I grew up in a church that was somewhat legalistic. I didn’t think much of it until the first time I went to an Assembly of God church where people clapped and raised their hands, and not just shoulder height, all the way up! It was like a whole new world opened up to me. You see, in our church we weren’t even encouraged to clap. I am not sure what’s wrong with clapping. Maybe they thought it would lead to other outward expressions and then God forbid where would you draw the line? There has to be some control after all. Otherwise you might have people jumping over pews and rolling in the aisles.
I say that tongue in cheek, but looking back I always felt somewhat restricted there. One false move and you might be visited by two men in dark suits. I will never forget the time we had an outstanding musical performance and someone must have forgotten the rule because there was a burst of applause. It started strong, but then the Pastor raised his hand in admonition……”No, no clapping please.” The people (us) being properly chastened, it quickly died down.
I remember never quite fitting in. Don’t get me wrong. I have many good memories of church and I am thankful, so thankful my Mom insisted we go. I have to say, I got a wonderful Scriptural foundational knowledge there. People that love the Lord with all their hearts still go there. And yet, when I got out. I remember feeling a profound sense of freedom that I had never had before and it was a little bit of Heaven.
My joy was no longer contained……I felt like a balloon taking flight for the first time. I could feel totally comfortable lifting my hands to the sky, or equally comfortable going down to the altar and planting my face to the indoor outdoor carpeted step. I finally felt I could express my joy over being forgiven, being redeemed properly.
I have taken part in all different types of church services, and I am glad I have. I consider myself bit of a church mutt. I have been immersed in liturgy and felt extremely moved by its beauty. I have been to services where people felt totally free to kick off their shoes and dance in the aisle. And what I have come away with is this:
There is no right way or wrong way to praise God and as soon as you start making people believe they have to do worship a certain way, then you are excluding those who don’t quite fit your mold.
There is room, my friends. Room for all of our individuality at the Cross. And as long a congregation is true to Scripture, it’s all good. Just because I lift my hands in church doesn’t mean someone else has to. Their hearts might be bursting with praise within. God knows hearts. He knows each thought, each feeling, He hears whispered praise as well as praise that shouts to the sky.
He is big enough to contain it all.