A friend of mine asked me what my theology of worship was, especially in relation to leading music. I said that we're not so much trying help people experience God, we have no control of God, instead we're placing our whole selves before God as an act of worship (Romans 12:1). I didn't put much thought into this statement, but we both talked about it for a while and decided it was a pretty good idea. Most people leading worship would say they are trying to create a space, or an atmosphere where people can experience God, or they're trying to create just the right atmosphere where God will "pour out His Spirit".
While that sounds nice, I think it's bull. God will act when, where, why and however God wants to act, and we'll know it. Our worship is not to be focused on an experience, rather it is to show our full devotion to the God of the Universe. If God decides to do something which creates an experience, that is wonderful, but that should not be the goal of the worship leader. If it is, we all become idolaters by desiring a feeling that we crave and mistake for a true experience of the Holy God. That's not to say God does not act and give us true experiences of himself. It's also not to say that "experiential worship" is bad. Experiential worship, from what I can tell, is better labeled participatory worship, in which the worshipers do exactly what I am proposing. They pray, sing, move around, give, light candles, kneel at prayer stations, and physically worship God, these are experiential and participatory, they are not necessarily trying to manipulate God. Worship leaders often are guilty of manipulating people's emotions to create a false, or at least a slightly contrived experience. I had a couple leave the Open Door this week because the music didn't lead them into the experience they were looking for. I do not feel bad, I don't feel like any of our worship leaders have done things to hamper God's activity in our midst, maybe we're not very good at manipulating people's emotions, but maybe that's what some people are looking for. Are you making a feeling an idol?