By Reggie Ramos
Hey Wellspring! I want to bring attention to something that happened this past Sunday (6/2/19) at the Wheaton campus that I hope would promote a greater sense of belonging (from our Core Value of Community) and honoring one another in the midst of our differences (from our Core Value of Diversity).
To open the service, we sang a couple of upbeat, celebrative songs of praise. As I led through those songs, I noticed that things went like they usually go when we sing such songs: A handful of “clappers” began clapping to the beat, leading several others (even some who don’t typically clap) to also begin clapping. However, as we got to about the halfway point of the first song, the clapping trailed off, and by the time we were three-fourths of the way through the song, the clapping had pretty much ceased, and that continued through the second (also upbeat) song. This revealed the obvious: the majority of our congregation are not used to, are not comfortable with, or do not prefer to clap during corporate singing.
Now, as we concluded the second song, I felt led to make a few comments about these dynamics, concluding with a question/challenge: can Wellspring become a community where the “clappers” among us can feel welcome and free to express themselves in worship?
There are a lot of facets to consider in addressing this question, and as I write future Pastor’s Corners I’ll continue to explore this issue, but for today, can I invite us to wrestle with some healthy tensions we face in corporate worship?
First of all, I think we can agree that the scriptures teach of the priority of the state of our hearts in worship. 1 Samuel 16:7b reminds us that “the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” Furthermore, we read in Matthew 15:8-9 that Jesus rebukes the Pharisees quoting from Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” In others words, when it comes to worship, physical expressiveness itself is not the final measure of biblical worship.
That being said, we must also acknowledge that the worship of our hearts is often evidenced by physical expression and action. As Bob Kauflin writes in his book Worship Matters, “physical responsiveness to God in worship is encouraged and modeled throughout Scripture. Various physical actions can bring God glory, including clapping, singing, bowing kneeling, lifting hands, shouting, playing instruments, dancing, and standing in awe (Psalm 47:1, 6; Exodus 12:27; Psalm 95:6; Psalm 134:2; Psalm 33:1; Psalm 150:3-4; Psalm 33:8).”
I’m guessing many wrestle with wanting their hearts to be right with God as we worship. My question is, can we also grow together in our physical expressiveness in a biblical, God-honoring way?