“Worship” in Church (by Tyler Clarensau)

Our music pastor, Tyler Clarensau, just wrote this article on outward expression and its role in gathered worship. It’s a phenomenal read, and a great take on the subject.

What Am I Supposed To Do With My Hands During Church Music?

As a Music Pastor, I spend a lot of time with other Music Pastors. It’s one of my favorite parts of the job; connecting, praying, and sharing ideas with others who have been called to lead their body’s musical expressions in worship. It’s extremely important to me to get together with other leaders and discuss what works in contexts outside my own. Because of this, I’m in a handful of Facebook groups and lunch groups, and a similar question continues to come up:

“How do I get the people in my church to be more expressive in worship?”

I’ve heard many possible remedies for this interesting “problem.” I recently read a Facebook suggestion where a worship leader asked his band members to “do it even if they don’t feel it.” I’ve sat in a lunch where the leader, in frustration, talked of the hours he spends in prayer for his people, that they will lift their hands and close their eyes. Entire lunch hours have been spent discussing just how to get people to let their bodies do the talking during the 20 minutes of church music.

But I’m gonna be real with you right now…

I don’t care.

Outside of anything unbiblical or distracting, I would never ask a band member or church-goer to express worship in a particular way, on stage or off. I’m not motivated here by a fear of being disingenuous or inauthentic, but because I honestly don’t care what they look like during worship.

I feel that it is my responsibility to teach our church, first and foremost, what worship is, and then base ALL expressions of worship on the answer to that question. Worship, according to Romans 12, is offering ALL of life as a living sacrifice to God, constantly living for His glory. According to John 4 (and throughout the New Testament), there is an indifference to place and external forms of worship, instead we’re called to worship “in spirit and in truth,” and to honor God with our hearts (Matthew 15).

Worship definitely takes place in the form of singing in a gathering congregation, but I’d go so far as to say that what that looks like externally is not equal to the worship that is actually happening, and the two are likely not even comparable. Is the man swaying, with hands lifted, singing at the top of his lungs more worshipful than the man sitting in his chair, not singing, no emotion showing, but reading the lyrics as we sing and confirming in his heart what the song is saying?

I’ve met people who are some of the most outwardly expressive “worshippers” you’ll ever meet, but they live day-to-day giving no regard to the glory of God. Conversely, I also know those who are not outwardly demonstrative in expression during church gatherings, but their lives are consumed with worship. Why in the world would I teach outward expression instead of “spirit and truth” worship? Why would I instruct my bass player to express worship in a specific way, when bringing his talent and time to the body is every bit as worshipful as any outward expression could be? Rather, I want every cameraman, ProPresenter operator, audio tech, greeter, nursery worker, and band member to see their work in the body as a piece of their spiritual act of worship.

I will admit, walking off the stage after a really good outward response feels so much better than walking off without one. But as leaders and pastors, we have to remind ourselves that the emotional response is not our goal or our measuring stick.

I am in no way saying that emotion or outward response during music is bad, it’s just not the target and shouldn’t be preached. But if we preach the Gospel, God’s people will respond in worship… maybe even during music and with their outward expressions.

To the people in my church: do not allow the way you express yourself during a song define your “act of worship,” but rather “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[1]

To other pastors and leaders out there: let’s consider this word from D.A. Carson as we shape our focus:

“Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship. In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself. Despite the protestations, one sometimes wonders if we are beginning to worship worship rather than worship God. As a brother put it to me, it’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset… If you wish to deepen the worship of the people of God, above all deepen their grasp of his ineffable majesty in his person and in all his works.” [2]

[1] Romans 12:1 (ESV)

[2]Carson, “Worship By the Book”

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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19 Responses to “Worship” in Church (by Tyler Clarensau)

  1. Mendi Yoshikawa says:

    Excellent article! 🙂

  2. Joseph Leas says:

    Couldn’t have been said any better Tyler! Looking forward to the musical worship this Friday evening. …if we preach the Gospel, God’s people will respond in worship… maybe even during music and with their outward expressions.

  3. Heather says:

    Just reading in Romans today… Paul encouraging people not to do anything in any particular way, but unto the Lord. “Let us not therefore judge on another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.” Rom. 14:13. This is a very real example of that to me. Thank you!

  4. Nancy Hill says:

    Wow! I can’t help getting excited when truth is proclaimed regardless of popular opinion. I’m one of those who shows much more emotion than I ever have in my upbringing, but if someone were to observe my corporate worship, they wouldn’t be able to measure much outwardly. It certainly isn’t a reflection of how well the worship leader is doing. I must say, I do enjoy your style, Tyler, and your authentic leadership!

  5. Tom "Rider" Erickson says:

    The Bible says that God inhabits his worship! Last Sunday the glory of God was present with us during our worship! Hallelujah, praise God forevermore!

  6. Dean Goff says:

    I think that that you really made a key point Tyler when you made reference to Romans 12. We tend to think real worship happens when we as worshipers “Feel Something”, and then express it with some form of physical expression, and then when we do, the worship leader gets validation. I had someone once tell me that they did not get anything out of the worship during the church service. I looked at them, and looking back maybe too sternly, and answered, “The worship was for God, not for you. Why don’t you ask God what He got out of it.” More specially referencing Romans 12, what I do when I walk out the door, go home to my family, to my community, and how I treat the people that God has surrounded me with is a more accurate form of how I really worship. Anyone can put on a front for 20 minutes. The way we as men treat our wives, the way we as men love our children, and the way we as men lead our homes, is too me a deeper sense of what is really going to move God’s heart, and a clearer picture of my worship. I do not care if you can float to the ceiling and levitate during service while being moved by great music, if you are not striving to live your life sacrificially to bring God glory, and demonstrate His love to others by living the Gospel, your worship has fallen on deaf ears. Great article Tyler.. We are blessed to have you keep us on track on this very important topic. And by the way, regarding my worship, I am a work in progress.

  7. Trevor Panarello says:

    If we look at the source of our worship, I hope that we’d find Christ in all his goodness. Because it is from this primary source that all else will flow out of, perhaps even external movements of praise.

    Love this article!
    And Andrew Murch!

  8. trevajohn says:

    Love this post!

    Ultimately our heart is the primary instrument of worship, not our hands or our mouths. If our source of praise is Christ, all else that follows will be of Christ!

  9. Marta Ponce says:

    A most excellent commentary and viewpoint on true worship and outward expression. In the presence of the King of all Kings, would I raise my hands; voice my praise; extol His virtues; bow down before Him? I would hope and pray that my entire focus would be on Him and my entire effort would be toward expressing my worship of Him.

  10. Pingback: It Is Written (by Sam Cassese) | 2theSource

  11. Preston says:

    Very good commentary Tyler. I think it’s easy for believers to forget that worship is not in and of itself a musical performance or “that time before and shortly after the Pastor speaks”. More so your obedience towards God, and more importantly, a reflection of the true state of your heart. The Pharisees were pros at outward expressions of faith…long prayers, lavish gifts to the church, etc. But we all know where that took them: they didn’t know who the Messiah was even when they were face to face. So case in point to your article, are you focused on a soft heart filled with obedience, or are you focused on how others perceive you to be a “good” Christian? I would hope my outward expression is never out of any self-perceived “duty” but out of an internal response to submission.

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