Shouting and Waving Hands

Question and Answer.


“A friend of mine asks why we in the church of Christ do not engage in shouting and ‘lifting up holy hands’ in worship. She thinks we are not sincere if we don’t do this. Would you please address this on your website?”


It never ceases to amaze me that people continue to measure spiritual sincerity by external display. The only valid way to measure one’s spiritual sincerity is by looking at his or her daily life of service to God and compare it with what the word of God requires. In other words, what spiritual fruit is that person producing (John 15:1 – 5; Galatians 5:22 – 25). Frenzied antics during worship does nothing to confirm anyone’s spiritual sincerity or depth.

With regard to congregational worship, the Bible says, “all things must be done properly and in an orderly manner” (First Corinthians 14:40; New American Standard Bible). Shouting and waving hands is certainly disruptive to most worshipers. If you remember the context of this letter (and the wildly notorious reputation of Corinth), “disorder” and “confusion” are the perfect words to characterize the Lord’s church in that city and the culture of Corinth itself.

Truly spiritual people do not need ostentatious, artificial outward trappings to worship God “in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Many will contend that praying “lifting up holy hands” (1 Timothy 2:8), authorizes such activity in worship. But in the Bible, the idea of lifting up holy hands has to do with the inner life and not the physical posture. It simply means to live a holy and godly life, always with the attitude of supplication to God, seeking His grace and blessings.

The apostle Paul writes of trying to enhance the spiritual by exalting the physical. Notice carefully the point he makes . . .

“You began your life in Christ by the Spirit. Now are you trying to make it complete by your own power? That is foolish.” – Galatians 3:3 (New Century Version)

We don’t become spiritual by what we do physically. We don’t become “more spiritual” by what we do physically, either. All the shouting and hand-waving does not mean there is more depth and sincerity in our spirituality.

We need to go back and study again what Jesus said in Matthew chapter 23 about the teachers and interpreters of the Law of Moses . . . 

“Everything they do is for show. On their arms they wear extra wide prayer boxes with Scripture verses inside, and they wear robes with extra long tassels. And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the synagogues.” – Matthew 23:5, 6

When people insist on putting on a display to show how righteous, spiritual or religious they are, this passage (and others) has to apply. Thank you for your question.

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