Groups of People: followers of Jesus
A follower is by definition someone who has given hist/her life to follow Jesus and has put Him first. This assumes a measure of passion for Christ.
Group 1: The Experientialist: Lives looking for goose-bumps in every moment – in song, in prayer, in camps, and in relationships.
I was once told by a friend that he made a major decision based on seeing a rainbow appear as he was processing a decision. In his mind, it was a sign from God.
Of course, it was also probably because of the rain.
It’s nearly impossible to disagree with an experientialist because everything becomes about how God is communicating with them. God is, after all, big enough to create a rainbow as a promise and then have it also dictate the decision of one person walking along a path. He’s God. He’s that big. But the problem with the experientialist is that often decisions are made based on how they feel and then justified by how they want God to feel about it too. That’s less about God and more about personality.
A lot of people make decisions based on feelings.
And that’s perfectly okay. I think that falling in love isn’t about adding up the plus or minus columns. It’s about feeling. But the tricky thing with feelings is that they ebb and flow…and that CAN distort our view of God a lot. Sometimes they're right. And sometimes, they're very wrong.
Years ago, there was a popular worship chorus called, “The Cry of My Heart” by Terry Butler. I had the opportunity to attend a Vineyard Conference, heard Terry lead worship and John Wimber speak. Very cool music.
In this particular service, people were slobbering all over themselves, falling down on the floor, had eyes rolled back in their heads, etc. There was wailing…and some singing too. I’m not particularly wired that way (just ask my wife!), but I don’t really have an issue with others who are. It just so happened that next to me was a woman who was crying, but in a different way than others. Hers was more quiet and genuine. (I’m hoping that makes sense in a good way – not to state others weren’t genuine - but I think most would have gone to Marie Calendar 's afterward without much of their previous tears impacting their appetites).
I gently walked over to her and asked, “Are you okay?”
She said, “No. Last night, I felt "it" and was weeping. Tonight I don’t feel "it" as much. I think God has abandoned me.”
God hadn’t abandoned her, but His presence was based on her emotional awareness, not on His promise. That’s a dangerous thing indeed because it makes us the ultimate arbiter of His work in our lives. We determine what reliance, faithfulness, compassion, empathy, outreach, contentedness or humility are by how we feel rather than by obedience regardless of feeling.
It is in hearing and obeying, though, that the house was built on rock rather than sand.
Even as no one grows in faith purely by intellect, so too, no one grows purely by feeling. It is both components in action that leads to spiritual growth. The former means you know a lot but do nothing. The latter means you feel a lot (read: have great intentions) but never gain traction.
At best, this is just spiritual immaturity.
I used to teach on the process of maturity and one of the stages was the “love” stage. There is a vast difference between feeling “in love” and loving. The latter involves the former, but is not dependent on it. There’s a reason why in immaturity love is a rollercoaster, but in maturity love is an intimate devotion.
Here’s my admonition to the experientialists out there: be careful that your experience actually causes you to miss out on what being connected to God means altogether. See enough mirages, and you stop believing in the real thing.