While I have grown up in church, I had never really been in a "Shouting" church. My first experience with a "shouting" church was going to a Baptist church my grandfather was singing at in Dayton, Ohio. They "shouted the house down" during those songs! I was about 13 at the time, and really enjoyed it a lot. Since then, I've been in a few other shouting churches and sat in a few camp meetings where the shouting continually roars from the saints gathered there.
What's a shouting church? Now this is an unofficial Travis Burke definition; but by shouting church or shouting service I am referring to a service that is filled with raised voices urging on the singers or preacher with "Amen," "Praise God," "Hallelujah", "Preach it!", "Go On!", That's Right!", "Park There a while!", etc. I've heard a lot in my years at church, some very humorous.
Now, let me say, I love preaching! I will "Amen" and "That's Right" any preacher who is preaching the Truth! I will raise my voice in a service and "Amen" the Truth that is being proclaimed from the Word of God. Why do I do this? Well, in the Scriptures, when the Truth was being proclaimed, the people were expected to vocally say "Amen", which means "so be it!" (Num. 5:22, Deut. 27:15-19, and Psalm 106:48). I Corinthians 14 teaches on tongues speaking. One warning to the church then when one was praying in tongues is (vs. 16) "Else when thou shalt bless with the spirit, how shall he that occupieth the room of the unlearned say Amen at they giving of thanks, seeing he understandeth not what thou sayest?" It was expected that others in the New Testament church, respond to Truth with an audible "Amen."
But, most who read this, will understand that an "audible amen" is not what I am writing about when I write about "Camp Meeting style" or "the shouting the house down church." At the mention of these, many will picture a red faced preacher and a couple of people standing up and pointing at him shouting "That's Right Preacher!" while others are walking on a pew, while others are standing there clapping, while others are raising both hands shouting "Hallelujah!" (and the majority of these are ladies). Someone then takes a jog around the place and everybody starts getting goose bumps at all the emotions being shared in the place.
Is this wrong? A while back, I quit asking the question "is this wrong?" and replaced it with "what does the Bible say?" We could look at Psalm 132:9, "Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness: and let thy saints shout for joy." The mention of the priests has to put this in context to Old Testament Israelite worship. Technically, shouting is never mentioned in context to worship in the New Testament church, though singing and saying Amen is (Col 3:16, 1 Cor. 14:16). But does this make it wrong? The Bible never commands us NOT to shout.
The Bible talks a lot about shouting. The Bible recognizes two major causes for shouting. When Joshua and Moses returned to the camp in Exodus 32, Joshua thought he heard a noise of war in the camp (v.17-18). However, Moses told him that is was rather the noise of them that sing that he heard. That is, instead of shouts of war, they were hearing shouts of joy. But this passage shows us something else as well. Not only are there two main reasons for shouting, there are also a good side and a bad side to each kind of shout. In Exodus 32:18, Moses declared, "It is not the voice of them that shout for mastery, neither is it the voice of them that cry for being overcome." Here we see that a shout of war may come from the victors or from the conquered. But the passage also shows us that shouts of joy can be good or bad. Here, the people were shouting because they had just turned from God and were worshipping false gods. Their joy was certainly misplaced.
So, I come to this observation. Is it wrong to shout? No. Is it right to shout? No. Since it is not commanded in the New Testament to shout in worship, one cannot and is unjust in deciding another saint is "not spiritual" or "dead" for not shouting. It was usually a spontaneous expression of joy and praise for an extraordinary blessing of God. It came at times of unusual blessing; such as, the completion of the temple foundation, the coming of fire from heaven, or the moving of the ark to Jerusalem. It was never an everyday experience. Shouting was an expression of something else. It was never to be the goal of the saints. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in certain churches today. The people come to church seeking the emotional release of a great time of shouting. This is not scriptural and runs against the working of the Holy Spirit in believers. Many times, the volume and "need to shout" is felt most by women in the church, challenging the command in 1 Cor. 14:35. Still, Luke 19:37 reads, "And when he was come nigh, even now at the descent of the mount of Olives, the whole multitude of disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen." Jesus commends them for doing so.
I will conclude with an example of my point. In 1 Samuel 4, the Israelites were about to face defeat. Eli had already been told that his sons would die and Israel be defeated for the great sins of the land. The Israelites decided to go get God after first being defeated, and they went and fetched the Ark of the Covenant. They then went to battle and (vs. 5) "all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again." The heathen Philistines heard the shout and thought "they were getting spiritual and God was come down among them," and now they would be defeated. They were wrong. There was a whole lot of shouting and a whole lot of God talk, but God wasn't in it at all. Eli's sons died, the Ark was taken, and God's people destroyed.
Many who are in to the "shouting or it's dead" philosophy love the emotions and feelings, but doctrinally are not as sound. I hope this doesn't offend anyone, but I ask you to consider the practice of shouting. Is it the practice of the most spiritual? Do those who do it most live the closest to God when they leave the church? Do the churches that shout the most have the most spiritual congregations? Do they have the most pure doctrine? We would do well to consider the motivation that lies behind much of the shouting that is done today.
When I was fresh out of college, I attended a Camp Meeting as a young preacher and experienced this for the first time. There was a long time of singing and people were shouting and hollering and running aisles. Then Pastor Don Green of Michigan stood up to preach and read, "There is none righteous, no not one." No one shouted. No one "Amened". He said, as only he could, "You all shout when some lady tears up and sings about trials, but you can't amen the Truth of God's Word? It was all in the flesh?" It made me think....I hope this does you.
I am not saying it is wrong, but I am not saying it is required. Those who love it most, require it from all to be spiritual. Do I hear a Amen?!