If you travel across our land and visit churches at worship from various denominations and religious tribes, you will encounter vast differences in worship styles. You may see Christians reading earnestly from printed prayer books a century old but in other places worship leaders exuberantly improvising their prayers. You may find some congregations singing historical liturgical chants and others with a gospel band playing in the style of a boisterous blues revue. Some congregations hear their pastor’s messages with intense concentration and reverent silence, while other audiences shout affirmations and encouragements to their preacher.
Is worship for the head or for the heart? Yes. “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15). God made us with heads and hearts, minds and emotions. If we neglect one or the other, we will not be giving God our whole selves when we worship him.
Worship needs content. The gospel of Christ is history. God did things in space and time, and these mighty acts need to be related in a convincing and coherent way and their implications laid out logically for people to grasp. But worship is not only understanding and believing God but loving him back for his great love to us. Worship leaders who are designing congregational experiences need to be mindful that people have hearts too.
It’s okay to clap in church.