At the recent WorshipGod09 conference, I taught a seminar called, “Let the People be Glad: Corporate Worship and Expressiveness.” I attempted to present some biblical principles for what we’re supposed to do with our bodies when we gather to praise God together. I know for some of you that’s a no-brainer, but for others it’s still a front-burner issue.
John Piper is a great example of what happens when the heart’s passion for God is naturally expressed externally. He practices what he’s written in his books and proclaims in his preaching—worship (whether it’s singing or preaching) consists of strong affections rooted in biblical truth. Here’s what he’s said on the topic:
“God is glorified in his people by the way we experience him, not merely by the way we think about him.” (When I Don’t Desire God, 30)
Strong affections for God, rooted in and shaped by the truth of Scripture – this is the bone and marrow of biblical worship. (Desiring God, 81)
“Godly people are seen yearning, longing, hungering, thirsting, and fainting for God. They are also seen enjoying, delighting in, and being satisfied in God.” (When I Don’t Desire God, 24)
“My understanding of preaching is music without the music.” (from the WorshipGod09 message, “The Heart of Worship“)
See if you can hear the music (without the words) in these pictures from WorshipGod09. One thing’s clear: John Piper is doing more than simply talking about God—he’s experiencing him. I guess that’s why he says preaching is meant to be “expository exultation.” Seems to me this is a great example of what we should be seeking to do when we’re leading the musical portion of corporate worship. That is, letting our bodies show what our minds are thinking and our hearts are feeling as we consider how great our God really is. (For more on physical expressiveness in worship, you can check out the series of posts I wrote starting with this one.)
I attended your seminar on physical expressiveness and am continuing to think a lot about what I learned and what that means practically.
I attend a very non-expressive church with traditional/formal music where physical expression would seem out of place to a lot/most people. I’ve held back much of the physical praise my heart has desired to show out of fear and am just now realizing how much the fear of man has hindered my worship to God.
The question I have to wrestle through now is how do I worship God with my whole being as I long to do, yet also be aware and sensitive to the body of Christ that I worship with? There is a balance of edification & focus on God and I’m seeking to find it in my specific context!
Thank you SO much for your thorough and balanced discussion on this issue through your blog, book and in the seminar. You have helped me think through these things biblically!
Sarah, my good friend Jamie Brown has posted an excellent response to your question over at his blog.
I likewise appreciate your balanced discussion on physical expressiveness. The seminar you gave at WG09 is a good resource for me to go back to as I continue to study and meditate on what Scriptures teach about the subject. Also, thank you for your comments about John Piper’s preaching.
I have considered over and over again about how John Piper defined worship: the inner experience of being wholly satisfied in God in Jesus Christ. The more I think about this definition, the more I believe that physical expressiveness will and should come naturally when my heart truly finds its greatest satisfaction and joy in God in the face of Jesus Christ.
I also empathize with Sarah in that physical expressiveness is not the general norm in my church. So, I completely understand her question: How do you be expressive in that kind of situation? Well, the first place I encourage our worship team to be expressive is in their faces. I think a joyfully expressive countenance is a great place to start when lifting hands, clapping, or shouting to the Lord would seem out of place to the people around you. I hope this may be of some help and encouragement to Sarah and to others in similar situations.
Bob, thanks again for your faithful ministry to the body of Christ.
Look at his face. You can just tell he loves Christ with everything in Him. What a faithful servant to preach doctrinal truth for so many years. Greatly admire this man and what the Lord has done through him.
Thanks so very much for sharing this!