Expressions of Worship

written by Jonathan Waggett, Worship Pastor (August 13, 2022)

If you were in attendance (and on time) during our morning worship services last Sunday, August 7, you’ll recall that I led you in clapping in rhythm during the first song in the absence of a drummer. Not only was this an opportunity to teach how to clap on beats two and four, it was also an opportunity to practice a biblical expression of worship – one of many!
Recently, it’s been placed upon my heart to teach and model forms of worship prescribed in the Bible that extend past the “norm” for us at Coats. Most of us sing to the Lord, or at least try. But if you’ve read your Bible (specifically the Psalms), you know that there are more ways to express our worship of God to Him. The Psalms have given us nine different expressions of worship. These expressions stem from David’s desire to worship the Lord wholeheartedly and without reservation. You’ll find that these expressions aren’t foreign to us, but we fail to practice them all in our corporate worship.
Listed below are the nine expressions of worship that can be broken down further into three physical expressions. While this isn’t an exhaustive or comprehensive list of ways to worship God with our whole lives, I believe it’s a helpful starting place to evaluate our expressions during corporate worship gatherings.
Our Voice
1. Speaking “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips.” – Psalm 34:1
2. Shouting “Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his tabernacle will I sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.” – Psalm 27:6
3. Singing – “Sing praises to God, sing praises to our King, sing praises.” – Psalm 47:6
Our Posture
1. Bowing “Come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” – Psalm 95:6
2. Standing “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws.” – Psalm 119:120
3. Dancing “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with tambourine and harp.” – Psalm 149:3
Our Hands
1. Playing Instruments “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” – Psalm 33:2-3
2. Clapping Hands “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” – Psalm 47:1
3. Lifting Hands “I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.” – Psalm 63:4
Again, these expressions aren’t foreign to us – except in church. Why is that? Perhaps we don’t teach expressions of worship. Perhaps we don’t know our bibles well enough. Perhaps we the worship team doesn’t model these expressions. Perhaps our worship of God is shallow. Perhaps these expressions make us uncomfortable. Ouch. Did I step on any toes? I stepped on my own.
The truth is, all of those possibilities are excuses for not worshiping the Lord with our all; yet, we happily sing, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe…”
Lord, forgive us. Humble us. Teach us. Mold us.
I don’t write this blog with the attempt to make you feel bad. If you’re convicted, that’s the Spirit, not Jonathan. But I do write this blog to make you think and prayerfully be open to approaching corporate worship with a biblical mindset, a heart fully surrendered to the Lord, and a body ready to express praise, thanksgiving, and dependence.
As your worship pastor, my greatest desire for you to be is a people that worships God with their all. I don’t desire for you to come to church to worship. I desire for you to come to church worshiping. What’s the difference? Hopefully you know that worship is a lifestyle. We all worship something all the time. Is it God? If we all were to enter into Sunday worship services already worshiping the Lord, imagine how our experience may be transformed and the glory that would be given to God! I LOVE hearing you sing to the Lord. It’s my favorite sound. But I also want to see and hear the other eight biblical expressions of worship listed above. And so does God. Our worship gatherings are to be participatory in nature. The congregation is not the audience. The platform is not a stage. The worship leaders are not performers. YOU (the congregation) are the performers. The worship leaders are prompters. God alone is the audience of our worship.
In closing, read these words from Brian Crosby of Wayside Presbyterian Church in Signal Mountain, Tenn. about being active and engaged participants in worship:
“Worship is dialogical — God speaks, and His people respond. Therefore, as active participants in worship, we hear the call of God to worship Him; we engage in various responsive readings from Scripture or a confession of faith; we follow along in the reading of God’s Word in our own Bibles; we join our hearts in the prayers that are offered; we take notes (mental or actual) of the points made in the sermon; we sing thoughtfully and joyfully the psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with grace in our hearts; we confess our sins with a sincere awareness of our depravity; we remember to improve upon our own baptism when we take part in the baptism of another; we participate in the body and blood of Jesus at the Lord’s Supper, remembering by faith His sacrifice of atonement for our sins; we actively take comfort in being assured of His pardoning grace; we give of our tithes and offerings as an expression of our thanksgiving toward and dependence on God; and we go with the peace that God has promised in His benediction. In every element, then, we are fully present and attentive.
Being an active participant in worship may involve certain appropriate postures or movements. It’s not uncommon to stand for the reading of God’s Word out of respect (Neh. 8:5), to bow one’s head in humble prayer (Psalms 35:13), or to stretch out one’s hands to receive the benediction (Numbers 6:24–26; Nehemiah. 8:6). All these are ways to increase both individual and communal participation in worship.
Rather than being mere observers or passive attenders in the worship of our triune God, may we carefully prepare ourselves for worship, eagerly expect God to be at work among His people in worship, and actively engage our hearts, minds, souls, and strength in each element of worship. And as we become active participants, may God work in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever (Hebrews 13:21).”