« How Ancient Eyewitness Testimony Became the New Testament Gospel Record | Main | Third Week of Advent »

December 16, 2013


I'm going to a church right now that I think struggles with this issue. Although not all the songs are about the worshiper, many of them are, and the people get very emotional. I am just not an emotional person in general (although I definitely do experience emotions about God), and end up feeling sort of excluded much of the time. However, the person that leads worship is a new Christian and extremely enthusiastic about his faith (he is also famous and was/is a talented music artist with an incredible voice). So I question whether anything should even be said. I really don't want to hurt his feelings or put a damper on his enthusiasm because it's a wonderful thing. But I can't seems to get up on cloud 9 like everyone else and that would require a huge amount of energy from me. To me, good worship is about God and who he is and what He has done. The other can be a waste of time and any time we talk about our feelings it should be in the context of "God is...", but that is not happening. It puzzles me why others don't feel the same way. What is a tactful way to have a conversation with the worship leader?

JB, you summed up it up perfectly. It ought to be about God. Basically the worship leaders are choosing what they prefer, and the congregation agree with their choice. They'll say that it's all about God, but a few careful suggestions will soon elicit a "we find that boring" reply, proving it's actually about their own preferences. This can be very frustrating and can leave you worshipping alone in your heart while others seem to be able to worship communally. In the end this perhaps why God has blessed us with an abundance of congregations to choose from. You may be better off finding a church that helps you to worship and grow with less distraction - that's what I did in the end.

JB, guess the decision on whether to say anything or not to the worship leader depends on your view of how important worship is, and how important is it to do correctly. The answer to both those questions can be found in passages such as Lev. 10 and others.

As far as a tactful way, let's establish that tact and loving speech finds its roots in the Scripture, so by approaching this worship leader with Scripture in a loving way goes a long way toward fulfilling your desire for tact.

As an aside, in 1 Tim. 5:1, we are told not to rebuke an older man, but instead to encourage him, which means make an earnest plea. In other words, we must make pleas to those who are either incomplete or astray from what Scripture shows us. Paul further broadens that command to all in the church: mothers, sisters, and brothers. So I would encourage you not to remain silent if you happen to suspect that broaching this subject would stir up hurt feelings.

To the issue at hand, I would start by highlighting that worship leaders in the church should be among the most theologically astute in the church; they must be those that adhere to sound doctrine and can teach others what sound doctrine means and how it works itself out in Christian life. How do I know that? Well, Paul tells us multiple times that our worship is for the purpose of giving God glory AND teaching us about God. He writes that we are teach and admonish one another through the singing of "psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs."

Thus, a question we need to be able to answer is who should be a teacher in the church? The Bible indicates those who are teachers should be skilled in sound doctrine and actively backing up what they teach with their lives.

I'll curtail my already long comment here, but suffice to say I think these are good starting points for you.

Don't even get me started on the romantic love songs modified into "worship" songs.

Sad to look around church and see all the guys standing mute during these. Frankly, men trying to sing stuff like, "I'm running to your arms" is creepy.

Any wonder that men only come to these services under duress?

Goat Head 5


All I had to read is "New Christian" and "leading" in the same sentence.

Why do we think new celebrity converts become instantly mature?

How many of these do we have to see make fools of themselves (and us) before we learn that celebrity doesn't immediately qualify you for leadership?

Goat Head 5

GH5 I had to laugh at (with) your post.... New / Leading..... that about says it ;)

I would add a little nuance about the creepy thing... there are those of us for whom such a motion (running into arms etc) is not a wholly alien experience. The Psalm speaks of panting for Him....

That sort of thing.

David knew desperation.

David knew rescue.

Of course, Male/Female traits lean perhaps stronger / weaker in this arena, though, each is Good and Proper in and of itself, the Masculine and Feminine.

But I think what you meant was not David's sort of passion worn on the sleevs, but, rather, secular songs "morphed" into Christian songs in order to appeal to those on the outside looking in. While that matters, I think we may agree that not all of worship need be "designed" for evangelism, for, evangelism and worship are rather different, though a bit of overlap is not ipso facto improper. The way I speak to my wife within the arena of our love is not the way I speak to those outside our household.

This is a small little church with less than a hundred people. Most of the Christians at this church are fairly new (it's a church plant), so whoever leads worship is new. It's obvious the guy has great talent for music and is passionate about worship, so I don't have much of a problem in him leading (he's not a worship "minister" or "pastor" or anything like that). And no, I'm not going to abandon the church just because it's not perfect. I do know the guy on a first name basis, and he is a very new Christian. So, perhaps my posture should be to try to get closer as a friend and actually start discipling him as this is a brand new church and there is not a strong discipleship system in place.


If all your church consists of is a bunch of young un-trained freaks ~~

full of nothing but love for Christ ~~

who haven’t graduated from seminary ~~

who’s form is built atop zeal for their beloved ~~

who haven’t grown up enough to get past emoting out loud ~~

whose intellectual sophistication has not brought them beyond the Psalmist’s teary-eyed drivel ~~

Well, some will pronounce a sentence of doom, some a sentence of great promise, on such a church.

You seem to make the point that we can only offer what we have, and, you are of course correct as that is just the truth of the matter. The question is, what substrate is it which makes for great church-making? I’m weary of, and guarded against, emotionless form.

Now, here comes the choice between two errors.

If I had to choose your brand of church, which may error toward the Psalmist’s felt emoting “too often” (if that is even possible), or, another church full of all the best proper form, who may have “grown up” to the point of error toward a near inability to emote with the Psalmist, or who think such teary-eyed drivel “inappropriate”, well, I would, hands down, choose the former.

Faith in emotion just is a danger, and, I think that is what the OP is driving at. Faith in other things can be a danger too, of course. All felt-passion and no Knowledge, or, all Knowledge and no felt-passion. Good things in isolation can become bad things by that isolation. Our culture in particular leans towards the former, almost into a kind of existential version of Christianity: just feeeeel your way to God….. Well, feelings can mislead us, as can our fear of feelings. I’ve seen the “old school-ers” proven wrong, often, in pronouncing doom on a “young” church such as yours. The Child will always, eventually, out-pace the Pharisee.

Emoting teary-eyed Psalmists, like David, have something to offer the Body. Of course, David’s wisdom, David’s experience, has much to offer the Body as well. The burden of responsibility lies on the wiser. I’d talk of these two seemingly opposite vectors with the worship leader and encourage his thinking to, by and with intention, aim for both, for, both are necessary, though, neither is sufficient. God alone brings in that part about sufficiency.

“Our adversary…….always sends errors into the world in pairs--pairs of opposites. And he always encourages us to spend a lot of time thinking about which is the worse. He relies on your extra dislike of the one error to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled….. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through both errors." (C.S. Lewis)

If I had to choose your brand of church, which may error toward the Psalmist’s felt emoting “too often” (if that is even possible), or, another church full of all the best proper form, who may have “grown up” to the point of error toward a near inability to emote with the Psalmist, or who think such teary-eyed drivel “inappropriate”, well, I would, hands down, choose the former.

If I read you correctly, you correctly identify that there are two errors at play, which I would characterize as opposite sides of the same coin, although I hope you are just being honest instead of earnest, if you take my meaning, when you make the statement above.

I guess it boils down to this: the issue of worship MUST be view from the context of Scripture; and this issue more than anything else will show a person for what he or she is in terms of their stance on the sufficiency of Scripture. Either the Bible is totally sufficient for ALL Christian conduct, both individually and corporately, or it's not.

For those that in reality claim the latter, then there are severe doctrinal consequence at no less than a Gospel-level.

The bottom line is that God has given us clear guidance in the Bible on the following:

0--Worship is THE most important thing we do, and it encompasses everything we do.
1--There is a right way and a wrong way to worship God.
2--The right way consists of those things God has commanded in the Scripture.
3--Anything that strays outside of those is the wrong way.

This might seem familiar as the Regulative Principle, which is one of the most mis-understood concepts by both those who would hold to it and those who would oppose it. Simply put, the Regulative Principle seeks to point to Scriptural backing for all conduct. That's it. And when you do that, it becomes immediately obvious that Scripture can tell us one of three things: do this, don't do this, or exercise discernment (btw, I prefer the phrase "Christian discernment" to "Christian freedom"; I think far too many people take the latter and end up doing exactly what Paul commands us not to do in Romans 6, even though it's often cloaked in fine-sounding words with mis-applied texts; ultimately it becomes just another rationale to gratify self...)

What are those doctrinal consequences I talked about? Well, ultimately, not holding to the Regulative Principle means you are holding to a works salvation, period. Oh, one may claim to not hold to a works salvation, but the bottom line is the Normative Principle and the True Gospel are mutually exclusive despite claims to the contrary. And this can be shown, but not here; I've already rambled long enough...


Yes it does seem to me that we can error in either of the two sides of that coin.... Probably in reality every church is not exactly 50/50, but something like 60/40, some towards A, some towards B, and so on.

The danger of needing to feel emotion as a measuring stick for one's nearness to God is that, eventually, God will strip of us that in order to replace it with something wider. Now, for the young, we can speak to them of such, but, can they really understand this until it's gone? Probably not. But it is wrong to generalize. So, the wiser must simply offer input, guide a bit, and, I see no harm in just observing and "feeling" a bit of admiration for the passion of the young. It's a beautiful thing; so long as its not in isolation.

Good in privation, in isolation, is, well, Man's entire (nearly) history.

You spin me right round, Jesus

Kick your shoes off and grab your socks!

Remember people that there is nothing wrong with emotion in worship. If you never get emotional during worship, I would wonder if there is something weird going on with your heart. The issue is when we start concentrating on ourselves instead of God. This is the real problem, not that we might have emotional people in worship.


Terrible! Ridiculous! Evangelical! Contemporary! Spinning's necessary ontology! (for you, lhrm!)

Could the "worship leader" in the video have been more foolish?

Goat Head 5


Nothing wrong with emotion in worship. Just not any old emotion.

I don't have a romantic relationship with Jesus. Never will have. Don't need to have. Nobody in the Bible did.

When "worship" means getting emotional singing romantic love songs to Jesus, count me, and most men, OUT.

Goat Head 5

and another comment:

All emotion eventually disappears.

The question is, how will you worship when you feel nothing? When God seems so distant you can't find Him anywhere? When you don't feel at all "happy clappy"? When you are angry with God because you have been let down?

Those are the questions your new Christian worship leader needs to think about.

Goat Head 5

GH5, not sure I follow you........spinning etc?

"Jesus wept."

And therein fell short.


"Just not any old emotion"

I think this still assumes an emotion, which, being in our condition, will too ebb and flow, bubble up and fade out, and so on.


Pretty creepy thought....

But, Love is not a creepy thought at all.

So it seems you may be confusing the two.

It also seems JB and myself do not make the following false identity claim:

[Emoting] = [Falling Short] (on ontological necessity)

In other words, there is that property of emoting which Mankind has, which God put into him, but, that is not by any means the whole show.

Again, we have to be careful here not to exclude one error and replace it with another error.

Telling a Man not to emote, when God has fashioned into the Man the very property of emoting, is to mislead the Man.

Just as, telling a Man to rely on emoting as his meter stick for nearness to God, when God has fashioned into the Man the very property of quite another Door, is to mislead the Man.

We must take small steps here, because Jesus wept.

I think He was quite man-ly.

In the Garden too, He wept. During prayer.

I think He was quite man-ly.

And, juxtaposed along side that is Christ's utter reliance upon Father on the Cross, when all sensible nearness of Him faded away.

A real Man can do both. Fully.

What churches too often do is make an outcast of a person if they cannot "fully" demonstrate the emoting part, or, they make an outcast of a person if they cannot "fully" demonstrate the rigid faith part.

Being what we are, in our condition, it seems a Christian will find himself an outcast in some part of the Body somewhere, for, none of us are very good at doing both fully.

Replacing one error with another error is foolishness, and the wise ought be counciling worship leaders to "choose between the two", but, rather, to demonstrate both for the Body, in song, word, and form and so forth.


That last paragraph should read ".....the wise ought not be couciling worship leaders to......."


It isn't emotion that I have the problem with. Specifically, it is that the "worship" songs are all sung from the perspective of a woman romantically longing for her man.

No where in the Bible are we called to have this kind of relationship with Jesus or God.

As for the "spinning", what the video. Poor attempt at humor on my part.

Goat Head 5

GH5 HA got it - and very clever :)

Not a poor attempt at all ;)

I would add that our own internal comfort or discomfort with a particular flavor or genre of music used as a meter stick is - in a body of hundreds - bound to leave each member "out" at some point.....so feeling in or out isn't a good criteria. As in: for each like me & you who feel left out, there are those who feel (finally) "in" or "more comfortable".

Comfort.... Discomfort.... we are a Body & perhaps even here we must be like Him and pour out for one another.

The worship leader, of course, needs to do likewise....and embrace some discomfort for the Body.

The comments to this entry are closed.