How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 2

Last Friday I started to answer this question from a pastor:

“Exactly how, and how much should we encourage our people to follow the numerous commands throughout Scripture of bodily expression (as a natural outpouring of the heart)?”

I began by saying we must teach our people that physical expression is appropriate in biblical worship. We aren’t disembodied spirits. God intends that we use our whole beings to bring him praise (Ps. 16:9). But how and how much? We don’t simply tell people to “sing like they mean it,” or “jump higher for Jesus,” although in my early zeal to see God honored I crossed that line a few times. Commanding a physical response can produce artificial affection and actually end up being dishonoring to God. Nevertheless, it’s clear from Scripture God expects us to use our bodies to glorify Him both in corporate worship and in all of life. He is infinitely glorious, desirable, good, and worthy of our strongest and purest affections.

Here’s the second thing I’d do:

2. Teach that physical expression should flow from a heart that desires to bring God glory, and that outward expressions are no sign one way or the other that someone is offering God acceptable worship.

God strongly rebukes those who think physical expression makes up for an idolatrous heart or disobedient life. Moving our church into greater physical expressivness that’s not rooted in a clear view of God’s glory will hinder, not help, true worship.

One of the actions that supposedly signifies spirituality is lifting hands. Lifting hands can express a wide range of emotions and attitudes – dependence, gratefulness, expectation, reverence, or celebration. However, God condemned both the actions and motives of the Israelites through His prophet Isaiah.

When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. (Is. 1:15)

The hands we lift to worship God should be holy hands (1 Tim. 2:8), made so through our humble trust in the atoning work of the Savior.

In our culture singing has become almost synonymous with worship. But God turns a deaf ear to singing that isn’t accompanied by righteous living.

“Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amos 5:23-24)

I’ve known more than one person who was exuberant in corporate worship who lived in unrepentant sin. I’ve also known people who exhibit little physical expression on Sundays but have a thorough knowledge of Scripture, an exemplary life, and a profound love for the Savior. We never prove our devotion to God by external acts alone. God looks upon the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).

Tomorrow, I’ll talk about helping people understand the possible reasons people are non-expressive in corporate worship, and how we can serve one another in this area.

Read Part 3 of How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship?

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6 Responses to How Do We Grow in Physical Expressiveness in Worship? Pt. 2

  1. Mathew May 24, 2006 at 1:57 PM #

    I have appreciated these articles. Actually, this topic was on my mind too after T4G.

    I come from a background where no one really is physical in their worship, but I felt myself pulled while at the conference. My heart wanted to worship the Lord more expressively, but my pride wanted to “impress” those around me.

    I look forward to the rest of these articles and for the Lord to work in my heart and wipe away my man pleasing pride.

    Mathew Sims
    Soli Deo Gloria

  2. Leigh October 29, 2007 at 11:44 AM #

    Thanks very much Bob for these articles. This has been on my mind lately. I come from a background where no one really is physical in their worship. But I know it is biblical to do so in an obedient expression of worship that is genuine. There really is a need for appropriate, biblical teaching on this subject as most pastors do not want to address the subject.

    I seem to have the opposite problem of mathew the last commenter, I feel myself pulled by God to be more expressive, but I don’t because people will think I’m strange or something else bad. I find myself taking on the attitude of others, instead of God’s. That is were our God given free choice comes in. I can decide that I’m going to do this out of obedience to God focus on Him.

  3. Allyssa Kaufmann May 4, 2008 at 8:07 PM #

    I agree that our physical expressions should come from our heart. Yet, is this how we approach other forms of worship. Do we teach that singing should come from our hearts with the same caution? When we teach children to sing how often do we strive to make sure they understand they should sing from their hearts in worship to God? Maybe we do, but I think we need to give people, even adults, the chance to get comfortable with physical expressions in worship before they can truly use those expressions as true worship to God. Just like the little children who must learn how to sing before they learn how to worship through song, adults need to learn how to comfortably express themselves physically in worship before their worship can truly come from their heart. I appreciate the caution and care this issue is discussed with and understand there are many aspects to the issue. This was just my thought on a little part of the issue.

  4. Tiffany May 4, 2008 at 10:31 PM #


    This is a subject that I have often wondered about. It is always interesting to me to gaze upon the different varieties of people in worship services and their different ways of glorifying the Lord. I have often found myself wanting to shout to everyone to raise their hands in response to God’s majesty. I have always been taught though that physical expression in worship is only to be performed when one feels moved by the Holy Spirit to do so, but then at the same time I was seeing that whenever a worship leader said to, every hand was raised. As silly as it is, never once have I considered looking to Scripture for a clear answer. I love the explanation that our worship is not designed only to be an intellectual experience.

  5. Wayne Graham June 20, 2008 at 1:21 PM #

    Our church has grown a great deal in expressive worship but still seems generally reserved. In leading the choir, we spent 10 weeks reading and working through Matt Redman’s book, “Unquenchable Worshipper” We learned that there are very few physical responses the scriptures prohibit, but many that are encouraged and are acceptable and right.

    A light came on in one very reserved and “traditionl worship” raise woman. She had been at a ballgame and the team scored a important run. She relayed how she had yelled and jumped up and down. Then she said conviction rained on her, as God seemed to say, “you will respond like this at a ball game, yet will not give me the same level of response after all I have done”. Conviction fell on us all as she finished her story.

    We seems to compartimentalize how we act when in churhc or other places. I believe a great question is why do we act one way at one place, and have a different set of responses reserved for church. God wants to permeate all of our life.

  6. Nigel March 14, 2009 at 4:19 PM #

    wow…this is a good post, and I think Wayne Graham’s response is incredible.

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