Is Emotion In Worship Necessary?

Today I”m asking some very serious questions (at least for me)… and hoping for replies.  I know that most who answer will do so primarily from their experience and therefore the answers will probably be founded in the subjective sphere, and that is okay.  I do the same thing.  So here are my questions…

Is it possible to worship God without being moved to tears… without raising your hands and clapping… without being moved emotionally?  Do you have to “feel” God’s presence to worship Him?  And is this possible when you are with hundreds of other believers who are worshipping in this manner? 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know I’m asking this question as the result of a recent experience of my own.  While in a worship service, everyone was raising their hands, smiling, clapping, and even shouting in worship of God.  While all that was going on, I remained quiet.  I didn’t have the emotional response it seemed everyone else was having.  Does that mean I missed the Spirit’s presence?

Thing is… there are many times when I worship God in the midst of tears. Many times I am overwhelmed emotionally over God’s majesty.  Many times I do raise my hand in worship of God.  Many times I am moved emotionally. I just wasn’t moved to respond to God in worship in those ways in that particular gathering of believers. So am I the odd one out??? The time I most strongly sensed God’s presence in worship was with 60,000 other men… in the Georgia Dome… in complete, absolute silence.

The last thing I want to do is be a hindrance to anyone else in their worship of God.  I do not want to quench the Spirit for other believers.   And more importantly… when the Spirit IS present, I don’t want to be left out of receiving a blessing from God!

In my view when it comes to worship, emotion can take on many forms… none of which can be accurately read by anyone else.  In the same event can one person weep while another bows their head in silence and awe of God?  In the same event can one person raise their hands and another can close their eyes… and both be worshipping God?  In the same event can one weep, another be quiet, and another smile and all be worshipping God? If one person does not have the same emotional response in a worship event as all others, does that mean everyone else encountered God and one missed out?

I really am interested to read your response…

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15 comments on “Is Emotion In Worship Necessary?

  1. Keith Davis says:

    I think you answered your question in your own blog. It’s not an either/or, but a both/and. The answer (in my not so humble opinion) is FREEDOM. I doubt that everyone on the day of Pentecost was “doing” the same thing. I don’t think I can find any scripture that either mandates nor condemns any of the things you talked about as “outward” expressions. The point, to me at least, is this one question: “Where is my heart in worship?”

    Worship is an outward expression of an inward feeling. The expression is left up to the worshiper. Sing, dance, shout, raise hands, sit in silence, and the list could go on and on.

    I my traditional denomination we have always condemned outward expressions. I think to the point that we have quenched the Spirit of God. That has really hurt us. We just need to be focused on God. He it the point and only point of worship!

    • pastorron7 says:

      Not to put too fine a point on it… but must worship be, as you write, “an inward feeling?” Is it possible to have worship God as the result of a cognitive recognition of who God is? And then… I’m not sure it is possible to have a cognitive recognition of who God is without an emotional response. (I think I’m close to theological schizophrenia! Snicker).

      Second thoguht, I’m not sure that the expression is left up to the worshipper. In the context I described in my post, there was ONE person of 60,000 who began shouting praises to God… which was out of order. The person was admonished to be quiet as out of order by the worship leader. My question is this (Which is hard to consider), is a person who is quiet in the midst of those worshipping with great expression just as much out of order as the one person who was expressing worship in the midst of silence?

  2. Greg says:

    I remember a youth conference where the speaker was talking to conselors who were asking this question about the emotional responses during the youth conference worship services….His response was that all of us wear different sizes of worship cloths….different styles of worship cloths… the way I worship may be different, you may need to worship in quite reverence, for me or the person next to me worship may be an emotional expression of a shout, or a raised hand, an amen…. for me quinching the spirit happens when I expect the person next to me to worship just like I do.

    • pastorron7 says:

      Follow up question Greg… for whom would the Spirit be quenched? You or the person next to you? Just wondering…

  3. tammie says:

    Why would anyone want to compare what he is doing to what everyone around him is doing? Emotion–it’s spirit and truth–it’s not external demonstration. What’s happening in your heart?

    • pastorron7 says:

      Tammie… we are encouraged in Scripture to “examine ourselves” (1 Cor 11:28; 2 Cor 13:5). Then in Ps 139:23-24 David asks God to examine his heart to see if there is something he needs to repent of. If we do not examine ourselves periodically and regularly then we are in danger of drifting away from the faith. Those who find no need to examine themselves are in a precarious place and don’t even know it! I don’t compare myself to others for the purpose of elevating myself… that’s sinful pride. I do however compare myself… my views… my thoughts to others for the purpose of discerning if I’m missing something or someone (Experiencing God in this instance).

      What’s happening in my heart? A deep longing and desire to know God… to experience Him to the fullest… to walk closely with Him… to encounter Him every chance I get. That’s what’s going on. I think there is something in the Scriptures reagding… “With all your heart.” At the same time it is written in Jeremiah 17:17 that they heart is deceitfully wicked above all things and no man can know it. Even Paul wrote that just because his heart didn’t condemn him did NOT mean he was innocent (1 Cor 4:4).

      Could I be so bold as to suggest that your last statement… “What’s happening in your heart?” is the very thing I write about in my post? Could I suggest that you are replying from your experience and comparing that to my experience and in so doing are evaluating me? Just a little something to think about. Thank you for your thoughts!

      • tammie says:

        “Could I suggest that you are replying from your experience and comparing that to my experience and in so doing are evaluating me?”

        you could suggest that, but i don’t think that’s fair, because it was a question and not an evaluation. it was more rhetorical–i have followed your blog for awhile, even linked to it a number of times, because i respect your humility before God. so, yes, i know that is what you blog about.

        your answer–“A deep longing and desire to know God… to experience Him to the fullest… to walk closely with Him… to encounter Him every chance I get. That’s what’s going on.”–was insightful.

        what i don’t understand is why you are defining “emotion”, which seems to be a state of the heart and/or soul, by grouping the external manifestations of that emotion. so i wouldn’t call crying an emotion. i would call joy, sorrow, or anger emotions, and know that crying can be an expression of any of them. sometimes silence would be the expression of emotion, sometimes dancing.

        so, back to your original question: Is it possible to worship God . . . without being moved emotionally? Do you have to “feel” God’s presence to worship Him? And is this possible when you are with hundreds of other believers who are worshipping in this manner?

        i would say that i don’t think it’s possible to worship God without being emotionally moved, but how that emotion is going to express itself will differ from person to person. you don’t have to feel God’s presence to know he’s there. if every person in a room is worshiping God in the identical same way, scripture would seem to indicate that there may be some eyes trying to be ears, or some ears trying to be hands, or maybe someone thinks that the whole body should be an eye.

        people come into the congregation in different circumstances. someone just had a miscarriage. someone else just had a new baby. they are going to have a different response to what it means for God to be an ever-present refuge. neither would be less valid, but would be vastly different.

        you asked, “In the same event can one person weep while another bows their head in silence and awe of God? In the same event can one person raise their hands and another can close their eyes… and both be worshipping God? In the same event can one weep, another be quiet, and another smile and all be worshipping God?” how could it be otherwise?

        you concluded, “If one person does not have the same emotional response in a worship event as all others, does that mean everyone else encountered God and one missed out?” not if at heart that one person has “A deep longing and desire to know God… to experience Him to the fullest… to walk closely with Him… to encounter Him every chance I get.”

        your loving heavenly Father will not withhold any good thing from you, his child. he promised.

      • pastorron7 says:

        Tammie, Oh my… I hope I didn’t offend. One of the reasons I don’t like email & the purely written word is that it does not conevey emotion… body language… or voice tone. I’m afraid that what I wrote came across as anything but upholding 1 Cor 8:1… “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.” I’m afraid that I was puffed up instead of building you up. Please accept my apology. : )

        In my original post I was asking… seeking… trying to understand something that confused me about a particular worship event. The conclusions and thoughts you have are well made and correct. I just know that because my “heart is deceitfully wicked and (I) can’t know it,” I need to be careful that what I think is right IS right. Thus I sought the wisdom of “many counselors.” You my sister in Christ, have been very helpful.

      • tammie says:

        dear brother, thank you for writing. i wasn’t at all offended. in thinking about how to respond to you this morning, i was greatly blessed to consider worship and emotion. i love to consider that the greatest command is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and body, and while i fall short, it has been such a rewarding journey to pursue this objective for many years. the idea that i can (and should) even eat and drink for God’s glory is also quite a marvelous thought.

        thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging posts.

  4. Terri Womack says:

    I agree that in a setting where most folks are worshiping in a particular way–whether demonstratively or reserved–then everyone tends to worship that way. Being on the demonstrative end of the scale (I know you never noticed :-), I struggle with not judging others when they aren’t. Especially when I see the same folks being awfully demonstrative at a sporting event! In my mind I’m thinking, “How can you sing that song and it not move you to tears??” (My aunt Beth would say Zolof helps with that). But being here has really allowed the Lord to work on my heart in that respect and here’s what He continually reminds me–I am there to worship and commune with Him. However form that happens to be on that day is not important. How everyone else is worshiping is not important. What everyone else thinks about how I’m worshiping is not important (However, I do agree with the comment earlier that we should not disturb others). I may be in corporate worship, but my worship is for Him. I’d say measure your worship experience on how much you honored and praised him, regardless of how that was displayed on any particular day…and don’t judge your experience by what you see around you.

  5. Larry Smith says:

    Ron, hope you don’t mind me commenting on this. I just happened to see it on FB. I’ve always thought that someone’s method of worshipping God was an individual choice. At church, for me, my worship is usually internalized because I’ve never felt comfortable making a public display. It’s not that I’m ashamed to do it, it’s just that it’s not my nature to be outwardly demonstrative of my feelings. I don’t always feel the strong presence of the Holy Spirit during church, but I don’t think that means God has withdrawn from ME. Rather, it is more like I have withdrawn because the cares and concerns of the world have crept into my life and thoughts. But during the times when I don’t feel God’s presence that much, I do make a conscious effort to worship God by directing my attention and thoughts to him. I know that He is always with me and hasn’t forsaken me just because I don’t have Holy Spirit “high” on a particular day. And some of the times when i have felt the presence of God very strongly, enough to get an outward demonstration out of me, wasn’t even at Church, or on sunday, at all. I’m often totally blown away by God’s presence when I’m just sitting at home or may be out somewhere where I see something that is the evidence of God’s prsence and greatness and majesty. As far as what happens in church, I’ve often felt that the response of worshippers during services at church was invoked by the service (the music, the dynamic speaking style of the pastor, etc.) itself as much by them feeling the presence of the Lord.

    • pastorron7 says:

      Larry… thank you for your thoughts and comment. Your perspective is insightful and greatly appreciated.

  6. Searching says:

    Great insights and truth Ron!
    I don’t see anything this humble servant can add except “Well Done”!

    By the way, many of us are praying for you and God’s will concerning a church in our area!
    Blessings my brother!

  7. Ryan says:

    Great topic. Thought-provoking insights.

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