Should You Encourage the Congregation to Clap After a Worship Song?

People on music concert

By Kristen Gilles

Have you ever given thought to why we clap our hands after we sing a song of praise in our worship gatherings? Have you ever wondered why some congregations are eager to clap while others are reluctant?

It’s hard for worship leaders to resist measuring our worth by the responsiveness of our congregation to each song. We should not be measuring “our” success as worship leaders in this way, but it’s a temptation every worship leader must confront. May the Lord help us keep our eyes fixed upon Him, in awe of His perfect success in making our praise beautiful and acceptable.

But is there a legitimate reason for encouraging a congregation to clap?

Yes, if we teach that clapping is our applause of His great name, done eagerly in celebration of the salvation we have received by grace through faith in Christ’s redemptive work on our behalf. They shouldn’t clap to applaud and honor the musicians and singers, but they should not fear or hesitate when it comes to applauding our great God.

Where clapping in our worship services is concerned, you may have experienced a conflict in your own heart similar to the one I’m about to describe. There have been times when I — as a worshiper in the congregation — hesitated to clap after a song because I wasn’t sure exactly why I should be clapping, and I didn’t want to do it without conviction.

As excellent as the musicians and singers who led the song may have been, I felt that it wasn’t appropriate in the context of our gathered worship of God to applaud the efforts of the worship team. But, neither was my heart fully engaged in awe of God’s splendorous grace that we’d just sung about. I wasn’t considering HIS applause-worthiness and therefore my heart was not convinced to compel my hands to clap.

I’m sure that there are many in our congregations who are experiencing a similar conflict of interests in their own hearts. We have the opportunity to lead them by our example and through exhortations that encourage them to understand why it’s appropriate for us to eagerly applaud our Lord.

When we sincerely contemplate who He is and what He’s done for us as we’re singing about who He is and what He’s done for us (because, let’s admit it, there are times when our lips are moving, but our hearts are dull and unresponsive to the grace we’re singing about), our hearts should desire to applaud the great name of the Lord—the name by which we are saved!

Convinced of His worthiness to receive all praise, we should desire to celebrate His grace and love, demonstrated to us in sending His only Son to suffer and die in our place. These appropriate heart responses, if we allow them to, may compel us to respond with our whole bodies in sincere worship of the Lord, who is entirely and eternally most worthy of all praise, glory and honor.

Together, let’s freely applaud His great name and celebrate His great love when we gather in worship.

Psalm 47:1-2—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.

 

Kristen Gilles is a deacon in the worship ministry of Louisville’s Sojourn Community Church, and is featured in Sojourn Music’s The Water And The Blood: The Hymns Of Isaac Watts, Volume 2. Kristen blogs about worship with her husband, Sojourn’s Bobby Gilles, at mysonginthenight.com.

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    4 comments on “Should You Encourage the Congregation to Clap After a Worship Song?

    1. It happens here almost weekly, and as it does, I turn the attention of the applause to Jesus and what He has done. I give them permission, usually saying, “Yes! It’s alright to clap. Applaud the Lord and what He has done. Give Him praise!”

    2. If musicians are soliciting applause to feed their own egos, I agree that is wrong. And I agree that we should first give praise to God and let our applause be directed towards Him. But with that said, what is any more wrong about a congregation applauding the worship team than for a believer to build up another believer as prescribed all throughout Scripture?

      Isn’t applause just one way to do this? I think we have the freedom to do this. Corporate worship expressions shouldn’t be reduced to being only entertainment but at the same time why can’t our worship music be entertaining as a side benefit? To answer in the negative would seem to assume to me that Christ’s example of washing the feet of the disciples shouldn’t have been done because God forbid that the receipient of the foot washing might actually ENJOY it…

    3. This is always a sticky question. I’m on both sides – sitting in the congregation, sometimes applause is a spontaneous reaction to the joy I’ve experienced after singing worship/praise songs. And part of that is an appreciation for the gifts and talents that the musicians have used to give me that experience. I’ve talked with congregation members who want to clap to show their appreciation to the musician(s) after a solo – because the music has moved them and because they appreciate “what it takes” to be up front. My feeling is so long as the musicians/worship teams do not “bask” in the applause, let those that want to, clap away!

    4. This is a great article and very thoughtful. Something to think about is, is it ok to thank the worship band/team for leading that time of worship? If so, is applauding an appropriate way to say thank you? I agree that applause should first go to the Lord, but I think it would be ok to applaud in thanks to the band for their service and heart. It is also a serious responsibility for the band to perceive it properly and not let it pump up their ego.

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