Over my 28 years at UGA CCF I often dealt with students who were dissatisfied and considering leaving our fellowship. One common answer to the question “Why are you dissatisfied?” was “CCF is just not deep enough.” I remember one such occasion when the student complaining was expecting me to commiserate with him about the lack of depth in our small groups and in my teaching. But he happened to be the straw that broke the camels back that day so instead of sympathy he got truth. I said rather forcefully to him, ” You are from a Christian family, have been in church all your life, and have been a baptized believer for almost 10 years, so don’t you think it is time you do some feeding, rather than complaining about not being fed yourself?” Needless to say he was not at all pleased and my challenge did not cause him to change his mind and he left. He went somewhere else, seeking a deeper experience of God. Sad, but all too typical.
What he was looking for really was not “depth” but an experience of God, which he would know had happened because of some overwhelming internal feeling, similar to a drug high (not that I would know what that feels like). So instead when we challenged him to offer himself to God, to give everything he did and all that he was to God he felt cheated.
The church today is so consumer oriented that it is danger of designing meetings to produce an internal high that is exhilarating. Is this wrong? Not until we attach to this feeling the appellation of “worship”. Worship is living the life of a Christian for Christ, no matter what you are doing, and regardless of how you “feel” about it. Worship is done 100% to the honor and glory of God. Worship is work and play when done to and in homage to God. True Biblical worship is other-centered, God-centered, definitely not self-centered. It is never what we experience, but instead what we give to God.
Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying worship never creates experiences or feelings, for indeed it does. What I am saying is that in true worship any experience is the result of God’s gift to us, not a demand that He must be meet or an expectation to be sought after and most assuredly, not the purpose of what we are doing. To use an old analogy “it is the fruit, not the root”. To strive to produce a feeling that can be identified as experiencing God turns everything upside down. If we are seeking the experience of God, then we have distorted our pursuit of God into a nothing more than a fix for our experiential, existential habit. That is not worship, that is addiction and it is not to God but to our own self-centered experience however it is produced and maintained.
If you think I am wrong and that you haven’t worshiped until you have experienced God emotionally , that’s OK, I love you anyway and so does God. But I challenge you to show me a scripture that calls the church to produce emotional, experiential-based worship. For my argument I ask you to read Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Hmm… Where is that ecstatic worship in the overwhelming presence of God that we find so essential?
Are you ready to think seriously about what God may or may not want from you as true worship?