Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength

Worship

Are churches too focused on what we would call the heart and not enough on the head? If so, does this focus on the emotions consequently turn away many males from the church? One well-respected Christian intellectual recently made this charge, and I found the statement intriguing and thought provoking. The intellectual said he had several young men attending his apologetics class at his church, but that these men didn’t attend the main service because they weren’t getting anything out of it. His assumption was that the men wanted the intellectual stimulation and not the focus on feelings they were getting with the large group. I inferred that some of that focus was coming from the worship music as well as what the pastor had to say.

I have not done the research, and so I have no statistics about whether most churches focus on heart more than on head, but in my limited experience and from a woman’s perspective, many churches exist that have good intellectual stimulation coming from the pulpit. I know there are also many that don’t. I was thankful for the church I attended for years in Knoxville, which had two teaching pastors, one who focused more on the head and the other who focused more on the heart.  I do agree that much of today’s worship music appeals more to the worshiper’s emotions than to intellect, so if the church rarely or never plays hymns, which are more theologically weighty, I can see how the focus could be more on the heart.

As I consider all of this, I can’t help but think of the several verses in the Bible that talk about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Deut. 6:5, Deut. 11:13, Deut. 13:3, Deut. 30:6, Josh. 22:5, Matt. 22:37, Mar. 12:30, and Luk. 10:27) or some combination of these. I thought at first that mind would be a reference to intellect, heart to emotions, strength acting it out, and soul a combination somehow. However, when I looked these words up in Hebrew and Greek, I was surprised to find that the four different terms used didn’t divide neatly into separate categories. In spiritual terms, the heart is the center of spiritual life, also called the soul and the mind. It’s even defined as being “the faculty and seat of the intelligence” as well as of the will, and farthest down the list, of the emotions, passions, etc. The mind is described “as a faculty of understanding, feeling, desiring” with connotations of the imagination. The strength does have to do with ability, force, and might as I thought, and the soul does seem to be a combination of heart, mind, and strength, but it appears that heart, mind, and soul are all words that combine intellect, emotions, and will. In other words, when we are called to worship the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, we are called to do it with all our being, more emphasized with every word listed.

What is the application for all of this? I think it is this: if you, like the young men in the apologetics class, are more drawn to loving God with your intellect, that is wonderful and probably a God-given desire to be nurtured. However, that doesn’t give you the excuse to skip out on learning how to love God with all the rest of you–your emotions, desires, will, etc. Listening to that pastor who leans more heavily on feelings and singing worship songs with your heart engaged is essential. On the other hand, if your love for God focuses almost entirely on your feelings for Him, it’s time to find a way to get your intellect and will in shape for Him, too. It might be especially important for you to pay special attention to the theology behind the words in worship songs. Maybe strength, or will, is your focus for loving God. Doing those acts of service with feelings involved and mind fully engaged is just as important as performing the duty itself.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Does any of this ring true in the way you love God? Do you feel you lean more heavily on loving God with one aspect of yourself more than another?

Next week, I hope you’ll come back as I delve into worship music in particular, looking at it through the lens of worshiping God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength.

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6 thoughts on “Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength

  1. I have attended churches in many denominations over my lifetime and my observation is that churches that have a more “liberal” bent have fewer men actively involved in the life of the church. My “liberal” tag includes such things as emotion-oriented worship, music that emphasizes “I”, “me” and “love” in the lyrics, and activities that are “social” in nature. In addition, women have or are allowed leading roles in all areas of those churches, including the pastorate. The more the church bows to the current culture in its activities and liturgy, the fewer men seem to be involved. I’m only speaking from what I observe, so don’t have statistics to back it up. The church I currently attend, is probably the healthiest of any I’ve attended. Only men are allowed to be leaders and pastors. The pews are filled with families, we sing traditional hymns, with the rare exception of a new Getty hymn, we say the Affirmation of Faith and, in the beginning of the year, quote the catechism for the Ten Commandments. I chafe under the limitation for women, but I do delight to see men leading, studying the word and ministering to their families.

    You’ve addressed a really interesting and complex subject here. There are no simple answers.

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    1. Thank you for responding! It is a very complex issue–a little crazy for a short blog post, but it was so interesting to me, I wanted to write about it anyway. You give some interesting thoughts.

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  2. You posited the question, “Do you feel you lean more heavily on loving God with one aspect of yourself more than another?”
    As a man, my choice of services or Sunday school classes has less to do with my loving of God in a certain way, and maybe more to do with my ability to learn about Truth taught in a relevant and understandable way. Many pastors dilute their message to appeal to the senses of a diverse congregation, whereas an Apologetics teacher likely has tasty meat to serve.

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    1. Your choice of services or classes might not be conscious decisions on how you will love God, but they might give a clue to which way is easiest for you to love God.

      What you say about pastors diluting messages can be true. I had a feeling that the avoidance of the main service by the young men in question had less to do with feminization of the church (as he described it) and more to do with the quality of the sermons.

      However, whether that is true or not, if the men were indeed avoiding something that dealt with emotions, as the intellectual thought (which he appeared to think was right), I would argue that they might need that aspect of loving God.

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