Sunday, January 21, 2007

Five Languages of Worship

My friend Meredith wrote a blog about a lesson she heard from Randy Harris recently. So ok, now I think I've covered all the sourcing and I can't be accused of plagiarism. :) The talk was about the different methods in which people approach worship. As is true with pretty much everything, a lot of people are different from each other in this respect, which leads to division and deeming some methods more "right" or "higher" than others, but the truth is that we must appreciate and respect diversity within the body of Christ.

1) Intellectuals - These are the people who worship God primarily with their minds. They enjoy analyzing the subtleties of Scripture and are usually very familiar with the current canon of Christian literature as well. They feel closest to God during deep, profound conversations or debates. Harris joked that these are the people who "don't want to hear relevant topics addressed at church--they'd just like a real Bible study for once." The biggest danger for an intellectual is that, given the firm grasp of theological concepts that the intellectual usually has, he is prone to wonder why everyone else isn't as "sound" in their doctrine as he is. If they're not careful, intellectuals also tend to be very critical/cynical because they have analyzed every problem there is for everything.

2) Servants - These people worship God primarily by noticing and meeting needs. Servants tend to be very perceptive to how they can help others and are very compassion-motivated. They also tend to be very busy, because there is no shortage of needs out there. Harris jokes that these are the people who are always running around and trying to start up new causes and campaigns at church. Since many of the church's ministries are service-oriented, these people tend to be ministry leaders. The biggest danger to being a servant is the temptation to give into the Elijah complex (which is the "I and I alone am the only one out doing good for you in the world, Lord" syndrome.) They are also often overworked and taken for granted in the church.

3) Relationship-Builders - These people connect best with God by connecting with other people. Relationship-builders usually feel closest to God in a small-group context because that setting allows them to do what that they do best, which is to yack. Relationship-builders are, of course, most skilled at making others feel welcome and pulling people into the group. Relationship-builders are easy to identify because they are the ones who find it quite impossible to walk across the church lobby without carrying on a 45-minute conversation. Many relationship-builders face the challenge of not being good listeners because, as Harris says "they have not been quiet for 5 consecutive minutes in their entire life for fear their head might explode."

4) Contemplatives - These people feel closest to God when they are by themselves, usually in a quiet, meditative setting. The contemplatives lead the church in discipline: they have regular personal prayer time, regularly diagnose their own spiritual health in journals and writing, and thrive in the stillness and quiet. In essence, they are the prayer warriors of the church. They are likely to talk about the ways God has spoken to their heart personally, because they have long practiced the discipline of meditation. They are also the ones who are most likely to talk about how loud and obnoxious church services have gotten these days. The biggest danger they face, of course, is becoming so inwardly-focused that they forget about that whole 'salt and light' thing.

5) Emotives - These are the people who primarily worship God with their emotions. This happens in two main ways: when they feel joy, they worship with their shouts, claps, and dancing; when they are broken, they worship with their tears. They are likely to talk about God "stirring in their hearts." They are more open to the idea of the Spirit working in their lives without having a rational explanation for it. Music is a particularly important element in the worship of the emotives because of the way music speaks to the emotions. Harris joked that, historically, the Church of Christ has done a very good job of scaring off the emotives and being scared of the emotives. The biggest danger the emotives face is assuming that the people who don't jump up and down like like they do must not love Jesus very much.

The important thing to remember is that all of these worship styles are equally scriptural and in fact, are all equally important. A person who is earnestly seeking God will probably find himself connecting to God in all of the above ways at one point or another. If you're having a hard time deciding which category best fits you, maybe you're just a holistic worshipper! Randy encouraged us to identify the 1 or 2 worship styles that come to us most naturally and to focus on developing/cultivating the ones that don't come to us naturally.

Since I'm pretty sure most of my audience is consisted of my loved ones, I'd like to hear which styles you identify with. So comment, people! I mean, please feel free to leave your thoughts. :) I'll even start!


ann said...

I've been thinking about this since yesterday and I still can't decide what my primary worship language is. I think I have a tendency to be an intellectual, but I have tried to break myself out of that because of the cynicism aspect. Overall I think I'm primarily a servant worshiper.

Author said...

I'm an intellectual who wants to be a contemplative and thinks the emotives are silly :)

You (and Randy, Meredith, etc.) are spot on: The important thing to remember is that all of these worship styles are equally scriptural and in fact, are all equally important.


Dan said...

I was just about to say, "We'd all better cultivate the manifestations of worship that don't come naturally" but she wraps up with that.

What a great article.

Ann, what fifteen things have gone wrong, and can I help with one of them, or pray specifically?

Summer said...

Speaking of plagiarism, I think I'll copy my response to Mer's blog! It really is hard to identify with one style - while reading I felt I could say yes to each one at some point. But anyway, my response:

Right now I feel I am more of a #1, and actually, I’m probably everything that is "bad" about being a #1! Academic life can do that to us, I think. Surprising as it seems, I think my natural side is more of a 5, because when I was growing up in God and still at home I was VERY emotive (teary) at church, and still tend to be, even though I now have this icky braniac voice running through my head telling me there's no reason to tear up at hymns... Because I’m emotive I feel a connection to 2’s and 3’s, though I have not been the best about developing that in the last few years of nomadic grad student life. Now that I’m settled, I would really love to bring out the better, more balanced sides of 1 and 5, and I want to work on 2 and 3. 4’s are remarkably rare and amazing people – maybe I’ll get there someday!

Peter Rice said...

Ann-san, I just saw that you have U2 listed under "music I like." You've finally come 'round! I'm ecstatic.

My worship style? Hard-core emotive all the way... But maybe a little intellectual and emotive too.

Josh K. said...

I'm a 1 who desperately wants to be a 4.

If I'm listening to a song/prayer/sermon and notice some bad/incorrect theology, it kills it for me, sadly. As Summer said, academics tend to do that to a person. And like Summer, I don't like to show too much emotion when I worship. I often tell myself that people who show a lot of emotion are just experiencing some kind of psychological phenomena induced by mob psychology (a la speaking in tongues) and not really worshiping. That may be the case sometimes, but I'm wrong for my haughty attitude.

It's good to see these categories and hear others talk about their preferences.