Is Emotion Essential to Worship?

On a recent Sunday at church, right on the front row, stood a happy-dancer.

She could barely contain her joy during the music. Singing at the top of her lungs, jumping, dancing and occasionally yelling, “Thank you Jeeeeee-sus!”

Her raw exuberance stood out in our congregation. We’re not sticks-in-the-mud, but neither are we holy rollers. Yes, we sing enthusiastically, but most of us restrict our bodily praise to the occasional raised hand.

Not the happy dancer. She whirled, twirled, hopped on one foot, and even shed a tear or two. She whooped, swooned and smiled at the ceiling.

In recent years, many Christians have come to associate emotion with true worship. The more sentiment we feel toward God, and the more emotion we outwardly display, the more we’ve worshipped, so the thinking goes.

This puts men in a tough spot.

If we judge worshippers by the amount of emotion they manifest, we’ve set up a situation where women will win and men will lose.

Picture yourself walking down the street. You see a woman on the sidewalk dissolved in tears. You think to yourself, “Poor thing. I wonder what’s wrong?”

Now imagine you see a man on the sidewalk weeping uncontrollably. You think to yourself, “What’s his problem? Buck it up!”

Society teaches men from a young age not to show emotion in public. Big boys don’t cry. And if they do, we punish them for it.

I’m not saying this is right – but it’s the way things are.

So, to truly worship as it’s defined today a man must defy social convention. He must violate the man-code. A woman faces no similar social sanction.

This brings up a host of questions for you, dear readers:

  1. The happy-dancer was the most emotional and vigorous worshipper at my church. Does this mean her worship was the most pleasing to God?
  2. Is worship primarily a state of the heart, or a state of the mind?
  3. Is emotion essential to worship? Can one truly worship God without emotion or sentiment?
  4. How important is it to feel God during worship? To “let go?” Is that warm feeling what pleases God?
  5. Is it possible to offer corporate praise God apart from music? If so, how might this be done?
  6. Many people experience intense emotion and euphoria when they sing worship songs. Is that because of God, or are they just reacting to the music?

Now, before you tear me to bits, let me make something clear: I’m not against emotion in worship. I’m just asking if it’s essential. If one does not feel emotion, has one truly worshipped?

OK, have at it. Comments are open. And please join the conversation on my Facebook page.


  • PokeyBug

    I am a woman, but I’m not a naturally emotional person. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve cried in the past decade. I think that God appreciates my worship just as much as he appreciates the woman hopping and jumping in the aisles. That’s her style. Calm is my style. God knows both our hearts, and only He can judge if we are sincere. I know I’m sincere, and I hope she’s not just putting on a show for others. If we’re both sincere, I don’t think God has a problem with either of us.

    I know I answered nearly none of those questions, but I do want to say that corporate praise can be offered in ways other than just musical. Have you ever had your church body pray together, like really pray together as a group? I think it’s an almost magical thing to pray together in church.

    • David Murrow

      I’m with you Pokey. It’s all about the heart.

  • The Purity Driven Life | Means

    I am reminded of the woman who questioned whether her husband still
    loved her and he answered, “I told you I loved you on our wedding day,
    if anything changes I’ll let you know”….Matt 22:27, Jesus replied:
    “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and
    with all your mind.’…What are some examples of worship in the bible?

    • David Murrow

      I’m not sure your analogy fits. We do not marry Christ. Jesus has one bride – the church. It’s a different kind of relationship. Thoughts?