Applause in the worship service

                             A p p l a u s e     i n    t h e    w o r s h i p    s e r v i c e                                                             

                                 APPLAUSE  IN  THE  CHURCH                                                

                      Article by  Samuel Koranteng - Pipim,  Ph.D.

                      Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference

                    Title of article:  Some Preliminary Reflections on Some Current Issues on Worship                 


                                       Click Here to Read entire article    - -    see page on original site
   This article, which draws on works already done by others, will briefly look at these passages. It will conclude by calling attention to a pertinent statement by Ellen G. White in which she indicates that shortly before the close of probation, Satan will introduce drumming and dancing in the church in order to deceive God’s people. 




  Today, applause or clapping is usually associated with Hollywood or the entertainment industry, but it has become very popular  because of the practice in the televised religious services of mega-churches as well as Pentecostal / Charismatic churches. 


  Is applause / clapping a biblically legitimate practice for worship services? Should congregations applaud preachers, musicians, people who offer prayers,  etc. during church services? Did the Seventh-day Adventists pioneers approve the practice? 
Definition. The dictionary defines applause as “the clapping of hands to express welcome, enjoyment, appreciation, or approval.”  Often, the more intense and prolonged the applause, the greater the appreciation of the persons who, or whose works, are being applauded. In the secular arena the “applause meter” is used to select winners  in a competition.


  While there may be nothing inherently wrong with the use of applause in a social context, inasmuch as it is an expression of appreciation or praise, Christians must be mindful of the dangers of applause to the one who is being applauded—especially in a context of religious worship. More importantly, Adventists must be sure the practice is sanctioned by the Bible.
           Applause / Clapping in the Bible.
   One of the key Bible passages often quoted to justify applause in the church is Psalm 47:1, 2: “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.”


  Notice, however, that God alone is the recipient of the clapping of hands. The applause is not directed to any human being, but rather to God who is coronated as King (cf. Ps 98:8). Even then, it points to a future time when we shall express our joy when the Lord becomes King and Judge of the whole world.  
  In fact, a careful study of the Bible indicates that clapping (or applause) as found in our churches today was not part of the worship service in the Old and New Testaments. Rather, as in so many things ,the practice came out a desire to pattern after other churches” (Selected Messages, 2:18). The following is the summary of the research of one studious Adventist Bible scholar, Angel Manuel Rodriguez, Director of the Biblical Research Institute:


   Four Hebrew verbs are used to express the action of clapping (macha', nakah, saphak, taqa'), and all of them contain, as would be expected, the idea of striking something or someone. They are used in conjunction with the noun "hand" (Heb. kaf) to communicate the action of clapping ("striking the hands"). The phrase is used in several different ways.
  1. It is an expression of joy at the ascension of the king: This a social function of the gesture. When Joash was introduced as the legitimate heir to the throne those who were present clapped their hands and shouted, "Long live the king!" (2 Kgs. 11:2). A religious usage is found in Psalm 47:1 where the psalmist invites all peoples to clap their hands because the Lord is being proclaimed as King over the earth. In Ps 98:8 the people are exhorted to praise the Lord and the hills to clap their hands because the Lord is coming as King and Judge of the earth. Even nature should rejoice before the Lord.


   2. It is an expression of joy on account of God's saving actions: The return of the people of God from their captivity in Babylon is described by Isaiah as an act of redemption. What the Lord will do for His exiled people is so wonderful and glorious that even nature will rejoice. In this context the prophet personifies the trees of the field and describes them as clapping their hands as a gesture of joy (Isa. 55:12).
  3. It is an expression of disgust and anger: Balak was angry because Balaam blessed the people of Israel instead of cursing them and he showed this emotion by clapping his hands (Numbers 24:10). Ezekiel clapped his hands in disgust after seen the evil practiced in Judah (6:11). The Lord clapped his hands in anger and disgust as a reaction to dishonest gain and to the blood spilled out by His people in Jerusalem (22:13; 21:14, 17). This is a symbolic action on God's part that is followed by His judgment against unrepentant sinners.


  4. It is an expression of malicious glee: This meaning is found exclusively in the context of defeated enemies. In the prophecy against Nineveh God announces that all those who will hear about it will clap their hands over the city and its misfortune (Nah. 3:19). The Ammonites clapped their hands and rejoiced with malice against Israel when is was being destroyed by the Babylonians (Ezek. 25:6). It is this same contempt and hostility that those passing by the ruins of Jerusalem expressed by clapping their hands (Lam. 2:15). This hand gesture was indeed a sign of hostility and derision.
  Rodriguez concludes his brief but insightful study: “There is no clear evidence that this gesture [clapping/applause] was part of the worship service in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, I did not find the phrase in the New Testament. Therefore, there does not seem to be any biblical parallel to what is taking place in our churches today. You may ask me, Why we do it? I am not sure there is an answer. I suspect that we incorporated clapping into our services from our cultural environment. Clapping is usually associated with the entertainment industry but has become very popular in evangelical televised religious services. Perhaps we copied it from them.”


  Indeed, applause or clapping in church has a secular ambiance or “feel.”  Its historic venue was the theater, the sports arena, the social gathering---not in sacred worship service. This is why, until recently, Adventist churches never encouraged the practice.
      Applause  /  Clapping and Adventist History.
  The Adventist pioneers were aware of the fact that applause or other theatrical influences entered the early church when the early church accommodated the pagans in an effort to “win” them.  Thus, E. J. Waggoner, one of the early Adventist pioneers referred to the effort of Chrysostom, Patriarchate of Constantinople, A.D. 398-404, in his opposition such worldliness in the church: “Chrysostom mourns over the theatrical customs, such as loud clapping in applause, which the Christians at Antioch and Constantinople brought with them into the church.”


  James White also mentioned the “noise of shouting and clapping of hands” as one of the unwelcome behaviors that was associated with the Holiness Movement that threatened early Adventism at the Exeter camp meeting in New Hampshire.
  Just as today, Ellen G. White  saw applause as a social expression of joy, appreciation, or approval. But she never recommended it for our worship services.  For example, on one occasion in the 1880s, Sis. White was invited to speak at the Temperance Reform Club of Haverhill, Massachusetts, in a city auditorium seating one thousand people. She wrote concerning this experience: “I was stopped several times with clapping of hands and stomping of feet.”[5] While she appreciated the enthusiasm of this non-Adventist audience, she never endorsed “clapping and stomping of feet” as examples for Adventist worship services.   


  Instead of approving applause for worship services, Ellen G. White warned about its dangers.  She referred to applause as “the food of the world” (The Southern Work, p. 17), and a “low standard” (Patriarch and Prophets, p. 650). She warned that applause can stimulate like wine (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 185, 186), administer vanity (ibid., 7:143), and cause one to be “puffed up” (Signs of the Times, Jan 28, 1897). Moreover, Sister White saw applause as “a snare” (Special Testimony to Ministers and Workers, No. 4, 1895, p. 25), something that can injure a person (Testimonies for the Church, 4:376), and that which can even influence a person to leave the church for the world (Review and Herald, June 28, 1897).  Pointing to Jesus example, she wrote: “Jesus did not seek the admiration or the applause of men” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 197).


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