Image by Kelly. Creative Commons.
When I would visit my black, Pentecostal pastor friend’s church, I would leave feeling like I had been put through an emotional ringer. It was draining, but cathartic. They had awesome, emotionally intense music, singing, playing, praying, dancing, and swaying. There were times of reflection and prayer far more intense than any therapy I have ever received. It reminded me of when I eat really spicy Mexican food, my face turns red and sweat begins running down my forehead, but I keep eating it because it so good. When I left a church service there, I would literally be sweaty, but it was good!
Our church band rocked, too. There was one very elderly, almost blind lady that would dance down the aisle every Sunday as she was being seated. We got to where we raised hands and swayed too. It was a big deal for us to get past our stodgy roots to feel this new freedom of expression.
As a preacher, I felt it was invaluable for the congregation to be “prepared” for the sermon. They needed to be focused, in the mood, roused by praise and then, subdued by worship and reflection.
People either loved or hated this type of worship. Older, stately people usually hated it and called it worldly, shallow, and inappropriate. Most people loved it. It made them feel alive, in touch with God, and happy they went to a “cool” church.
I have a young adult acquaintance that generally dislikes most anything Christian, but loves U2 and has been to several concerts. One time he said to me that a U2 concert was his church.
A great worship service and a great concert are close cousins. What do they have in common?
- Intensity. Music has the power to touch us emotionally in a way that brings powerful images to our minds and cuts straight through our personal, intellectual firewalls to reach our heart.
- Unity. A worship service is filled with people who love God and a U2 concert is filled with people who love U2. There is a unique, combined intensity and energy when you get a few hundred or a few thousand people together enthusiastically singing the same song.
- Anonymity. A large gathering and a loud band give even us questionable singers permission to sing our hearts out, because no one will hear us.
- Elation. It is such a joy to be in a great worship service or a concert of a band you love, singing, thinking of nothing other than the song and the moment, overloaded with sensory stimuli. That’s why people pay the big bucks for concert tickets.
This rousing concert and its accompanying emotional responses that have all been given spiritual terminology and equated with worship.
That’s why worship happens once a week for so many people. After all, it takes a talented band and a large group of people. Maybe there was some worship that took place there, but one thing is for sure, it was a good concert.
It seems weird to confine ascribing worth to God to a brief weekly, corporate activity that is apart from the course of regular life.
From my book, Free Range Faith