What’s the difference between saying “let’s clap our hands” and “let’s celebrate God’s greatness by clapping our hands together”?
Just a few words.
And a big distinction.
In the first case, I’m asking people to respond to my desire for them to clap – by clapping.
In the second case, I’m asking people to respond to the greatness and glory of God by clapping.
Would most people notice the difference? Maybe not. Is it a huge difference? No. But do those few words make any difference? I would argue that they do.
The scary reality is that if a worship leader asks a congregation to do something, a good majority of people will do it. For example, if I got up on Sunday morning and said “let’s kneel as we sing this song”, then most people will kneel. Will they know why I’m asking them to kneel? No. They’re mainly kneeling because I asked them to.
Some worship leaders get used to this power, and get in the habit of giving short posture instructions every know and then. If you’re really brave you’ll say something like “let’s lift up a shout!” and maybe some brave people will.
We don’t often get the opportunity to give lengthy exhortations and/or teachings on the topic of physical expressiveness in worship. Sometimes (most of the time?) all we get is those five seconds in between a chorus and a verse. If we beef up those few-seconds-long exhortations with a bit more God-centered truth, the cumulative effect over a year could be substantial.
I encourage all of us to look for ways to add context to our brief exhortations, if and when they occur. Instead of “let’s lift our hands” try “let’s exalt our Savior with our bodies and lift our hands in praise”. Instead of “clap your hands everybody!” try “In Psalm 47 we’re encouraged to ‘clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!’ let’s respond to God’s glory by clapping our hands together.”
It might feel clunky and unnatural at first. You’ll definitely revert backwards once in a while. But stretch yourself and feed your congregation, a few words at a time.
Here’s an example of how I did this a few Sunday mornings ago at my church while leading Matt Redman’s “The Glory of Our King”.