In some churches, clapping along to worship is common place. In some churches, clapping could be grounds for church discipline (maybe a slight overstatement, but not much). I want to focus on the ordinary, every day church. Why is clapping such an awkward thing?
I think one reason people do not clap is that they may not have the best musical sense about them and are unsure of the beat of the music. I can understand that. Who wants to be the one who claps off beat?
I think another issue is that most people do not want to be the first one to start. After all, how weird would you feel if you started clapping and nobody else joined in?
There are others, though, who feel that clapping is just not their personality. They reason that such outward expressions do not equate with genuine worship, nor do the lack of outward expressions negate genuine worship. OK.
However, if I could be honest, what do all of the above issues have in common? Look carefully. Do you see it there? The common factor is self. Self-preservation. Not wanting to look foolish. Not wanting to stand out. Not wanting to go beyond your personal preferences or comfort level.
Many people who have gotten involved in open air preaching can give similar testimonies to each other. We call it "breaking the sound barrier." It is the first time you overcame your fears and got on the box to preach. It is the most terrifying moment possible. But the rush and the feeling of freedom when you are done can actually become addictive. It is a joy of having overcome your inhibitions, fears, and comforts to do what God would have you to do.
Why do I bring this up? I believe every Christian is called to share the Gospel with others. I believe examples of open air preaching abound in Scripture. However, I do not believe that every Christian needs to or should be on a box open air preaching. There is no Biblical command for every believer to be doing it.
But there is something else that the people of God are actually called and commanded to do. Psalm 47:1 tells us, "Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!" In the Hebrew, the word "clap" is an imperative, which means it is a command.
Allow me to push some buttons for a moment. If a man had walked into your church yesterday wearing a tank top, would you have become unsettled thinking, "You shouldn't wear tank tops to church!" Maybe someone else in the church would have actually confronted this person. What if a teenager came in with a beat up old baseball cap on his head? Would someone have requested he remove the hat as a show of respect to God? Please understand that both of these examples are issues of personal preference and applying principles, but there are not direct commands. However, they remain big deals for most churches.
Do we understand that God is not just open to us clapping? He is not encouraging that we clap. He is actually commanding us to clap. Why? Well, that doesn't really matter now, does it? It is something that He delights in when it comes to worship. Notice, as well, Psalm 47 does not give an exception of, "If you have good sense of the beat, clap your hands." It does not take into account your personality, "If you are outgoing and expressive, clap your hands." It just says to do it. Overcome concern for self. Get over yourself and your idol of personality and give God what He is commanding.