On The Church And Emotional Manipulation

One experience that will show up in my [auto]biography concerning my spiritual journey is how a wrong exegesis found its way into my heart/mind because of the goosebumps I felt when that word was being ministered from the pulpit. I suppose not all strangely-warmed heart experiences are genuine experiences of God. I think this will be a good segue to talk about the criticism about the Church using emotional and psychological tactics to win converts and not necessarily based on truth.

A spiritually charged atmosphere in some Christian contexts will not be seen as such by others. They will rubbish it off as an emotionally stimulating setting caused by the music, expensive decor, and general church branding. The scepticism could be a fair criticism or not. Someone who is looking for a reason to disbelieve will hang unto the least and unjustified objection. I guess the same is true for someone who badly wants to believe something. For an honest seeker, how does one navigate these issues?

Billy Graham also faced the same criticism. He always ended/begun his ministrations at his mega crusades with "Just as I am." Many people gave their lives to Christ. His detractors were not satisfied. They claimed it was the emotional appeal of the song that drew the people during the altar call and not the truth and understanding of the salvation message. On one occasion, Billy did not allow them to sing. The number of people who responded to the altar call was no different in this case, proving them wrong.

You might want to address this by proving them wrong with the Billy Graham approach or point out how unjustified their criticism is. Statisticians will tell you correlation doesn't mean causality. If people are easily manipulated in an emotionally stimulating setting, it doesn't follow that the emotional feel that characterizes the move of God during church services is a mere facade or an avenue for manipulating the congregation. It gets complicated when "God doesn't move" in your church meetings without the music. With this, the criticism is quite fair.

This issue also comes up concerning seed-sowing and offertory during church programs. Are people "stirred-up" by the truth/understanding that giving is a means of grace by which the Lord blesses people and funds the ministry or its music? Try a mega harvest at a church service without music and report your findings. We are sensitive when it comes to money. When one realizes you have pulled a Kweku Ananse on him/her, they feel so wronged and get trust issues. That one experience I talked about affected me very deeply.

I have often heard Ravi Zacharias say: "The longest journey in life is the one from the head to the heart." Our Christian experience is a blend of an emotional relationship and its intellectual underpinnings. Those who raise those criticisms always want to come across as intellectually superior and rational. You dig deeply into their lives only to find out this so-called rationality that accompanies their scepticism/cynicism is applied to religion exclusively. Do you think you are always rational? Get into a romantic relationship, fall in love, then let's have a conversation.

The fundamental Christian claim is that God stepped into His fallen creation in Jesus Christ, died for our sins, and he rose from the grave so that we will be Justified. Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ has eternal life. If not, you remain dead in your sins. His death and resurrection is a historical account devoid of any emotions. If this is false, it is pointless to go about evangelizing. We should stop the church hullabaloo and waste away our lives. Feelings and emotions fade. We should therefore ground their faith in Jesus Christ (Truth).

We are encouraged to test all Spirits. Without the Spirit of discernment, it is quite impossible to test the authenticity of a religious experience. We have devils giving the same experience and work miracles. Those who know me will attest that concerning Spirituality, I am low on the emotional spectrum. It is not always healthy to have that scepticism concerning emotional experiences. As a rule of thumb, I assess a Pastor's teachings for some time before I yield to their spiritual impartation. The biblical text is Open Source. We can all examine it. I have the Holy Spirit in me to help as well. You might find this attitude helpful in your journey.