Have you ever been to a church that pumps you up? Is your church like that?
I mean, who doesn’t like to enjoy worshiping with their church? It’s energizing! And sometimes there’s an incredible vibe emanating from Sunday mornings that continues to pulsate long into the rest of the week. You know it if you’ve experienced it. And some churches just have it. It’s invigorating to walk away from a worship gathering and think, Wow, that was good! In fact, it’s better than invigorating; it’s intoxicating. And it begs for more. There’s an excitement that’s inexplicable, and the best you can say is that God is up to something. He’s moving. And if you’ve shared a similar experience you can attest to the powerful desire to have it happen all over again, and the best part about churches that got it goin’ on…well, only 6 more days till the party starts up again! It’s fun, it’s contagious, and it makes you look forward to being at church.
Dude, that vibe is a drug!
And if you’re a part of a church body that is reveling in a season of exuberance because you’re so fascinated with the beauty of Christ and experiencing his freeing grace from the bonds of sin, then let Him send your spirit soaring! Enjoy it! I believe God does send revival. And while I also believe there are more sobering signs of true spirituality, there ought to be a high level of energy and enthusiasm in joyful Christians!
But (and I’m sure you’ve been anticipating this ‘but’) don’t degenerate into a “modern worship crack addict” who’s become so dependent on an emotional high that you’d do anything to achieve that euphoria again. There are tell-tale signs that may indicate a vain misconception of what worship in the body of Christ really looks like. If you feed off of the positive energy and good vibes of an exciting worship service to fill your soul and sustain you through a week of spiritual apathy while neglecting spiritual disciplines you might…scratch that…you do have a problem. I fear too many Christians mistake the goosebumps from a worship experience with spiritual maturity, and then you’re just hung-over with a sugar rush from drinking the kool-aid while your spiritual muscles atrophy from an undisciplined reliance on emotional junk food. And pastors and worship leaders beware: just because each Sunday your church emanates positive energy and good vibes does not indicate spiritual health or the approval of Christ. It might to be sure, but it is dangerous to assume.
I know I’m not saying anything new here, but this discussion stems from a desire to carefully think through what kind of tone I should set as a pastor who helps to lead Christ’s church in worship. I have to admit that there’s a temptation to attempt to manufacture energy within our corporate gathering. Crank up the music, rock out, smile incessantly, look like we’re having fun, and pump people up with enthusiasm. Let’s celebrate! At least that way, we can make our Christianity look and feel exciting, and then more people will want to jump on board (and tell their friends…who will want to come…and then they’ll be so blown away by how cool we are that they’ll want to invite their friends…and then…just imagine what God could do!). The bigger crowd, the bigger the party…and the better the vibe.
And we’re all addicts.
But I’ve chased after that gust of wind before. So it’s time to pull out the needle and get on our knees. There is a time for singing. There is a time for dancing (my time will come in eternity when my body is glorified and I’m capable of performing anything that actually resembles dancing). And there’s also a time for deep reflection. Before we raise our hands or lift our voices, do we desire our God to be glorified more than anything else? Are we in tune with the heavens? (Psalm 19:1) That’s where true worship of the church begins: a passionate, hold-nothing-back, sacrificial, joyful, thankful, humbled, deep-seated, transformed desire for Christ and His glory. We love God. And that vibe is unmistakable.
And here’s incredible news: we can play a part in the divine happiness! We, who were once enemies of God, can make Him smile! That’s called grace, my friend.
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish” (Eph 5:25-27).
We glorify God by becoming a beautiful bride for Jesus. So where is our deep concern for holiness? Are we being washed in the word and renewed in our minds? Are we praying for the refining fire of God in our lives? Are we confessing our sins to one another? Are we sharpening one another? Admonishing one another? Encouraging one another? His love compels and enables our obedience, and the more we love Him the more we look like Him. And the more we look like Him, the more beautiful a bride we are to behold.
What an incredible vibe that would be: Christ’s church enamored with Him, enraptured in His presence, filled with His Spirit, hanging on His words, being cleansed by Him, overflowing with expressions of praise out of hearts that are in love and eagerly longing for the Bridegroom to return.
So I hope there’s a vibe in your church. But ask yourself, What makes it exciting? I hope it’s much deeper than just “positive energy”. I hope it hangs on the person of Christ. I remember a phrase that was attached to the back of the pulpit in my home church growing up. I hope it’s still there, and I hope it’s the longing of every believer to remind their pastor:
“Sir, we would see Jesus.”