I've been a worship leader for five decades, in a wide variety of settings.  But I've been puzzled by the term "worship experience", which I've been seeing a lot, especially since the 90's.  I tend to associate "experience" with something that happens to you - "I wanted a wilderness experience, so I went on a hike in Canada."  I go to church and do things that are intended to invite worship, and sometimes emerge feeling like i have "really" worshipped God; I have long been familiar with Romans 12:1,2 and its operational definition of worship.  But why do we use this term "worship experience"?  It's so commercial sounding -- or is it the closest single word that describes a person worship God?

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This is a very good question...and here is my take on it.

The term "Worship experience" is a fairly commercial term, but it is also the best way to explain what we feel and experience when we are truly in the presence of Almighty God. I am sure you have had worship settings in which it didn't really feel like you were fully engaged in God's presence...and then other times in which you felt God's Spirit was walking around touching people and softening their hearts through the music He is providing through you...that is what I call the "Worship Experience"!

Definitely, when it comes to God, "experience" beats "non-experience", even when the experience is chastisement!

I agree that experience is something that happens to you so therefore the phrase worship experience would be broken down to two sections 1 us worshipping God and 2 His response to this worship which we 'experience'. I am not sure if that is how the term has been derived but that is how I would look at it. I guess it is always difficult to define things, the term worship in church tends to mean anything to do with songs and so we are stuck with the term worship leader for those leading the singing rather than any other particular forms of worship. I am yet to come across an alternative to worship leader (band leader etc) that both describes it well and is also used widely so other people can grasp what particular area you are involved in at your church.

In sermons, articles and advertisements I would say "worship experience" means pretty much what you have described, including the back-and-forth-with-God nature of worship.  The use of the term "worship experience" often seems to imply that there is a closer, more intense happening between man and God in the service or event than there might be with inferior equipment, unhip methods of leadership, slow pace, cultural mismatch or other presumed deficiencies.

I suppose if a church wants to say that they intend and hope for the congregants to have a truly close and genuine encounter with God, it's safer to say "worship experience" than to say "come here and meet God if you dare."  We're just human, I think.  In the 80's we sang "Holy Ground" endlessly, but never took off our shoes.

I think it stems from 'worship as a show'  and is the alternative to meeting with God personally. YMMV.

"...the alternative to meeting with God personally" .  That is heavy.

I also like your caveat - YMMV.  "Your mileage may vary" -- that's a new one to me, and it's great!

Sorry it was a bit sharp-edged Greg. I've got tired of doing religious stuff where we're trying to kid ourselves it's all great etc. I'd be much happier if sometimes we said 'lets have a show & just sing the songs we like' and just do that. And it's also important that I don't judge people whose hearts I don't know

Took me ages to work out what YMMV meant - came across it through some gentlemen from your side of the Atlantic. :-)

Wikipedia, my adopted source of etymologies, promptly provided me with a definition of YMMV.  If not for Wikipedia, I would still be roaming the Jurassic forests, ears bent for heavy footsteps.

Sharp-edged?  I thought your comment was pretty gentle, Toni.

From the get-go, humans like pageant and show -- it's not clear if Adam & Eve, their kids or God instituted the first sacrifice, but there it was, with no neighbors to ooh and ah or anything.  And God instituted a plan for intentional worship, and the equipment was to be of "cunning workmanship" - something that you could look at and say, "Dude, be careful!  This is God-stuff you are handling."  So we continue to build cathedrals, performing amazing engineering feats to make a worship space with soaring vaults and rose windows; and now cathedrals of sound and smoke, through digital marvels, so we invoke an "experience with God."  We invoke Revelation 3:20 with talk of inviting Him in to sup with us, or we invoke Psalm 100 and "come into His presence".  Either way, we feel we have to dress up a bit, like Mr. Banks shined his shoes against his pant legs when nervously going in to face his boss.  And I'd like to imagine that God may enjoy some of our little shows, just as I love looking at the crayon drawings my 3-year-old granddaughter makes.  And I would be royally unhappy if she started disobediently using those beautiful colors to draw on the wall!

Trying to distinguish between "singing the songs we like" and "experiencing God in worship" is no easy thing, which is why I have ventured this post, to get other folks' thoughts and feelings.  Thanks for yours!

Some times when i read some of the comments and other stuff out here, i wish there was a like button just to express myself.

Good stuff Greg.


Thanks,Vinod, for your personal reply!  Takes a little longer, but makes people feel way better than a like button.  You made my day!

That is what I thought when I saw the title of the thread.  Where I come from "worship experience" is a negative term used to describe worship at the more surface churches.  I have seen people who express their worship escorted to the back because it was distracting from the worship leader.  Now I am in a church where people jump on stage and wave flags and dance around the alters.  Worship builds before a note is sung or played as the people press in to the altars.  It is a true worship experience.

In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25), true worshipers were unaware of the fact that they were ministering to Jesus through acts of kindness, while the untrue were highly aware of their own acts of "worship" (lots of power gifting, no service, love or kindness).  I don't want to stretch that allusion too far and come up too judgmental (who among us is without egotism?); but this post brings up a situation that really smarted me and my wife, who encouraged a lady, in her freedom, to dance, with flags, in the worship time.  This was in a church that was known for freedom of expression in worship, but few danced at the time.  She was criticized for making a 'display', became discouraged and left; not long after, a young man trained in Celtic dancing, whirling about ferociously, was welcomed heartily.  I could see no difference -- except she was over 50 years and maybe 250 pounds; he a muscular teenager with a flashy red beard.  Both are decent people who truly love God and show it in their lives.  I fear that a handsome image seemed to be what produced a worship experience in some minds; and that is worrisome.


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