One of the consequences of the rootage of current Christian worship practices in the rock concert is the increasing prominence of applause in worship. I would like to suggest that applause is never appropriate to Christian worship, particularly the egregious “Yes, let’s give God a hand.”
Where does this instinct for applause come from? In the rock concert, at the end of a prolonged musical set, there is an extended period of applause. Why? The driving, thundering music has created such an excess of emotion in us that we must release it somehow, and applause punctuated with screams is a way to do that. We also want to express appreciation to the performers for having been able to create such pleasurable emotions in us.
So, in the sanctuary, or more likely, the auditorium, after the prolonged musical set, we are called upon to do what? To express appreciation to God for his excellent performance in filling us with emotion? Really?! Yahweh, the I AM? Moving us?! But someone will say, “No, it is an expression of praise.” I beg to differ. In the context, after an extended musical set, applause is an expression of appreciation, and appreciation is not praise.
Think of it this way. You are involved in a terrible auto accident just outside your parent’s home. You are unconscious in the front seat and the car is beginning to burn. Your father runs out of the house in his bathrobe, grabs the red-hot door handle and drags you out and away just before the gas tank explodes. He falls over your prostrate body, shielding you from the blazing chunks of metal that fall on his back, burning him and not you. When you come to, and learn what has happened, do you “give him a hand?” Absolutely not! He has not given a thrilling public performance for your titivation. No, you fall on your knees before him, tenderly kissing those burned hands, bathing them with your tears, “lost in wonder, love, and praise.”
Giving our Savior “a hand,” especially as a release for the pent-up emotions a performance has generated, is never appropriate.