For some time now I have been “sitting on my hands” concerning all the clapping that Christians do. It is not as trite as it sounds, allow me to explain.
We clap for “Harry Carey” preaching, public reading of scripture (even if the content of the passage is more sobering), a sorrowful song sung on Good Friday, and when we need to transition in the service and cover awkward silence with “let’s PTL.” as though the only way to do that is by clapping.
We clap for God in the same kind of way that we “love” things. For example we say, We love God, our wife, chocolate, classic cars, our dog, the newest TV show, etc. So we love or clap for everything, therefore we actually value nothing.
We are as programed to clap “for God” as Pavlov’s dog was to respond to the bell. We rarely clap out of pure passion for God, but rather because we were either entertained or obligated by a performance. God forbid that we should not clap for the public performance because we might sever someone’s self esteem gland. Not to say anything of the standing ovations that we give.
I am really surprised that churches have not yet stooped to buying an Applause Machine, that wonderful device developed by an insecure performance based culture that claps for you at the push of a button.
Let me also be quick to say that most of this clapping in church is directed toward our musically gifted people who are NOT using their gifts for the purpose of personal gratification. Yes we all have egos, but they are just humbly using their gifts to bring glory to God not to themselves. This isn’t really about them, but all of us.
What I am calling for is for a greater diversity of expression that is rooted in a genuine heart response as a Body to our interactive involvement as the people of God with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Not expression for the sake of expression itself (like we currently do with clapping), but for a more authentic heart initiated response to the work of God in our midst of gathering.
Rather than just going with the “stand by” of clapping for Jesus, we need leaders who can call the whole Body into appropriate responses to the move or voice of God. If in fact we are not currently experiencing a divinely charged moment within a church setting then we do not need to make up a response to appear spiritual like we do now with excessive clapping.
The Bible has numerous ways in which people appropriately (we’ve seen and heard the inappropriate…howling, barking etc.) responded to the majesty and splendor of God’s presence. Such as, being still, kneeling, lying prostrate, raising hands, shouting, confessing, etc.
You have to admit that clapping at a song sung in Latin about the sorrow of the cross on Good Friday is as out of place and absurd as laughing would be after listening to a cancer survivors testimony.
We need leaders (spirit led conductors) who will not only teach us about God, but train us in appropriately responding to God.
“Clap On, Clap Off”