In 1989, I was an intern pastor at Boston Avenue UMC, a 8,300 member church in downtown Tulsa, OK. Let me give you an image of our worship service. We wore full robes and vestments, we processed with a choir of more than 60 people with the the cross leading the way. We sang hymns to one of the largest organs in the South and everyone was in coat and tie and on their best behavior.
The congregation had started to clap for the children's choirs after they sang in worship, whether it was a good rendition of that song or not. Our senior minister was appalled so he called a special staff meeting with all nine clergy on staff to talk about this new development. Was it dignified? Should we allow this? How should we handle this?
After more than 45 minutes of discussion, most of which was looking down on the practice, I said, "Do we have a problem with saying 'Amen' in the service?' (which was not frequent unless it was at the end of a prayer or the end of a hymn) "Why no, of course not. That's Scriptural!" And then I said, "The church didn't invent using 'Amen' in worship. They borrowed it from the Coliseum where great battles between gladiators took place and the people cheered their heroes on and praised their winners by yelling, "Amen!" Our culture doesn't say 'Amen' at sporting events, we clap. So if it was OK to take 'Amen' from the Roman culture, why can't we allow clapping in worship in ours?" And that was the end of the discussion.
It's OK to raise hands. It's OK to say Amen. It's OK to clap. God wants us to give Him the best of what we have and who we are. Why is it we seem to reserve that for the Saints, the Hornets and LSU rather than give it to God?
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