Thursday, January 2, 2014

Worship junkies

Skye Jethani, on "When Worship is Wrong," via Jared Wilson, who characterizes what Jethani is describing as "worship experience porn." Jethani:
.... Moses’ mountaintop experience was genuine, glorious, and full of God’s presence—but it did not bring lasting transformation.

.... Many of us ascend this mountain every Sunday morning wanting to have an experience with God, and many of us leave with a degree of genuine transformation. We feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.”

No doubt many, like Moses, have an authentic encounter with God through these events. But new research indicates another explanation for our spiritual highs. A University of Washington study has found that megachurch worship experiences actually trigger an “oxytocin cocktail” in the brain that can become chemically addictive. The same has been found at large sporting events and concerts, but attenders to these gatherings don’t usually attribute the “high” to God. ....

This pursuit of transformation by consuming external experiences creates worship junkies who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that will not fade. As one church member interviewed for the University of Washington study said, “God’s love becomes…such a drug that you can’t wait to come get your next hit. …You can’t wait to get involved to get the high from God.” ....

The problem, of course, is not our gatherings, but what we expect from them. If we have an ongoing, internal communion with Christ, then our gatherings will be where we reveal the continual worship that marks our lives. However, if we have no real communion with Christ through his Spirit, we will come to worship seeking a transient dose of glory to carry us along, and we will demand these external events to permanently transform us—something God never intended them to do. ....