Glenn Packiam has written an interesting article for CHURCH LEADERS about exuberant worship leaders. The words “come on now, shout, clap, dance, put your hands in the air, let’s be even more undignified than this” are sometimes spoken by contemporary Christian artists, worship leaders and pastors during church services and concerts. It’s understandable that some persons might question if this is imitating entertainment culture or whether the approach is heartfelt and biblical.
Worship leaders are quick to point to the Psalms’ frequent admonitions to physically express praise to God; however, those less inclined to physical expression are often left wondering why they can’t simply “worship God in their heart?” After all, are these passages prescriptive (telling us how best to worship) or are they merely descriptive (telling us how worship used to be in ancient Israel)?
The CHURCH LEADERS article may be read HERE.
My brothers and sisters, as with most things in life, worshiping God is not a matter of mutual exclusivity. Our worship, assuming it is genuine and heartfelt, isn’t a matter of “if this, then that” or a worshiper “must always or must never,” and so forth. We find in the scriptures the encouragement to sing, clap our hands, shout (in acknowledgement of victory and the joy of the Lord), dance (as did King David), lift a banner, lift up holy hands and/or kneel (to demonstrate our surrender to the Lord).
Even when worshipers (read: you and me) don’t necessary “feel” emotionally ready to worship and focus on giving lavish praise to God, scripture says that it is good to “stir ourselves up” and often, our physical acts of worship will cause our soul (e.g., our mind, will and emotions) to become more receptive and liberate us in our worship.
As one who lives to worship and as a lifelong musician, but NOT as one who claims to know or have seen it all, this writer has experienced (first hand) some of the “good, the bad and the ugly” (so to speak) of modern worship!
Let me begin by saying that worshiping Jesus “in spirit and in truth” (as scripture commands) is not about whether one is worshiping along with hymns, contemporary praise and worship music, using dry ice “smoke” and lighting, or whether there are drums, or whether the music is ridiculously soft or loud! The Lord is concerned about our HEARTS!
Is the worship within our hearts and collectively within the house of the Lord (read: the church or venue) genuine, heartfelt, Jesus-focused and without unnecessary distraction? If so, great! If not, then rather than immediately pointing fingers at the pastor, the worship leader, the average age of the congregation, the musical competency of the musicians, the style of the music, etc. – let’s first be sure to examine our own hearts! Might we have lost (or lost some of) our “first love” and instead of engaging in worship with joy in our hearts, have become affected by an overly critical, self-focused or a less-than-humble spirit within ourselves?
On the other hand, I have sat under worship leaders who never stop admonishing the congregation to lift their hands, shout, do this, do that, etc., during the entire period of musical worship. It absolutely can result in damage to the anointing and may cause those who may be hurting or choosing to worship in a more solemn manner to feel singled out, pressured or even irritated.
The “culture of the house” can be quickly established and it will be obvious to most who are present within the first half of the first song, so non-stop “hammering” of a specific approach to worship – especially when being done out of habit instead at the on-the-spot unction of the Holy Spirit – has the potential to dampen worship and consequently, the presence of the Lord.
So the next time your worship leader exhorts you to clap or to raise your hands, remember that he or she is joining a long line of worship leaders desiring for us to worship the Lord expressively, completely, without distraction, in spirit and in truth, and in a manner involving our whole beings (spirit, soul and body)! How you respond is between you and the Holy Spirit. It’s not about mutual exclusivity or feeling compelled to worship in a manner which is not genuine and heartfelt for you.
Several years ago, Rick Pino, an acclaimed San Antonio-based worship leader and musician gave a Saturday evening worship concert (along with his band) at my small church in Albuquerque. What a blessing it was to sing, dance and get very real. It was also a huge blessing to hear him preach the word on Sunday morning at church!
Here is a YouTube video of Rick Pino playing “Lift Up Your Hands (Live)” – which was of one of the songs he played at the Saturday evening worship concert in Albuquerque. This may not be everyone’s “cup of tea” but it absolutely is genuine, heartfelt and exemplifies the freedom and joy we have in worship, as the Holy Spirit leads!
Here is some scripture to consider:
2 Samuel 6:14-15 (NKJV)
“Then David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting and with the sound of the trumpet.”
Psalm 92:1 (NKJV)
Praise to the Lord for His Love and Faithfulness
“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, [a]nd to sing praises to Your name, O Most High…”.
Psalm 98:4-9 (NKJV)
“Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; [b]reak forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, [w]ith the harp and the sound of a psalm, [w]ith trumpets and the sound of a horn; [s]hout joyfully before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, [t]he world and those who dwell in it; [l]et the rivers clap their hands; [l]et the hills be joyful together before the Lord…”.
Psalm 134:1-2 (NKJV)
“Behold, bless the Lord, [a]ll you servants of the Lord, [w]ho by night stand in the house of the Lord! Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, [a]nd bless the Lord.”
Colossians 3:16 (Amplified Bible)
“Let the [spoken] word of Christ have its home within you [dwelling in your heart and mind—permeating every aspect of your being] as you teach [spiritual things] and admonish and train one another with all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
John 4:23-24 (NKJV)
“But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NKJV)
Paul Writes To Timothy…
“Therefore I remind you to stir up [emphasis mine] the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Praise Jesus forevermore!