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Question 3 (Should we raise hands in Worship?)

A look into physical expression, using emotion, ‘feeling goosebumps,’ and the point behind it all

                There’s a whole side of worship arts that we haven’t talked about yet, and that’s physical expression. Different denominations, and indeed different churches in the same denomination, look different while worshiping. In some, everyone’s hands might be raised; in others, only a few raise their hands; in others, some dance; in others, some may kneel; and in others, all this may be going on at once. Is there a right or wrong to how people physically move (or physically don’t move) in worship?

                Psalm 149:3 says, “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.” That verse, along with others (Genesis 24:48, Jeremiah 31:4, 2 Samuel 18:28, Luke 19:37), tell us that what we show on the outside can be used to praise and glorify God. What we show on the outside usually comes from our emotion on the inside. Those verses confirm that it’s okay to show emotion on the outside while we are worshiping! Expressing our emotions in those ways tells others how powerful God is. It shows that what He does is so great that you feel the need to react joyfully or in awe. If you’re someone who feels this way during worship, I encourage you to not worry about what the person next to you would think if you raised your hand or knelt. If you feel like raising our hands because of what God has done and who He is, don’t be afraid to!  We can use our emotions to serve God just like we can use our intellect.

                This does not mean that those of you who don’t feel goosebumps when hearing Hillsong are “doing it wrong.” Nor do I want you to think that you must put your hands up in every song. There is no ‘you have to feel this’ rule, nor is feeling an indicator that someone is worshiping more than someone else. I know most of those in our congregation don’t raise hands in worship. This isn’t good or bad, but because of it, those who do want to raise their hands may feel uncomfortable or unwilling to because they fear what others may think. I know I was one of those people, and that’s why I want to encourage them.

But if you have no experience with “feeling something” during worship, that’s o.k. You can worship God by singing and paying attention to the lyrics; you are proclaiming who God is and what is true, which glorifies God even if you don’t have a large emotional response. But if you do feel something and want to express it by kneeling or lifting your hands, go ahead! You are showing how powerful and overwhelming God’s truths are, and that is worship too.

                As I was trying to understand physical reactions to worship, it helped to relate to what we see every day. When we see or think about someone we love, we usually have an emotion that gets outwardly expressed. You smile when you see your best friend and hug your family when they get back from a trip. We also have an emotional response to things we think are amazing; watching a sport with a fan will easily prove that point. It’s natural to have outward responses to things we love. And it’s natural to have outward responses to praising God. You’re saying, “look, I love God so much and he’s done such amazing things that I have to react!”

However, outward reaction doesn’t equal emotion; some people react outwardly more than someone else, but both could be feeling the same way. One avid fan may jump up and yell when their team scores while another avid fan may simply smile in their chair. In the same way, Each person’s expression may be different during worship; some will be more subdued and others more exuberant. As a worship leader, I don’t need to calm down the exuberant or yell at the subdued. I don’t need to make people feel something either. I need to help everyone to focus on who God is and what He has done. The emotion and outward reactions come only when He is in the limelight.

Until next week