Why I Get to Pick and Choose Which Verses to Follow

Christians love to pick and choose their favorite verses. Just ask a Christian some time about a favorite verse or passage, and get ready to settle in for a long listen. She or he will go on at length about how the words speak to them, and how these are more meaningful than other passages. You’ll soon get the impression that you’re being proselytized.

Oh, it’s true. The verse evangelist – technically known as a versangelist – wants you not only to understand but to become a fellow believer. They’re not at all that interested if you have another take on the verse. Join them or risk being misunderstood, pitied, perhaps even shunned. Get active and join in the movement, or get out of the way.

Yes, to a versangelist’s way of thinking when it comes to singing their favorite line in a praise song there is only one way to join the movement …

What’s that? You thought I was talking about Bible verses?

Praise Singing Dogmatics

Versangelists are dogmatic about their favorite lines in praise songs, taking them as instructive for proper praise activity. But their inconsistency is baffling to me.

Just last week I was at church and the song we sang had the words “We stand and lift up our hands.” Lots of people dutifully raised their hands.

That’s fine by me. People like to raise their hands, although not everyone who sees them understands why. Back when I was in law school a friend said perhaps they were thinking it got them closer to God. (That’s silly, of course. Everyone knows it’s the bigger the hair the closer to God; nothing to do with hands.)

No, I think it’s because they take the song as an instruction manual. They see the words “We stand and lift up our hands” on the screen and think, “Hey, I can lift up my hands just like the song says. This is easy!”

I’ve had conversations with those versangelists, too, usually as they stand next to me in church and notice my arms down at my sides. “How can you not raise your hands when singing those songs, those lines?” they ask.

So I ask them to tell me what they expect me to do when we get to the next line? “We bow down and worship him now.” I didn’t see anyone bowing down, not even the handraisers. What gives?

Picking and choosing, that’s what it is.

Well I refuse to be a picky chooser, and keeping my hands down is a show of solidarity with all the other counter-versangelists out there.

Well, that and the fact that I’ve not mastered the art of raising my hands without feeling like I’m back on the disco dance floor from my high school days.


[Here’s a handy hand-raising guide from Tim Hawkins:]


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13 Responses to Why I Get to Pick and Choose Which Verses to Follow

  1. Pingback: Why I Get to Pick and Choose Which Verses to Follow Post by Tim Fall — @tim_fall Tim’s Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another | Talmidimblogging

  2. FW Rez says:


    You should talk to your worship leader and ask when they plan on singing that song again. That way you can come to church dressed in your leisure suit on the given Sunday and when they come to those lines you can raise your hands, resting assured that you will look no more out of place than if you hadn’t raised your hands.

  3. Great post, Tim, and of course Tim Hawkins is SO FUNNY! It’s good to laugh at ourselves. Our physical posture in worship is such an individual thing. When I’m on a music team at church I can see the whole range of postures: arms outstretched, hands up, arms down, arms folded, eyes closed, eyes open. This should never be an area in which we judge each other – and I think that judging can go both ways. Sometimes I hear people say “They’re raising their hands, they must think they’re more spiritual than me” — but it’s not fair to assume that because someone else is doing what I’m not, they consider themselves superior. Maybe one aspect of worshpping in spirit and in truth is giving ourselves and others permission to BE ourselves, whether we’re a hand-raiser or a non-hand-raiser.

    BUT … I would say, if you’re standing in church thinking, “I wish I could raise my hands like that” or “I think I might like to try that” … DO IT. Relax those shoulders. Let your hands float upward, even if you do look like you’re carrying a TV. Don’t feel pressured to do it, but don’t assume you never could.

    • Tim says:

      I love your take away on this, Jeannie. If someone wants to give it a try, go ahead!

    • Jen says:

      Agreed, Jeannie. At times, I’ve had snide comments and/or “dirty looks” for clapping or raising my hands. There are always those who will say it’s fake. Or otherwise find something wrong. Tis better to be occupied with worship than with how others are worshipping (or not).

  4. Jennwith2ns says:

    I usually raise my hands during verses like that because 1) I’m too young to have participated in such disco antics (“I’m too young” is not something I say that much anymore, so that felt kinda nice–thanks, Tim), 2) hand-raising (despite my Conservative Baptist upbringing) is a legitimate way that I worship sometimes, and 3) it feels dishonest to sing that I’m doing something when I’m not actually doing it. Sometimes I also even bow down–although not usually in that same song because whiplash–although it kind of sounds like a yogic sun salutation, now that I think about it… It’s why I usually stopped singing “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever” when it got to the “Oh I feel like dancing…they will dance with joy like we’re dancing now” bridge–although I also really enjoyed that part in my usually undemonstrative church of my youth, where everyone dutifully sang the words without ever dancing. 😉

  5. Diana says:

    Versangelist. Brilliant! I believe I know several versangelists! One young gal especially seems to have a verse stuck in her head all the time. (No, I did NOT just call her flakey.)

    I believe I’ve actually seen all of those types of hand-raisers in my church. I think the “women washing windows” must be addictive… some of those ladies continue to do that one in their daily lives. (Great, now I’m gonna laugh every time I see them do that.) (On second thought, I might just bust out laughing in church counting all the different types I see.)

    And I get to call you a whippersnapper… I’m 60. Ha!

    First time here. Found your blog via…. uh… I forget now. But I’ll be back to visit! Have a blessed week! 🙂

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