I am always suspicious when I hear someone say, “We need to get more spiritual.” The reason is because I guess I am a suspicious cuss by nature, but more directly I have seen and heard this before. Usually it means, let’s do whatever makes us feel good, whether its grunting like hogs or barking like dogs.
Recently, a young couple came to me to relate that I was just not “spiritual” enough. Then they began to patently explain to me how the Trinity was not taught in Scripture and that pacifism was. When I would not go along with their convoluted view of the Bible, they branded me as hardheaded and, you guessed it, not very spiritual. No need to worry though, the man they decided was “spiritual” ended up being the crazy I told them he was, they have since left that group and have now rejoined the real world with a sane church that does believe in the Trinity and such. In fact, they came back to me and apologized for being so judgmental. Go figure.
I hear such pronouncements about me whenever I take on those who desire the greater gifts of the Spirit as well or those who think that the Temple in Jerusalem is being rebuilt and we get a special blessing by praying for Israel. I am just hardheaded and not spiritual enough.
I am one of those folks who realized a long time ago that if Jesus was who He said He was, then I could trust Him with every area of my life. I know this is kind of radical for some. In fact, some of those who brand me as not being very spiritual struggle with what this actually means. It means that I do not worry about when He will return or what gifts I need to display. It’s His program and not mine. I just need to tell others about Him until He does return and leave the rest in His capable hands.
Getting “spiritual” for me is walking daily with Him. It isn’t a purpose driven anything nor a fuzzy feeling. It is a life based on trust in the One person who not only proclaimed who He was, He went and did it. Faith is a conscious decision of our will. We trust Jesus to do what He promised. Period. It also continues every nanosecond of every day we live on this planet and we consciously decide to walk with Christ. When Paul wrote that He was convinced (persuaded) that God was able to keep him totally until Jesus returned or he died, he reflected that kind of faith.
We human beings are a sensitive and guilty lot. We actually think that if we feel a certain way, then it means we are either being blessed or cursed. We forget that our spiritual maturity in Christ comes as we walk in Him and grow in His knowledge, not our passionate phobic zeal. Passionate zeal can easily get confused with being close to God, when in fact we are close to hyperventilating or oxygen narcosis.
I will never forget years ago I purposely attended a John Wimber seminar that was supposed to teach us all about Spiritual gifts. We were told over and over that this was not a seminar on how to manifest the gifts of the Spirit, but it kind of became evident when during every worship service every emotional and psychological ploy was used to get as many people falling on the floor as possible.
We were subjected to several hours of singing over and over again the same mind-numbing phrases: “He is worthy… HE is worthy…. HE IS worthy… He is WORTHY… HE IS WORTHY.” Then they would change it up with such theological music as: “I will worship… I WILL worship… I will WORSHIP…” Well, you get the idea. We were told this is how we were to get more “spiritual.” Then we were asked if we wanted to feel the Spirit move. People would shout, “Yes!” (Kind of like at a political rally, which I have been a part of too, where people are encouraged to chant over and over “Dan’s our man!”.) Of course several exuberant people immediately fell down while others loudly proclaimed, “Yes Jesus! Come Jesus! Praise Jesus!”
As Wimber waved his hand over the audience I noted that he would loudly ask, “Are you feeling it right now?” He would instruct us: “Don’t be afraid to let yourself go! Just feel the Spirit’s power!” A few folks would respond, and soon a few fell thumping to the floor. This went on for an hour or more along with the drums, lights, and hands waving in the air until more and more of the folks were writhing on the ground at the feet of the 7 perplexed men that were with me. Interestingly, we looked across the way and standing in a group was another 5 guys. They looked at us, shrugged, and we motioned them outside. After we had gingerly stepped over wiggling bodies, we got together outside of the arena and we discovered some interesting similarities: 1) Like our group they had prayed before coming to the stadium that Jesus would open their eyes to the reality of what was going on, 2) they came to see for themselves if this “new” spirituality” was from God or a manipulation of man, and 3) that God would show them others, like ourselves, who had serious and intelligent theological questions concerning the psychological manipulation going on. We all left, went to a local Denny’s, and had pancakes and a great time in prayer and fellowship. None of us ever went back.
I have since discovered some interesting truths concerning that experience: 1) When you go to a worship or seminar like this expecting certain things to occur, they usually do. You want it to occur, you expect it to occur, and you are willing to be a part of it. It is a self-induced psychosis. You see it happen during protest rallies. Magicians use it in order to get their audience to believe what they are seeing. 2) Crowds are easily manipulated to do whatever the speaker desires them to do. It is called crowd dynamic. People will follow whoever is in charge, and especially if so many others are following. As a pastor and public speaker I know that I can get people to do things in a crowd, they never would never attempt by themselves. 3) Musical enhancement helps to involve the total emotional experience. This is why movies add a dramatic musical soundtrack. They have discovered that audiences respond emotionally quicker and deeper if they are brought along with the right “mood” music. Hitler did it with military music and nationalistic marches before his public speaking. Soccer enthusiasts use drums, cymbals, and horns as they march around the stadium. Churches either purposefully or unknowingly have gotten hooked on using certain “worship” music as a means to get people into the right kind of “mood.”
I am very careful as a pastor with the church God has entrusted me with not to let just anyone speak nor to use certain music. I have seen and listened to too many speakers manipulate people into their convoluted brand of theology. Now lest you think otherwise, we use contemporary music, hymns, and modern choruses that are theologically sound. Those individuals that I invite to speak, I make sure teach only what I know to be sound theologically. And certain subjects I do not allow anyone else to teach except me. Why? Theological consistency. Paul taught this to the early church and John cautioned them as well not to let just anyone come and teach.
So are we getting more “spiritual” or are we being manipulated? I honestly believe that if we teach our folks theological consistency and how to use music and teachers wisely like God desires us to, we can encourage spiritual growth. However, anyone who solely depends on speakers, Sunday Worship, or their pastor for their spiritual growth will remain easily manipulated. This is why so many churches have spiritually weak congregations. We are to read the Bible ourselves, do our Bible study, have personal devotions daily, and not be afraid to ask the tough questions of Who? What? When? Where? And Why? Stop listening to the latest speaker or reading the latest fad book and read the Word of God more. Do not be afraid to pick it apart, test it, and discover its truths for yourself. Nothing compares to the knowledge of God’s Word. Not even an emotional “spiritual” one.
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