Episode 018: Four Steps To Cultivate Expressive Worship In Your Church

Four Steps To Cultivate Expressive Worship In Your Church


In this episode, we’re looking at 4 practical steps to nurture and cultivate expressive worship in your church.




Cultivating biblical expression in your church is really about two things:

1) Helping people to show on the outside what’s happening on the inside.

2) helping people understand that often, our actions must precede our attitude.

So there’s a both/and when it comes to expression during worship–it allows what’s on the inside to be expressed on the outside. And it lets the outward actions help change the inward attitude.

Note Of Caution

It’s dangerous to use feeling and emotion as a measuring tool of our worship service.

There are people in your church and mine who simply do not connect with God through this kind of expressive, musical worship. For them, they might be connect deeply with God when they are out on a hike, or studying scripture, or reciting liturgy, or in some other activity.

I would recommend to you Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways to understand this concept better.


Four Steps To Cultivate Expressive Worship

1. Lead And Model Biblical Expressions

Following The Leader

Most people’s expression won’t exceed the expression of those who are leading them.

So you need to understand and model biblical expression, but your team needs to as well. If they are on the platform, they have a responsibility to be visual leaders.

Preparation Is Key

You and me, and our teams, we can’t be expressive and engaging if our heads are glued to a music stand or our eyes are always on our instrument. So we need to practice and know our music well, so we can lead expressively.

Worship With Expression On And Off The Platform 

Encourage your team to practice worship expression when they’re NOT on the platform–when they’re part of the congregation.

2. Teach Biblical Expressions To Your Congregation

If we don’t teach that expression in worship is biblical, how will our people know?



  • Psalm 96
  • Ephesians 5
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26


  • Psalm 24:3
  • Isaiah 29:23
  • Psalm 47

Raising hands/arms:

  • Psalm 28:2


Teach The Worship Of Heaven:

What does perfect worship look like?

  • Isaiah 6
  • Revelation 4, 5, 7, 11, 15, 19, etc.

What kinds of things do we see here?

And as we teach those we need to talk frankly with our church and ask them: Does the culture of our church discourage these things? Should the culture of our church trump the culture of heaven?

Additional Practical Suggestions For Teaching Expression In Worship

  • Get backing and support from your senior pastor and/or elder/board.
  • You may have to replace a song to make room for this teaching
  • Make the ask.
    Ask your people to try it. This is easy for standing, but might be tougher (in your context) for hand-raising and kneeling.

3. Weaving Expression Into Your Worship Culture

  • Teach it in smaller settings – Nights of worship, prayer gatherings, small groups, etc.
  • When a song talks about an expression, do it.
    • Give brief instruction
    • Give an out to those who don’t feel comfortable
  • Continue to frequently revisit expression with your team members.
  • Look for moments in the service where a particular expression could be especially meaningful.
  • Invite with why: “I’d welcome you to raise your hands as outward sign of inner surrendered heart.”

What Not To Do:

  • Don’t push too hard or guilt people into this.
  • Don’t expect changes overnight.
  • Don’t equate the lack of expression with spiritual shallowness or non-receptivity. We don’t know what’s happening on the inside.


4. Pray For Spiritual Breakthrough.

The biggest barrier to expression isn’t culture or lack of knowledge. It’s cold hearts, bitterness, wounded spirits, unconfessed sin, apathy, etc.

Don’t neglect this aspect of moving your church to more expressive worship. The Holy Spirit can do in one moment what would take us as leaders years to cultivate. And even then, we might not have cultivated anything genuine.

But I don’t think our intentional work to cultivate expression in worship negates the Holy Spirit. If we are doing this with the right attitude and prayerful dependence on him, he will be in this and working behind the scenes doing what we can never do–and that’s to change people’s hearts and minds.

Because ultimately, we want worship expression to be the by-product of a heart that’s genuinely longing for God.

For Discussion Below: What are some ways that you help cultivate expressive worship in your church?

Jon Nicol