If you lead worship from the front of stage, I am certain you would have encountered some of these so-called ‘worshippers’ before. You can spot them a mile away — yes, they are the ones with arms firmly folded and blank looks on their faces. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fast or a slow song, a familiar or a new song, a hymn or a chorus, the expression (or the lack of, more accurately) on their faces reveal absolutely nothing. They look more like in a poker game than in an environment of praise and worship to a Most High God!
It boggles and befuddles me totally! What makes it even harder to understand is that these are the same ones who, just a moment ago before the session started, were spewing Scriptures and encouraging others towards deeper faith and obedience to God! They speak passionately of personal interests and pursuits! And surprise, surprise, they can even laugh when a joke is cracked! But the moment the music starts, a sudden stupor comes over them, their arms fold and their faces grow stone cold. And that posture remains throughout declarative statements like, “How great is our God!”, “How marvellous! How wonderful!”, “Jesus shall take the highest honour!” and “Amazing grace how sweet the sound”. And don’t even try changing keys! It only encourages them to embrace themselves even more tightly.
Please, I am not begrudging anyone of different styles and personal preferences of praise and worship. That is not the issue here! If worship is the ascribing of the “worth-ship” of God, that He is totally worthy of all honour and praise, surely it must involve some expression! What place does expressionless worship have in the lives of believers? Can we call it worship then?
The Bible is replete with physical expressions of praise and worship, encouraging God’s people to shout, to make a joyful noise, to clap, to dance! For sure there are also times to keep silent, to ponder, to reflect. I am no Hebrew scholar but I really don’t think any of these contain nuances that suggest the folding of arms, the courteous movement of lips and the tuning out of minds until the Levites go for their coffee break.
Of course, what we don’t want are professional or religious worshippers who know how to fake it with all the right moves. Jesus warns of these when He quoted Isa 29:13 (NLT): “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” On the contrary, what the Lord is seeking in this day are true worshippers who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). What this means literally is that God desires that we worship and praise Him from the depths and the honesty of our hearts. In this regard, what is in our hearts must outflow into our physical expressions of worship!
And if we have truly experienced the love of God, the grace that cost Jesus His life on the cross, the transforming power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the faithfulness that sustains us day to day, mercies which are new every morning, how can we but burst forth with great gratitude and deep appreciation? That is why I sing out loud, I dance with joy, I raise my hands in surrender and I bawl uncontrollably. My entire being is involved in praise and in worship because my God deserves everything I can give and more!
Oh, may all the saints encounter afresh the greatness of our God that this oxymoron of expressionless worship be totally weeded out of our midst, that we may all join with David as he boldly declares:
“Bless the Lord, O my soul
And all that is within me
Bless His Holy Name!” Psalm 103:1