The Emotional Church and Where to Really Experience God

Rainbow Falls (Whiteshell Provincial Park)

It’s been a while since I’ve gone to church, and by a while I mean half a decade or so. But I decided to go again. Different church, different city, different people, and different atmosphere. It’s livelier than my previous church. It has a big city feel to it. The church is full of welcoming people. They appear happy and genuine and I’m sure that most of them are. Being part of something bigger than yourself usually promotes happiness.

The music starts. People raise their hands. You can see the emotion on their face. Some are happy. Some have tears. There is an overwhelming amount of emotion.

Emotion is what churches strive for. The music they sing, the piano that plays while the preacher ends his sermon, the pictures on the PowerPoint, it’s all designed to bring about an emotional response. That’s what churches strive for. They want to make you feel.

Emotion isn’t a bad thing. Emotion is one of the core aspects of being human.

However, emotion is not synonymous with spirituality. Spirituality is deeper.

Spirituality tends to lead people to search for the truth, while emotional people are swayed by confirmation bias. They interpret evidence and events in such a way that ensures that their beliefs persevere.

One thing that I have discovered that all churches share is that they are all emotion based. They don’t care about science, reason or philosophy. They only care about promoting their view point. They almost never evaluate their views and theology. And if theological discussions do arise, they never end with the congregation reasonably reaching a conclusion, but instead with one group of members breaking off and starting their own church.

This is the problem with the church’s emotional based approach. This isn’t spirituality. It’s not logic based. Churches don’t mention science. They don’t draw from the patterns and wonders of nature.

Even when using the Bible as their source of knowledge, churches rarely base their opinions on it. Instead they use the Bible to reinforce their preexisting notions. This just isn’t an issue with churches though. The majority of people do this. It is people’s emotional approach to religion that’s the reason why out of the thousands of religions in the world, people are most likely to believe in the one they were exposed to as a child.

God gave us logic and reason. He expects us to use them. Logic, reason, and common sense should be what guides our spiritual journey. Not emotion. An emotion-based approach forgoes using our greatest strengths.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel. But it shouldn’t be what defines your spirituality. Instead of following emotion, and blindly accepting what is preached from the pulpit, or written down in books, you should experience God for yourself.

What is your most direct connection to God? Some would say the Bible; others would say prayer. But I have a different answer.

Nature.

If you want to experience God, then why not examine what he has created? God is an artist, and nature is his masterpiece.

Instead of trying to find out who God is through other means, the first and primary place you should look to gain knowledge about God should be in his handiworks.

While the Bible, and other spiritual books may teach you about God. The problem with them is that you haven’t experienced anything for yourself. When you read the Bible, or go to church, you spend your time talking about God, not to God.

If you walk outside, look up at the stars you can literally experience the things that God has created. You can see God’s example that he left for us to follow. This is his masterpiece. Nature is to God as the Mona Lisa is to DaVinci.

You can learn a lot about an artist from his works and we are literally living in God’s art gallery.

He is the master architect of everything, from molecules and atoms, to solar systems and galaxies.

Just look at the universe and the various shapes, patterns and colors found in wild forests. What could possibly be a better example of who God is than these works that he created?

Not only is nature the example God left behind for us, but it also promotes spirituality. There is a reason why “nature bathing” and “grounding with the Earth” are becoming increasingly popular. Spending time in nature is considered to have physical and mental healing properties.

There is an old Lakota proverb that says “when a man moves away from nature, his heart becomes hard.” Perhaps this is why you will almost never see an unhappy person while gardening.

God can be experienced through nature. He can be felt through nature.

God is found in the quite places. In the gentle breeze, or while hearing the waves crash into the shore, or while watching the sun set.

After all, even the Psalms say “be still and know that I am God.” For when you are still and take time to experiencing nature is when God seems the most real.


Shayne Thiessen

I am a Red River College graduate and an experienced hiker, photographer and explorer. Follow me on Instagram to stay up to date with my latest adventures @explorewithshayne
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2 Replies to “The Emotional Church and Where to Really Experience God”

  1. Hi Shayne,
    I think your point about experiencing God in and through nature is very true. However I would like to share why I disagree with a number of the assertions you make in this post.

    1. “One thing that I have discovered that all churches share is that they are all emotion based.”
    -The problem here is that I’m fairly confident that you haven’t been to “all churches”. So this “discovery” isn’t much more than your opinion, based on whatever churches you have been to. Most people know that there are many different denominations of churches in Christianity, and they range from extremely progressive and charismatic, to extremely conservative.

    2.”They don’t care about science, reason or philosophy.”

    This is just factually incorrect. The church I attend just finished going through a series on the age of the earth, and there was a lot of science discussed, and a lot of reason and philosophy. And a simple google search, or youtube search will produce many sermons from many different churches that cover many of those topics. I would suggest you search Apologia church. They have many resources for their members to learn about using science, and reason to defend the Christian faith.

    3.”They only care about promoting their view point. They almost never evaluate their views and theology. And if theological discussions do arise, they never end with the congregation reasonably reaching a conclusion, but instead with one group of members breaking off and starting their own church.”

    How can you know this? Have you been a part of the staff of a church? Most of the pastors I know are regularly wrestling with their views and their theology. And how do you end up with mega churches if the congregation never reaches a conclusion, and members just break off?

    4. “This is the problem with the church’s emotional based approach. This isn’t spirituality. It’s not logic based. Churches don’t mention science. They don’t draw from the patterns and wonders of nature.”

    Have you read about David dancing naked in front of the Arc of the Covenant as it was being taken back to the temple? He was fairly emotional. The Bible speaks about how the joy of the Lord is our strength(Nehemiah 8:10). The Bible tells us that Jesus gets very emotional, from extremely angry(Matt 12:34), to anguished to the point of shedding blood(Luke 22:44). Spirituality that involves our emotions is absolutely logical within the context of Christianity. God gave us emotions, because He is emotional. How do I know that? Because we have been made like Him(Genesis 1:26). And claiming that “churches don’t mention science” is just a flat out lie. And anyone can see that this is true by doing a search on Youtube or google.

    Here’s the thing. I agree that churches often engage with the emotions of their congregation. Do some go too far with that? Yes! But I would also say that some churches should do more to engage with the emotions of their congregations. You may see people getting emotional in church and think that it’s not a valid experience of God. But I would encourage you to think twice about that. Many people on a Sunday morning during a worship service are bringing their brokenness to God. And in their helplessness they are doing the only thing they can, and that is to worship God and magnify His Greatness. This can be very emotional, but that doesn’t make it less spiritual at all. You may find that you are able to connect with God through creation much better than in a church service. And that is fine. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to truly experience God.

    Finally,

    I would recommend a reading of Romans 14. Paul implores the Christians in Rome to not judge those who are weaker in the faith, and he goes on to explain that following the convictions that we have when it comes to following Jesus is more important than being worried about whether our convictions are always correct. Paul talks about how violating our conscience is sin, regardless of whether the act we are doing is a sin or not. I love logic, and reasoning, and philosophy, and theology etc. But after all of the studying I have done, I still rely on my convictions to guide me. And convictions have an emotional element too them. If doing something would cause me to feel the emotion of guilt, I usually know that I shouldn’t do it. In this context, emotions are extremely spiritual.

    I apologize if the tone of this comment comes across wrong. I have tried to focus on what you said, and tried not to say anything about you as a person. If you would be interested I would love to go for coffee with you and discuss this more one on one.

    1. Thanks for your comments. I’ll quickly reply to a few of your points.

      1. You’re right with what you said here. I haven’t been to all church’s so it is unfair to paint them all with the same brush. But out of the dozen or so I have been to, my description is accurate. But again, that’s not to say every church that exists is like that.

      2. There are a lot of Christians that believe that the Earth is flat. Why do they believe this? Because the Bible refers to the “four corners of the earth.” Instead of approaching the shape of the Earth objectively, they start with their view that the Bible is always right, and work there way out from there. Which causes them to reach a really bizarre conclusion. Now this is an extreme example, but the point is that when Christian’s talk about science, they tend to start with their predetermined notions, and then try to find facts that prove it’s correct, instead of looking at it objectively.

      Also, i’ll look in to the Apologia church.

      3. I’ll respond to this with a few questions. How often do church’s update their doctrines? Does their statement of faith ever change?

      4. I didn’t mean to come across that emotional experiences are worthless. I just find that there is way more to life and spirituality than emotion. And that church’s (at least during Sunday morning services) tend to focus only on the emotional aspect.

      Nathan, the tone of your comments was great. Thanks for being respectful when bringing up your objections to what I wrote. I appreciate it.

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