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Should Worship Be Emotionally Expressive?

• Music has the power to evoke emotion; lyrics have the potential to direct them.

• Emotions in worship must be aimed chiefly at the Triune God, and secondarily at our neighbor.

• Worship can educate our emotions. One of the questions we may ask about our services (if you’re the pastor or worship leader) is how broad the emotional spectrum is. Are the songs predominantly upbeat? Are they mostly reflective? Do you tend to stay in one band of emotions instead of awakening the congregation to become aware of different emotions? Worship has the power to give voice to our deepest sorrows and truest joys—and everything in between. Let’s harness its power as best we can.

• Be careful of “emotional expectations.” It is tempting to call someone else’s worship service “dead” because it did not conform to the “feeling rules” that we are comfortable with. This is often a mistake, however. Similarly, when you find yourself in a service where everyone seems to be meeting with God, but you’re not, maybe what’s really going on is simply that you aren’t feeling or displaying the same feelings as the majority of the people in the service were. That need not mean that God was not present to you or that you weren’t present to Him. In short, be careful of our emotional expectations of others, and of ourselves.

[I published a slightly more academic version of this—though it was missing the ‘feeling rules’ section that this one has. That version, however, does have a bibliography. You can find it HERE.]  

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Glenn Packiam is one of the associate senior pastors at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the lead pastor of New Life Downtown, a congregation of New Life Church. Glenn earned a Doctorate in Theology and Ministry from Durham University in the UK. He also holds BA in Theological/Historical Studies and Masters in Management from Oral Roberts University, and a Graduate Certificate in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary. Glenn and his wife, Holly, have four children.