Can You Put It Into Words?

Somewhere along the way congregations began worshiping through applause. I don’t mean clapping of hands in the Spirit as a personal expression of praise, victory, etc. I mean, as an audience, expressing appreciation (presumably to God and not the singer, etc.) through corporate applause.

According to Eusebius in his Church History, various pastors wrote an epistle reprimanding the activities and behaviour of Paul of Samosota saying that “he rubukes and insults those who do not applaud, and shake their handkerchiefs as in the theaters.”(Book VII, Chapter XXX, par. 9)

My own sense of the modern origin of this is that it began to arise in the average local Pentecostal church in imitation of what its congregants were seeing on the television when they would watch Jim Bakker and PTL, or Jimmy Swaggart in his big preaching campaigns. I assume that the applause in those settings was a natural byproduct of what a large audience does when it collectively experiences something that it likes, enjoys, or approves of. (For a lengthy treatment of the history of applause go here) All I know is that when I was a child it was not common for congregations to applaud in a way that it is today. 

Here’s why I am bringing this up in the first place. I am in no way saying congregations shouldn’t applaud great points in sermons, etc. But my concern is that applause is a praise and worship shortcut. It relieves me of the need to say anything specific or intentional about the awesomeness of God. This applies to those in The Daily Prayer Project in that one of the comments I am beginning to hear a lot is “What do I say while I am pursuing intimacy with God?”

We have for too long assumed that God only wants us so that He can put us to work. In response to that erroneous idea, we have only pursued intimacy to the level of trying to cultivate obedience. But intimacy with God is not, in its deepest places, about doing something for God but is rather about being with God in the deepest places of our soul.

Let me end this beginning discussion of intimacy by asserting this: There is praise where we say great things about and to God. There is worship where we move beyond praise to surrender. Then there is the pursuit of intimacy. Think on all of this for awhile.



6 thoughts on “Can You Put It Into Words?

  1. Oh, just heard of this site. I was reading and then came to comments. I hope its ok to post since Im visiting here. Lol. Just sharing that for me in my secret place I just know when I need to stand in awe and respect,(always but there are times when that is strong in action) when to dance, weep, laugh, listen, applaud or prostrate myself. It is just my mind on The Lord . Instrumental worship at times. I like to add my own words to these melodies that I don’t know. If it’s a new beginning don’t worry, worship,it will change from a self discipline to a delight. This is how its been for me. Never a disconnect from God just moving from that place to whatever the day presents-us. It’s great. But beware…Then, and recently the rug gets pulled out from under me and I show up undone all over again! What are you showing me? There’s no box. Even a seemingly good one. He is God. Learning learning. 🙂


  2. I like both — applauding, as an instantaneous response to a joy in my heart, and the expression of praise, both with my understanding and my spirit.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep. I agree with that. Applause has its place, especially in individual expression. And, audience applause is really, at its heart, just a collection of individuals who are agreeing. But, of course, it’s not a replacement for putting into words the greatness of God, as you know.


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