I grew up in a church where appearance was everything. The pipe organ was one of the largest in the state, but we didn’t dare clap when the organist finished his performance. It was God’s house, and clapping was not allowed! I didn’t understand, but I knew better than to cross that line. I couldn’t imagine what might happen if I made a slip at church. Punishment was severe enough at home, but an offense in the crimson coated sanctuary would surely be worse. It was God’s house, and He was to be feared. I shake my head and sigh when I think about the way God was presented to me as a child, but I smile and thank God that I know better now.
My granddaddy was a preacher who played the piano loudly and sang hymns of praise at the top of his lungs. He wasn’t anything like Dr. Robinson who looked down from his pulpit with an air of judgment that filled me with a sense of dread. Granddaddy was a jovial man with thick glasses and an impish smile. I loved him so much because he loved to play. We had contests and games and all sorts of delicious sweet treats when we went to his farm in the mountains of western North Carolina.
Daddy left the mountains after WWII and did his best to get away from the heritage I embrace. The church we attended was the biggest in town and nothing like the little church my father attended as a child. Hymns were sung loudly and with enthusiasm in that little mountain church. Worship was done with the whole body, and shouting was encouraged. Daddy wanted his daughters to have a different life, and I know that meant he wanted more for us than he had as a child. I just wish my first experience with worship had been more like the worship David describes in Psalm 47.
Come, everyone! Clap your hands!
Shout to God with joyful praise!
For the Lord Most High is awesome.
He is the great King of all the earth.
He subdues the nations before us,
putting our enemies beneath our feet.
He chose the Promised Land as our inheritance,
the proud possession of Jacob’s descendants, whom he loves.
God has ascended with a mighty shout.
The Lord has ascended with trumpets blaring.
Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises!
For God is the King over all the earth.
Praise him with a psalm.
God reigns above the nations,
sitting on his holy throne.
The rulers of the world have gathered together
with the people of the God of Abraham.
For all the kings of the earth belong to God.
He is highly honored everywhere. (NLT)
I suppose the argument over clapping or not clapping in church will never be solved. It’s like whether or not to use hot sauce on food, a personal choice which should be honored. I worship with a congregation where folks clap and lift their hands in praise. I love it because I just can’t not clap in church. I know that isn’t grammatically correct, but it expresses my heart. Like David, I have the desire to worship with my whole heart. I respect folks who sit with hands held respectfully on their laps, but I can’t contain my joy in God’s presence. I enjoy being free to clap and shout and sing out loud. I guess I inherited Granddaddy Flave’s worship style, and I’m glad!
I understand that applause must be for God, and that’s exactly Who it’s for when I clap and raise my hands while singing praises to Him. I love messengers and musicians whose words and songs bring me closer to God. I applaud when my heart is moved, and it is for the connection I feel to God and to them in that moment. My clapping, singing, dancing, swaying, and arm lifting come from my deep love for God. Anyone who knows me, knows I am a hugger. I can’t help it, especially when it comes to God. I plan to jump into His arms and squeal with delight when I finally get to see Him face to face. Until then, I plan to sing and clap like David. I love this image of a clapping Jesus because it’s much better than the way I imagined Him as a child 😉