FROM THE DESK OF MIN. FRANK COLEMAN
Why are churches and ministries using the phrase: “worship experience” to promote their gatherings?
I’ve heard people say “I had a great experience in church.”
I’ve also seen many advertisements for churches that include: “Come join our worship experience.”
I’ve received many invitations to attend a “worship experience.”
Would someone PLEASE explain this “experience!”
Now, I have nothing against a worship experience, because I have had some of my most powerful, most moving, most transforming experiences in the midst of Christian worship. Nonetheless, I am dismayed by the popular phrase “worship experience” to describe corporate worship. Worship has the capacity to transform us, because it focuses our hearts and minds on God — God seen in one another, in ourselves and in the world around us. However, the phrase “worship experience” suggests that worship is important because it induces feelings. In this context worship is focused more on the worshiper than on the One worshiped.
Part of our problem is that we look for a particular feeling to designate as the “worship experience.”
I believe it is wrong to suppose that worshipfulness [my word] comes from a feeling that we might isolate as a “worship experience.” Instead, a sense of worshipfulness goes together with a range of feelings, including humility, wonder, awe, mystery, joy, peace, contentment, fellowship. People discover the possibility of having worshipful experiences only when they forget about their own experience altogether. For we are the most worshipful when we are the least conscious of the worship itself. Good worship is self-effacing; instead of calling attention to itself, it serves as a channel, a vehicle, through which we see ourselves and God more clearly.
Our worship should direct and focus the worshiper’s attention on God. Worship should point to a reality beyond itself.
The current phrase ‘worship experience” merely serves to confuse us. Those who worship with the expectation that the act ought to generate certain experiences for them will undoubtedly have many experiences. But they will probably not be the sorts of experiences that Christian worship offers to those who seek only the face of God.
“Preachers” can generate many powerful experiences, but when experience is the aim, this becomes cheap theater at best and manipulation at worst. Both are repulsive substitutes for an encounter with the power of the living God.