by Charles R. Swindoll
If a modern Rip Van Winkle were to awaken from twenty years' slumber and stumble into today's world, I suspect he'd be amazed. Some of the changes, even in worship, would make the old gentleman wonder about us.
Picture him sitting on a pew, connecting with God in worship. Then to his amazement, he hears folks clapping! Frowning, he feels suddenly and strangely interrupted. Why are these people applauding? Wasn't that music an offering of praise to the One they have gathered together to worship? Isn't silence—just the awesome sound of silence—sufficient?
Continuing to observe, he finds inconsistency in it all. Why don't these people applaud everything? How come a singer receives applause and the one who reads Scripture never does? And why don't they applaud the sermon?
Besides, he concludes, he prefers to do his applauding in his mind and heart.
But then, doesn't the Bible talk about God's people clapping their hands? Yeah, it does. Several times in the psalms. But it also mentions shouting and dancing and groaning and playing on instruments we don't even have today. Obviously, God doesn't want us to be stoic and grim all the time. There have to be occasions when such spontaneous bursts are prompted by the Spirit within us. To cap off all such expressions would not only be unfair, it would be unbiblical.
Maybe, then, what these people need is to be sure that their responses in corporate worship are prompted by the Spirit and not by a small group of people who are ready to clap at anything . . . for any reason.
What I would tell our visitor is that it all has to do with the spirit of God's truth rather than the letter of the Law. If anyone can show me from Scripture the uptight, airtight guideline for putting a stop to all spontaneous applause, I'm ready to listen. But let's also remember that when we come together to worship we're not an audience watching a show where entertainers expect applause.
And no offense, but I tend to agree with old Rip. I've never seen a group of people applaud a snowcapped mountain range or an exquisite, priceless painting or a breathtaking sunset.
Silence befits the profound, the awesome.
Think before you applaud. Is it the best way to give God your praise? Is it appropriate? Is it necessary? Would silence be better?
Excerpted from Day by Day with Charles Swindoll, Copyright © 2000 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. (Thomas Nelson Publishers). All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.