In Good Faith: Enthusiasm means your heart, not just your head, worships God

Apr. 28—An old dog can learn new tricks. At least sometimes. I knew absolutely nothing about show choirs, but now I know some.

Are you familiar? A show choir is a musical ensemble combining choir and dance. (It was made famous for a while in the TV show "Glee.") It has become a large and successful high school activity. It is not a sport exactly, but it is physically active and competitive. The fans are as wild and loud as at any athletic competition.

I went to a show choir performance to see my granddaughters Jannah and Emilia. There were more than 30 kids on stage, singing and dancing, plus a live band of 20 or so. They did jazzy numbers like "I Will Survive," complete with carefully prepared choreography and full costumes. The fans were hooting and hollering, with exceptional enthusiasm! It was energetic exuberance.

The show choir event was in stark contrast to normal life and to church life as well. Unless you are a Pentecostal, Christian worship gatherings have nowhere near the enthusiasm the show choir crowd demonstrated. This is not to criticize Sunday services as dull and lifeless, but by comparison the church experience is muy mellow. A baby or an old duffer could fall asleep in church, and a mind could wander off in distraction at church.

Not so at show choir. Let me hasten to say that the goals are different. Worship is not entertainment. We sing, and some churches have lovely visuals, but there is no dancing and no yelling. (Unless the preacher is upset about something.) It would be most rare to describe our worship as "full of enthusiasm." We might say it was "meaningful" or "encouraging," or that it had "substance" and "quality." I doubt we'd say it had "enthusiasm."

It may surprise you to know that enthusiasm is a God word. From the Greek in-theos, it means "in God" ... "in the Spirit" ... "in/spired."


When God is present, when the Spirit is in the house, we are not stuck with cold rationality. More than academic truth is on display. Hearts, not just heads, are engaged in genuine worship. Jesus once told a woman "God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth." (John 4:24)

There it is: Spirit + Truth. Passion + Reason. Hearts are touched when the Holy Spirit comes down.

This is not to say that we need to manufacture emotion in worship. No. It's not a matter of louder drums or mood lighting or a colorful bigmouth up front. No. I'm not talking about style and glitz.

However, worship is to be real and relevant, "in the Spirit." We ought to have some fervor and ardor. St. Paul put it this way: "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord." (Romans 12:11) Churches cannot compete with Hollywood effects and Broadway performances. And they need not. But an authentic encounter with the Lord of heaven and earth is not boring, right? Both the leaders and the assembly are well fed when we are in-Theos.

When you go to worship this week, expect God to be present and moving. Even if you don't shout "Alleluia!" may you experience real enthusiasm for the Lord.

Chris Brekke is a retired pastor who served Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Rochester for 13 years and Trinity Lutheran in West Concord for 10. He and his wife live in Roseville, Minn., where he keeps busy with volunteering, church and family.