Head and heart: Worshiping as whole persons

(Old Facebook Post)

Words from John Piper jumped out at me today as I listened. I think I now more clearly understand something that is deeply wrong with some of our conservative Mennonite churches that we love.

Piper said we must target both “head and heart” in our church worship. He described the goal of worship like this:

“Worship that aims at kindling and carrying deep, strong, real emotions toward God, but does not manipulate people’s Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist Buy on Amazon emotions by failing to appeal to clear thinking about spiritual things… Keeping these together–head and heart–is the difference between emotion and emotionalism, and between intellectual and intellectualism… If you target only the head, you’ll be intellectualistic. If you target only the emotions, you’ll be emotionalistic. But if you target the emotions through the head, you will be truly emotional. And if you target the head for the sake of the emotions, you’ll be truly intellectual.”

When I read this quote to my wife (having scribbled it down while on break at work), she immediately jumped in with the same response that I had: The problem with too many Mennonite churches is that we target neither the intellect nor the emotions! When this is the case, it is no wonder if we start to dry up spiritually!

Some churches emphasize one extreme (emotionalism or intellectualism) in an attempt to avoid the other extreme. Conservative Mennonites over the past 100 years have developed both an unfortunate aversion to expressing emotions in worship (that’s actually even older) and also an unhealthy fear of using the intellect. But the godly solution is to bring the whole person in worship before the glory of Christ–to stir up both head and heart for the sake of producing Christian disciples who are both wise and zealous!

How do we get there from here? One way to start would be to encourage friends to read or listen to Piper’s teaching on Desiring God (“Christian hedonism”)–buy the book or find the lectures at Biblical Training.


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