Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Whose applause?

I firmly believe in giving credit where it is due.  If I appreciate what someone has said or done, I try to make sure that he or she knows that I appreciate it.  The words "thank you" mean so much when they come from the heart.  Which is why I say it whenever I can.  

Individually.  Privately.  

Public praise - applause for example - is a different matter.  As a rule, I cringe at giving it and cringe even more at receiving it. Especially in church.

Don't get me wrong.  When I go to a performance (say, a play or a concert) and it's well done, I show my appreciation heartily with applause.  

But that's just it.  It's a performance.  That's what applause is for; one performs for the pleasure and approval of other people.  (Of course it helps if the performer enjoys it too.)  

When it comes to what I do for God, however, it's NOT a "performance."  It's NOT a "job."  (How I shudder inside when I hear after I've been on the worship team on a Sunday, "you did a good job up there."  If it was a job ... I would have quit long ago.)  I consider what I do for Him a ministry TO Him.

It's NOT an "act."  

If I really wanted accolades or applause from people, I'd go into show business - emphasis on "show."  

I've noticed a dangerous trend in the western church: that of applauding people, and in particular children and youth, for participating in a service.  The message it might give them is that holding an office in the church is all about people-pleasing.  

It's not.  

My first reaction when a congregation is encouraged to clap for someone who has prayed, spoken, or sung ... is disappointment, because in my opinion, the applause of people diminishes "the eternal reward" he or she might receive by making "the immediate reward" the focus of his or her attention.  

I know that God has gifted me with the ability to sing; I sing to Him and for Him.  He is my "Audience of One." That's all that matters for me.  My desire for other people - if I think about them at all when I sing - is that they focus on Him, on how great and wonderful HE is.  When the limelight is on me, it is off Him - and that I don't want.  

True, I like to be appreciated.  Some of the more meaningful moments for me in ministry have been those where an individual has come to me after a service and said how the words to something I sang gave them strength and hope, or allowed them to feel God's presence.  Those have been precious times.  

But to take credit for something He gave me in the first place - this I can't bring myself to do.  Of course, I've learned to smile and say "Thank you," when someone compliments me.  But inside, I try to let that go in one ear and out the other (that way I don't get a swelled head) - and at least pass on the adulation to God - privately - as soon as possible.

Just like anyone else, I like to be thanked and praised.  But for me, it all boils down to whose applause I value most: theirs, or His.

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