Clap and shout in church

This past Sunday evening, my wife, daughter and I took our monthly turn caring for young children during the evening service. I had been looking forward to being in the auditorium to watch the baptisms, but that didn’t seem possible. I regretted that until Jesus gave us a little lesson in joy.

Since we were caring for only two boys, ages 2 and 3, we decided to take them to a nearby lobby to watch the baptisms on closed-circuit TV. The last person to be baptized was a friend with some special needs. In the past year, several of us have ministered to him, and have delighted in Jesus’ change in him, and in ourselves as well. Like me, many in the auditorium were silently celebrating, savoring the sweet moment.

Our friend testified of that grace. Then, as he came up out of the water, there was a ripple of applause, a rarity in our services. Hearing this, one of the little boys with us joined in with a joyful, exuberant “Yeaaaa!”

“Out of the mouths of babes,” we often say when a young child says something cute with an unintended meaning. But this was beyond cute. It was exactly the right response to great things Jesus had done! (Fittingly, the child who made this joyful noise is named Asher, which means, “happy”).

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more of our worship were like Asher’s? Why isn’t it? Are we too worried about what others might think? (Maybe they will think that we’re too excited about Jesus).

Do we fear becoming too Charismatic? We should worry less about being Charismatic and more about being automatic—as in routine, scripted, worship-as-usual. Please don’t misunderstand. I am a strong advocate of reverent worship that respects the awesome character of God. 

But there are too many invitations to joy in the hymnbook of the Bible (the psalms), to think that our emotionally tethered worship has captured the exuberance, as well as the reverence that befits God’s awesomeness. Repeatedly in Scripture, God essentially invites us to “cut loose” when telling Him how we feel about Him.  Consider a few examples:

Shout joyfully to God, all the earth! Psalm 66:4

O come, let us sing for joy to Yahweh,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation! Psalm 95:1

Shout joyfully to Yahweh, all the earth,
Break forth and sing for joy and sing praises! Psalm 98:4

O clap your hands, all peoples;
Shout to God with the voice of joy! Psalm 47:1

I sometimes wonder if God grows weary of us holding back on him. I’ll confess that I’m among the most guilty. But those days might be numbered. As Jesus continues to raise His treasure value in my mind, the invitation to respond accordingly is becoming less and less resistible. If there’s a joyful shout sometime soon in church, it might be coming from my corner.

How about joining me?

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5 Responses to Clap and shout in church

  1. Clarence says:

    Joanna, I just came across your response to, “Clap and Shout in Church. As good as the other comments are, I believe you have struck the balance that is needed in any worship service. Knowing human nature’s propensity of going to the extreme, Satan would love to corrupt our worship service. What that corruption would look like, one can only imagine. We’re talking about a fine line here, but I believe you have struck the balance that is needed.
    Perhaps I can illustrate my point about over reacting. I am continually amazed at the “antics” of our professional and college football player after a touchdown is made. One would think they shout be institutionalized by their jack-in-the-box showboating. Having said all that, it’s good to be able to have this healthy discussion.

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  2. Joanna Enjaian says:

    I would like us to continue to encourage responsiveness by vocalizing what we think with “Amen’s,” “Praise the Lord’s,” “Hallelujahs,” etc.” As sincere as anyone’s clapping may be, it typically turns to the “follow – the – leader” default mode by the crowd like the standing ovation routine in a ceremony. One person stands up, so everyone feels they must stand too, even if it never crossed their minds to do so originally.

    So as much as I would hate to suppress genuine worship to God, I also would hate to see the default mode become the new norm and frankly we would be right back at square one to an unwritten code of conduct, just a different one. However, I believe you don’t have too many “copy cat” “Amen’s” or “Praise the Lord’s” voiced in church.

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  3. Mel Friesen says:

    Amen. Mel

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  4. abestratton says:

    Thanks, Stephen. Agreeing with you whole-heartedly!

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  5. MCairns says:

    That was an awesome moment! After that clapping, I wondered how the three children who were baptized felt. Their baptisms were just as clap-worthy as the other mans. Sometimes, Christians put more “weight” in decisions made by those with painful, more colorful pasts. Just a thought…and total agreement. Thanks for sharing.

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