'Cognitive dissonance' in worship

Discussion in 'Other Christian Denominations' started by Matt Black, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    Our church had two contrasting services on Sunday just past. The morning service was a 'happy clappy' family service, with a reading and a bit of a preach in the middle, fairly typical evangelical for us. But the thing that really grated with me was at the start when the worship leader said "We may have had a tough week or had an argument with our spouse, but now it's time to put all of that to one side and worship God." One of the praise choruses we sang was Jesus We Celebrate your Victory which has the line "And in His Presence, our problems disappear."

    A couple of comments to make there before I go on to describe the second service. First, why should we put our troubles to one side when we come to worship? Surely God wants us to come as we are, warts and all, honest before Him so that He can deal with us as we are, instead of us assuming a dishonest facade before Him consisting of moronic grins which smack more of lobotomies than of the Holy Spirit. Secondly, no my problems don't disappear in His presence; on a good day, when I am able to experience His presence, my problems assume more of a proper perspective, but they don't go away. And doesn't the whole thing smell of an unbiblical sacred-secular dualism: we're all happy, happy, clappy on Sunday morning and then whiny-crappy the rest of the week at w*rk?

    The evening service by contrast was, for me and I think for others, far more 'honest' and meaningful. It was an Advent meditation on the story of the wise men in Matt 2, whereby we proceeded at our own pace from one prayer station to another in the church building, pausing to meditate at each one. One 'station', for example, involving oil as a balm, was for healing for past hurts and betrayals.

    This service encouraged you to 'come as you are' and, far from setting your problems to one side, to bring them in with you and bring them to Jesus for healing etc

    I suppose the reason for me posting this is to pose the question: why is so much of what we call 'worship' actually an excercise in emotional and spiritual dishonesty, and what we can do to put it right?
     
  2. trustitl

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    Worship

    Has anybody else ever wondered why the meeting of the church is called a worship service? Believers are told to not forsake gathering so everybody says we should. But if you look at the rest of the verse you will see we are to get together to exhort one another. In addition our singing is to "teach and admonish" one another.

    Too many meetings of believers have turned into a set of rituals (some call them sacraments), an emotional therapy session, or an entertainment opportunity for the family. You can't see worship, yet most of what we call worship is physical activities: singing, clapping, dancing, giving money, "sacraments", etc.

    The solution to this is to worship the only way a believer can: in spirit and in truth.
    You can do it anywhere, anytime, with anyone or more likely with no one. What is it that "causes" you to worship? Is it love out of a pure heart that has been "made alive unto God? Or is it a habit and directed by another person getting you to perform some activity.

    I can give my wife a card on all the proper occasions: her birthday, Valentines day, Sweetest day, anniversary,... out of duty, habit, or a pure heart. On the other hand, I can do it anytime with no external influence. Which do you think she prefers? There is nothing wrong with the former but it is easy to be deceived into thinking I am loving in "spirit and in truth" long after it has lost its genuine character.

    Col. 2:8 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
     
  3. Matt Black

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    Yes, but so often the 'teaching and admonishing' can seem like a verbal beating to those who are already down and nearly out; whatever happened to "a bruised reed He will not break"?
     
  4. trustitl

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    Worship

    If it's a verbal beating than it is not from God. What you are talking about is an improper rebuke. Teaching is getting someone to learn something new. An admontion is merely a reminder of something that one already knows. Neither of these, when done in the Spirit is harsh in any way.

    What I have found to be so interesting is that when this is done properly God IS worshipped.
     
  5. Joseph M. Smith

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    Yes, there is a good deal of emotional dishonesty in much of our praise-centered worship, and other sorts as well. Your quoting the song about problems disappearing brought to mind a hymn I was quoting in a funeral service this past week, "There's a wideness in God's mercy". One line -- which I definitely did NOT use in the funeral -- says, "And our lives will be all sunshine ...". Oh, no, not really. The Christian faith is about having the God-given resources to handle difficulties, not about erasing them.

    I have listened to parishioners describe how alienated and unwelcome they felt when everyone around them was singing some variety of "Oh, happy day", and they felt as though their lives were falling apart. We cannot obsess on that, either, in our worship, but we can leave room for it to be expressed.

    Advent is supposed to be a penitential season, and the evening service you described sounds to me as though it acknowledges that. I think I would have liked very much to have been a part of that service. One key, of course, as another poster would want said, is that teaching and admonition be a part of even a non-verbal occasion like that one.

    Speaking of emotional dishonesty, though, on the other side of the ledger, are we not also dishonest when we go through routine prayers of confession without any real sense of sin? In my home church, where I grew up, there was a man who always tacked on to the end of his petitions, "And Lord, forgive us of any sins we may have committed", as if it were only a remote possibility that we stumbled a little. No sense of the depth of sin. That's dishonest.

    Along that line, too, I am reminded of someone's observation about the Church of England liturgy -- that it requires even the nobility and the royals to speak of themselves as "miserable offenders, and there is no health in us." But do they really believe that?!
     
  6. Matt Black

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    I had more in mind the spouting of Scripture and mouthing of platitudes when the recipient really just wants the other person to be Jesus to them and give them a hug and a nice cup of tea.

    Joseph M Smith, yes the service did incorporate teaching, but not in the manner above; one of the 'stations' was however about repentance and Godly sorrow and another was about what gift you would give Jesus this Christmas to further your walk with Him.
     
  7. D28guy

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    Matt,

    Because when we worship we are focusing on the one we are worshipping. It is a time when we can step aside from our problems...they arent going anywhere...and center in on the solution to the negativity...our Father God.

    Of course.

    Absolutly.

    Its not a dishonest facade. I love and worship God just as much when I have problems as when I dont.

    I have no idea what you are talking about there, Matt. It seems you've just entered into "la la" land or something.

    When I and other people I see around me appear to be joyful and happy during worship its because we are joyful and happy during worship.

    God is very good at doing that to people! Its GENUINE, Matt. Even during trials and tribulations.

    Sometimes they do. If my problem is that I need a touch from God to help my attitude towards something, that many times happens through the ministry of the Holy Spirit during worship.

    Praise God.

    Not in the least. Its a ministry of the Holy Spirit that helps us to live above our circumstances all the time. During worship and also during the rest of the week.

    God bless,

    Mike
     
  8. D28guy

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    Matt,

    Well, I remember doing the "prayer station" thing back when I was growing up in the Romish church. Sort of similar to the rosary beads ritual.

    It did nothing for me then, and it would surely do nothing for me now. It reminds me of the godless rituals that the Muslims go through. Bowing to the east. Praying certain prayers, going into certain genuflections, etc etc etc.

    The true God is the God of the living, and He is not much into dead rituals. He ministers to each of us in a living and unique way, and He wants us to love Him back in our own unique living way.

    And every Baptist, Charismatic and Pentecostal fellowship I have ever been a part of encourages everyone to "come as they are". We all understand that Christ says...

    "Come, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

    Most of the people I have known in my 25 years as a born again person are honestly joyful and happy during praise and genuinely helped by God during worship. But some are pretending. God will help them with that.

    There are dishonest people in the dead liturgy world, just as there are dishonest people in the world or evangelicalism/protestansim. Because their are people "faking it" in a group does not mean anything regarding the honest people in the group. The main difference is that there is a much higher percentage of them that are born of the Spirit in the evangelical/protestant camps.

    There will always be the wheat and the chaff together. God will sift out the chaff in His time.


    God bless,

    Mike
     
  9. Matt Black

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    I'm afraid we're beginning to talk past each other again, Mike. This wasn't like the Catholic 'Stations of the Cross'. Also, you miss the point that there are a lot of hurting people in the Christian world who probably feel 'obliged' to put on fake smiles - thus they are victims of the 'dishonesty' to which I earlier referred more than perpetrators - by the sort of unhelpful invitation to worship that we had on the Sunday morning. How do I know that? Well, principally because when I chat to them at after-church coffee these same people who an hour earlier were wearing 'worship grins' admit to the fact that their lives are pretty poor - family problems, work problems, health problems etc.

    All I'm asking for is a bit more honesty in the service instead of kidding ourselves that the service is somehow 'different' from the other 167 hours of the week.
     
  10. FriendofSpurgeon

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    Matt -- I think it's a problem in all types of services - not just happy, clappy ones -- though that might lead to more of this than more of a reflective form of worship, similar to your Sunday pm service. Everyone at church is always nice & clean and all dressed up -- "and I'm doing fine, thank you for asking."

    This reminds of a Casting Crowns song -- lyrics below.


    "Stained Glass Masquerade"

    Is there anyone that fails
    Is there anyone that falls
    Am I the only one in church today feelin' so small

    Cause when I take a look around
    Everybody seems so strong
    I know they'll soon discover
    That I don't belong

    So I tuck it all away, like everything's okay
    If I make them all believe it, maybe I'll believe it too
    So with a painted grin, I play the part again
    So everyone will see me the way that I see them

    Are we happy plastic people
    Under shiny plastic steeples
    With walls around our weakness
    And smiles to hide our pain
    But if the invitation's open
    To every heart that has been broken
    Maybe then we close the curtain
    On our stained glass masquerade

    Is there anyone who's been there
    Are there any hands to raise
    Am I the only one who's traded
    In the altar for a stage

    The performance is convincing
    And we know every line by heart
    Only when no one is watching
    Can we really fall apart

    But would it set me free
    If I dared to let you see
    The truth behind the person
    That you imagine me to be

    Would your arms be open
    Or would you walk away
    Would the love of Jesus
    Be enough to make you stay
     
  11. annsni

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    Honestly, my husband is a worship leader and that song that you mentioned is one that he won't use for just that reason. A song that has wonderful words that spoke a LOT to us at a hard time in our life was this one:

    Blessed be Your Name - by Matt Redman

    Blessed Be Your Name
    In the land that is plentiful
    Where Your streams of abundance flow
    Blessed be Your name

    Blessed Be Your name
    When I'm found in the desert place
    Though I walk through the wilderness
    Blessed Be Your name

    Every blessing You pour out
    I'll turn back to praise
    When the darkness closes in, Lord
    Still I will say

    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your name
    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your glorious name

    Blessed be Your name
    When the sun's shining down on me
    When the world's 'all as it should be'
    Blessed be Your name

    Blessed be Your name
    On the road marked with suffering
    Though there's pain in the offering
    Blessed be Your name

    Every blessing You pour out
    I'll turn back to praise
    When the darkness closes in, Lord
    Still I will say

    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your name
    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your glorious name

    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your name
    Blessed be the name of the Lord
    Blessed be Your glorious name

    You give and take away
    You give and take away
    My heart will choose to say
    Lord, blessed be Your name


    My husband's team started to work on this song 3.5 years ago ready to introduce it to the congregation. The Friday before he was going to first use it, he fell off of our roof cleaning out the gutters and crushed his foot. At the time, we just thought it was dislocated and the doctor fixed it up fine but we were to find out 4 weeks later that it was indeed crushed and he needed immediate surgery to salvage what use they could of the foot. It was the beginning of 4 months of crutches, surgeries, such pain that he couldn't even breathe and years of physical therapy, pain and now a permanent disability.

    I remember when we were sitting in the ER the night he fell and we were waiting for the surgeon to get the anesthesioligist to sedate DH so they could reset the foot, how we were saying how true that song is. No matter what our circumstance, no matter what is going on in our life, it's a CHOICE to praise the Lord and worship Him. It's easy to do when things are going well but to do it in the midst of a tribulation, it's hard but it's honestly more earnest, honest and true.

    I don't like those happy clappy songs. They are not honest to our hearts or the heart of God. The idea that with Jesus, everything is happy just isn't reality and singing those songs are so shallow to me.

    Praising God in the midst of trouble is hard - as the song says "Though there's pain in the offering" of praise, STILL we'll praise Him because of Who He is and what He deserves.
     
  12. Matt Black

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    Thanks. That's kind of what I was getting at
     
  13. FriendofSpurgeon

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    Annsni -- I agree -- great song & great story (thanks for sharing). We sing this sometimes in our contemporary/blended service too (our first two are traditional, liturgical services with hymns only). Here's another one that is in the same mold -- one of my favorites.

    Shout To The North

    Men of faith rise up and sing
    Of the great and glorious King
    You are strong when you feel weak
    In your brokeness complete

    Chorus:
    Shout to the North and the South
    Sing to the East and the West
    Jesus is saviour to all
    Lord of heaven and earth

    Rise up women of the truth
    Stand and sing to broken hearts
    Who can know the healing power
    Of our awesome King of love

    We've been through fire we've been
    through rain
    We've been refined by the power of his name
    We've fallen deeper in love with you
    You've burned the truth on our lips

    Rise up church with broken wings
    Fill this place with songs again
    Of our God who reigns on high
    By His grace again we'll fly
     
  14. D28guy

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    Matt,

    I know that, and I knew that when I posted. It doesnt matter. You said that you "proceeded at our own pace from one prayer station to another in the church building, pausing to meditate at each one.", so I mentioned that I did the "prayer station" thing growing up Catholic. I was only sharing that I have "been there, done that".

    No, I didnt miss that point. I said this in my post...

    I acknowledged that, OK? But let me try again to make my point....

    During the praise and worship time in my church, and many others like it, the praise time is very important.

    The scriptures tell us that God "inhabits the praises of His people". When we are praising God, and you guys are calling it the "happy clappy" time, it isnt fake. (Or it "shouldnt" be.) In our church everyone is invited to come, even if they have burdens and problems. COME...and bring them with you. But the praise and worship time is a time...maybe the only time all week for some people...when we know we can, for a while, put them aside, lay them down and focus on the SOLUTION to our problems...our Father God!

    We can close our eyes, and joyously PRAISE our Father God! In...the...midst...of...problems and stress, we choose to praise Him anyway! Not in a fake way, but sincerely! Truly! From the heart! And because God "inhabits the praises of His people", God moves in and manifests Himself in a unique and very real, and very personal way to each one. Then during the worship periods, we go even deeper in our communion with God. God becomes very real to us, and wonderful things happen. He blesses and ministers to His people, through the manifested Holy Spirit.

    People leave different. They leave strengthend. They leave refreshed. They leave blessed.

    There is a time and place for everything, Matt....

    Including "Happy Clappy" time...

    Matt, if someone is faking praise, the solution is not stop praising, but rather stop faking it!

    God bless,

    Mike
     
    #14 D28guy, Dec 6, 2007
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2007
  15. trustitl

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    A couple of questions for both of you. What you are doing is what I have been around in the past. I am sure you are both being edified as much as I was when I was around it. I am not trying to be critical of what you are doing and calling praise, I hope to get you to look at yourselves rather than each other.

    Gal. 6:1 & 4 "Brothers and sisters, if a person gets trapped by wrongdoing, those of you who are spiritual should help that person turn away from doing wrong. Do it in a gentle way. At the same time watch yourself so that you also are not tempted." "Each of you must examine your own actions. Then you can be proud of your own accomplishments without comparing yourself to others." GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)

    Do you ever "praise" God during the week? If so, how?

    Why is "praise" in a group so different than when we are alone or, do you set up stations at home? Do you sing and wave your hands around in your bedroom?

    Why are NT believers told to keep getting together. Look up worship in letters written to NT churches and see what Paul told them to do.

    Does the following verse address the fact that churches have different "worship" services?
    I Cor. 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

    Is there any difference between where God dwelt in the OT and now? How would that effect their worship and our worship?

    Psalm 150
    Let All Things Praise the LORD
    1 Praise the LORD!
    Praise God in His sanctuary;

    Col 1:26-27 "Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory"

    I Cor. 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
     
  16. Matt Black

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    To try and answer your question - yes, after a fashion, sort of. My 'prayer stations' at home are the shower, my bed, my children's beds. These are the places where I pray, give thanks, implore God, praise Him etc. The point is that at these places and times I am 'real' with Him; I'd just like to continue that in church on a Sunday rather than pretend to be someone I'm not.
     
  17. Eric B

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    Matt, might this be the type of thing you are getting at?

    (From the "Why Doesn't God heal Amputees" thread)
    http://www.baptistboard.com/showthread.php?t=45289&page=5
    This type of statement, so prevelant in so many "testimonies" has always bothered me, and I have seen where it leads to what you describe. God "makes the pain not matter"; that is, if you have really "given Him your life" as we see it defined here. So from there; it even gets into judging, and questioning the salvation or at least "sanctification" of a person who comes to us with pain, instead of trying to comfort him (In fact; we think that "tough love" approach IS "helping him" For some, maybe, but not all. But that's how this "testimonal" approach goes. "I gave my {life, pain, anger, sorrow, lust} to Christ, and, "it no longer controls my life". Then, they'll admit that yes, you still feel whatever is ailing you, but it is "an uphill battle for the rest of your life", and by "faith and not feelings" that you believe you are healed, and then, "miraculously", God "changes" your attitude. Yet, we sensationalize it, making it sound as if Jesus really does make you feel better. But then, when it doesn't work like that, we say it is not about feelings. Is it any wonder so many people get more discouraged?

    This is the message of so many of our well known teachers, including the ones on TV who are often criticized for tickling the ears in various ways (Joyce Meyers, etc). It is a multi million dollar industry, in fact. Also, the basis of much of the sensationalistic clams of "healing" in charismatic circles, when they can't muster a supposed physical healing.

    The logical end of this is the "process salvation" argument DT was able to sneak in at the very last moments of the "The Doctrine by Which the Church Stands or Falls 2", where this "growth" is actually the "perfection" by which we "strive for" in "the race", "perseverance", "diligently add to the faith" etc. of the various proof texts, thus "an entrance will be supplied for us into the heavenly kingdom". (My response was to be how that leaves us with no hope, except in ourselves, and it was even implied that Paul was saved yet, as he supposedly wasn't "perfected", per Phil. 3 Also it's “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” in ch.2; not "work FOR your salvation", and "Grace" is "unmerited FAVOR", not some utility for you to gain favor, —a set of "instructions" to earn salvation; based on a misreading of Titus 2:11-12; as the Campbellists also argued here!)

    Most evangelicals do not directly go this far, but they use the same exact proof texts, and just like one of their arguments against the non-OSAS position, they can fall back on the "retro delete" theory (as Bob Ryan puts it) if necessary, where they were never saved to begin with. (But to think of it, that whole argument is silly, as who produces NO WORKS at all? This raises the question of where "the line" between saved and lost is, which DT called "legalistic" and a "minimalistic checklist", but it is precisely the works-salvation doctrine that raises that question, as we don't see ANYBODY who is actually perfect. But then, if we are saved "not without" works (HP), nobody has zero works either).

    So with even our salvation or "sanctification" (or "filling with the Spirit, etc) on the line from this teaching, naturally, many will go to fellowship with other Christians with this "happy face"; else, something must be wrong with them. Those who don't; I myself have seen, are looked down on, and their walk with God questioned. Also, as some have criticized, the music becomes shallow and airy like "shampoo jingles" (Horton, Beyond Culture Wars).

    There are numerous problems with this line of reasoning (called the "emotional health gospel"); the OP being but one of them. It takes many of these scriptures out of context, for one. That is a long detailed discussion I go into at http://members.aol.com/etb700/abundant.html
    Basically, the Biblical situation of persecution for the faith becomes contextualized to our everyday situations, and "faith", which was the vehicle through which we trust God for salvation, is taken and applied to something else. —"Trusting God" now becomes a philosophy of positive attitudes in life with some unknown "good" our pain is postulated to lead to, being what we 'trust' Him for! The person who shows his pain, is therefore not "trusting God" or "having faith", which are the conditions to salvation!

    And the doctrine, also makes us look arrogant, because it turns sanctification into, basically, a self-improvement, or "character building" program, and then by callig this "supernatural, but the power of the Spirit", basically presumes only Christians can grown in character. But the "steps to victory" or "abundant life" spelled out by these teachers, is basically the same as what you can find in secular self-help, complete with Dr. Phil and others' style "no nonsense tough talk motivation". So we claim God is changing us, "as we make our daily choices" (the "steps" that are said to change us), but then, people see our imperfections, and we say "Oh, but God is not finished with me; I'm a work in progress" (and yet again; some groups here claim that this perfection is what will grant us entry into Heaven!) But the other side of the coin is that non-Christians are growing like that too, and some are further along than we are. Much of our "culture/political" rhetoric acts as if all non-Christians indulge in all sins and never grow. After all, "love, joy, peace, etc. " are "not natural". But this is not true. They might be less likely to try to improve themselves morally, if, for instance, rejecting "religious rules" they do not even think lust or violence are wrong. But when they think there is some natural benefit to it, they will try to improve themselves; such as "overcoming" drinking, smoking, being overweight (the latter two becoming somewhat of popular obsessions), etc. They may not be doing it for Christ; but they can and many do use the same positive thinking processes ("this is for a better good down the road", though this may be in this life only and not in the next), to overcome situations. Some psychologists, philosophers and motivational speakers even speak of "delayed gratification", a concept you would think Christians had a monopoly on! (This is one reason why so many non-Christians retort back to Christians "oh, you're supposed to be this way ["loving", "giving", "peaceful" etc], but people of other religions have often done better than you, so you're no better than any other human", thus having the opposite effect of the "testimony" all our suffering was supposed to produce).

    We then may point out that what we have that they don't is forgiveness of sins. But this is what we should have been pointing to all along. This is what we have by the "power of God" (the Holy Spirit) unto sanctification, and hopefully, the "peace" that comes from being out from under condemnation, and which we "believe we have" or "claim" by "faith" even though it may not look like it. All the "growth" we are to "add to faith" then is a fruit of this, not the cause of it. Focusing on this will eliminate a lot of the confusion and disillusionment of not only the unbelievers, but even us in the churches as well. Then, maybe, there will be more "perfection of love", rather than all this bickering, judging and oneupmanship.
     
  18. D28guy

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    Trustitl,

    My goodness, yes!

    Sometimes just think about how great He is, and how He has blessed me so wonderfully, and meditiate upon that as I go about whatever activities I am involved with. Sometimes by verbally sharing those things with others..."witnessing"...as God opens doors. Sometimes with short prayers of thanks to God for any number of reasons.

    Strenghth in numbers. Its encouraging to be with many brothers and sisters in commumal praise and worship. And there is a special annointing to it. Jesus told us that where even as little as 2 or 3 are gathered together in His name, He is there in the midst of them. That doesnt mean that Jesus isnt there when one prays, because He is. Of course He is. But there is a special kind of annointing when believers gather. If that wasnt true, there would be no point in Christ saying what He said about 2 or more gathering. Havent you ever discerned it when you walk into a gathered fellowship before the meeting begins? I sure do.

    Personally, no. Never.

    I have at times.

    Because its such a blessing. And sometimes wonderful ministry takes place...other forms or ministry...that go above and beyond praise and worship. Spontaneous prayer takes place sometimes. Many times needs are brought up, and those needs are met. Prayers are prayed, and answeres given etc.

    God bless,

    Mike
     
  19. Matt Black

    Matt Black
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    Thanks, EricB, that's helpful.
     
  20. Sgt. Fury

    Sgt. Fury
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    Matt,

    As the 12-steppers say, "The first step is recognizing the fact that there is a problem." And you're right. I see it all the time advertised on TV and elsewhere, different churches advertising all the things they offer to entertain, basically gimmicks to get people to "come and see the show".

    What they don't seem to realize is that whatever draws 'em has to keep 'em. Next week has always got to be bigger and better than last week, and so on...

    In the end, it boils down to emotionalism: emotion for the sake of emotion. If I don't "feel" the way I think I'm supposed to feel, then...blah, blah, blah, as I decide who to blame.

    The answer is (suprise) to return to the NT Scriptures and determine what God has commanded regarding worship, and commit ourselves to just doing that.

    Someone referred to John 4:24, and the requirement to worship in spirit and in truth. We must have the right attitude (spirit), and we must worship according to truth (God's word).

    So much of the religious world seems geared to what people want, instead of what God has authorized.

    If you want to draw people who desire gimmicks, then promote with gimmicks.
    If you want to draw people who desire the word of God, then promote with the word of God.

    Use the right bait for the right fish.

    Sgt. Fury
     

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