To Clap or not to Clap?
On Sunday the Handbell Choir played a rousing anthem during the 11:00 service. It was wonderful, and if you were there, you know what happened next. There was a brief, silent, pregnant pause followed by a hearty round of applause. I described it to someone after the service as if “the congregation thought they shouldn’t applaud, but they just couldn’t help it!”
Now there’s a good question: Is applause appropriate in a situation like that? Some say no! I knew a pastor who interrupted the applause of his congregation to chastise them for what they were doing. They never did it again!
At the risk of over simplifying, here are the two sides of the discussion:
To Clap: “Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalm 47:1) The Bible doesn’t seem to have a hangup about clapping before the Lord, so why do we?
Not to Clap: Worship is not a performance. We glorify God alone, and clapping in worship reinforces the idea that someone is on a stage performing for our enjoyment. It’s worship, not a concert. (That’s pretty close to the lecture that pastor gave his congregation.)
Here’s where I am and what I do: I’m a thoughtful clapper. I think there are times when clapping is an appropriate expression of praise and gratitude to God. On Sunday, I clapped because it felt odd not to. Maybe that’s my way of saying I was caught up in the moment and applause was a way to honor God because I agreed with and appreciated the gift that had been offered. It was a way to say “Amen, and thanks be to God!”
Is applause always appropriate? Probably not, because we can easily slide into the worship-as-performance mindset. But there certainly are there times that applause is an expression of gratitude for, enthusiasm about, and worship of the Lord who delights in our praise. Does God want us to hold that in? I don’t think so.