Becoming countercultural: clapping at College Church

God is moving. He is moving and shaking in physical ways. He is knocking at the hearts of Christians in Wheaton, willing them to a joyful life in His presence.

I attend College Church, a Biblically-grounded church ten minutes walk from my dorm. The congregation is large, to say the least, and it is unfortunately stiff in its traditionalism.

The congregation literally does not move. We stand still during the worship and sit still during the message. The preaching content is solid, powerful and applicable, and the music is beautiful as well as rather doctrinal, but the congregation does not physically react. It is stiff, serious and seemingly intellectual, as is my college next door.

For instance, on Sunday mornings I always want to clap after a worship song or performance, but the congregation around me is silent, and I have been too intimidated to defy this social norm. However, my friends and I were discussing clapping today as the service began: We want to clap. We feel the urge to do so. Why don’t we?

A few minutes later, Pastor Josh Moody mentioned the exact topic, saying he wondered why nobody ever clapped. Who told us we couldn’t? As long as we are clapping for God and not applauding a human, we should do so! Why do we not clap?

Upon hearing that, the people in my pew of college students decided we would indeed clap, and when we brought our hands together, multiple others throughout the large main room joined. I smiled broadly, delighted at the sound and its implications.

Pastor Moody continued to talk about joy, preaching from Romans 5:11. “You should take God seriously, but if you’re only serious, you’re missing something,” he said.

Wheaton College and College Church, a church named for its street addrss rather than the academic institution I attend, are both extremely evangelical, which I appreciate because of its Biblical foundation, but they are both intellectual to the point that people feel pressured to be perfect rather than authentic. I know this is true at Wheaton College, and I sense this in the overall atmosphere at my church as well.

But let’s be real: we were made to praise God. We should seek God seriously, as Pastor Moody said, but we should also have joy. Why would we contain the joy God has given us through His Son Jesus Christ?

Jesus died to save us sinners from eternal damnation, and he rose again three days later to defeat death! He gave us life, abundant life to be filled with faith, hope and love, peace and joy, and He is shaping His followers to become more like Him. We were saved to glorify the God who redeemed us from the pit! Why do we not clap when the pastor reminds us of that?!

During the final worship song at the end of the service, approximately five people stood out of hundreds in attendance. I sat and watched them, admiring their boldness. I am not sure if the lady singing gestured for us to stand, but since nobody else did, I appreciated their simple act of worship.

Perhaps clapping and standing seem trite. Why would anyone be afraid to do that? But in a room full of silent Christians, making a little noise is countercultural. I am elated at what God began in church today, however, and I cannot wait until next Sunday to see how my church will grow in its praise for our Heavenly Father!

To God be the glory! Can I get an Amen?