At Catch the Fire DFW, our gatherings are environments of freedom. As we worship, conformity is not required and expression is free. Some sit while others stand. Some dance while others are still. Some lift their hands while others bow. Some are loud and others are quiet. Some laugh for joy while others cry for the same reason. Sometimes people laugh or cry or shake or even fall down. Not always, but there are times people even experience these kinds of things during the message.
So we welcome the freedom of expression in worship. And we cultivate the freedom of response to God’s touch.
Anytime such freedom is encouraged, immaturity will be on display. Some, in their insecurity, will draw attention to themselves in an effort to appear spiritual. Some, in their brokenness, will distract others from the flow of what God is doing in the room. Some, in their need to grow, will mistake spirituality for emotionalism and get carried away into experiences that are less than helpful in the long term.
Here are a few thoughts on immaturity that I hope will help us all grow together.
- Immaturity is to be expected. For the immature to behave immaturely is not inappropriate. Everyone was immature at one time. Everyone is still immature in some ways. With love and grace we are all growing together.
- Immaturity should not be feared. Which is more toxic, an immature response to freedom in an environment of worship, or a reaction to that immaturity embracing fear and anxiety or even judgment?
- Immaturity will wrongly discern immaturity. Don’t be so sure that what you perceive as immaturity truly is. A different response than your response in an environment of freedom does not equal immaturity. Give people room to be and respond differently than you. Sometimes arms folded in judgment and a scowl on my face is quite a bit more immature than the behavior I’m troubled by.
Of course we do want to grow together in how we respond to God’s presence in freedom together. This is not an “anything goes” kind of freedom. The river has boundaries. Here are some ways we can all grow.
- Think corporately not just individually. Individual encounter is real and powerful and transforming. There will be times where your individual experience is a bit outside the box of what everyone else seems to be experiencing. This is okay. But to consistently lean into my own experience without thought of what is happening around me, or to be unaware of how my responses and reactions affect others, this is a mark of immaturity. As we grow, we become stewards together of what God is doing among us, not merely what God is doing in me.
- Recognize the power of our will in the process. There are times when God’s touch overwhelms to the extent that it seems our will in the matter is irrelevant. This is rarely the case. God created you to have dominion. He made you to have authority and to express that authority in partnership with him. This means that you can freely respond to God’s touch and presence. You can lift your hands because you want to. You don’t have to wait for the Spirit to jerk your hands up in the air. You can lay down as an expression of humility. You don’t have to wait for God to knock you down (thought that’s fun too!). You can laugh because scripture invites us to “rejoice.” You don’t have to wait until waves of uncontrollable laughter overtake you. Be mindful of this principle as you see others responding to God’s touch. When the thought “is that really God or is that just them?” forms in your mind, realize for a minute how silly that question is. It’s likely not just God. It’s likely them responding to God in freedom and this is a beautiful thing.
- Flow with authority. At Catch the Fire DFW, we are not a top-down-command-control sort of place. That isn’t how authority works around here. But there is authority nevertheless. When we gather, there are people in the room who have the authority to shift the atmosphere, to shape the momentum of where we are headed together. If you’re unsure whether or not you have that authority, you probably don’t. For instance, if our worship pastors or leaders are leading us into an intimate place of stillness and quiet, this may not be the time to get big and loud. If they are leading us into a time of spontaneous singing in the Spirit, then this may not be the time for passive observation. As I grow in maturity, I want to steward my own freedom within the flow of what God is doing in the room. I don’t want to try to swim upstream. I don’t want to respond in a way that shifts the flow if that is not my role. As pastors, Nancy and I actually have the authority to set the tone, to change the direction. But we rarely do so.
I love the freedom we experience together in God’s presence. I’m enjoying the journey to maturity in this that we share. Thank you for making Catch the Fire DFW such an amazing place.