Clapping in Worship

Jimi Williams —  February 22, 2011

“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.

For more on clapping, check out this hilarious post from Stuff Christians Like. It’s sure to make you smile and think twice about why we clap .

Jimi Williams

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Jimi is VP of Worship Resources for Capitol CMG Publishing, overseeing all Worship Together initiatives and resources. He also leads worship at his home church and at various events and conferences.

3 responses to Clapping in Worship

  1. N0w i th0ught h0w much God that he care for me i shock when this site apeared on my phone then i try to link it.. God make me way f0r him i cried f0r what i done, h0w many times that he save me f0r trying to ign0re him until n0w 17 y/o again he save me i praised my g0d inside 0f my heart but n0w i m0re than praised him sh0ut and clap! Jesus my savi0ur…

  2. Good points Jimi, I checked out the links too, funny stuff.
    I’m gonna take the op-ed on this one and offer a less cynical perspective.
    Worship is about participation and clapping is a natural response and way to participate in the rhythm of a song as well as a release from the heart, if it is so moved.
    The art of worship leading is knowing the difference between hyping up audience participation and encouraging wholehearted engagement. Clap on.

  3. Great entry!
    What would you say about average clapping on beat to a faster paced song. This seems to be a natural way for the worshipers to respond and be involved. What do you think?