Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Feeling God

I was reading about a Barna study about young people and church.
One category that was monitored was connecting with God, which the study described as the most important outcome to churches.
According to the study, 66 percent of churchgoers said they have had a personal connection with God during church service, while one-third of churchgoers never felt a connection God during church.
The report says that 44 percent of people who attend church weekly feel God's presence every week and 18 percent feel God on a monthly basis.
What struck me was the emphasis on feelings. What the churches described as important was "connecting with God." That is a great thing for a church to desire for it's members on Sunday morning. But then the responses from the members added that extra dimension. Feelings. Do I feel connection with God? That is a huge leap.

As a Catholic I go to mass to connect with God. Jesus is objectively present in the Eucharist. That means He is there whether I feel that connection or not. I want to feel His presence but reality is more important than my feelings. I need to believe on faith that the connection happened whether I feel it or not.

This is a huge distinction. If you approach Sunday mornings from a  perspective of how can I manufacture a feeling of God then you are liable to go very far afield. What if you feel God more when you go fishing then when you go to church? Should you go fishing on Sunday morning? What if the church that makes you feel God's presence also teaches heresy? I had that issue as a protestant. I was Reformed in my theology but felt more inspired by Pentecostal services.

What I need is a way of worshiping God that does not depend on my feelings because they change like the wind. That is what the mass gives me. I was actually Catholic for a while before I realized I needed this. I was actually happy with my feeling-driven Sunday morning experience.

Then there is talk about "gained new spiritual insight" or it "affected their life greatly" or "they experienced transformation." You do expect these things from a church but you would also expect these things if you were "tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming" (Eph 4:14). If we continue to embrace the same faith more and more deeply then the change should be more organic. Like a tree grows over the years but you don't think of it as experiencing transformation. Your new insights might be new fashions rather than real growth.

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