Many Evangelicals are reacting against a mind/heart disconnect in worship, reaching for an experience of worship that transcends the merely intellectual. They desire to know God deeply by experiencing His presence as they worship. This desire has led to a subtle yet pervasive paradigm-shift in the philosophy and practice of worship. While worship was once understood as an enactment of praise, it is now viewed as a real, metaphysical “encounter” with God. It is seen as an experience of His divine presence.
The desire for experience as a kind of knowledge has driven this shift, and is a result of many changes associated with postmodernism. One critical feature of postmodernism is the exaltation of experience as an equally authoritative way of knowing. It suggests that we acquire knowledge through our experiences, and that these experiences convincingly illustrate reality for us in a manner that nothing else can. The result is the “postmodern worshiper,” who desires to know God by experiencing Him, and worship is seen as the prime venue in which He is encountered. In this perspective, we no longer simply sing or talk about God, but we actually “meet” with Him.
While there are real benefits to this shift in worship, there can be serious drawbacks as well. Experiencing Worship & Worshiping Experience lays out the foundation for this shift, and then seeks to uncover both the positive and negative aspects of the change. It also lays out a third option, the “experience-open” approach, a middle road that seeks a balance of “revealed truth” and experienced truth” in our pursuit of knowledge and in our approach to worship.