First let me say, I am no guru on the subject but I do have my own personal convictions and am also interested in what you think. The question: Is it ok for the audience to clap after a song in church? Some people say no because the applause is being directed at the performers and God is being left out. Some may say “amen” or just do nothing at all. Here is what DA Carson says:
“So what we need, then, is a prayer life that thanks God for the people of God, and then tells the people of God what we thank God for…This obvious lesson may have a bearing on the rising incidence of applause in many Western churches. Applause used to be unknown. Then it came to be deployed after special music. Now it is sometimes heard punctuating sermons. This is, I think, a regressive step. True, some might consider this to be a kind of cultural equivalent to a voiced ‘Amen!’ I take the point, and would not want to introduce new legalism by banning applause outright. But the fundamental difference between ‘Amen!’ and applause must be noted: the ‘Amen!’ is directed to God, even if it serves to encourage the person who is ministering, while applause in our culture signals approval of the performer. God is left out, and the ‘performer’ may the more easily be seduced into pride. This is one of several ways by which the rules of the entertainment world have subtly slipped into corporate worship and are in danger of destroying it from within” (Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, p. 88).
I definitely agree with Carson’s last statement in that we need to be carefully thinking about our worship and how it is sometimes wrongfully affected by the world and cultural standards. Another question I think that needs to be asked of the worshipper is the “why”. Is the clapping or shouting a way to audibly congratulate the performer? Or is coming from a deeper built up joy inside them that they are now showing externally by applauding? I think either answer can be acceptable if is coming from the heart.
First, think of someone reacting to something they are super excited about, like opening a great gift. I think people can react to the Gospel in a similar fashion. We are so gripped with the reality that a holy and righteous God saved a sinner and a wretch like me and we are overcome that we simply cannot keep silent! Times like these definitely merit for applause or a shout of joy from our hearts. Consider these verses: “Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music.” – Psalm 98:4. “Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.” – Psalm 47:1.
But I also think it is acceptable to have your applause directed to the performer(s). God has given them that talent and gift and it is ok to say what a great guitar player they are or how nice the solo singer sounded. However, although your nice comment may be coming from the right place, the performer’s heart may not be hearing it that way. Ego and pride can be rampant and easily poured into if we aren’t careful with how we complement each other.
Personally, I think it can be very encouraging and uplifting to the worship leader and/or performers. Of course we know that our worship is only made acceptable to God through Jesus and His sacrifice and definitely not because people like the music or that their clapping means “true” worship is taking place. And although I believe external bodily orientations such as lifting hands or applause should not be harshly insisted upon in churches because it is a matter of the heart, I am often very inspired by hearing the congregation singing louder or saying “amen”. It amplifies the joy in my heart when I am singing true things about God along with other fellow believers!
I made this post on my blog a few weeks ago, but wanted to know what do you guys think?
Some interesting thoughts, David. Don't want to get caught up in a legalistic discussion on this, but here's what comes to mind:
- if the worship team finishes a real barn-storming praise song and the congregation just stands there blinking back at us, I find myself wondering, "What's wrong with them?"
- if the worship team finishes a moving song of worship that speaks of brokeness and crying out to God in repentance and humbleness, and the congregation breaks into rousing applause and cheering, then I would also find myself wondering, "What's wrong with them?"
In my book, the congregation that can react appropriately to the worship and praise experience that they've just been through is a congregation that is finally starting to think about what they are doing and why. And I love it.
Is it ok for the audience to clap after a song in church?
Forms and meanings. Different forms can have different meanings - all depending on the context and motives of the person.
In today's culture, applause is typically given in appreciation of a performance. Holy Scripture tells us to encourage one another. If the congregation wants to appreciate the worship team's work through applause, let them.
I think I owe it to my praise team (the younger ones) to revisit this topic... more than that during Bible study, prayer meetings and the like we as leaders owe it to the congregation to explore the subject... I think the only real danger is in a lack of understanding surrounding worship... I agree with Rick and I think having an open relationship with the body about topics like shouting for joy, clapping or even whispering amen as we move into prayer after a song of reflection will help people feel comfortable to express themselves
When I think of the role of leading in worship, or teaching a bible lesson, or preaching the word... it should all be part of moving closer to Christ and to each other...
Pride wants to kick in when we're told how well we played, sang or preached but if we're open and honest about our motivation, we expect something. The same Holy Spirit that moves us to 'perform' is active in the heart of those who listen... not everyone is moved by The Spirit in the same way but if God is using us, the Body of Christ will acknowledge that fact, even though some might be clapping for the wrong reason.
Though raised in non-applause, non-Amen churches, then later serving in yea-Amen-clap-all-you-want churches, I still hesitate to make any pontifical statement about applause, but:
Curiosity: In our Traditional service, where nothing is amenned, and there is no hushed-awe response after the Scripture, none of that, the sweet little old ladies burst into applause after the choir anthem. Now in my new church I get to play the Doxology on a large organ with all the stops out, and I want to raise my hands and shout and sing more glories to God, but it's all sudden, total silent, and I wouldn't dare peep!
Applause may mean encouragement, which is a virtue (even a spiritual gift for some) extolled many times in the New Testament as well as the Old. They are making a semi-personal expression of thanks that someone cares to give them good music (in many churches, the Traditional service is considered a secondary thing, necessary to keep the old folks from grumbling).
We don't need to encourage God; but we may also give Him thanks through clapping our hands.
Any historians out there who might know of the origin of the "solemn service" concept in New Testament Christianity? The Old Testament has no instructions for the conduct of a service except for a couple of solemn assemblies mentioned; and the New has a few rules about what not to do. Poeple are noisy and social; how did we end up so succesfully getting everyone quiet?
What I understand people are saying, is where the applause is going. we don't do it for the pastor or the cleaner or the greeters at the door, why then do it for the band, when we are all doing our thing for and to God? IMO, we should not applaued the doing but why and to who, it was done - God. Otherwise you become carnal and idolistic in your worship - like the pharasees.
Praise God and applaued Him, shout and proclaim Him - always. Then later, lift up your brothers and sisters in the band ( and other positions held) and let them know you appreciate them for their offering to God, with what God has given them. but, not in a false empty, stroking the pride thing, that does not honour God, or them.
Church is about God, not an entertainment venue that you try to please the people; whether they are in the congregation or on the stage; is it not?