Dear Salvation Army – “More Than A Feeling” Emotionalism in Worship


We once attended a Pentecostal service.
 We do that from time to time when on vacation, visit churches from various denominations that is.  
We stopped at this particular church because of the appearance…it looked nice and well maintained.  
I noted that its parking lot was nearly full as we made our way to the front doors.  You know the old saying about going to the restaurants that have lots of traffic?  Well…sometimes this applies to churches as well, at least on the surface of “appearances”.    
We were greeted by members of the church who seemed delighted that we had chosen to worship with them on that particular day as they placed a worship bulletin in our hands and showed us to a seat towards the back of the sanctuary.  Everything seemed warm and welcoming…until the barking started that is. 
I am not joking – barking.  No it wasn’t some sort of “bring your pet to church day” or anything like that, but rather an extreme form of “tongues” that certain Pentecostal churches endorse in worship.  Members began barking and making all sorts of interesting sounds as they waved their hands, some rolled on the floor while others danced down the isles and around the chapel.  We were absolutely wide-eyed and shocked, completely out of our element.
 We didn’t know what to do.  We felt trapped in a strange circus and we couldn’t find the exit fast enough.

 I am certainly not negating that use of tongues (which is scriptural) as a mode for conveying the gospel and for a translator to be present.  And I am certainly not negating the use of emotionalism in worship either.  Emotionalism, to a degree, is relevant, but in this one instance…wow…just wow.   


Does emotionalism play a part in worship?  
Of course.  
Within this topic there should also be an understanding that cultural styles of worship differ from place to place.  
Some cultures might be more emotional than others when it comes to worship.  For example in many parts of Africa worshipers will dance down the aisles to the offering plates because the “time of offering” is a time of celebration.  This is cultural and is a very beautiful thing to witness.   Given the cultural differences that we find around the globe in our global army, it can be difficult to separate extreme emotionalism from cultural practice in worship.  

Worship is more
Worship is so much more than what takes place on Sunday in Worship services like Holiness Meetings and Salvation Meetings.  But as a corporate body of believers, we gather together for these important times to sing songs of praise, share in scripture, share in testimonies, other worship elements and a message/sermon.  

Q: Can emotionalism become a distract in worship?  
A: Yes!  
Although feelings and emotions are important within our personal worship and even corporate worship, it can become a distraction to other believers who are gathered there to worship in the services we attend.  We should consider the reverence of God within these sacred moments of worship as well as how we react to one another while in these sacred spaces.  

The Holy Spirit

shining dove with rays on a dark golden background
We must, at the same time, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading as well.  Please don’t misunderstand what is written here. I am not decrying the use of emotion in worship but we should be mindful of other worshipers as well as be in tune to the Holy Spirit in such corporate settings.  He (the Holy Spirit) can prompt us to go to the penitent form out of conviction and reconciliation.  He might even prompt us to go to another member within our corporate body to pray with us or for us to seek mending of a broken relationship.  We would be wise to listen to His leading in our lives at these important moments.  

That being said, emotionalism does play a part in our worship, but be careful that we are not solely led by our emotions. 
We also have other physical/mental components to rely on within these modes of worship:  Intellect, prudence, and even silence.  

Are there places in our army where emotion is lacking?  
Are there worship settings that have become too mechanical, staunch and stoic?  
Perhaps some worship services could use a shot of emotion…

Worship is vital!
Worship in church is crucial to our spiritual maturity and corporate edification.  We need koinonia (Christian fellowship) as we sing praises, share in testimonies and hear the word of God expounded upon in the form of sermons.  Just be mindful that there can be more to worship than pure emotionalism.  It can play its part, but it should not be our only constant, primary sense utilized 100% of the time in the corporate setting.

Questions to Ponder:
What is your typical worship service like at your corps?
How does emotionalism play into the service? 
Is there an abundance of emotion or a vacancy of emotion?  
Are we (you) sensitive to the Holy Spirit when He falls upon us? (yes this is both personal and sometime corporate)

-Just something more for our army world to ponder today.  


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