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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The trap of manipulative worship

When does worship become theatre? And when does the Holy Spirit become a smokescreen for pure emotional manipulation?

As someone who has led services and meetings before, I can understand how meeting plans are put together. Sensitive and deliberate song selections, placed specifically to follow a sermon or thoughtful moment, songs and atmosphere to enhance prayer times...and of course the dreaded altar call...

What is true worship?
So I've recently been reflecting on true worship... and where exactly do we draw the line between genuine Spirit led worship and emotional manipulation... and I don't think I have the answer.

Sermons themselves could be seen as manipulation...after all they are written and preached in order to get a response... whether that's encouraging Spiritual growth, participation in the service, encouraging the congregation to stay faithful, or to evangelize, or even just to encourage and inspire... whatever its purpose, is the fact that a sermon is trying to elicit a response and deliberately works towards that aim in itself manipulation?

Every part of a worship service is included or intended for a reason...or perhaps I'm being just a little bit cynical...but think about it; even a noble and righteous purpose like bringing others to faith is, in its own way manipulative when we use strategies and tactics to achieve this goal...

So should worship just be a personal thing? Just ourselves and God, no music, no sermon, no multimedia etc?

That sounds a bit puritanical and dare I say it boring for my liking... the problem, if you're anything like me; is that we're all human and actually all those things above help make worship accessible and help us reach and connect with God...a powerful sermon designed to inspire and encourage can (believe it or not) be inspiring and encouraging; reflective and sensitively placed music can enhance prayer times and of course even that dreaded altar call can, and often does draw people closer to God and reinforce our commitment and focus on God.

Just for entertainment?
Sowhat's the difference between all the different aspects of worship and dramatic music in a movie? We all I'm sure, are aware of the effect music can have in a movie...think of the greatest theme tunes... I'm thinking Jurassic park, Star Wars, Indiana Jones (ok so everything by John Williams) but how many other films use music...well probably somewhere around the 100% mark; dramatic moments, scary moments, heroic moments and so on are all enhanced by back to that question again what's the difference?

Getting the motivation right
Well, in my opinion, it's the motivation that makes the difference, and the source of our desires and reasoning for trying to achieve a response.

If our hearts and desires are in sync with God, then our actions must follow on. Worship is put together in a certain way to help us all connect and meet with God easier. The motivation is (or at least should be) to worship and honour God above all. In movies or secular entertainment the motivation is to entertain for the sake of entertainment and of course to make money... now I'm not saying that in Church we don't sometimes cross that line...I think it would be naive to think we always get it right; sometimes I'm sure worship leaders pick their favourite songs for the sake of it, or try to elicit a response for the sake of it, maybe even for the sake of their own egos or to push the boundaries or any other number of false motivations because of course, like all of us they are human...

So I suppose this is the challenge of today's post: to work hard and pray hard to ensure that our worship is and remains God centred and focused at all times... this includes both leaders and those of us in the congregation... both have to take responsibility and action to stay connected to God, to make our worship genuine and not just going through the motions...

Wrong worship
For some food for thought here's a funny but thought provoking​ video that was recently shown to me during a leadership training weekend: 'Wrong worship'

Including hits like: 'I will sing of your love on Sundays', 'I surrender some', 'Saviour, I don't need a savior'. 

As I said at the start, I'm not really sure of the answer, or where the line is... the only thing I'm sure of is the need to guard against false worship and promote true and God centred worship...
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