“The Fading Glow of External Experience” (iMonk)

A great conversation is happening at the Internet Monk this week around Skye Jethani’s blog post on the transient nature of Moses’ mountain top encounters with God and our churches’ dependence on external experience in worship.

Moses met with God on the mountaintop and the encounter made his face shine. Coming down the mountain, Moses veiled his face. Why? So that the people would not see the glory fading. “Whatever transformation Moses experienced in God’s presence on the mountain was temporary, and the veil hid the transient nature of this glory from the people.”

Here’s Jethani’s thoughts below.  What do you think?

Moses’ experience is all too common among Christians today. Through the influence of our consumer culture we’ve come to believe that transformation is attained through external experiences. And, as we’ve already seen, many churches have engineered their ministries to manufacture these experiences for crowds of religious consumers. We’ve come to regard our church buildings, with their multi-media theatrical equipment, as mountaintops where God’s glory may be encountered. One pastor, explaining why his church opened another location across town, said “We decided, if you can’t get the people to the mountain, bring the mountain to the people.”

Ascending the mountain every Sunday morning, millions of Christians want to have an experience with God and this is precisely what churches promise. And not disappointed, many leave these experiences with a sense of transformation or inspiration. They feel “pumped up,” “fed,” or “on fire for the Lord.” No doubt many people, like Moses, have authentic experiences of God through these events. Others may simply be carried along by the music, crowd, and energy of the room. Whether a result of God or group, what is beyond question is that many people depart feeling spiritually rejuvenated and capable of taking on life for another six days.

The problem with these external experiences, as Moses discovered, is that the transformation doesn’t last. In a few days time, or maybe as early as lunch on Sunday, the glory begins to fade. The mountaintop experience with God, the event you were certain would change your life forever, turns out to be another fleeting spiritual high. And to hide the lack of genuine transformation we mask the inglorious truth of our lives behind a veil, a façade of Christian piety, until we can ascend the mountain again and be recharged.

This philosophy of spiritual formation through the consumption of external experiences creates worship junkies-Christians who leap from one mountaintop to another, one spiritual high to another, in search of a glory that does not fade. In response, churches and Christian conferences are driven to create ever-grander experiences and more elaborate productions to satisfy expectations….

One Comment Add yours

  1. Martin Luff says:

    I think he’s right!

    The comment I would make though is – if that is all that is on offer from church then it is better than nothing!

    I like Jethani and have a lot of time for his opinion – but he seems to give the idea that the transient worship experience is wrong. In reality, I think we should see it as not ideal – since the ideal would be the deep life transformation gained through discipleship and the genuine ongoing encounter with God’s Word – but then we should supplement it with the transient worship experiences!!!! That was Moses’ reality – so why can’t it be ours?

    But most churches are not set up to encourage deep life transformation – and just offer the worship experience – which I agree with Jethani, short changes the people of God!!! But isn’t that better than nothing at all?

    Good post as always, Jeremy :)

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