Annual special gatherings at our church each February have given a taste of what worship might look like if we accepted God’s invitation to more freely express our worship to Him. Recently, there has been unusual energy in the singing. Many, especially guests, are not shy in worshipping in outwardly expressive ways.
The first night of worship this year was especially fervent. My 10-year old daughter had never heard or seen anything like that before. As worship concluded, she turned to me with a sparkle in her eyes and said, “Daddy, this is how church should be every week!”
She had caught a glimpse of the intriguing possibility that church worship could, at times, be fun as well as reverent. I want to feed and guide that feeling, not squash it. I am ashamed to admit that I have squashed it by suppressing instead of expressing my emotions in worship. But I am ready for change.
Based on responses to “Clap and Shout in Church,” many readers are ready too. Still, we hesitate. One reader wrote, “The only person in our service who does this is mentally challenged!” Well, it is surely a kindness of Jesus that mentally retarded persons can enjoy expressive worship, but why can’t the rest of us?
We know what’s in the way: fear of what others will think, fear of distracting, fear of wild emotionalism, fear of being irreverent. How can we overcome these fears to worship freely in Biblically appropriate ways?
I am learning that open and reverent worship is a natural result of seeing God as the treasure. Raising His treasure value in our minds is not done by repeating theological facts during the service. It is done when each of us becomes much better acquainted with Him by reading Scripture well for ourselves, becoming growing learners.
Here’s an example of the status quo. We usually assume that Jesus did miracles mainly to prove that He is God, not considering that Jesus might be showing us a lot of other stunning things about the kind of person He is and how He interacts with us. If we assume that Jesus is flashing His “God card” every time He does a miracle, then we stunt our growth in knowing Him. If reading Scripture that way is a habit, then our worship becomes more of a duty-driven reaction to a few doctrines about Him, or perhaps a mere emotional reaction to the music.
Here’s a sample of how it could go, drawing from what I am learning. While reading John 17, I notice that Jesus says to the Father, (vs. 23), “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” Wait Jesus, run that by me again. The Father loves us as He loves You? Wow, I never noticed that before. So the next time we sing something like, “How Great the Father’s Love for Us,” my most reverent and natural response will be to joyfully worship the Father with all my being, body included. Worshippers doing this together are unlikely to distract each other or worry what others are thinking.
Our children are watching us. Many of them will decide not to worship the way we do now. That could be good. It depends on what drives their worship. They might decide that expressive worship requires drums and electric guitars. Or, the Holy Spirit might lead us and them to rich, vibrant worship by showing God as our treasure.