To Clap Or Not To Clap?

Worship Together posted a Facebook article about clapping during worship.  Here is an excerpt:

“Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy”. Psalm 47:1.

With as much clapping as we do in church now days you would think that clapping in worship was mandated by the Lord. Not so. In fact, there are only 2 references in the NASB for clapping during worship celebration and one of them involves rivers and not people! Psalm 47:1 (shown above) and Psalm 98:8 that says “Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.”

Compare this to over 70 references for singing just in the Psalms and we begin to see how little clapping has to do with our biblical worship.

We should, however, pay attention to Psalm 47:1. Especially since it was written specifically for the music director. The Message paraphrase says “Applause, everyone. Bravo, bravissimo! Shout God-songs at the top of your lungs!”

But I believe worship leaders today (me included) over-emphasize clapping for several reasons:

  • Clapping creates a nice segue at the end of a song. No worship leader wants awkward “dead space” after a song while switching song keys or putting on a guitar capo. So we encourage clapping as a segue instead of a true expression of worship.
  • Clapping gives a false sense of the Holy Spirit moving in a worship gathering. Often, worship leaders misinterpret lively clapping as evidence of the Holy Spirit. This is not true and can be a stumbling block when the congregation does not clap along.
  • Clever clapping entertains the congregation. Some songs incorporate a clever clap pattern that’s fun. Anyone remember “We wanna see (clap, clap, clap), we wanna see (clap, clap, clap) we wanna see Jesus lifted high”? Everyone is so focused on clapping on time that the words and meaning of the song go unnoticed.

The best kind of clapping is the natural applause that occurs when the congregation is overwhelmed by God’s grace and wants to show thankfulness.

This is an interesting article.  What does YOUR church do?   My church will clap after a non-congregational song most every time and also when guest artists sing in concert at HBC.  We don’t clap during congregational songs, well,… ever?!

I really “applaud” (pun intended) the worship together writers for their three bullet points.  Clapping fills “Dead” space, gives a false sense of the Holy Spirit moving, and sometimes takes the focus off of the lyrics.  Sometimes, you “plan” too much in worship.  An energetic songs does not mandate clapping while singing.  If some clap, then let it be.  Don’t draw attention to it if you are unsure about clapping.  Let the Holy Spirit work in them and lead them to clapping instead of forcing something they are not led to do.  You can clap as a worship leader without asking the congregation to.  There is no right or wrong, except when we lead without the Holy Spirit leading us, first.

See the entire Facebook article here from WorshipTogether.Com.


4 thoughts on “To Clap Or Not To Clap?

  1. I agree with the writer. I’ve always felt that applauding at the end of anthems and special music in worship encourages a feeling of “performance” rather than it being a part of worship. And I also agree that when it happens spontaneously as a result of a particularly moving experience, that’s AOK, too. We had that experience this morning, with applause accompanied by numerous “Amens!”. The spirit moved through our music and the message was received by those listening. AND those singing, by the way. Great morning of worship!

  2. In the early years of our time with our current congregation the people would always clap after ‘performance’ songs presented by a soloist or choir, but never after a congregational expression. This seriously undermined the choir’s conviction that we were singing to God rather than performing for ‘man’s applause’. Rather than to forbid clapping after choir songs, we set about to make sure that the congregation was equally likely to celebrate and show enthusiasm at the end of a congregational song–thus making the practice of clapping (as a way of saying ‘amen’) seem to have a higher degree of integrity. These days, many of our folks realize that spontaneous clapping during or at the end of a song is not intended to show approval for a good performance, but rather enthusiastic agreement and praise to God.

  3. Long ago I used to attend a Seventh day Adventist church, and at the end of a song the people would say ” AMEN” and would never clap. Now days folks are clapping like it is a performance at some concert, how this breach crept into the church I have no idea. However, from what I understand when it comes to sacred music you should say “Amen” rather than clap, especially at a worship service. We are not there to glorify the flesh, we humans have a tendency to get puffed up and forget that its about God getting the praise not us.

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