I’d led praise and worship for churches for years, sang “special music” as they call it and then work transferred us out of state, moving to an area of the country that didn’t need my many talents as there were plenty of people equally endowed with musical ability. (Of course I say this in jest.) So I have merely been a part of the congregation and/or singing up front with the praise leaders…
OK so we again get transferred and once again, prepare to move. In the midst of all this I get to visit different churches in the Houston area to which we’re moving. The last church visit we did really opened my eyes about something the church has gotten into the habit of doing and I truly believe it does not please the Lord.
The music was led by your standard praise and worship team. Everyone dressed nicely, standing up front, words on the screens above the platform etc. -you know, same old same old. The only difference in the music was that there were no musical instruments accompanying them. I admit, it sounded lovely. But after the last song ended, absolutley no one in that entire congregation began clapping. My fleshly man wanted to really give it a good round of applause (!) but not one soul in there did a thing. They just remained standing, some heads bowed, but just stood — silently.
The hair stood up on the back of my neck! I felt the Lord’s presence as never before. And no, we’re not talking about “feelings” here. We’re talking about the Lord’s presence.
It suddenly hit me: People in churches are not clapping in thanksgiving to the Lord when they do. They/WE are actually telling the ‘performers up front’ thank you for entertaining me! Immediately I knew the Lord was showing me that real worship requires no outward signs of approval from men. And just for the record, yes, there were musical instruments used later on. But still no applause. It wasn’t a Broadway show, it was a service of Worship to our God and King.
Yesterday, I had a dear friend send me something that had been written about the same identical thing. I hope this blesses you as it did me. Thank you to author, Paul Proctor.
A NEW SONG
Would somebody please tell me why we applaud singers at church? We don’t applaud people when they pray.
We don’t applaud the preacher when he preaches or the teacher when he teaches or the
ushers when they pass around the plate. Does anyone applaud the greeters or the
nursery workers for their performance each week? How about the folks that mow
the grass on Saturday or clean the restrooms on Monday; does anybody clap for
them? I’ll bet your church secretary has never received a round of applause –
unless she’s in the choir, of course.
No, the reality is, we applaud
singers almost exclusively. Why? Because that’s what our entertainment-oriented
world has taught us to do. Like many other things these days; as the world does,
so does the church. We instinctively applaud people that amuse us in some way or
another in a live group setting. Sometimes we applaud for no other reason than,
everyone else is applauding and we don’t want to appear different and look as if
we disapprove or weren’t paying attention. It is a carnal response we offer and
a clear reward intended for those who move us emotionally with a song, pure and
simple – something for the eyes to see and the ears to hear, requiring, by the
way, absolutely no faith in Christ.
I am reminded of the three
instances in scripture where Jesus spoke disparagingly of “hypocrites” who
performed for the eyes of others through their giving, their praying and their
fasting in Matthew 6:2, Matthew 6:5 and Matthew 6:16 – ending all three with the
same solemn pronouncement, “They have their reward.”
“I beseech you therefore,
brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice,
holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” – Romans 12:1
If carrying out the Lord’s will
each day, including Sunday, is merely our “reasonable service”, why then should
any of His redeemed be applauded for it – especially in a worship service where
all glory, honor and praise belong to God?
If the songs we applaud during
worship are not entertainment and we’re not really rewarding singers for
services rendered, why then do we only applaud performers after they finish a
song? If it isn’t their performance we’re applauding, why don’t we applaud when
we see them before church in the foyer, in the hallway or on their way to the
microphone? Why don’t we applaud them for just being a member of the choir or
for simply showing up on Sunday?
Do we applaud singers at church
because they had to prepare diligently beforehand? Well, didn’t the preacher and
the teacher both put in at least as much time in their preparation of a sermon
and lesson as that singer did for his or her song? What about the poor ushers?
Where’s their reward? They have to go up and down the aisles for money like
beggars! I’m sure they could use some applause.
I know what some of you are
thinking: “We’re applauding the Lord, not the singers!” Oh, is that right? Well,
if it’s the Lord you’re applauding; why don’t you applaud Him when the preacher
brings a stirring message directly from the Word of God and tells you that the
sins of all those who have repented and put their faith in Christ are forgiven –
that they have been forever set free from an eternity in Hell? If there was ever
a time to applaud God, wouldn’t that be it – or are you waiting for a song?
Why don’t we applaud the Lord
when the teacher shows us in the scriptures where Jesus died on the cross for
our sins and rose again on the third day or when Saul becomes Paul after the
Lord strikes him blind on the road to Damascus and he stops persecuting the
church to follow Christ and spread the good news that Jesus lives?
Why don’t we applaud the Lord
when we sit down over a hot meal at dinnertime? Did you applaud the Lord when He
gave you your first child or when you got a raise at work? How about that new
house or car? Did you applaud the Lord for either of those? Fact is – you didn’t
even applaud the salesman for giving you a good deal, now did you? How about
when you didn’t get the flu this year or that lab work that came back negative?
Was there any clapping around the house over that? Why don’t we applaud the Lord
when we get up in the morning – if for no other reason, just because He gave us
Maybe if He sang to us we would.
Why don’t we applaud hymns like
we do praise songs and all those sensually gratifying contemporary Christian
tunes we throw our money at in the record stores? Maybe those hymns are a little
more honest about our condition than praise tunes are – maybe a little too
Maybe we applaud praise choruses
because so many of us are still in bondage to our sin and those little
simplistic chants we can’t seem to live without help put a smile on our face and
anesthetize the pain of our own stubborn disobedience and rebellion toward God –
soothing and distracting our unrepentant hearts by allowing us two or three
glorious minutes of relief to forget our troubles with a mesmerizing melody so
we can pretend there really isn’t anything wrong with our spiritual lives – you
know, kind of like when we go to a concert or a show or just turn the radio up
real loud in the car on the way to the mall to drown out that “still small
voice” so we’ll momentarily feel better about ourselves. Would it be accurate to
say they might just be an escape for many of us?
Oh we LOVE those praise choruses,
don’t we? It’s like we can’t worship without them. Aren’t praise songs
essentially musical prayers? Didn’t Jesus specifically command us in Matthew 6:7
to not use “vain repetitions” when we pray? And isn’t that precisely what many
praise choruses are; vain repetitions?
“But when ye pray, use not vain
repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for
their much speaking.” – Matthew 6:7
One dear lady, whom I think the
world of, wrote me the other day about her fondness for choruses, noting, that
in singing them, “you really don’t have to think real hard…”
I couldn’t agree more.
So, not only do we offer “vain
repetitions” to God in worship these days, we applaud and exalt those that excel
in it. Shall we gather to praise, honor and glorify men or worship the Lord?
Just who is it we’re really applauding at church? I certainly can’t answer that
question for you but I do know that God sees the heart.
Could it be, in casually
celebrating His marvelous love for us with “vain repetitions” and resounding
applause, we’ve forgotten all about His holiness and jealousy in order to unduly
reward ourselves in His presence?
Exodus 20:5, Exodus 34:14,
Deuteronomy 4:24, Deuteronomy 5:9, Deuteronomy 6:15, Deuteronomy 32:16,
Deuteronomy 32:21, Joshua 24:19, Ezekiel 39:25, Nahum 1:2, 2 Corinthians
By Paul Proctor
February 17, 2004