Maybe I'm too skeptical. Though many would say not skeptical enough. But when I turned on the TV this morning to the Christian channel and saw a moodily lit band leading a large auditorium of people in arm raising, eye closed worship, I thought...
Every single one of you is having an encounter with God that causes you to sway in rapture? Is it a real moment?
Or is it a feel good moment? One you could get from a good piece of chocolate if the mood was right, and someone dimmed the lighting just so....
I can't judge what is going on in people's hearts, though. And it's not as if I don't think that during corporate worship it's all emotionalism. I know God can be with each and every person in a powerful way. I've experienced it. Worship where I lay it all down and came away changed.
But there have also been times where I felt the warm and fuzzies, but I've been firmly planted in my own head rather than laying at the feet of Jesus.
And I came away on a little high, but I wasn't changed. Once away from that experience, everything felt as flat and empty as before.
And that's the difference. We can't judge people's hearts - sometimes even our own are confusing mysteries to us - but we can look for fruit. Are we being changed by our worship and glorifying of God?
And it's not because I think the purpose of worship is all about us - because it's not. But I know that when you lay yourself down and come in to the presence of God, you cannot help but be changed.
Not necessarily in big ways. It doesn't mean you should be going in like a murderer and coming out like a nun each time you get together and sing some songs. But if we are really being filled with the spirit during our worship, we should be seeing a bit more of his fruit. We should be a little more patient as we try to exit the car park after the meeting. We should have a little more joy on Monday morning when we get up to start the week.
Not because we've been inspired by great music and a rousing sermon, and are trying extra hard this week to be a good person, but because its the natural fruit of coming close to God.
If we're not seeing any fruit - not even just a tiny bit - what are we doing as we worship? Who are we worshipping? The people singing up the front? You could be mistaken for thinking that sometimes, the way we all face them and reach our hands out in their direction, like we think that's where God is standing.
Are we worshipping ourselves? Admiring the sounds of our own voices in our heads? Thinking how holy we are for lifting our hands a little higher than the person next to us?
Are we just carried off emotionally by the corporate experience? By peer pressure?
Maybe I'm being cynical, but I'm not happy to substitute and emotional experience for a true spiritual one anymore. None of us should be.
Lets not settle for just a great high like we are mindless worship-drug addicts.
I'm not saying everything is all wrong. I'm not saying that we should just chuck anything out.
But I'm not saying everything is all right either.
Let's all not just settle for emotion. It might make things quieter for a moment. It might not seem so exciting at first. Maybe you won't come away on a high like you are used to.
But then you will see the fruit. Then you will know that your roots run deeper than ever before. The changes we will see from real worship are better than a thousand mega-bands and technical light shows.
And the best bit - you won't need a room full of people, or even any music playing to come into the presence of God. You're living room won't feel empty when you worship there alone or with just a few people because you will learn to be filled with the real, life changing, heart changing presence of God.