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The Folly of Feel-Good Worship

In light of the wave of seeker sensitive approaches to worship in recent years, this quote from Richard John Neuhaus seemed quite refreshing:

“The sign on the front of a Presbyterian church in Indianapolis reads: ‘Join Us For Worship. You Will Feel Better For It!’ It is far from obvious that worship will make one feel better. To be sure, in a very ultimate sense, surrendering oneself to God in thankful trust will make one be better.  But along the way to being better the Christian is sure to go through times of feeling worse. Repentance, after all, involves a painful loss of self, an abandonment of false securities, and the travail of new birth.  It is also true with respect to what happens on Sunday mornings: Woe to you when they say it feels so good” (Freedom for Ministry, 139).

Worship that caters to the selfish interest of avoiding discomfort is probably not worship of the God revealed in Christ crucified.  Christian worship should be an encounter with God wherein our unworthiness is laid bare.  Why would anyone expect to avoid discomfort in a religion the chief symbol of which is an instrument of ancient executions.  Inasmuch as true worship is part of following a crucified Lord, it will sometimes be deeply uncomfortable and perhaps even excruciating.  But, like the torturous death of our Lord, it will become our salvation and bring us ultimately to true comfort.

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