Worship Leader, Please Stop Telling Me to Clap!

I felt lost.
I was also in need of caffeine. So I stood in very long line to get some coffee. I was surprised to see they were serving Counter Culture Coffee, one of my favorite roasters, so I ordered a cafe au lait. As I was pulling out my wallet, the nice cashier motioned the single-ladies hand gesture at me.
“This is free for visitors.” She happily explains.

I dropped a dollar in the tip jar and followed the vibration into the auditorium.
The room was dimly lit, but dozens of flashlight-pointing volunteers pierced the dark. One of them shook my hand and showed me to a surprisingly comfortable seat. (Thought I was upset that it didn’t have cup-holders.)
Thick clouds of fog poured onto the stage just before the room went pitch black. Immediately a burst of light blinded me as the band began playing “A Sky Full of Stars.”
I wasn’t at a Coldplay concert (can’t afford it). I was at a “hip” church.

A bearded musician in skinny jeans exclaimed “Clap if you’re excited about Jesus today!”
The crowd clapped. I didn’t.

“ARE YOU EXCITED THIS MORNING?
*three people shout woo*
“C’MON CHURCH! I SSSAIIIDDDD ARE YOU EXCITED?!?!”
*forced applause*

This drives me crazy.
I love Jesus, but I hate being told what to do.

More importantly, this command forces inauthenticity. That applause wasn’t real. As a matter of fact, a lot of this doesn’t feel very real.

We seriously need to talk about this.

I am not against clapping in church. I am not even against the worship leader encouraging me to express praise.

This isn’t some weird anti-clapping post.

Psalms 47 opens saying, “O clap your hands, all peoples; Shout to God with the voice of joy.” The Psalmist even says “let the rivers clap their hands.”
See? The Bible loves celebration. Corporate applause is a beautiful expression of victory & celebration.

This is why I want us to protect it. We must not beg for fake celebration or phony worship. When we plea with our people to “clap for Jesus” and then say “that wasn’t good enough.” We are encouraging people to fake their worship.
This is not an act of praise – it’s peer pressure.
Even with the best intentions, we are essentially convincing people to worship how we think they should.

People will worship how they please. They don’t need choreography.

God delights in real worship, but despises false worship (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Please do not read this as me being legalistic or judgmental. I just want people to come into contact with authentic hope when visiting your church or engaging in corporate worship.
People need hope — not hype.

(…side note)

We worship God because He is worthy, not because we are excited.
Unfortunately, we make it seem as though worship is all about excitement & flare. As a matter of fact, there is something really powerful about worshipping when you’re not excited at all. When you have to push through your feelings of doubt, sorrow, or uncertainty. We cannot convince ourselves that worship is only an overflow of excitement. It’s not.
It’s an expression of God’s worth & majesty.

“Going through the motions doesn’t please You, a flawless performance is nothing to you. I learned God-worship when my pride was shattered. Heart-shattered lives ready for love don’t for a moment escape God’s notice. (Psalm 51:16, 17 MSG)”

Destroy the culture of hype.
Develop a community of hope.

About the Author

Jackson Garrell

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Jackson is a pastor, designer, and cheese enthusiast. He lives in New York with his wife and several dozen plants. When he is not building websites, consulting churches, or pastoring, you will probably find him trying to create the perfect omelette.