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The Bell Choir

By John Brown

religion, articles, christianity

A recent denominational church bulletin I received made reference to a "bell choir." A difficulty has arisen; the audience has taken to applauding when the bell choir sounds. The bulletin note said that the bell choir is "providing beautiful music to assist in our meditation upon the sacrificial death of our Savior." The minister chastises the church for applauding, telling them, "The applause tends to break the meditation we are seeking to produce. At a time when our hearts and minds are to be focused on Christ, clapping tends to pull us away from that. There are times when clapping is fine and appreciated," says this denominational preacher, "but perhaps the time we meet around the Lord's table is not one of them."

And so the request is made: no more clapping for the bell choir!

I have never heard this bell choir, but I know why people are clapping: they think they are being entertained. They are applauding the show.

Worship is not entertainment.

When we worship God, we are not the audience. We are not even spectators. We are supposed to be participants. God is the audience! Our worship is directed heavenward, and that is why we don't applaud each other.

Picture this scene: "That was a wonderful prayer, brother Tom, Dick, or Harry ... and sister Bertha, Sally, or Suzie looked so godly while taking the fruit of the vine; ... let's give them a big hand." (Thunderous applause.) Nobody is thinking about Jesus.

We come together as the body of Christ to worship, honor, venerate, serve, and reverence the God of heaven through Jesus. We don't gather with tooting, banging, strumming, and bell-ringing to amuse one another.

Our worship is toward God. "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4:10). "The hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (John 4:23-24).

By the way, if a bell choir creates a meditation that enables us to take better the Lord's Supper, I wonder why God didn't know that and include that in the biblical pattern?

This denomination's problem is not just with the bell choir, but involves their whole understanding and application of the purpose and pattern of worship. Many denominations know they have a problem; they don't know what it is. What they are reaping is bad fruit from the seeds they planted of departing from God's Word.

Would to God we could see and avoid that same trap. Brethren Shelly and Harris in their book, The Second Incarnation, say things about worship that are ridiculous, including recommending "raucous celebration ... jubilation ... applause and cheering" (pp. 139-140).

If applause takes the mind off of Jesus when partaking of the Lord's Supper, why wouldn't it do the same thing any other time during worship? We need to maintain jealously the simplicity and dignity of worship in spirit and truth.

Published September 1995