Cedric Fisher: "earnestly contending for the faith."

The Spiritual Liability of Emotionalism

Sadly, the legacy of some evangelical denominations/movements, especially Pentecostalism, has not been depth, stability, commitment, knowledge, or maturity, but emotionalism. I remember those days when people left the church building exuberant about what a good meeting they had and boasting, “The pastor didn’t even get to preach!”

Most pastors of smaller and some larger churches had to work a secular job in the early days. I remember one pastor that came home tired Wednesday evening and unprepared to preach that night. He remarked, “I just had them turn to page 238 in the songbook and they went to shouting. I didn’t have to preach.”

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2 arrived on the Day of Pentecost. There were no emotional antics that even slightly resembled what one might witness in emotionalism today. They were not considered “drunk” because they staggered about with slurred speech and droopy eyes, but because they spoke in tongues. They spoke in tongues and there was a demonstration of power.

I know pastors and evangelists that gorge on hours of football on Saturday and Sunday, and have no depth, anointing, or inspiration to deliver a true message from God. They must resort to something emotionally provocative to fake their way through a pseudo-spiritual church meeting. That is why most “revivals” die on the dreaded Monday after.

I have been in a vast number of church meetings where the preacher preached about the coming of the Lord, or the blessings of God, or sprinkled his message with jokes, and emotional pandemonium resulted. But if he preached “meat” messages his preaching would be met with bored and stony silence.

To be honest, contrived emotionalism is the fast and easy way to faux spirituality. However, one is not spiritual because he or she danced and shouted, or “fell out in the Spirit”. You are spiritual because you have given the Holy Spirit preeminence in your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If that is the case, one does not sit on the pew bored, waiting for the preacher to say something funny, exciting, clever, or emotionally stimulating. It makes one wonder why so many Pentecostals quote Tozer, Ravenhill, and Havner.

One may indeed become emotional when the power of God is demonstrated. But instigating emotionalism does not provoke God’s power to be demonstrated. Emotional pandemonium does not mean the church meeting was more spiritual, but merely that it was more emotional.

Emotionalism is addictive. The flesh craves it. Therein lies the danger of elevating emotionalism to the level of a spiritual quality. Some of the most godly and productive Christians I have known never danced, shouted, ran the aisle, or fell on the floor.

When Pentecostals made emotionalism the standard by which preachers and church meetings were judged, it established the paradigm that the false Charismatic Movement and its sordid spawn of bizarre independent ministries and movements, including the Vineyard Movement and New Apostolic Reformation was established on. The Hillsong church is an example and the epitome of a church built on the theme of emotionalism.

Emotionalism was doomed to die or morph into an atmosphere for the flesh and demons to operate. Returning to it will not revive a dead Movement or stem the tide of apostasy. We must return to God the same way we came to know Him in the first place. Bow before Him in full surrender. Lay down our toys, our feasting on the entertainment of the world system, forfeit our carnal sense of spiritual entitlements, commit our lives to His perfect will, to prayer, to feasting on His word, and do it from the depth of our soul. Anything emotional that comes out of that process will be spiritually motivated.


  1. Jessica

    Amen, elder Fisher! In a way, I am thankful for the hypocrisy that plagued the Apostolic church I attended in my youth or I may have never left there. About a year ago, I realized how addicted these people are to what they believe is an outpouring of the Holy Ghost. So scary! Praise God for his Word and Truth!

  2. Cheryl

    Excellent article CH. I grew up in an old time Pentecostal Church and have seen a true move of God and the move of strictly emotionalism. I’ve seen men and women dance, shout, and run the aisles, fall down, jump over pews…you name it, I think I’ve seen it. I can’t I’m against any of that if folks are sincere in their walk with The Lord. There is a natural emotion that occurs when you feel God’s Presence. The problem I have seen is the thought that emotion has to be present in order to know that God is there. The desire and dependence upon emotion in most churches has taken precedence over preaching and teaching. Thus, emotion without Truth has resulted in the craziness we’ve witnessed in the Charismatic Movement and now in the NAR Movement. Emotion, as you said, is addictive and it is also very deceptive. God is not always in the emotion. We should never think we have to FEEL Him to know that He is there.

  3. Pamela Albright

    My 91-year old Pentecostal father always told us, “the Holy Spirit comes down…you don’t work it up”.

  4. KC

    I have attended a Vineyard church for approximately 8 years now and have never witnessed a display of what you’re referring to as emotionalism or anything close to resembling a Pentecostal experience or faux spirituality.

    If the goal is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, why is it that some judge other “groups” of believers as “groups”?

    I believe that we often get distracted by who’s doing what as opposed to working on our own relationship with our Savior. Perhaps less judging would serve all in the body of Christ a bit better to sharing the good news. Just one believer’s opinion.

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