Expressiveness in Worship

In many ways this is a follow up to yesterday’s post. Thanks for all the feedback by the way. The comments, messages, emails and conversations I had with you about it have been really great. I so appreciate you all taking the time to read this and process it with me. Thank you.

One of the themes that surfaced yesterday was the idea that expressiveness and obedience don’t always go hand in hand. In other words, someone can be quite demonstrative in worship and really not walk with God through the rest of the week. The flip side are my “frozen chosen” siblings – people who are reserved and subdued in their expressiveness, but who have Christlike character and selflessly give of themselves in service to others. So thank you to everyone who reminded me that you can’t tell what is going on inside a person by what they do on the outside. That is a huge point and wasn’t well articulated in my previous post.

At the crux of the issue for me are the questions, “What is appropriate worship?” and “How can I do it authentically?”

What is appropriate worship?

When I read Revelation chapters 4 and 5, the place where Jesus is revealed as the Lamb who was slain standing in the center of the Throne, it appears to me that Heaven’s response is appropriate. Angels dance and sing, the Elders fall on their faces before him throwing their status symbols at his feet, John weeps and the Lamb receives the reward of his suffering. Were I to be in that place what would I do? Since Ephesians tells me I am in that place (seated with Christ in Heavenly places), what DO I do? What is an appropriate response to seeing Jesus at the right hand of the Father, wearing the same uniform he wore when he won his greatest victory – THE greatest victory? How do I respond to the knowledge that I am free from sin and death, that I will live forever as a beloved son of God? Worship is obviously the correct response, but what kind?

To be clear, I am not against quiet and subdued forms of worship – in fact, those are my mainstay. I crave early morning encounters with the Word while I enjoy a cup/pot of coffee. I really enjoy journaling and reading. I can lie on the couch and have a wonderful time with God. So I’m not bashing those expressions, but what frustrates me is that my heart and body rarely, if ever, move into those more expressive, extravagant and costly forms of worship.

The greatest worship service I’ve ever seen happens every year in February, it is called the Super Bowl. People start tailgating HOURS before the event and pay outrageous prices for the privilege to do so. Men strip down to their underwear and paint themselves their team’s colors, even in freezing weather. The armchair quarterbacks hoot, holler, dance and spill beer when a good play is made and how many millions of dollars go into the half time show? I’m not knocking the Super Bowl, I’m just trying to show that humans are made to worship extravagently. If we do such ridiculous things for men, how much more should we worship God and the Lamb?

But we don’t live in that Reality very well, do we? We come scattered and tired. We come hurting, frustrated and confused. We come with all of our baggage from the week, lucky to even be there for Sunday morning service. With everything going on in our lives it is hard to get centered for worship and muster up the energy for those more expressive displays. Add to that the fact that Midwestern culture is stoic and reserved and it isn’t any wonder that we look at people strangely when they raise their hands, let alone dance or wave flags.

I understand our hesitancy and reservation AND I think He is worthy of our extravagance. So, what do we do?

The point of this post isn’t to corral people into a certain type of response. I really just want to process my thinking on it and hopefully spur some of you on into greater depths of worship. So here is what I think:

I think your standard operating procedure in worship is just fine. I also think that if you are never having to sacrifice in your worship of God, then something is wrong. Sacrifice, taking that next step, can looks lots of different ways – raising your hands if you’ve never done it before, dancing, shouting, crying, laughing. The expression isn’t as important as the heart posture. Are you in alignment, body, soul and spirit, with what you are singing or reflecting on? If not, what can you do to get in alignment?

I really value authenticity, especially in worship. I also know that my emotions are not my highest authority. Sometimes I need to inform my emotions that there really is something going on that I should be excited about and I need to do things with my body to help bring the rest of me into alignment and agreement with what is really Real.

AND, there is also a place for rest. Sometimes my best connection time with God is falling asleep on the couch while my wife leads college students in worship. There isn’t anything wrong with rest, quiet or peace as forms of worship – sometimes they are the most profound.

All in all, there isn’t a formula for appropriate worship because appropriate worship spans a huge spectrum and changes from circumstance to circumstance. What we need to be aware of, though, is when we avoid certain expressions because that often means we have an area of hurt, unbelief or idolatry. And often our healing comes as we identify that area, offer it over to God and then lead ourselves into that expression and claim the Truths of who He is and what He has done for us.

Thanks for reading friends. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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