One of the common challenges facing us worship leaders is the issue of time. Very often our services are crammed with other things; offering, announcements, communion, sermon, baby dedications, baptisms… baby baptisms (two for one!). When a service is filled with other great elements, the first thing to go is usually the amount of time alloted for congregational worship through song (which I will henceforth call “singing”). So the question for us worship leaders becomes “How can I get the congregation from point A to point B emotionally in a short amount of time?”.
Now, I have a sneaking suspicion that some of you out there may say “Hang a bell. What do you mean ’emotionally’? We don’t mess with emotions in what we do. We lead people in Worship; we soften hearts to hear the voice of God. Targeting emotions is manipulation and we don’t manipulate”.
Did any of you say anything like that? If you did, that’s okay. I understand where you are coming from and why you are afraid of the word “emotion”. But I need to level with you… emotions are what we are dealing with; it is our currency, and that is okay… in fact it’s the way it should be. The emotional side of music and art may be your most effective tool in bringing people into the presence of God. God created emotion. He created us as emotional beings. It is impossible for us to experience anything that doesn’t have an emotion attached to it. Everything makes us feel something. And in one way or another, everything manipulates us.
Somehow, somewhere in Church history the idea of emotions was poo-pooed in favour of a more intellectual approach. The church began to preach and teach that emotion was the devil’s tool and that it would lead you astray. But the mind – the mind would remain reasonable and steadfast while the waves of emotion crashed around. (Side note: if I recall correctly it was the Knowledge of Good and Evil, not the Feeling of Good and Evil, that led to Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden).
Here’s the funny thing about the mind: it is just as wishy-washy as the heart. Did you know that when it comes to decisions the mind acts first and then justifies later? It’s true. Our unconscious mind causes us, everyday, to do things that our conscious mind needs to come up with reasons for. This is why advertising is so effective. Sure, we would all like to sit there and say “I know when I’m being sold something… I can see through the manipulation” and that may be true on a conscious level, but our unconscious mind doesn’t take reason into account when it responds to the images that we see and the messages we hear. That’s why, despite the fact that we as middle-class North Americans are the safest we’ve ever been in history, we are always just a little afraid.
Okay, so that was a bit of a diversion from where I was originally intending to go here. This is clearly something that I’m gonna want to talk about more down the road. Let me just say this: the idea of worship leaders working with emotions may make some of us uncomfortable, but I encourage you to engage honestly with the topic of emotions in worship, because the sooner we are honest about what we do and how we do it, the more we can grow as leaders and be more effective for the people we are serving. That may sound like a pompous, arrogant “Mark Driscoll-esque” thing to say (Mark Driscoll-esque in the arrogance, not the theology), but I really believe that this is true, and I believe that the Truth will set you free. Emotions aren’t evil. Being emotional isn’t a sin. The problem with emotions is when you seek feeling and/or experience at the expense of truth; but that doesn’t make the truthful pursuit or experience of emotions wrong.
Okay… that’s all I’m gonna say about that for now. I’ll deal with it more later.
The reason I was even writing this post was to tell you all about a really great, short set that I put together. But, like a chump, I’ve used up all my time… so I’ll have to tell you about my great set some other time.