Studies have shown that our brains live in something like a state of constant rewiring. The term they use to describe this is ‘neuroplasticity’: older, unused pathways in our mind dissolve, and new ones, with repetition and focus, are formed. What we think about and say actually changes the way that our brains physically function. How we use our words has a direct effect on our response to stimuli. A small change in wording can radically alter the appeal and perception of just about anything.
Evangelicals have come to view the word ‘worship’ as referring to something like God-focused music. And music is inherently emotional. So it follows that our understanding of ‘worship’ could then be reduced to the personal expression of a God-centered, emotional experience.
This then shapes our expectations in a church setting. We come to church with closed eyes seeking these individual and transcendent emotional experiences.
This may, at least in part, explain why people increasingly feel as though they don’t need the corporate expression of church to worship God at all—they can pop in a CD and have emotional experiences like this at home or have personal ‘spiritual’ experiences wherever they like.
But it’s kind of like skipping leg day at the gym—the end result is that we end up looking unhealthy despite all the time we seem to spend ‘working out.’
- Christian worship is supposed to be incarnational (God-on-earth to redeem) not transcendent (we escape this troublesome old world to find God elsewhere).
- It is supposed to be formative (God changes us through our embodied practices) not just informative (we change ourselves as a result of God’s good ideas).
- It’s supposed to be embodied, not just expressed.
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