As a recent transplant to a “hand-raising church,” I sometimes find myself unsure of my next move. Clapping with the music seems safe enough, but actually putting my hands in the air seems a bit daring for a girl raised in a conservative, traditional denomination. And what am I supposed to at those moments when I feel tears welling up in my eyes because I feel so moved by the presence of God? Wipe them away? Let them fall?
In a blog post, author Sarah Bessey shares a story that is nearly the opposite of mine. Bessey grew up in a church that worshipped with dancing and waving flags. She says that as a young girl, she would wave the fabric and twirl around to the music. Sometimes Bessey pridefully tried to be noticed by the adults, but other times, she truly connected with God as she felt the Spirit flow through her body.
Over time, she says, people stopped dancing. It became something that was mocked and looked down upon. She then explored other styles of worship.
“I wandered through other church traditions, traditional, contemporary, liturgical, meditative, mystic, seeker-sensitive, emerging, ancient-future, denominational, mega-church, old church, new church, basement church, no church for a while there,” she wrote.
Decades later, Bessey found herself back where she started.
“...my roots belong where I was first planted, I’ve reconciled myself to that now,” Bessey wrote.
Bessey found a church that does not look down on waving flags and dancing. Her own small children now spin with their flags to music. While she says that while dancing no longer feels natural to her, she cries and sings too loud.
You do not have to apologize for dancing in church, or crying, or responding to the presence of God in any other human way. If you feel moved to raise your hands, do it, and don’t worry what anyone else thinks about your moment enveloped in the Spirit.
As Bessey found, she was not too mature for the “happy-clappy” style of worship that she grew up in. Instead, it was how she best connected to God.
Writer and pastor Joe McKeever said in a Crosswalk.com article that Christians are to worship God in the way we are commanded in scripture. This means we must sing, praise, rejoice, pray and give.
McKeever also pointed out that worship is not for you, but for God. You are not supposed to get anything out of a worship service, you are to give all you have to the Lord.
Worshipping God can come in a variety of forms. It can be in a classic hymn or a powerful chorus of “How Great is Our God.” It can be done with a liturgical dance, and yes, by waving flags. It can move you to tears or it can leave you dry-eyed and solemn. It can happen in a church filled with thousands of people or it can take place alone. There is no perfect formula for worship; if what you are doing praises the name of God, you are doing it right.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.