Stan at Winging it opened up a discussion about applause in worship. While he takes a relatively neutral approach to the subject, clapping at the end of any part of a church worship service is anything but innocent. Some say it is the very definition of irreverent worship.
What is reverent worship?
What exactly is reverence? Websters unabridged defines it this way: (a) honor or respect felt or manifested : deference duly paid or expressed (b) profound respect mingled with love and awe, as for a holy or exalted being or place or thing. This second definition, profound respect mingled with love and awe gets at the core of reverent worship.
When you choose to behave in a way which displays profound respect mixed with love and awe towards God, your actions are not going to be confused with those of someone who is ordering a coffee at the Dunkin Donuts. Nor are you going to look like someone tripped out on Ecstasy at a rave.
Reverence to the Lord is sober. It’s attentive, quiet and alert. It’s inconceivable that you would simultaneously check your email on your phone while you’re having an audience with the Queen of England. So how in the world could it possibly be okay for you to check Facebook while you’re supposedly worshipping the King of all creation?
But other people do it…
It doesn’t matter if other people behave abominably. If you consider yourself a Christian, your ethics, behavior and morality must be better than those of the people around you. This will rarely happen if (for example) you are only around people of your own age. The Church of God is made up of people in every stage of life. You should be modeling yourself against those with years of experience, maturity, sobriety and good Christian character - and soaking up all the wisdom they can provide.
If you don’t see many gray heads in your worship service, there’s something very, very wrong with your church.
What is a worship service?
What exactly is a worship service? Are you there to be entertained? If you are, that makes you the focus, not God. If you’re clapping to reward whatever’s going on up there on the stage, that makes the star whoever is up there on the stage. There is nothing at all Protestant (or Lutheran) about that.
Back to the question of applause
How much reverent worship do you think is happening while those around you are enthusiastically banging their hands together in response to a performance? Stan writes:
In a Christianity Today article they tell us the "worship wars" are waning. You know, all that disagreement about choirs or praise bands, bulletins or projection equipment, drums or organs. All that silly traditional stuff is on its way out. While many churches held two services -- one for the "traditional" and the other for the "contemporary" -- that is on its way out, too. You get the new version or nothing. The trend, it seems, is toward more informality and more alignment with the popular culture's music and methods. Also noted, _Increasingly informal worship is part of a movement away from belief and doctrine._ -[Winging it: Applause](http://birdsoftheair.blogspot.com/2016/01/applause.html).
The destruction of reverent worship
Stan is on to something much more important than applause. That something is the attitude or spirit behind the radical changes which both Protestant and Roman Catholic worship services have undergone since Vatican II. People tend to get distracted by the shadows - hymnody, organs, guitars, drums, contemporary music, etc. What has really happened is a profound cultural shift, perhaps even more unyielding and absolutist than the “generation gap” forced upon American society in the 1960’s.
The liturgical shifts - changes in worship styles - are related to the systematic destruction of reverence across the broader society. Remember the definition of reverence. It’s not just a feeling generated by music or an artifically altered consciousness shift. Reverence in worship is demonstrated by an attitude of submission to God with mind and emotions intact. In the greater society reverence shows itself in a willingness of the young to learn from those older and more experienced and to respect tradition and authority.
In any society a lack of respect for authority - taken to its logical extreme - will result in a destruction of order and a collapse of the regime. In church worship a lack of reverence will do the same thing.
The disruptive applause in church worship services is not “giving God a round”. The real issue is not clapping at all, but focus. Irreverent worship gives the honor due to God to another. Wasn’t this the heart of Satan’s rebellion?
No doubt some will choose to hear what I’m saying through their own filters. Very well. But this doesn’t change the fact that there is a war going on in the churches. Those taking over more and more worship services through their stealthy “worship wars” are not showing a very Christian spirit. Instead the cheerleaders for the new worship styles thumb up their noses at thousands of years of God glorifying worship. The churches are now ours, they seem say. Take it or leave it. And don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
Cover image - Hillsong church.