“We are not thinking machines that feel;
rather, we are feeling machines that think.”
What does it take to mobilize a congregation?
The answer to this question is elusive. It is usually answered with formulaic responses presented by distant church leaders, many of whom have limited hands-on pastoral experience.
- Get a good pastor. (Definition of this is never clear).
- Write a mission statement. (The push to have mission statement is now a decade or more old. Has it made a difference?)
- Target certain demographics. (Rather exclusive!)
Sometimes these approaches work. Not usually.
A congregation will not be mobilized until it feels. Emotion is fuel for action.
People don’t act based on the analytical part of their brains. They act based upon the emotional parts of their brains. In head vs heart, heart wins.
Churches are not good at handling emotion. Emotions can be so messy!
The cerebral approach permeates church life. We tend to turn up our noses at more demonstrative styles of worship. Soon, even hymns of joy are sung cerebrally, with every nose in the congregation buried in the hymnal!
Pastors are often cerebral in their approach to ministry. They are trained to read and analyze scripture. Applying that training to action is s rarer skill.
To appeal to the emotional is daring and dangerous, but it is the only way to get a congregation moving.
Congregational leaders must find ways to help worshipers feel again.
Too often in its history, the Church has relied on two emotions: FEAR and GUILT.
And we wonder why people stay away!
Here are some emotions that could change your congregational life for the better.
LOVE is powerful. Love is a verb. It is easy to talk about love and do nothing.
ANGER is a powerful emotion. Make sure anger is directed in unselfish ways, but don’t be afraid to encourage appropriate anger.
HOPE is an emotion. Hope is lost if people come to church week after week and nothing happens.
JOY is a powerful emotion. It demands expression. Foster joy. People are eager to come together when they can expect true joy. (View the boychoir video in the last post. Those boys come faithfully to rehearsals because they are encouraged to express joy. Compare the faces of the boy singers to the faces of the typical church choir!)
Warning! A church that takes an emotional approach to mission will experience conflict. It goes with the territory. Conflict, well-managed, can be a good thing. Both the Old and New Testaments are infused with conflict. If transformation is to be more than a buzzword, it must be expected, respected and embraced.
Learn to foster emotions—and the conflicts that go with them. Be prepared to use the dynamics of emotion to teach, motivate and change lives — including your congregation’s life!