“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 .