You’ll Laugh, You’ll Cry
Years ago, I read those words on an invitation to a church event.
The sponsoring church did everything they could to convince me that I ought to attend their event.
They promised that I would laugh. There is nothing wrong with laughing. In fact, the Bible commends a good laugh. Proverbs 17:22 tells us, “A merry heart does good, like medicine…”.
They promised that I would cry. I can be an emotional guy, and have been known to cry in public. Sometimes a good cry is very cleansing to the soul. Jesus wept. (John 11:35) Crying can release a lot of tension and emotion. There is nothing wrong with a good cry.
And yet, I objected to their flier, and to their promises. I still do. This was a Christian outreach, and yet they were promising to deliver these emotions to me. They presumed to know what I needed. There appeared to be no room for the Holy Spirit to do something else. What if what I needed was a fresh dose of somberness in the presence of a perfectly holy God? It wasn't on the agenda for the night.
My assumed responses were pre-planned and predicted. They tutored me about what I would experience. They planned my responses in advance. Their goal was to get me to laugh and to cry. They were sure that they could make it happen.
Increasingly, I see Christians confusing emotional experiences at a church, with a God experience in the Holy Spirit.
There are many ways to evoke emotions in “Christian” settings. The right music or no music. The right lighting or having only candles. There are many ways to affect emotions towards a desired goal.
Both true and false messages can evoke an emotional experience. Some pastors teach the Word of God, and are humorous. Other pastors read a passage, and then tell funny stories, neglecting to teach or apply God’s word to the listener. Often, both men can be equally funny, but many Believers can’t tell that there is any difference. This is extremely alarming to me.
It seems that many in Christendom are lacking the spiritual maturity to discern whether God or man has spoken to them.
I have been walking with Jesus for 30 years. I have seen true signs and wonders, and false signs and wonders. I have seen emotionally impacting Spirit led preaching, and I have seen emotionally human inspired preaching. I have been moved to tears by “boring” preachers who were excellent teachers, and who revealed Jesus to me. I have been bored to tears by emotional speakers that taught me nothing.
I have seen crowds of people moved by the Holy Spirit. I have seen other crowds moved by pep rally worship leaders and charismatic, talented speakers.
In many cases, an emotional experience is the goal for a Christian event, rather than a revelation of who Jesus is.
My concern is not about how people express themselves in the presence of God. There is great latitude concerning that. My concern is about what causes a certain response. Is it the incredible Spirit of Perfect Holiness, or is it a church culture where certain behaviors are predicted, arranged and manipulated? Is it God, or is it man?
Dear Christian brother/sister…is your desire for Christ the great motivation of your life, or do you simply have a desire to laugh and cry at church? If you prefer somber worship, is it because you are overwhelmed with God’s awesomeness, and words don’t suffice, or is it because you just need some “quiet space to chill out”? If you prefer emotionally charged worship is it because you need a place to “get crazy” and pump your fist in the air, or is it a demonstrative, Spirit led joy in the presence of our great God?
Christian, beware of pre-programmed emotional experiences that any group or church might insist you need. Jesus is what you need. Sometimes, He will take us to the highest heights of ecstatic worship. The very next day, His Spirit may move you to sit and stay silent. He knows what you need. Not you. Not the preacher. Not the worship leader. Not me.
Let Jesus decide if you will laugh, or if you will cry.