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Ok a few days ago my sister-in-law posted a question on her Facebook page about Psalm 47:1

O clap your hands, all ye people; shout unto God with the voice of triumph.

Her question got me to thinking, and I think that was her intention, about worship and forms of worship in church.The question that my sister-in-law posted was this:

1. Psalms are songs
2. Songs are for praising God
3. This psalm seems to indicate that clapping and shouting should be part of worship to God in song

This is a hotly debated subject if you look on the internet you will find a wide variance of beliefs about clapping in church. Some going so far as to say if you clap in church you are a wicked sinner and on the day of judgment God will say to you–”depart from me you worker of iniquity I never knew you.” I think that view might be a little too far fetched. That brings us back to the question, what are we to make of this and should we be clapping in church? Is this a command?

When I looked at this passage and did a little research in the Psalms I only find 2 references for clapping during worship of God and one of them involves floods Psalm 98:9 Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together. On the other hand you will find at least 70 or more references to singing in Psalms. I think this alone is enough to start to question the importance of clapping and singing. I think that we get into dangerous territory when we start basing what we do on one verse of scripture rather than the whole council of God’s word. Especially to justify something that seems so small in light of the multiple times we are told to sing.

One worship leader (a term I do not like and find very misleading, but that’s another matter) says that the reason many worship leaders use clapping include the following:

  • clapping creates a segue between songs to eliminate dead space (is dead space and silent reflection bad?)
  • clapping gives a sense of the Holy Spirit moving in a worship service (a dangerous thing in my opinion)
  • clapping is entertaining and fun especially if cleverly used in a creative clap pattern (where is the focus? on the worshiping of God or entertaining people)

I did find one very funny post about clapping in church. . .I think this post alone is a good reason not to clap but again that is off topic.

I think the real issue we are talking about is worship in the church. How should we worship?  First me must clarify that worship is giving to God. We do that in the service not only in song but also in prayer, special music, and the preaching. This is why I feel the term worship leader is misleading it gives us the idea that the worship leader or worship team are leading the worship when in reality they are only a small part of the worship in most services. They generally have nothing to do with prayer time and the preaching time or in leading during those times. So how do we worship? I think we find the answer in the fact that God wants us to worship him in Spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24

23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.  24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

I believe that this is telling us that we need to have the focus on God and not anything else. To worship in Spirit indicates that there has been a heart change and a new song in our heart. To worship in truth means that when we worship it is to be aligned with His Truth. God desires his people to worship him with songs that have sound doctrine (this is a real problem with many songs used in worship today) and to worship him in spirit and in truth and with their hearts and minds. Some people think that Worship of God only happens when instruments play and people sing this is a wrong notion of what worship is. It should occur every day, it is not just passive, and it doesn’t only happen during the song time at church. For example, I can worship God by having my daily  devotions, by meditating on his Word, and by obeying what He commands.

Paul said, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;” (Ephesians 5:19). This calls for a wide variety of worship styles, but the importance here, I believe, is not the style so much as the substance. I believe God has given us liberty in how we worship but with that comes great responsibility to make sure it is done in a glorifying manner. I have been in services that resemble rock concerts and I have been in services that resemble funerals as well, neither of which I felt glorified the Lord fully or were worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.

I think how we worship is important.  For example, imagine an unbeliever walking into a church with a heavy dose of Contemporary songs, flashing lights, drums, guitars, several keyboards, a place where the people can dress any way they feel, and the preaching focuses on meeting felt needs, this gives the unbeliever the painful belief that the people in this church are no better than those that organized the rock concert he most recently attended. An unbeliever walking into a church for the first time should immediately recognize that this is a holy place and those running and attending the church are serious about God.

Worship needs to be done in such a way as to contain spiritual truth and be doctrinally sound. Does this mean it can only be done one way, the answer is NO! But those that throw out the wonderful depth of God’s Word to clap hands, raise hands, fall to the ground so that they somehow feel connected to the Spirit or God through their worship songs are also wrong. We need to have a heart change in us as we worship. Much of modern “contemporary” worship is directed to feelings only and not the heart. The songs need to go along and support the message of the scripture and the preaching teaching ministry of the church.

So what should be our guideline when we ask if something should be included in our church worship. Here are some guidelines, not just my ideas, others that I admire have put forth similar list. Ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Is the worship God focused?
  • Does the music advocate a full understanding of God and His standing?
  • Is what we doing in our worship being done in a decent and orderly fashion?
  • Is the content of the music Biblically sound?
  • Is the music used in worship promoting Church Unity or are others brothers and sisters going to be offended by the song choices?
  • Is what we doing done to the best of our talents and in an excellent manner?
  • Is the music part of worship preparing the heart for the message part of worship?
  • Is your church’s philosophy of music based on biblical principles?

This is of course not an exhaustive list but a good start to help us ask the right questions when it comes to worshiping in Church. Back to the original question should we clap while singing. I think we can clap if it meets the criteria listed above but if not we should reconsider why we are doing it. This goes for anything we are using in our worship, including instruments, songs, or anything else for that matter.


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