I’m not up there to put on a show. It’s just not the way I worship. I don’t want to be a distraction. God’s more concerned with my heart than whether I clap or raise my hands.

Over the years I’ve heard phrases just like this from people in worship ministry. They’re usually made in response to talking about expressiveness in worship. In this particular area of worship leadership it’s difficult to know how to approach coaching people on your team to grow in their worship stage presence. I’ve found that often peoples initial response is really not the main issue.

There are two major reasons why people react to feedback about expressiveness in worship:

  • It’s Personal– Let’s face it, there’s a ton of things that we get evaluated on as artists and really none of them are easy because what we do is so closely tied to the way we feel about ourselves. Deep down whether most people will admit it, they are asking themselves if they are good enough. If that is already the underlying fear then it’s natural that most people would feel hurt by anything but positive feedback. After all, one component of worship is about our personal relationship with Jesus and by suggesting we could be more effective we naturally feel like our spiritual relationship is being criticized.
  • It’s Uncomfortable- In addition to the emotional ties this conversation can have it’s just plain uncomfortable to grow at anything we’re not used to. If you’re not naturally strong or familiar with something then it is going to take hard work to develop new habits and skills until they become second nature.

I am not saying that people who aren’t overtly physical in their expression of worship are somehow less sincere in their worship or that they are not as engaged. It would be absurd to say that they are “bad worshipers”.

On the flip side, it is just as dangerous to say that someone who consistently raises their hands in worship or other outward worship expressions is doing so with the right heart.

God examines the heart. Period.

I’m not judging the value of a persons worship. In fact, I can appreciate and encourage the desire to be authentic and not to put on a show or to be a distraction. Those should always be part of the consideration.

However, If we’re serious about our role as worship “leaders” it’s also important to think about the impact we have on our congregations by what we visibly portray from stage.

I would like to suggest 4 reasons why learning to grow in your physical expression of worship is the right thing to do.


  1. It’s Biblical- It’s funny to me that we regularly tell people that don’t like singing or preaching that it’s biblical and that’s why we do it. Then we turn around and say we don’t need to bow, clap, raise our hands, dance or any number of other things. We’ve somehow given into the myth that as long as we’re worshiping in our heart we don’t need to let it affect the rest of our bodies. The Hebrew people couldn’t have even fathomed this kind of thinking. If you were happy you would smile, dance, sing, clap and shout. If you were in need you would reach out to God, hit your knees in submission or even cry out loud. Even more confusing is that we naturally do most of these things outside of the church walls at sports events, with our kids, at weddings. So why not church? So our first question should probably be, what does God say it looks like to worship him? Does it involve our bodies as well as our hearts? If so, then proceed to practical reason number 2.
  2. Showing and Telling- There are studies that say non verbal communication conveys 93% of the what we’re saying while the actual words make up only 7%. That means no matter how profound the truths we sing are, our facial expressions, gestures and inflection speak louder than anything we say merely with words. Think about it, we connect more easily and trust the people who look us in the eye. We smile at others when they smile at us. We are drawn into a story when the person is making animated gestures. The opposite is true as well. We don’t trust people who won’t look us in the eye. We wonder if people care about us if they never smile when they see us and we tune out when there’s not energy in their delivery.
  3. More Caught Than Taught- Would you love to see your congregation passionately singing at the top of their lungs in gratitude for God’s unearned grace, or reverently bowed in submission at God’s power and greatness. Are they currently doing those things? We can’t expect people to go where we have not been or haven’t modeled for them. Paul says in Corinthians 11 “follow my example as I follow Christ” because there is no more compelling way to learn than a live visual aid. My little boy is constantly watching me and imitating the things I say and do because he trusts me and wants to do the things I do. Our congregations are no different. We can stand up in front of our congregation for years and talk to them about what the bible says about worshiping mind, body, soul and strength or we can stand in front of them and model it for them over a few months and watch the transformation right before our eyes.
  4. You’ll Enjoy It- Learning to play guitar requires developing callouses on your fingers. It’s uncomfortable…initially. You’ll never learn to enjoy playing guitar unless you can get passed the initial phase of being uncomfortable. Once you get passed that initial pain you’ll soon forget about it and start to love the fact that you are able to enjoy playing music. You may not believe me when I tell you that even if it’s uncomfortable to start raising your hands, bowing, shouting or even dancing in worship that you’ll get past it and will experience a freedom you didn’t think you could have. I know it’s true because that’s what happened to me personally. I didn’t grow up doing any of these things in the churches I grew up in. It took going into an environment where I saw it modeled and others responding in the same way before I decided to give it a try. Now I can hardly imagine what it’s like not to respond this way.

If you’re ready to grow in biblical expressive worship that will model for your congregation and give you a greater freedom in the body God gave you then here are 5 practical tips.


  • Watch Video of Your Services– Often the first step to recovery is admitting there is a problem. Video doesn’t lie. If you are able, watch video of your worship service. Watch yourself. Watch your team members. Ask the following questions about yourself and your team:
    • Do I look like I’m having fun?
    • Do I look like I mean what I’m singing/saying?
    • If a non-christian was watching would they believe I mean what I’m singing/saying? (Cause they are)
    • If Jesus was in front of me, how would I change? (Cause He is)
    • Am I engaging with God, the congregation and my team?
    • How is the congregation responding?
  • Watch Video of Other Churches- The trick is to watch services of people that you think are doing it well. Watch it and ask the same exact questions from above. Some of my favorites are Hillsong, Elevation Church and New Life Worship.
  • Pray- I don’t want to understate this point. God wants His people to love and worship Him and will help us do it. Here are some of the things you might pray for:
    • The desire to honor Him with your body in worship.
    • To help you put to death pride and fear of man in how you might look to others.
    • To keep Satan from filling your head with doubts.
    • For the Holy Spirit to fill you with love, joy, peace, patience as well as the other fruit.
  • Read the Psalms- Pull out your bible and highlight any physical expression of worship. It might surprise you that you need a lot of highlighters.
  • Try It At Home- So you’ve seen what you look like, what it can look like, prayed and read about it, there’s no better way than to just do it. I’ve found it helpful to if you’re not worried about anyone but God initially to try it out on your own. Take an iPod and some headphones into a very dark room and sing along to some of your favorite worship music. If you’d like a devotional that will walk you through many of these things I highly recommend the book Pure Praise by Dwayne Moore.
  • Try it At Rehearsal- Finally, after you’ve started stretching yourself on your own with only God as your audience it’s time to go and help your spiritual family enjoy a freer biblical expression of worship. Remember, these are your brothers and sisters who love and care about you, not to mention that they are going through the same thoughts and feelings about trying to lead others. They want you to succeed just like your congregation does.
Picture of NIC COOK


This article was first published on nic-cook.com as part of a series of resources for worship pastors/directors, and volunteers.