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Applause, Hand Waiving, Drumming, & Dancing in the Church PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Some Preliminary Reflections on Some Current Issues on Worship
© Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, Ph.D.
Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference


Questions are being raised today about the legitimacy of applause (clapping), uplifted hands, drumming, and dancing in Seventh-day Adventist worship services. These phenomena have been fueled by several factors. Among them are:

(1) the increasing worldliness in our churches, resulting in the adoption of Hollywood-style entertainment in our church services;
(2) the adoption of the worship and evangelistic styles of popular mega-churches and Charismatic/Pentecostal churches of our day;

 (3) the attempt in developing countries to “indiginize” the church by incorporating elements from traditional, local, or non-Christian forms of worship;

(4) a lack of understanding of what the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy says on the subject.

Often, certain Bible passages are employed by proponents as  justification for clapping/applause, drumming, and dancing in the church. This article, which draws on works already done by others, will briefly look at these passages. It will conclude by calling attention to a pertinent statement by Ellen G. White in which she indicates that shortly before the close of probation, Satan will introduce drumming and dancing in the church in order to deceive God’s people.


Today, applause or clapping is usually associated with Hollywood or the entertainment industry, but it has become very popular  because of the practice in the televised religious services of mega-churches as well as Pentecostal/Charismatic churches.

Is applause/clapping a biblically legitimate practice for worship services? Should congregations applaud preachers, musicians, people who offer prayers,  etc. during church services? Did the Seventh-day Adventists pioneers approve the practice?

Definition. The dictionary defines applause as “the clapping of hands to express welcome, enjoyment, appreciation, or approval.”  Often, the more intense and prolonged the applause, the greater the appreciation of the persons who, or whose works, are being applauded. In the secular arena the “applause meter” is used to select winners  in a competition.

While there may be nothing inherently wrong with the use of applause in a social context, inasmuch as it is an expression of appreciation or praise, Christians must be mindful of the dangers of applause to the one who is being applauded—especially in a context of religious worship. More importantly, Adventists must be sure the practice is sanctioned by the Bible.

Applause/Clapping in the Bible. One of the key Bible passages often quoted to justify applause in the church is Psalm 47:1, 2: “Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples! Shout to God with the voice of triumph! For the Lord Most High is awesome; He is a great King over all the earth.”

Notice, however, that God alone is the recipient of the clapping of hands. The applause is not directed to any human being, but rather to God who is coronated as King (cf. Ps 98:8). Even then, it points to a future time when we shall express our joy when the Lord becomes King and Judge of the whole world. 

In fact, a careful study of the Bible indicates that clapping (or applause) as found in our churches today was not part of the worship service in the Old and New Testaments. Rather, as in so many things ,the practice came out a desire to pattern after other churches” (Selected Messages, 2:18). The following is the summary of the research of one studious Adventist Bible scholar, Angel Manuel Rodriguez, Director of the Biblical Research Institute[1]:

    Four Hebrew verbs are used to express the action of clapping (macha', nakah, saphak, taqa'), and all of them contain, as would be expected, the idea of striking something or someone. They are used in conjunction with the noun "hand" (Heb. kaf) to communicate the action of clapping ("striking the hands"). The phrase is used in several different ways.

        1. It is an expression of joy at the ascension of the king: This a social function of the gesture. When Joash was introduced as the legitimate heir to the throne those who were present clapped their hands and shouted, "Long live the king!" (2 Kgs. 11:2). A religious usage is found in Ps. 47:1 where the psalmist invites all peoples to clap their hands because the Lord is being proclaimed as King over the earth. In Ps 98:8 the people are exhorted to praise the Lord and the hills to clap their hands because the Lord is coming as King and Judge of the earth. Even nature should rejoice before the Lord.

        2. It is an expression of joy on account of God's saving actions: The return of the people of God from their captivity in Babylon is described by Isaiah as an act of redemption. What the Lord will do for His exiled people is so wonderful and glorious that even nature will rejoice. In this context the prophet personifies the trees of the field and describes them as clapping their hands as a gesture of joy (Isa. 55:12).

        3. It is an expression of disgust and anger: Balak was angry because Balaam blessed the people of Israel instead of cursing them and he showed this emotion by clapping his hands (Num. 24:10). Ezekiel clapped his hands in disgust after seen the evil practiced in Judah (6:11). The Lord clapped his hands in anger and disgust as a reaction to dishonest gain and to the blood spilled out by His people in Jerusalem (22:13; 21:14, 17). This is a symbolic action on God's part that is followed by His judgment against unrepentant sinners.

        4. It is an expression of malicious glee: This meaning is found exclusively in the context of defeated enemies. In the prophecy against Nineveh God announces that all those who will hear about it will clap their hands over the city and its misfortune (Nah. 3:19). The Ammonites clapped their hands and rejoiced with malice against Israel when is was being destroyed by the Babylonians (Ezek. 25:6). It is this same contempt and hostility that those passing by the ruins of Jerusalem expressed by clapping their hands (Lam. 2:15). This hand gesture was indeed a sign of hostility and derision.

Rodriguez concludes his brief but insightful study: “There is no clear evidence that this gesture [clapping/applause] was part of the worship service in the Old and New Testaments. In fact, I did not find the phrase in the New Testament. Therefore, there does not seem to be any biblical parallel to what is taking place in our churches today. You may ask me, Why we do it? I am not sure there is an answer. I suspect that we incorporated clapping into our services from our cultural environment. Clapping is usually associated with the entertainment industry but has become very popular in evangelical televised religious services. Perhaps we copied it from them.”[2]

Indeed, applause or clapping in church has a secular ambiance or “feel.”  Its historic venue was the theater, the sports arena, the social gathering---not in sacred worship service. This is why, until recently, Adventist churches never encouraged the practice.

Applause/Clapping and Adventist History.  The Adventist pioneers were aware of the fact that applause or other theatrical influences entered the early church when the early church accommodated the pagans in an effort to “win” them.  Thus, E. J. Waggoner, one of the early Adventist pioneers referred to the effort of Chrysostom, Patriarchate of Constantinople, A.D. 398-404, in his opposition such worldliness in the church: “Chrysostom mourns over the theatrical customs, such as loud clapping in applause, which the Christians at Antioch and Constantinople brought with them into the church.”[3]

James White also mentioned the “noise of shouting and clapping of hands” as one of the unwelcome behaviors that was associated with the Holiness Movement that threatened early Adventism at the Exeter camp meeting in New Hampshire.[4]

Just as today, Ellen G. White  saw applause as a social expression of joy, appreciation, or approval. But she never recommended it for our worship services.  For example, on one occasion in the 1880s, Sis. White was invited to speak at the Temperance Reform Club of Haverhill, Massachusetts, in a city auditorium seating one thousand people. She wrote concerning this experience: “I was stopped several times with clapping of hands and stomping of feet.”[5] While she appreciated the enthusiasm of this non-Adventist audience, she never endorsed “clapping and stomping of feet” as examples for Adventist worship services.  

Instead of approving applause for worship services, Ellen G. White warned about its dangers.  She referred to applause as“the food of the world” (The Southern Work, p. 17), and a “low standard” (Patriarch and Prophets, p. 650). She warned that applause can stimulate like wine (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 3, pp. 185, 186), administer vanity (ibid., 7:143), and cause one to be “puffed up” (Signs of the Times, Jan 28, 1897). Moreover, Sister White saw applause as “a snare” (Special Testimony to Ministers and Workers, No. 4, 1895, p. 25), something that can injure a person (Testimonies for the Church, 4:376), and that which can even influence a person to leave the church for the world (Review and Herald, June 28, 1897).  Pointing to Jesus example, she wrote: “Jesus did not seek the admiration or the applause of men” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 197).


As the Seventh-day Adventist church is increasingly being influenced by the world and other churches, the practice of the waiving of hands during worship is becoming an issue. This practice is often seen as a non-verbal way of showing appreciation or an assent to what is being preached or sang. Sometimes the uplifted hand is also used during prayers. Often, the book of Psalms is used as the main support.

There are a number of  Bible passages that speak about the raising of hands. The question is not whether hands were raised in ancient Israel, but the context in which this was done.  A study of all the relevant biblical texts will show that the raising of hands in the Bible is not exactly what we make them out to be today. Let’s begin with a look at the book of Psalms.

1. Psalm 28:2
  Hear the voice of my supplications
         When I cry to You,
         When I lift up my hands toward Your holy sanctuary.

The Hebrew word used for lift up my hands, is nasah, a word that can have a literal or figurative application (to raise, to magnify, or to lift). Whether or not the “raising of hands” was figurative or literal, there are many examples of literal usage in Scripture. The overwhelming evidence in Scripture, however, suggests that the practice was normally employed in prayer and supplication. The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 698, confirms that, indeed, the “lifting of hands” in the above text was “a common attitude to prayer” (see Lamentations 3:41).

2. Psalm 63:1-6
1 O God, You are my God;
         Early will I seek You;
         My soul thirsts for You;
         My flesh longs for You
         In a dry and thirsty land
         Where there is no water.
 2 So I have looked for You in the sanctuary,
         To see Your power and Your glory.
 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
         My lips shall praise You.
 4 Thus I will bless You while I live;
         I will lift up my hands in Your name.
 5 My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
         And my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.

This text communicates “joy, praise, thanksgiving, and longing for God” (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 778). The tone is one which is associated with prayer (cf. v. 4).  Though it can be argued that the mention of hands in this text does not necessarily refer to prayer, with the added support of the other biblical texts and historical evidences, it can be concluded as a reference to a state of prayer of praise and thanksgiving. The point is that, the context of this passage suggests one of prayer

3. Psalm 119:48
48 My hands also I will lift up to Your commandments, Which I love, And I will meditate on Your statutes.

The context here is prayer/meditation on God’s statutes.

4. Psalm 141:2
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. 

5. Psalm 143:1, 6-7
1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, Give ear to my supplications! In Your faithfulness answer me, And in Your righteousness. 6 I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land. 7 Answer me speedily, O LORD; My spirit fails! Do not hide Your face from me, Lest I be like those who go down into the pit.       

The context of these two Psalms is prayer.

6. 1 Kings 8:54
54 And so it was, when Solomon had finished praying all this prayer and supplication to the LORD, that he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.

7. Nehemiah 8:6
6 And Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God. Then all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground.

Here again, the context is one of prayer during worship.

8. Lamentations 2:19
19 “ Arise, cry out in the night, At the beginning of the watches; Pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord. Lift your hands toward Him For the life of your young children, Who faint from hunger at the head of every street.”

9. Lamentations 3:40-43
40 Let us search out and examine our ways, And turn back to the LORD; 41 Let us lift our hearts and hands To God in heaven. 42 We have transgressed and rebelled; You have not pardoned. 43 You have covered Yourself with anger And pursued us; You have slain and not pitied.
The context of the above passages also show it is referring to prayer.

Note that there is also a figurative use of “lifting the hands” in the book of Habakkuk 3:10.: “The mountains saw You and trembled; The overflowing of the water passed by. The deep uttered its voice, And lifted its hands on high.” There are also a few references to “raising the hands” in the New Testament. The most significant is found in 1 Timothy:

10. 1 Timothy 2:8
8 I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;

The context here is also prayer. As indicated in our bible commentary, the lifting of hands are “figurative of a character void of moral defilement . . . the hands symbolize deeds” (see SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 294—old edition).

It is quite clear from this brief look at the relevant Bible texts that the “lifting of hands” was used during prayer. It wasn’t used to show appreciation, approval, or as a form of non-verbal applause. It was a gesture showing a person’s desire to walk in the ways of the Lord.


The Bible is not opposed to the use of musical instruments in the Seventh-day Adventist church. In fact, Mrs. White encouraged the tasteful use of musical instruments. However, she was emphatic that it is better never to have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to create “a bedlam of noise” that shocks the senses and perverts the worship. “The Holy Spirit never reveals [Himself] in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise.” (2 Selected Messages, p. 36).

She stressed that music suited to the stage was foreign to the worship context. Forced or strained vocal deliveries that emphasize loudness, along with undignified, unrefined gestures and “acting attitudes,” are out of keeping with the worship atmosphere of Heaven. The “softer,” “finer,” “sweeter,” “more silvery strains” are “more like angel music,” whereas opposite attributes tend to be driven by self-centered “love of praise.” (3 Selected Messages, p. 335).

The specific issue we want to address is should drumming be a legitimate part of worship service. Does it have any use at all the religious life of the church.  Space limitations will only permit a brief discussion here.

Musical Instruments in the Bible. Among the prominent musical instruments mentioned in the Bible are: harp, lyre, cymbal, trumpet, ram’s horn (shofar) and drums. Of these, the drum is the focus of our interest. In Scripture, whether it is referred to as tambourine, timbrel or tabret, it simply means a “hand-drum.” Our study will show that in every reference of its use in the Bible, drums were used outside the sanctuary service—in a common type of setting (e.g., social settings or festive celebrations).

a. Sanctuary Worship.  The Lord specified three types of instruments to be used by the Levites in the Sanctuary. These are: harp, lyre [or stringed instrument], and the cymbal (1 Chronicles 25:1).

Note: The drum is not mentioned. Of the three instruments mentioned, the harp and lyre were, essentially, the same type of stringed instrument. They were both harps. One (the harp) played the higher register while the other (the lyre) played the lower range. The only percussive instrument listed is cymbal, an instrument that was apparently used to mark the pauses or intermissions.  Some Bible scholars speculate that the term “Selah,” which is often found in Psalms, may have indicated the place where the cymbal was struck.

The same three musical instruments are mentioned in 1 Chronicles 25:6, with added instruction that the chosen musicians were to be under the instruction of their fathers (men of music, and most importantly, spiritual excellence).

In 2 Chronicles 29:25, during the time of Hezekiah, it is made very clear that the instruction regarding music, musical instruments, and musicians originated with God Himself. It reads:

“And he stationed the Levites in the house of the LORD with cymbals, with stringed instruments, and with harps, according to the commandment of David, of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for thus was the commandment of the LORD by His prophets” (2 Chron 29:25).

b. Assorted “Drums Texts” in the Bible. Though drums were apparently NOT employed in the sanctuary service, they were used in festivals and celebrations outside of the sanctuary. Here are some relevant texts:

1.Genesis 31:27—Laban’s words to Jacob. Drums (tabrets) to have been used in farewell celebration.
"Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp?"

2. 1 Samuel 10:5-6—Samuel predicts that after Saul’s anointment, he would be met by prophets playing various musical instruments (including drums or tambourine).
“5After that you shall come to the hill of God where the Philistine garrison is. And it will happen, when you have come there to the city, that you will meet a group of prophets coming down from the high place with a stringed instrument, a tambourine, a flute, and a harp before them; and they will be prophesying. 6 Then the Spirit of the LORD will come upon you, and you will prophesy with them and be turned into another man.”

3. Job 17:6—the Hebrew word used for what the King James Version refers to as “tabret” is the word tophet, which refers to an act of “spitting.” Apparently, the word tophet was confused by the translators with the word toph which means a “hand drum.”
“But He has made me a byword of the people, And I have become [as a tabret, KV] one in whose face men spit (NKJV).”

4. Job 21:11-14—Context refers to celebration outside the sanctuary
“1 They send forth their little ones like a flock, And their children dance. 12 They sing to the tambourine and harp,And rejoice to the sound of the flute. 13 They spend their days in wealth, And in a moment go down to the grave. 14 Yet they say to God, ‘Depart from us, For we do not desire the knowledge of Your ways.”

5. Psalm 81:2—Refers to the celebration of the exodus and the Lord’s victory over the Egyptians. It was outside the sanctuary.
“Raise a song and strike the timbrel, The pleasant harp with the lute.”

6. Isaiah 24:8—refers to the sound of music ceasing at the desolation of the earth.
“The mirth of the tambourine ceases, The noise of the jubilant ends, The joy of the harp ceases.”

7. Jeremiah 31:4—God’s promise of restoration and a description of the celebration that would be expressed by the children of Israel upon their return from the Babylonian captivity.
“O virgin of Israel! You shall again be adorned with your tambourines, And shall go forth in the dances of those who rejoice.”

8. Ezekiel 28:13—reference to the musical ability of Lucifer before his fall.
“You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering: The sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created.”

c. “Drum Texts” Associated with Disobedience
Isaiah 5:11-13—Disobedience of Israel
1 Chronicles 13:7-10—David disobeyed God’s commandment about how the ark was to be transported. When he repented, he did the right thing. But this time drums (trimbrels) NOT included (see 1 Chronicles 15:12-24).

d. “Drum Texts” Associated with Battle
Exodus 15:1-5, 20-21—In connection with the victory over the Egyptians at the Red Sea

Judges 11:34—Jephthah’s daughter met her father “with trimbrels and with dances.” The celebration was in response to the victory in the battle over the Ammonites.

1 Samuel 18:6, 7—Celebration of the women after David killed Goliath

Isaiah 30:31-33—Celebration over the Lord’s victory over the Assyrians.

Psalm 149—Drums used in celebration of God’s victory over all his enemies. (For a further discussion of Psalm 149 and Psalm 150, see the next section on dancing).

Psalm 150—For some, verse 1 presents a problem because it speaks of praising God “in His Sanctuary.” However, Psalm 150 is the final great finale to the Hallelujah series of Psalms that commence in Psalms 146. Psalm 150 concludes this series with a final call for everything (whether on earth or in heaven) that has breath to join in the praise anthem of God.  Verse 1 is simply an invitation to those in heaven (the heavenly sanctuary) to worship God in “the firmament of His power”  (see SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 941, revised ed.). The text reads: “Praise God in his sanctuary [which is in]: the firmament of his power.”

These “battle drum texts” emphasize the celebration that takes place when God granted victory. But some will say, we must use drums and dancing in the church to celebrate the victories God has given us in our spiritual battles over sin.  The question is: Did the Israelites win spiritual battles over sin in their lives? How come the bible doesn’t give a record of that. It is interesting that there is no reference to drums (timbrel) being used in the New Testament. Historical records showed that drumming and dancing were banned because of their association with common and profane things.

NOTE: We’re not suggesting that drums/dancing are wrong in themselves. All we’re saying is that they were not used in the sanctuary, but only during festive occasions. Drums were not part of the prescribed musical instruments for worship.


Just as applause or clapping, waiving of hands, and drumming in the church, dancing is also making its way into some of our churches. However, from a careful study we learn the following:

(1) Scripture and history indicate that dancing was never part of divine worship in the temple, synagogue, and early church;

(2) Of the twenty-eight references to dance or dancing in the Old Testament, only four can be considered to refer to religious dancing (Ps 149:3; 150:4; 2 Sam 6:14-16), but none of these relate to worship in God’s house, and two of them may not actually refer to dancing at all;

(3) Social dancing in Bible times was done mostly in conjunction with the celebration of religious events, especially the annual festivals. The dance was performed outside the temple by women, children, or men, as separate groups, and not as male-female couples.

(4) The Levitical choir was to be accompanied only by stringed instruments, the harp and the lyre (2 Chron 5:12-14; 1 Chron 16:42). Percussion instruments like drums and tambourines, which were commonly used for making dance music, were clearly omitted.

David and the Dancing Texts. David, who is regarded by many as the primary example of religious dancing in the Bible, never instructed the Levites regarding when and how to dance in the temple. Had David believed that dancing should be a component of divine worship, no doubt he would have given instructions regarding it to the Levite musicians he chose for the ministry of music at the temple.

Also, David is the founder of the music ministry at the temple. He gave clear instruction to the 4,000 Levite musicians regarding when to sing and what instruments to use to accompany their choir (1 Chron 23:5, 25-31). His omission of dancing in the divine worship can hardly be an oversight. Rather, it tells us that David distinguished between the sacred music performed in God’s house and the secular music played outside the temple for entertainment.

“Praise Him with Dance.” As mentioned earlier, there are four explicit references in the Bible to so-called “religious dancing” (Ps 149:3; 150:4; 2 Sam 6:14-16). Two of them consist of an invitation to praise the Lord “with dancing” (Ps 149:3; 150:4) and two describe David’s dance before the ark (2 Sam 6:14-16; cf. 1 Chron 15:27-29). Let’s briefly look at these.

    Psalm 149:3; 150:4--“Praise the Lord with dancing. . .”  It is important to note first of all that the invitation to praise the Lord with “dancing” is based on a disputed translation of the Hebrew term machowl, rendered as “dancing” in Psalm 149:3 and as “dance” in Psalm 150:4.

Some Bible students believe that machowl is derived from chuwl, which means “to make an opening”—a possible allusion to a “pipe” instrument. In fact this is the marginal reading given by the King James Version. Psalm 149:3 states: “Let them praise his name in the dance” [or “with a pipe,” KJV margin]. Similarly Psalm 150:4 reads: “Praise him with the timbrel and dance” [or “pipe,” KJV margin].

The marginal reading of the KJV is supported by the context of both Psalm 149:3 and 150:4, where the term machowl occurs in the context of a list of instruments to be used for praising the Lord. Besides machowl, in Psalm 150 the list includes eight instruments: trumpet, psaltery, harp, timbrel, stringed instruments, organs, cymbals, clashing cymbals (KJV).

Since the Psalmist is listing all the possible instruments to be used to praise the Lord, it is reasonable to assume that machowl also is a musical instrument, whatever its nature might be.

Another important consideration is the figurative language of these two psalms, which hardly allows for a literal interpretation of dancing in God’s house. Psalm 149:5 (RSV) encourages people to praise the Lord on the “couches.”

In verse 6, the praising is to be done with “two-edged swords in their hands.” In verses 7 and 8, the Lord is to be praised for punishing the heathen with the sword, binding kings in chains, and putting nobles in fetters.

It is evident that the language is figurative because it is hard to believe that God would expect people to praise Him by standing or jumping on couches or while swinging two-edged swords.

    Figurative Language. Similarly, Psalm 150 speaks in a highly figurative way of praising God. The psalmist calls upon God’s people to praise the Lord “for his mighty deeds” (v. 2) in every possible place and with every available musical instrument. Included in the psalm are:

(a) some specific places to praise the Lord, namely, “his sanctuary” (where His people can go) and “his mighty firmament” (where they cannot go);

(b) the reason to praise the Lord, namely, “for his mighty deeds . . . according to his exceeding greatness” (v. 2); and

(c) a selection of instruments to be used to praise the Lord, namely, the eight (or nine) listed above.

The purpose of the psalm, then, is not to specify precisely and literally the location and the instruments to be used to praise God musically in the church. Nor it is intended to give a license to dance for the Lord in church. Rather, its purpose is to invite everything that breathes or makes sound to praise the Lord everywhere. To interpret the psalm as a license to dance or to play drums in church misreads the intent of the Psalm and contradicts the very regulations which David himself gave regarding the use of instruments in God’s house.

David’s “Dancing before the Lord” in 2 Samuel 6:14.  This passage (which reads: “And David danced before the Lord with all his might; and David was girded with a line ephod”)  has often been exploited to justify dancing in the church. Is it really so?

 Note, however that David’s dance was not the kind of sensuous dances being introduced into the church today. Writes Ellen G. White:

“David's dancing in reverent joy before God has been cited by pleasure lovers in justification of the fashionable modern dance, but there is no ground for such an argument. In our day dancing is associated with folly and midnight reveling. Health and morals are sacrificed to pleasure. By the frequenters of the ballroom God is not an object of thought and reverence; prayer or the song of praise would be felt to be out of place in their assemblies. This test should be decisive. Amusements that have a tendency to weaken the love for sacred things and lessen our joy in the service of God are not to be sought by Christians. The music and dancing in joyful praise to God at the removal of the ark had not the faintest resemblance to the dissipation of modern dancing. The one tended to the remembrance of God and exalted His holy name. The other is a device of Satan to cause men to forget God and to dishonor Him” (Patriarchs & Prophets, p. 707).

Can proponents of dance in worship today claim that its movements, which are often sensuous in themselves, have “not the faintest resemblance” to secular modern dance?

Second, David’s dance was not a part of the worship service, nor was it done in the precincts of the place devoted to the worship of God. It was a joyful celebratory dance as part of the procession when the ark was being brought to Zion. It was not in the temple. The example of David provides no basis for bringing into our worship services the kind of dancing we are being urged to embrace. This is bringing “strangefire” before the Lord in His house.

No Dancing Music or Instruments in the Divine Service. It was David who established music ministry in the temple. If David had believed that dancing should be a component of divine worship, he would have instructed the Levitical choir on how and when to dance during the temple service. After all, it was David who instituted the times, place, and words for the performance of the Levitical choir. He also “made” the musical instruments to be used for their ministry (1 Chron 23:5; 2 Chron 7:6); these were called “the instruments of David” (2 Chron 29:26-27).

David never instructed the Levites to accompany the temple’s choir with the percussion instruments associated with dancing, instruments such as the timbrel, tambourines, or drums. Instead, he established that the Levitical choir was to be accompanied by lyres and harps. These were called “the instruments of song” (2 Chron 5:13) or “the instruments of God’s song” (1 Chron 16:42). As their descriptive name indicates, their function was to accompany the songs of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord (1 Chron 23:5; 2 Chron 5:13). The musicians who played the harps and the lyres would themselves sing the song to their own accompaniment (1 Chron 9:33; 15:16, 19, 27; 2 Chron 5:12-13; 20:21).

David’s Instructions Binding for Later Generations. The restriction on the use of instruments was meant to be a binding rule for future generations. When King Hezekiah revived temple worship in 715 b.c., he meticulously followed David’s instructions. We read that the king “stationed the Levites in the house of the Lord with cymbals, harps, and lyres, according to the commandment of David . . . for the commandment was from the Lord through his prophets” (2 Chron 29:25). The cymbals were used to mark the transition between stanzas, and not to accompany the singing.

Two and a half centuries later, when the temple was rebuilt under Ezra and Nehemiah, the same restriction applied again. No percussion instruments were allowed to accompany the Levitical choir or to play in an orchestra at the temple (Ezra 3:10; Neh 12:27, 36). The singing and the instrumental music of the temple were to differ from that used in the social life of the people.


Often, drumming, shouting, and dancing are characteristics of pagan worship. The Bible records examples of such practices in Exodus 32 (apostasy that was led by Aaron) and 1 Kings 18 (in connection with the Baal worshippers on Mount Carmel.

Sister White also wrote that shortly before probation closes for the world, drumming and dancing will be introduced into the worship services of the church. Though proponents will claim that such expressions are evidence of the Spirit’s leading, according to Ellen White, no encouragement should be given it—for it is Satan’s counterfeit to deceive. She made this prophecy in connection with a similar even that took place at a Muncie, Indiana, camp meeting in 1900.[8]

“The things you have described as taking place in Indiana, the Lord has shown me would take place just before the close of probation. Every uncouth thing will be demonstrated. There will be shouting, with drums, music, and dancing. The senses of rational beings will become so confused that they cannot be trusted to make right decisions. And this is called the moving of the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit never reveals itself in such methods, in such a bedlam of noise. This is an invention of Satan to cover up his ingenious methods for making of none effect the pure, sincere, elevating, ennobling, sanctifying truth for this time. Better never have the worship of God blended with music than to use musical instruments to do the work which last January was represented to me would be brought into our camp meetings.

“The truth for this time needs nothing of this kind in its work of converting souls. A bedlam of noise shocks the senses and perverts that which if conducted aright might be a blessing. The powers of satanic agencies blend with the din and noise, to have a carnival, and this is termed the Holy Spirit's working.

“Those participating in the supposed revival receive impressions which lead them adrift. They cannot tell what they formerly knew regarding Bible principles. No encouragement should be given to this kind of worship. {Selected Messages, 2:36-37; emphasis mine}.

In view of the above statement, Seventh-day Adventists should be extremely careful with the applause, waiving of hands, drumming, and dancing in the church. In my opinion, the practice in the so-called contemporary worship services is a 21st Century Jeroboam Experiment.[9] Ellen White calls upon us to take a decided stand against this “frivolity” and “nonsense” that can only lead to “perdition.”

“I feel alarmed as I witness everywhere the frivolity of young men and young women who profess to believe the truth. God does not seem to be in their thoughts. Their minds are filled with nonsense. Their conversation is only empty, vain talk. They have a keen ear for music, and Satan knows what organs to excite to animate, engross, and charm the mind so that Christ is not desired. The spiritual longings of the soul for divine knowledge, for a growth in grace, are wanting.

“I was shown that the youth must take a higher stand and make the word of God the man of their counsel and their guide. Solemn responsibilities rest upon the young, which they lightly regard. The introduction of music into their homes, instead of inciting to holiness and spirituality, has been the means of diverting their minds from the truth. Frivolous songs and the popular sheet music of the day seem congenial to their taste. The instruments of music have taken time which should have been devoted to prayer. Music, when not abused, is a great blessing; but when put to a wrong use, it is a terrible curse. It excites, but does not impart that strength and courage which the Christian can find only at the throne of grace while humbly making known his wants and, with strong cries and tears, pleading for heavenly strength to be fortified against the powerful temptations of the evil one. Satan is leading the young captive. Oh, what can I say to lead them to break his power of infatuation! He is a skillful charmer luring them on to perdition. {Adventist Home, p. 407-408}


The danger we face is an attempt to pattern our churches after other churches. The Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy warn against this:

Deuteronomy 12:30-32
30 Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them [other nations], after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ 31 You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

Selected Messages, Book 2, pp. 18-19
“A new order of things has come into the ministry. There is a desire to pattern after other churches, and simplicity and humility are almost unknown. The young ministers seek to be original, and to introduce new ideas and new plans for labor. Some open revival meetings, and by this means call large numbers into the church. But when the excitement is over, where are the converted ones? Repentance and confession of sin are not seen. The sinner is entreated to believe in Christ and accept Him, without regard to his past life of sin and rebellion. The heart is not broken. There is no contrition of soul. The supposed converted ones have not fallen upon the Rock, Christ Jesus.  {2SM 18.4}
     The Old and New Testament Scriptures show us the only way in which this work should be done. Repent, repent, repent was the message rung out by John the Baptist in the wilderness. Christ's message to the people was "Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish" (Luke 13:5). And the apostles were commanded to preach everywhere that men should repent.

Bible Echo, May 21, 1894
“God's workmen must not follow after the world's practices and customs in the least”

Isaiah 8:20
"To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."


1.   Angel M. Rodríguez, “Clapping in Church,” Adventist Review, May 1997; available on the Biblical Researrch Institute website:
2.   Ibid.
3.   E. J. Waggoner, Sunday: The Origin of Its Observance in the Christian Church (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1891), p. 104.
4.   James White, Life Incidents (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Assn., 1868), p. 157.
5.   Quoted in Arthur L. White, Ellen G. White: The Lonely Years (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald, 1984), p. 46.
6.   In this section and the next, I’ve drawn extensively on the excellent work by Brian Neumann, Stop Before It’s Too Late (Delta, BC, Canada: Amazing Discoveries, 2005).
7.   This section is adapted from Samuele Bacchiocchi, “Shall We Dance,” Adventists Affirm (Summer 2000), pp. 22-32.
8.   For a detailed discussion of this, see Paul Hamel, “A Bedlam of Noise,” Adventists Affirm (Spring 1998), pp. 40-44, 50. This article was adapted from Paul Hamel’s Ellen White and Music (Washington: Review and Herald, 1976), pp. 40-48).
9.   For more on Jeroboam’s innovative style of worship, see Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, “Inventing Styles of Worship,” in Here We Stand: Evaluating New Trends in the Church (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventists Affirm, 2005), pp. 381-390.


Samuel Koranteng-Pipim, editor, Here We Stand: Evaluating New Trends in the Church (Berrien Springs, MI: Adventists Affirm, 2005). [NOTE: There are excellent articles in this book, evaluating new trends in worship, music, and new approaches to praying, church growth, etc.]

Dan Lucarini, Why I Left the Contemporary Christian Music Movement: Confessions of A Former Worship Leader (Webster, NY: Evangelical Press, 20020

Brian S. Neumann, Stop Before It’s Too Late (Delta, British Columbia, Canada: Amazing Discoveries, 2005).

Samuele Bacchiocchi, editor, The Christian & Rock Music A Study on Biblical Principles of Music (Berrien Springs, MI: Biblical Perspectives, 2000).

Special Issue of Adventists Affirm, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer 2000), dealing with worship and performance.

For articles that addresses contemporary issues in the church, check my website: