How many of you have seen Star Wars: Episode IV— A New Hope? If you haven’t, you can check out the section I’m going to talk about below.
At the 2 minute mark, you can hear Obi-Wan Kenobi telling Luke to just use the Force. Luke foolishly switches off his targeting computer to get ready to fire two giant missiles at a 2-meter wide exhaust port. Then, you hear the voice of reason radio up from the Yavin base: “Luke, you switched off your targeting computer. What’s wrong?” Anyway, somehow Luke miraculously eyeballs the shot at ridiculous speeds and destroys the Death Star in one of the most amazing movie endings in history.
In Star Wars, this made perfect sense. In Christianity and in church life, not so much. For some reason, I see Christians constantly turning off their targeting computer and relying completely on their feelings. God has graced us with a targeting computer. He has granted us His word and His counselor, the Holy Spirit. However, we find ourselves relying completely on our feelings. Many times, I want to be that voice of reason from the Yavin base: “You switched off your targeting computer. What’s wrong?” Why have you begun listening to only your emotions? Now, I am not saying that emotions have no place in Christianity. Emotions play a role in Christ speaking to us and in us living out our faith. However, our emotions must resonate with scripture, and often they do not. I am going to use worship style as an example through some of these, but keep in mind this can apply to anything. Dress style, Bible translation, evangelism methodology, or basically anything anyone can have a difference of opinion about.
We have emotion-driven worship
When we allow our emotions to overtake our view of God, we have emotion-driven worship. If I had a dollar for every time I had heard someone say something like “I just can’t worship when (fill in the blank here),” I’d have a lot of dollars. What they often mean is that they can’t get an emotional high when that isn’t happening. Trust me, sometimes the emotions just don’t come. Sometimes they do. But, we can’t judge our worship by how high we got on emotion.
Sometimes, God allows us to experience those emotions, but we have to remember that worship is not about us. Emotion can come in many forms, and often we allow emotion to give us a gauge by which we can judge a worship experience. Then, the next time, when the high isn’t as extreme, we assume that something was wrong with the worship. In reality, it just didn’t connect to our emotions as much.
We become legalistic to the extreme
When we allow our emotions to dictate what God wants, we get our own personal view of what we think God wants. This is a problem in itself, but also creates another problem. The way you want to do it is the ONLY way to do it. So, we become legalistic. The worst problem of legalism is that, according to Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline, it creates a standard by which we can judge other people. So, let’s use the previous point of emotion-driven worship as an example:
First, people that have a preferred worship style because of how it makes them feel can begin to feel that their style is the only correct way to worship.
Second, they use that as a standard to judge other styles of worship.
Third, they begin to attack other worship styles simply because they don’t connect emotionally.
We serve a shallow, boxed-in god
When we begin to think of “our way” (the way that gets you emotionally high) as the only way, we begin to say something (whether we mean to or not) that is incredibly dangerous to say. That subliminal message is this: “God cannot work in any other way.” Read that again. It’s a statement that gets made often, but not out loud. Can God work through worship that uses a lighted stage and a darkened auditorium? Can He use a hymnal to speak to people? Can He use a choir, a praise team, a projector or stained glass? Absolutely. We either use or don’t use those things because we feel like God is directing us in their use according to our culture, not because He can’t use them. This is the same God that parted an ocean to save His people. Don’t box Him in.
This is the most obvious one to me. When we allow our emotions (our broken, sin-affected, hyper-explosive emotions) to get in the way of what God is trying to do, we fight.
We fight about the last 3 points. We fight about worship. We fight about dress. We fight about all sorts of methodology. And, since emotions are explosive and generally defy logic, the fighting doesn’t just go away.
What’s the solution?
The solution is easy. We’re fallible. Our emotions are fallible. Our targeting computer? That’s the word of God. That’s infallible. Take a look there. Put your emotions on the back burner for a minute and see what the Bible says about methodology.
Honestly, it says very little about methodology. We serve a God that knew that cultures would change rapidly and we would have to adapt that methodology to reach the lost. So take a look there. Turn your targeting computer back on, Luke.