Let me first start by saying that I am not an emotional person. I am rarely driven into decisions because of the way they make me feel. My faith in God doesn’t come from an emotional place, it comes instead from a logical one. I would be the first to tell you that as humans we can never fully understand or comprehend the story of God. I know and understand that faith is called faith for a reason. I will not argue that there is no emotion involved in your relationship with Jesus, and I will not argue that our logic and understanding is enough to comprehend the wonders of God.
I will, however, argue that churches today have become so reliant on the emotional pull of preaching, worship and faith that it is beginning to produce negative results.
Emotion is temporary. You feel one thing one day and feel the exact opposite the next. There is nothing wrong with having emotions, but when you use them to fuel anything in your life (especially your faith) you are in for a rough ride.
Let’s start with worship.
Worship is primarily about glorifying God and expressing our love and appreciation for what he has done for us. Sounds good, right? The problem is that too many of us are making worship about how it makes us feel. We expect to come to a worship service to “feel” the presence of God. We often judge the success of a worship service by how many people lifted their hands or shouted “Amen.” Those things are not bad. Participating and being involved in the music is usually good. The problem is that it tends to teach people that unless you are emotionally involved in singing you are not really worshipping. I know no worship pastor wants to hear this, but we’ve made singing too big a part of what are churches do every Sunday. It seems to me that we are more interested in giving people a spiritual buzz than teaching and showing them what true worship looks like. The problem with a spiritual buzz is that people come down from those. They often head to work on Monday not as hyped for Jesus as they did the day before. Be careful that your actions are not harming people more than they help. An emotional “close to Jesus” moment can be good, but it also can teach people that God only shows up in those moments instead of being there in your everyday (sometimes mundane) life.
Now on to preaching.
I will fully admit that my favorite speakers are the ones who teach me a principle I can apply to my everyday life. I’m not big on hearing about how it’s OK to be broken or how we all have depression (even if we don’t know it). Are those real things? Maybe. Maybe not.
Have you ever noticed that Jesus was super practical? He didn’t try to lure people to him by giving mushy analogies and stories about how his life was full of downers and trials. He gave practical examples people in his day could understand. My understanding is that the Bible places a very high priority on the mind and little priority on emotions. Our mind is to control our emotions, not the other way around. Our emotions can very easily lead us down the wrong path unless our mind is fully rooted in the Bible. In my limited experience, there are too many pastors teaching from an emotional standpoint and not a logical one. We say things like “if you feel led” and then expect people to make lasting changes to their lives. If we teach people that decisions are made from an emotional place (i.e., feeling convicted or feeling close to God) then we will most likely only see temporary results.
I’m not advocating taking all emotion out of your worship and preaching. I was emotional the day I married my wife. I was emotional when I first saw my boys. But emotion doesn’t keep my marriage alive. Emotion doesn’t keep me providing for my family. Principles keep me doing those things. The emotional aspect of my marriage is strong, but it is only a small part. The same must be true for your Christian life. God has given you responsibilities and you need to understand and accept them. “Feeling like it” isn’t going to help you live the life you should.
True life change doesn’t happen because of an emotional experience. It happens because you have principles and a strong foundation.
Often people feel close to God and so they go to the altar call because it feels right. People often give to the church because they felt connected to a sad story. If emotion is the only thing involved, the results will most likely be temporary. My advice, teach and show your people principles, don’t emotionally guilt them into doing anything.
This article originally appeared here.