They're applauding for me in church; should I take a bow?
By Richard Hickam
"Praise the Lord.
Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people." (Psalm 149:1)
Growing up in an academic setting for most of my life, there were always excellent bands, orchestras, and choirs. I felt the joy of the Spirit in the Rutter choral anthems, the lively sacred Holsinger wind symphony works, and the majestic Handel, Beethoven, and Saint-Saens orchestral masterpieces. We were always chasing a nearly perfect performance, with every accidental and minute phrasal ending individually practiced and then group rehearsed. We finished every service with a rousing exclamation point to enthusiastic applause, even from the smallest, most conservative churches. Somehow, everything was OK, as long as it was classical.
But one day someone rang an alarm in my head that I have not yet been able to shake. I was serving in a worship meeting with Pastor John Nixon, and speaking to a dozen music professionals in the room. He said, "I could never finish a sermon to applause and take a bow for the work I had done on behalf of my master." That saying continues to challenge me everytime I step up on the platform.
Now, please don't misunderstand me. I love a good rousing postlude and sending the people out on an upbeat note after services. However, it is in the way that I accept applause or let it pass through me to its rightful place that makes the difference. It also sets a tone to the ensemble I am leading.
In recent years I have been more thoughtful of the "why" questions in worship. For most of my early career it was largely about the "how." When I reflect on singing a "new" song to the Lord in worship, I use this application. Of course, on the surface level, creating, finding, and singing new songs will forever re-energize the body as we discover new facets of our King and Redeemer and new musical means to do it. However, as with so much of Scripture, one of the double meanings is singing (playing) the song with a new heart. This is what the Master wants - my complete and total surrender and acknowledgement of him. This is what worship is about; I can no longer take the applause.
I hope today that you might sing a "new" song and reflect on who really deserves the credit!