What About Applause in Public Worship? -- By: Norman P. Anderson

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 03:4 (Fall 1994)
Article: What About Applause in Public Worship?
Author: Norman P. Anderson

What About Applause in Public Worship?

Norman P. Anderson

“Applause in Worship: Are There Better Options?” That was the title of an article in the recent Worship magazine which captured my attention.

A few weeks ago, I began to think again about the inappropriateness of applause following a Call to Worship, titled “Standing on Holy Ground,” led by the choir in my own church. I wondered, as I spoke to the church of my concern, “Is it right for us to applaud as we do in a public worship service?”

Such applause is becoming an accepted practice in many churches these days. Could it be because we have lost our idea of what worship is? Or is this a good trend that accentuates worship, as some would say?

First of all, we need to understand that worship is the action of God’s people in giving glory to God, Who alone is worthy of praise. God is the audience and the congregation is the performing cast. Those up front are merely the prompters who should lead the congregation in glorifying God. The question thus becomes, “Why, really, do we applaud?” Most often, we respond that we applaud in order to let the person, or musical group, know that we appreciate their part in the worship service! Or we applaud because a person does a particularly good job in singing, or in playing an instrument, etc. Certainly, there are times when it is appropriate to express this kind of appreciation. For example, when a musician has given a concert, or the choir has sung a cantata, it is appropriate to express appreciation for the worship experience they have provided.

In my opinion, however, applause can easily become distracting to worship. When you applaud the soloist, or the group, or the choir in the middle of the worship service, here are some of the questions that are raised in my mind:

  1. Do we then always applaud everyone, for fear that we will offend someone? They will think that they didn’t do as well, or they are not appreciated, if we do not applaud.
  2. How does the musician respond to applause? After all,

they were singing or playing for the glory of God, not for the praise of human beings. (If they were not, then they should not be up there as a worship leader!)

  1. Do we applaud for up-beat, stirring numbers that generate our excitement and not for the more meditative, solemn numbers? There are many times when silence before God is the only appropriate response.

Randall Bradley, in the Worship article to which I referred above, says some very interesting things. Let me simply quote a few lines from his “Viewpoint” article: “Applause tends to bring atte...

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