Build, Keeping Emotions in Balance

"How large is your church?" This is one of the more common questions that I am asked by outsiders who learn that I am a preacher. We hear of phenomenal growth among certain denominational churches, especially those which put undue emphasis on emotionalism. Examples of unusual and rapid growth are also cited among churches of Christ from time to time.

Don't misunderstand! This writer is opposed to neither growth among the Lord's people nor the proper use of emotions. Growth based on the truth of God is an ideal for which we should long (Eph 4:14‑16). We are concerned, however, about growth which is accomplished by maintaining a high peak of excitement or through techniques which are more appropriate to sales promotions than to the gospel of Christ.

Keeping churches small is certainly not our goal. Every person in attendance represents a soul destined for eternity. Churches need to grow, and they will as souls are saved by the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16‑17). The method by which the desired growth is achieved is extremely important. Simply preaching and teaching the word of God often seems to yield slim results. In an effort to grow, we are sometimes tempted to use methods which, if not unscriptural, are at best questionable. Here we wish to look at a few of these. questionable methods which involve the improper use of emotion.

1. Super Salesmanship Techniques. The church which uses such methods must be highly organized into groups with leaders who are responsible for keeping each group motivated. The group must make so many "sales." Everyone must remain excited about the work. Excitement, or enthusiasm, becomes addictive… the group must constantly be "high." The assembly can become a "pep rally" with the elders, the preacher, the announcer, and perhaps even the song leader taking part.

Brethren need to be active in the work of the Lord, but these "super salesmanship techniques" keep one enthused but do nothing to provide a foundation on which to build.

Without this foundation we are sure to fall (1 Cor 3:10‑15). Christians are to edify (build up) one another. Notice Paul's instruction along this line even during the days of miraculous gifts (I Cor 14:12,26). The religion of excitement won't do this.

If we want to learn how to motivate Christians we should spend our time studying the methods of Jesus and the apostles rather than the line of books, tapes, videos, and seminars used to motivate sales people. When our assemblies or group meetings sound more like a pep rally for a ball game, or for a sales promotion, than an opportunity to praise God and study His word, we need to become concerned. The narcotic of activism may be lulling us to sleep.

2. Humor. Humor is an interesting and worthwhile human activity. It often occurs naturally or spontaneously when we least expect it. it might be during the Lord's Supper, like when the child standing in the pew beside his mother exclaims aloud, "Wow, I could have had a V‑8!" That's one thing! But intentionally to try to make things funny in order to keep a group excited is improper. A friend told me of visiting a congregation where nearly everyone who took part in the public service began with something "cute" ‑ This, I think, is inappropriate.

3. Physical Contact. Some churches fall into the habit of stressing physical contact. Leaders sometime teach this by their example. Saints greet one another with a hug because we are the "family" of God and are supposed to love one another.

In New Testament times, the kiss was a typical form of greeting, even as it still is in the Middle East today. Christians were exhorted to salute one another with a "holy" kiss (Rom 16:16).  There is nothing wrong with a warm, fervent greeting, per se. We must not make the mistake of assuming that this proves that we "love" one another. Love (Greek: agape) is best expressed by deeds of kindness done for those in need. Christian men and women need to be careful how they embrace one another. Emotions are stirred easily, especially in young men. The attitude can be developed which thinks that others who do not show their love in the same way are not spiritually‑minded Christians.

Conclusion:  When the seventy disciples returned from their first mission, they rejoiced because of the miraculous power they had seen demonstrated even at their own hands. Jesus said, "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Their emotions led them in the wrong direction. Our past criticism of the denominational emphasis on emotion has been proper. Now we should examine ourselves to see whether our emotions are balanced with fact and reason. My observation has been that churches which go wild over excitement are just waiting for the fall. Another writer has somewhere pointed out that mushrooms grow overnight, but it takes longer to grow an oak.