Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Clapping in Church?

Is it ever appropriate to clap in church?  Though I understand it makes me a dinosaur in contemporary Protestant circles, I am inclined to agree with this priest, who argues that the answer is generally, "No."  While he allows for spontaneous applause in response to what might be regarded as a recognition of the activity of the Holy Spirit, he argues that applause is never appropriate in response to a human achievement, such as the performance of music in a worship service.

Why is this?  Well, because worship is supposed to draw attention to the glory of God.  The praise of men is not an appropriate response in worship.

Of course, I am aware of biblical instructions to "clap to the Lord," but Old Testament worship was not held in the context of our modern entertainment culture, and worship services were not conducted in settings with the feel of performance halls. The change in cultural context is not insignificant.  I have heard many a church leader, no doubt attempting to adhere to the Bible's language, urge congregants to "give the Lord a hand," but these types of demands are far too chummy to 21st century ears, and one cannot help but notice that they typically arise at the end of a rousing song performance or perhaps a stirring personal story.  The cry to give God a hand may be nothing more than an act of self-delusion in that context, the real intent being to reward the performer.

I find it hardest not to cheer when children have been the ones doing the performing, and I am sure that my non-clapping provides evidence to those around me that I am a hard-hearted curmudgeon.  Isn't it right to encourage children?  Why, yes, it is.  Children should be encouraged to understand that their acts of worship are not about themselves, and that if they are privileged to lead in some aspect of worship, it is the praise of God that should be in view.  It is right that children be verbally thanked for using any natural gifts as acts of worship, but given that they are immersed in our entertainment culture, it is best not to give them the impression that said culture even gains expression in the church.

I am thankful for those who lead in worship services.  I try to remember to tell them so at appropriate times.  However, I keep my hands still during worship.

Hat Tip:  The Aquila Report

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