It surprised me. It was at the end of a jail service on a very warm Sunday night. The library was filled with thirty men. The singing was strong that evening and their audible response to my preaching was lively. As usual, I closed the sermon with a prayer. When I said “In Jesus name Amen” the room erupted in applause. They stood up and applauded. Me? My prayer? The service? God? What?
It got me thinking about the slow creep of more and more applause in worship and services. Every wedding today ends with applause after I introduce the couple to the congregation. That never happened years ago. After the introduction, the organist would start the recessional and the couple and wedding party would walk out of the sanctuary to music, not applause.
Applause is peppered throughout worship services. If a young person gives a testimony to what God is doing in her or his life, the congregation applauds. Most recently a young woman sang a most beautiful song as an offertory. It was deep and reflective on the gift of Christ’s sacrifice for us. As she sang, I was brought into one of those prayerful places with God. When it was over, you guessed it, applause.
The question is this; is applause a disruptive response that come from the secular world of performance or is it a spontaneous and participative form of congregational worship? Our culture does not do silence very well. We need background music, noise and imagery. To respond to something in silence is increasingly foreign. But isn’t good body life communicative and responsive? Isn’t appreciation a good thing to share and show? Hasn’t worship been sullen and introspective too long?
What do you think?