For those who know me, you are aware that part of my responsibility in the job I have is to host conferences and camps for teenagers. Anyone who has been in those environments with me is familiar with the culture, marked by exuberant praise and worship. Recently I was asked why I place such value on shouting, dancing, and other wild and free expressions of adoration to the Lord. As I responded, I wondered how many others have the same question. Below was my answer. It should be noted, God often operates in the realm of mystery. Praise to some degree is a mystery. It isn’t necessarily logical and in alignment with conventional human thinking and rationale. Some things are simply a mystery of faith. So here you go, 5 reasons I value exuberant praise.
1. There is biblical precedent
It is always important to begin with scripture and build from there. The biblical references are many as it pertains to shouting, dancing, lifting hands, clapping, making joyful noises, lifting our voices, etc. For the sake of brevity I will refrain from unloading a Google search of bible verses with the aforementioned words. Suffice it to say, these expressions are found in the Bible thus can be applicable to us today.
2. Exuberant praise defies our penchant for self-preservation.
Through the years I have literally watched tens of thousands of young men and women express themselves in praise/worship with wild freedom. The teen years are heavy laden with fear of embarrassment, and an overt concern with the opinions of their peers. The truth is, although we don’t want to admit it, this is not a teenage issue. It is a human being issue that is found in adults just as much as a kid. It just takes a different shape in the 38 year old than it does in the 18 year old. Nonetheless, this concern with the opinion of others manifests in a million ways and is often one of the greatest inhibitors of faithfulness and spiritual development. There is something powerful about freedom in praise/worship that contends with our natural tendencies. It compels us to be more concerned with the attention of the Lord than that of our peers. It bids us to strip off a fear of ridicule, embarrassment, and diminished popularity to demonstrate the opinion of God is of greater value. It is the conscious act of subduing the flesh (and all its natural proclivities).
3. Exuberant praise opens hearts to receive
Often, these expressions create in a person an openness to receive what the Lord wants to do. I have watched many young men and women, through their shout and dance, open their heart up for a deep healing by the Lord. Once again, the subduing of flesh creates a vulnerability to and a higher consciousness of God thus enabling the Lord to have access to places of the heart previously walled off.
4. Exuberant praise invokes faith
There is something about a shout, a dance, a declaration of the capabilities and possibilities in Christ that stirs faith in the heart of a person. It shifts the atmosphere and causes hearts to have anticipation. A shout of victory stirs the heart that God is indeed victorious over their situations. A dance of freedom is a statement that my situations are not too heavy for God. A declaration of praise is a reminder that what I am dealing with is not too big for Jesus.
5. Exuberant praise honors the Lord
Returning to biblical precedent, there is clear evidence these expressions are a means to honor the Lord. The Lord receives these expressions and is blessed by them. Most people are familiar with the book by Gary Chapman, “The Five Love Languages”. The premise of the book is that each person in a relationship has a particular love language that moves their heart. As a married couple, each person may have a different love language. The husband may have “Words of Affirmation” as his love language whereas the wife may have “Acts of Service”. While the husband may be showing love to his wife based on the language he values, it is “Acts of Service” that truly moves her heart. The husband has the responsibility to not only show love in the way he prefers but to also show love in the way his wife prefers. I consider exuberant praise to fall into this line of thinking. If it moves the heart of the Lord, I have a responsibility to offer it to him from time to time.
Ultimately, the Lord can be honored equally with silence as well as volume. Neither is of greater value, the posture of the heart validates the expression. In my walk with Jesus I have come to the conclusion it is necessary for me to be comfortable with both ends of the spectrum, exuberant expressions and deep, monastic contemplation. Our life with Jesus is not an either/or debate. It is a this/and experience. The either/or thought process often creates dogmatism, disunity, and arrogance. You can dance until your clothes are wringing with sweat or be impeccably reverent and completely miss the point…Jesus deserves it all and it is all beneficial to us, his kids.