The Worship Quote of the Week for (03/01/2005):

Displays of Emotion in Worship
What does the Bible teach about displays of emotion in our worship of God? Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE is from a recent article by Bob Kauflin (

See below for an opportunity to hear Bob Kauflin
lecture in Louisville, Kentucky, March 10-11, 2005.

Are displays of emotion in public praise unbiblical? Should a Christian feel moved when singing songs to God? If you do feel moved, should you hide it? How do we know whether or not feelings in worship are honoring God or simply gratifying a craving for personal experience? What part do emotions play in the worship of God? To answer these questions, we need to look at the place of emotions in Scripture. From there we'll look at what, if anything, our feelings reveal. Finally, we'll seek to establish some biblical guidelines for emotions in congregational worship.

Our attitude toward emotional expression can be influenced by a number of factors including our culture, family background, temperament, and what we've been taught. For instance, extroverts are often the product of outgoing parents. People from Western cultures tend to be more expressive than those from Eastern cultures. However, Scripture seems to allow for and even encourage many different kinds of emotions. Joy, fear, awe, sorrow, anger, and love all seem to merit God's approval at different times. We see in Jesus Himself an example of varied and intense emotional expression. He wept. He rejoiced. He raged in righteous fury at those who turned God's house into a den of thieves. He also felt compassion for the crowds who were like sheep without a shepherd.

Probably the most helpful biblical teaching on emotions in worship is the book of Psalms. There we find David and other writers pouring out their hearts to God in a way that many of us would find problematic, if not disconcerting. Talk about a range of emotions! One moment we overhear the worshiper pouring out his heart to God in despair, grief, and anger. The next moment, we find him in another place exuberantly celebrating the goodness and faithfulness of God through shouting, clapping, dancing, and loud singing.

Given such evidence, it would be difficult to argue from Scripture that emotional expression is out of place in the worship of God. But we can still ask if these kinds of emotional expressions are meant only for an ancient Hebrew culture. It will help us to look at what emotions reveal and where they originate. We'll do that next time. [Now, doesn’t that make you want to go to and sign up for Bob’s weekly column?]

—Bob Kauflin, in a recent issue of his e-mail column “Worship Matters” for Kauflin is a gifted songwriter, performer, and arranger. He serves as Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and as Worship Leader at Covenant Life Church in Gathersburg, Maryland. I strongly recommend Bob’s weekly column ( and the various worship resources available from

[See below for a list of lectures that Bob will present on the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary on March 10 and 11, 2005, as part of our INSTITUTE FOR CHRISTIAN WORSHIP. All lectures are free and open to the public. Please e-mail your friends who may be near Louisville, Kentucky.]

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky


Thursday, March 10, 2005
10:00 A.M. Worship Leadership at Thursday Chapel
11:30 A.M. “Writing Songs for Congregational Worship”
12:30 P.M. “Ten Core Values of Biblical Worship”
1:30 P.M.: “Worship Priorities for the Long-Term: Serving Future Generations”

Friday, March 11, 2005
2:00 P.M. “Arranging the Rhythm Section for Contemporary Worship”