This is probably dualistic, and what the BIble refers to as “the heart” is almost always something that is visibly expressing itself on the outside. in some way.

          If I see a church filled with garbage- from abuse, to bad theology, to a common practice of ignoring Jesus’ life and words…but they get hyped up during the light show/rock concert every Sunday….there’s plenty of room to make healthy judgments about what’s going on there… I don’t need to see every individual’s heart, or throw out what my senses are telling me.

          It’s as simple and everyday a practice as smelling the milk and saying “yep, it’s gone bad– don’t drink it.”

          there’s nuance and attention to detail required in order to make GOOD judgments of course, which is a whole other story…

          • I said “hard to diagnose” not impossible. Most of the things you listed are pretty obvious. Of course if I walk into a church and they are beating up an old lady in the aisle I can safely say there is something bad going on. That is different from “Gee, the music is pumped up and people are very emotional, they must be off base and manipulated.” That is what the majority of the conversation here has centered around.

    • Marcus Johnson says

      My concern seems to be that we are defining an abstract term–worship–according to sets of values that are just as abstract. In addition, most of the commenters here define an authentic worship experience according to what it shouldn’t be. It does seem that we are, perhaps subconsciously, defining “right” and “wrong” worship according to our respective cultural backgrounds and perceptions of what is going on in another church or in another person. What if the expression of worship according to someone’s own style requires a full-scale rock band?

      I understand that the Lutheran/anti-evangelical experience is the prevalining experience in this website, but I’ve been to several churches in vastly different communities, for which that “weekend experience” is more than just a shallow, one-hour concert. Don’t get me wrong; I have observed some very shallow worship experiences, in which people were not encouraged to develop spiritually within their church community. However, maybe we should temper our judgment of these churches and start looking for a better, less abstract way of judging the impact of these services on those in worship.

      • Marcus, I understand and appreciate what you are saying. Please keep in mind that Jethani is citing a specific study and commenting on a specific (though increasingly rampant) approach to “the worship experience.”

        Even the use of that term should tip us off. If “worship” is about what I “experience” — the thrill I get, the ecstasy I feel, the rush, the sense of being overwhelmed by emotion — then I suggest that is an inadequate, sub-Christian understanding of what it means to worship, which I would define as: to gather as God’s people to give thanks and praise, to offer prayer, and to receive and share his gifts of grace through Christ.

        • The thrill, the ecstasy, the rush – – you mean, worship like this?

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says

          Even the use of that term should tip us off. If “worship” is about what I “experience” — the thrill I get, the ecstasy I feel, the rush, the sense of being overwhelmed by emotion …

          Again, what if a worshipper (in this sense) finds something else outside of “worship” that gives them even more of “the experience, the feel, the ecstasy, the rush” ?

  32. I don’t think contemporary, post-charismatic worship makes any sense without some familiarity with its roots in Pentecostalism and the charismatic movement. That altered sense of consciousness is a portal to spiritual enlightenment. Just like Carlos Castenada but Christian (TM), as HUG would say. Post-charismatic worship is much milder, but the idea that emotionalism is a door to spiritual reality, getting closer to Jesus, is still there. Tongues and slaying in the spirit are replaced with wet, slobbery kisses.

  33. If anything, the Bible speaks against working people up into ecstatic frenzies. The Ephesian Christians lived in a city that had worship to gods like Artemis and Bacchus where worshipers would get drunk and work themselves up into ecstatic “spiritual” experiences. Paul is probably condemning that in these verses,

    15 Be very careful, then, how you live —not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Eph 5:15-20

    That doesn’t mean worship cannot be exciting. It is just that our own personal excitement is not the point or purpose. We don’t need to make worship so bad and dull that it is a penance to attend. We should think enough of God to give him our best but that doesn’t mean we need to act like pagans to do it. Anyone else seen Ephesians 5 in that light?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      If anything, the Bible speaks against working people up into ecstatic frenzies.

      I am reminded of “Shaking Stacy”, Tatted Todd’s sidekick from the Lakeland Revival (“ANGELS! ANGELS! ANGELS! SHEEKA-BOOM-BAH! BAM!!!”). Lakelanders saw her as “On fire with the Spirit (proof-text zip codes)”, Anti-Lakelanders “Demon-possessed by a Serpent-Kundalini Spirit (proof-text zip codes)”. After watching a couple YouTube videos showing her gradually working up to “Shake It Up!”, I figured she was working herself up into a frenzy and the shaking and sssssnaketalk accent was just the way that frenzy came out.

  34. One more thing…if worship is about God, being in his presence and giving him the glory He deserves we have a lot to learn from those people in scripture who actually stood in the presence of God, visible or otherwise. What I get from those guys is that God is awesome and the only time self comes into their thoughts is that they are sinful. When we do we see that reflected in our worship, rock band or otherwise?

  35. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Question, everybody:

    If “Worship (TM)” = High, what happens when you find something that gives you a BIGGER High?

    • There is nothing wrong with worship providing a high, the problem is if it is ONLY providing a high. I think comparing it to the romantic relationship between a husband and wife works here. To rephrase your question; if romance is ONLY an emotional high then what happens when a younger prettier woman comes along. Disaster. But if romance is the emotional high of the moment plus the love of a lifetime then it is lasting and it has a beauty that transcends the high. Once again, there is nothing wrong with an emotional high, but there is something wrong if it is ONLY an emotional high.

  36. The fact that mega-services do the exact same thing to us psychologically as sporting events and rock concerts was apparent to me quite awhile ago. It’s as you say- that’s not an indicator that nothing real is happening at all, but when you take that stuff away and all of a sudden no one’s interested….then the Jesus content didn’t really need to be there in the first place for people to get high.

    Or conversely, take away the Jesus content and the light show remains, and people are still really excited and “on fire for God,” well….that’s not a church, is it?

  37. Chaplain Mike,

    I think the spiritual highs this post speaks of can happen with almost anything else in a church service. I’ve known people who get high off of sermons, hymns, choruses, the Lord’s supper, etc., and churches that manufacture similar types of experiences with the list above. I once attended a church where they adored the Puritans so much that the pastor preached with a “Puritan accent”, rolling his R’s and using words like “methinks”, “praytell” and “gentlepersons.” It got some juices flowing in the faithful.