Sunday, March 15, 2009

Authentic Worship Experiences

There have been many times in my life where I have looked at a church service and said, "wow, if I didn't believe this was true, I would totally be out of here." Sometimes I have even looked at a worship gathering and said "I am so out of here", even though I believe it to be true. Like many in my generation, I seek authenticity in worship. This authenticity is something that is often expressed in different ways than in previous generations.

One of the largest changes in this generation has been a move away from sentimentality. Extravagant emotional experiences were often the norm in times and places where lack of technology or poverty created a material void. This void was often filled by grand romantic gestures, especially in formal events or worship experiences. In our generation, this sentimentality has come into question in as much as it is related to worship experiences. We no longer want a worship experience that gives us an emotional high as much as we want one that reflects the reality of life.

Emotional heart strings have become too easily pulled. The marketer's savvy has cheapened this sentimentality. The problem comes when someone from my generation interacts with previous generations, where this sentimentality communicates authentically real emotions. Those from my generation tend to look at that and feel as though the experience is very inauthentic. The question here is 'authentic to whom?' If the sender and the receiver of the message are communicating real emotions through culturally understandable means, the experience is truly authentic. I am the outsider for their experience. Were they trying to send that message to me, I wouldn't receive it, but I can't judge their heart and motives in this. But I, and those from my generation, do this every day.

In the end, it can be an opportunity to lay down myself and experience a different 'form' of worship than I am used to. I get to set aside my preferences in the face of their authentic communication of emotion and internal realities. This doesn't mean that I have to have the same experience they are having, but I can appreciate it.