Not everything we feel Sunday morning can be labeled true worship. Several emotions can be mistakenly associated with true worship.
Nostalgia. Some people are moved to tears by listening to “The Old Rugged Cross” and others by “The Wind Beneath My Wings.” But those feelings are not necessarily worship. They could also be merely a sentimental connection; the song reminds people of a warm memory. This is one reason why people will say, “I can’t worship if I don’t sit in my pew,” or “I can’t worship because you rearranged the furniture,” or “I can’t worship if I don’t know the hymns.”
That’s nostalgia, a fond sentiment that people often need because everything else in life is changing. But that feeling isn’t worship, and there is no resulting impact on their whole lives.
Conscience clearing. Some people feel guilty because they haven’t gone to church for a while, or they haven’t been praying, or whatever. So because they’re in church, singing a hymn and putting something in the offering plate, they feel better. Their consciences are clear. Perhaps that feeling is better than the sentimental feeling, but it’s still not worship.
Aesthetic experiences. Other people may have only an aesthetic experience, which is still not worship. Even people hostile to the gospel can weep while listening to Handel’s Messiah. C. S. Lewis said that his imagination was baptized when he was still an atheist because of excellent Christian art.
Our emotions become a legitimate part of worship when, in response to a truth about God, we give something back to God: our money, our sin, our praise. Again, the three elements must be there: mind, will, emotion.
As it relates to worship, I’d rather use the word moved than the word emotion. If we don’t find that our affections have been moved from earthly idols toward God, we haven’t worshiped. Our affections are more than just our emotions.
Some of us, myself included, are not emotionally expressive. That’s just who I am. However, if I leave Sunday morning having had no emotional connection whatsoever, I haven’t worshiped. I must allow my heart to be touched to worship.