Have you noticed all of the people sharing links with the tag, “If you love Jesus…”? Or maybe you’ve seen people sharing twenty pictures a day on their Facebook wall, all of them with cats, crosses, or clouds and some spiritual phrase or verse. Surely this in not the norm and there has got to be a psychological disorder for those who get emotionally worked up over every Godtube video.
But the problem is not exclusive to social networks or forwarded emails. I’m starting to see these symptoms just about everywhere.
I don’t get excited every time I hear someone quote scripture. Nor am I particularly responsive whenever pastors say, “Amen?” in a questioning way to solicit a response. I get excited when someone eloquently articulates something profound from the Word of God. I reserve my ‘Amen’s for when I am really struck between the eyes. I’m not willy nilly with my spiritual interruptions.
When I’m praying, I like to hear the people that grunt in agreement, but when they say, “Yes LORD!” to my mere benediction, I get thrown off. Then, when I say something really profound and everyone is silent, I start to get worried that I put them all to sleep. But the person who really throws me off is the guy who interjects with ‘Amen’s. Is he trying to cut my prayer short? That’s what we say at the end of a prayer.
I don’t really have a problem with people who feel the need to interrupt my prayers, but the more I hear it, the more I wonder if people are just doing it as a practice, or if they’re actually agreeing with what I’m saying. I heard one preacher tell a story about a guy who ‘Amen’ed everything he said. It was getting on his nerves so he started to say crazy things. When the man in the pews ‘Amen’ed what could have been taken as heresy, the preacher called him out on it. Talk about embarrassing. The guy stopped ‘Amen’ing though.
I’ve made similar observations during congregational singing. I’ll just be honest, I don’t really care for music all that much. I’d just assume get to the preaching. I tend to be more worshipful with the spoken word than during the singing portion of the service anyway. Being that I’m not a music person, I’ve never understood the people who’s hands shoot up in the air from the first note to the last, or those who look like they’re about to cry during every song. While I prefer the preaching, what little excitement I feel during the congregational singing is not equally measured across every song. Some songs mean a lot to me. Others, not so much. There are some songs I even refuse to sing.
Production value plays into the experience for me as well. Don’t tell me that the 90 year old woman on the organ, the worship team that sounds like a junior high band, or the really loud guy singing one note through the whole song directly behind you doesn’t throw you off your worship groove. If you can’t do it well, don’t do it at all. And please, if you can’t do contemporary music well, stick to the hymns. Nothing is worse than contemporary songs being sung like they were written 100 years ago.
As far as posture, I prefer standing with my hands in my pockets, a frown on my face, and one leg keeping time with the rhythm of the song. And if you’re going to sing more than 3 songs, I prefer to sit for the remaining. For that one person who was a distraction to me growing up by having his hands raised during the music, now when I visit a Church, I’m usually the distraction with my hands in my pocket, a frown on my face, not singing along to the song I’ve never heard before. As for worship leaders, don’t tell me to smile. Give me something to smile about. Make me laugh or something. My frown is not intentional, it’s just that I’m not consciously flexing those muscles when I’m trying to concentrate on the projection screen when the guy behind the power point can’t figure out where we are because the worship leader is on some Jimmy Hendricks rift.
Have We Replaced Authenticity With Cultural Behaviors?
One of the problems I’ve noticed in visiting different Churches is that they all have a particular culture. This is natural. Each state I’ve lived in has had different characteristics. But the problem I see is that a lot of the Churches have a contrasting culture than their communities, one that makes them look like crazy outsiders. In a lot of ways, the Church has become nothing more than a culture. If you like raising your hands and doing a lot of singing, you can find a Church for that. If you don’t, there’s a Church for that as well. But the Church is supposed to be much more than that. The Body of Christ offers the only real source for true happiness and knowing God.
The point to all this is that real worship cannot be mimicked, manufactured, or conjured up on a whim. All of the preachers, worship leaders, and Facebook memes lose an essential quality when they get pushy. I wasn’t overly impressed in the first Chapter of Crazy Love when Francis Chan used general revelation and asked if I was astounded. I don’t get revved up listening to Louie Giglio teach science. I don’t play conteporary Christian music on my car radio or when I’m working out at the gym. My iPhone has more audio books on it than music. That’s just the way I am. To be someone else would be inauthentic.
There are people who truly worship God in every song they sing. I think that’s great. This post is not an attack on those who raise their hands or those who ‘Amen’ in prayers. But don’t think that everyone who’s got their hands in the air is having a genuine experience, nor does the frown on the one guys face mean he is angry or sad. We should strive for a genuine experience of worship that is not simply imitating others or empty expressions.
I think that non-Christians perceive our lack of genuineness when we get excited over every little thing. Like the problem with the word ‘love’ when we use it for everything, it loses it’s meaning (I like pizza, but I love my family). Non-Christians must look in on our Church services and see either mindless zombies or a brainwashed cult. If I’m left scratching my temple and questioning authenticity, I can only imagine what visitors might be thinking.
Let Me Be the Bad Guy
I really didn’t intend to offend anyone with this post. I truly do not have any problems with people who ‘Amen’, raise their hands, or cry during worship services. I am a little annoyed by the Facebook links that question my love for Jesus though. The Soapboxes on Fridays are a place where humor, opinions, and pet peeves come together in some of the most random ways. But it’s a good outlet for me. If you have friends on Facebook who you think could use a good dose of Soapbox humor, then share it. It might just entice those who keep perpetuating those annoying Memes. Or you can just share it because you love Jesus. It’s up to you.