Physical Expression in Worship
One area in which there is a significant difference between churches is the amount of physical expression used in worship. Singing is one form of physical expression that virtually all churches practice, but apart from that how do we physically express our worship to God? There is quite a range of practice on this matter, from those who stand reverently, hands at their sides, and sing softly to those who clap and raise their hands, all the way to those who jump and dance in worship. Is there any clear biblical guidance as to what kind of physical expression in worship is appropriate?
We should worship God with all that we are, including intellect, emotions, will, and our bodies. While we may each be inclined in different directions, we need to take a fresh look at the physical expressions of worship mentioned in the Bible. Not that every specific action mentioned in the Bible is a required part of worship (otherwise we would all need to dance before the Lord), but we need to see the range of possible means to express devotion to God in a physical way. To say that we should not express our worship in any physical way would contradict the many examples of worship in Scripture as well as the fundamental concept of worshiping God with all that we are. God made us as corporeal beings, not disembodied spirits, and our bodies should be a part of our worship.
I don’t want to get into a discussion of the specific types of physical expression at this time. Rather, I want to point you to an excellent series of articles by worship leader Bob Kauflin in Worship Matters about how we can grow in physical expressiveness in worship. (This is the first post of a four part series.)
He is writing especially to worship leaders, and he makes four main points about how to help people grow in physical expression in worship:
- Teach on the appropriateness of physical expression in worshipping God.
- 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.
- Address the different reasons people might be reserved in their expression and teach on preferring others.
- Preach and sing the Word, works, and worth of God, centered on the Gospel, to raise the affections of people for God.
The series is balanced and Scripturally based. If you are interested in this topic, I suggest that you check it out.