I want to be honest. I’m not a natural, hand-raising kind of guy in worship environments. I’m much more naturally the stoic, stand there and sing a harmony kind of a guy. That’s what’s comfortable to me. But, I do it. Why? Can I share my thoughts with you?
Why do I raise my hands in worship? 1 Cor. 11:1, Paul says, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” One of the reasons I do it is because one of the best example I’ve had in my life in a pastor, Mike Wilde at Laurelwood Baptist Church did it. My guess is this is still true, but when I was there leading worship, he was always – always, down in the front row, setting an example for the church, raising his hands in worship. I want to be like Mike.
But, the more I think about it, the more there is to it. Can I make a biblical case for raising your hands, clapping and being expressive in worship? Sure I can. I will in a minute, but first, the underlying issue.
Jesus said in John 4, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
It’s a very familiar passage, used by all to justify their positions. My simple point in it is this, your spirit. And be honest with yourself. When you’re standing there, maybe feeling prompted to clap or raise your hands or sing out loud or stand or kneel, or whatever the case may be, what’s in your spirit? If I’m being honest and blunt, based on what’s been in my spirit, it’s rebellion. There have been plenty of occasions in worship in my life where I felt God leading me to raise my hands, and I just stood there and sang. If your Spirit is full of awe and humility before God, and he’s not prompting you to respond in any other way, I have no problems with that. But, be honest, is that true?
Which leads me to the question, Who are you singing for, standing for, raising your hands for? In essence, who are you worshipping? Conversely, who are you refusing to sing, raise your hands, stand for, etc.” The problem is, I think most of us think worship is about us. “God won’t ask me to do anything I’m not comfortable with.” Really? ‘Cuz, I’m pretty sure that’s about all he does.
I’m not a hand-raiser. I am a clapper, but not a hand-raiser. But, when God pressed me on who I was/wasn’t raising my hands for, I realized something. It’s not about me. There are two things worship is about. God & The Body.
Worship is first and foremost about God.
I know you’re shaking your head at me right now. It’s okay. I deserve it. But, worship is about God. It’s about ministering to God. Numbers 18:2 – “Bring your fellow Levites from your ancestral tribe to join you and assist you when you and your sons minister before the tent of the covenant law.” But you say, we’re not under the old covenant. Well then, what did they do in the New Testament Church? Acts 13:2 “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” I guess I should stop before we get to fasting, or you’ll stop reading all together.
Have you read 1 Chron. 23-25 lately? They took worship pretty seriously. There were 4,000 levites set aside for musical worship. And I know, we don’t have the same approach because we are the temple. But, we are the temple, there is something special about the gathering of believers who are the temple of God, build on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph. 2). God’s presence is there, literally in our midst. What has your posture and response in worship been communicating to God?
Worship is about the body.
Because we are the temple, the dwelling place for God, worship plays a special role in the life of the body of Christ. And if worship is about the body, then worship is about doing what’s best for the rest, not what’s best for me. We should not seek to conform worship styles to our personal preferences, we should seek to do what will better serve the others in our body. I’ve said for years the worship wars should have never happened in our churches, we should have all been willing to do what’s best for the rest.
But, have you considered that what’s best for the rest might require you to raise your hands, clap, sing, respond in someway that shows you are alive in Christ? Especially to the men who might read this post. We think men don’t do that. Men don’t respond that way. If only that wasn’t a lie, then we could accept it. But, have you seen how men act at football games. You want to set a good example and freak your worship leader out? Show up to church this Sunday with your face painted. Maybe the reason men don’t respond in church like they do at football games is because there haven’t been other men haven’t set an example for them. Have you though about those who are following your example in worship? Or are you even following Christ in worship and not just your own preferences?
Worship is not about me.
1 Peter 5:5All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
We tend to think that I should only worship God how I think I should worship God. And while I would agree and even argue that we were all created by God to worship God in different ways, and I would go farther to say that we all should worship God in those ways he designed us to worship him on a daily if not hourly basis, things are different when we’re gathered together.
When we’re gathered together, it’s not about me, my preferences or personal style of worship. Life in the body is not about a bunch of individuals gathering together to consume christiany things in a way that best suits our own needs so that I feel better about myself as an individual. There is something entirely different happening.
Worship as a body is about dying to myself and exalting Christ. Worship as a body is not about the individuals, but the sum of the individuals God has assembled as His Body. It’s about all the parts of the body, of which we are all a part, (1 Cor. 12, Rom 12) coming together as one body and lifting up the name of Christ, ministering to God. It’s not about me, it’s about we. And we are all about Him.
So, should you raise your hands? Men, specifically are commanded to raise their hands during prayer. Another awesome example I had of this was Dr. Friesen at Multnomah, who always raised his hands during prayer. Men, raise your hands during your pastor’s prayer this week. And do it without anger or disputing. (1 Tim. 2:8 – “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”)
Should you clap your hands? Psalm 47:1 – “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” You want to really freak your worship leader out, shout out to God this Sunday.
What else? Read Psalm 95 and see what I’m talking about. Because, I worry that we’ve fallen into the same trap as the Israelites, we’ve hardened our hearts. And my desire is that we would hear his voice.
How would you act if God — that actual real and living God, the only God who rules all of creation, the God who sent his Son to Save you, the God who loves you and adopted you and calls you His child — how would you act if he showed up in your church this Sunday?
I bet your response wouldn’t be to sit there and refuse to acknowledge His presence. If it would, then there is probably a bigger issue of pride that God wants to deal with in your life. But, I believe, with all my heart, if God’s presence was there like it was in the tabernacle and like it was on pentecost, you’d respond entirely differently. Do that. Whatever that is, however you imagine yourself responding in that situation, do that. However you see yourself responding to God’s presence being in your midst, do that. Why? Because that’s what it is.
Anyway, that’s why I do it, because of others who have set an example for me. What kind of example are you setting for others?
1 Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before him with thanksgiving
and extol him with music and song.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
the great King above all gods.
4 In his hand are the depths of the earth,
and the mountain peaks belong to him.
5 The sea is his, for he made it,
and his hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us bow down in worship,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
7 for he is our God
and we are the people of his pasture,
the flock under his care.
Today, if only you would hear his voice,
8 “Do not harden your hearts as you did at Meribah,
as you did that day at Massah in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested me;
they tried me, though they had seen what I did.
10 For forty years I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘They are a people whose hearts go astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”