Tambourines in Church

Posted: April 26, 2012 in church, GCC, Grace Capital Church, New Hampshire
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The first church I went to was in Miami Beach Florida.  It was mostly a group of young Jewish believer who knew how to practice community and grace in a way that I had never seen before.  I gave my life to Jesus there.  It was during the worship time while the music was playing and the people were singing in a decidedly messianic fashion.  The narrow storefront church was filled to capacity and everyone was participating vigorously in the service.

The next week at church I remember wanting to sing along with the same gusto as everyone else, except I didn’t know the words.  I don’t think we had an overhead projector back then, but I seem to remember that we just had to learn the words as we sang them…learning them by heart.  There was another thing that was quite different than my church today-  hand held instruments.  Some people brought their own fancily designed embroidered bells and tambourines, others borrowed the ones in a box as you came in.  Since I barely knew any of the songs, I thought a good way to participate would be to grab an instrument from the box.  For the next several months I would be the “unofficial” percussionist on the wood blocks.  I had never done anything like this before, tapping away on beat and even adding an extra whack here and there.  I don’t think I was any good, but no one seemed to mind.

Fast forward to today in our church.  We don’t encourage people to bring their own music makers.  First off, we think that it’s a bit distracting and attention gathering.  Unlike my Miami Beach days when everyone was playing something in that small storefront church one or two wood block players or tambourine shakers would really stand out.  In our church it’s the worship team and singers up on the platform that help lead the rest of us in song pointing us to the Lord.  And they are pretty good at it…which is the second point.  Rarely have I heard someone who brings a tambourine to church really sound good, keep beat and add to the experience.  My guess is that they probably wouldn’t make it on the worship team so this is an easy way to bypass the auditions.

I know some of you may be thinking, what’s the big deal…let em shake that thang. And I would if it worked.  If people weren’t looking their way, thrown off by the beat, and instead were encouraged by their enthusiasm…maybe I’d reconsider.  But the bigger issue is one of being willing to lay down your tambourine at the altar and not press the issue. If the tambourine or anything else is connected to who you are as a worshipper, that’s not good.

Back to Miami Beach…One particular Sunday I came into worship and realized that someone had taken the wood blocks out of the instrument box before me.  I felt a little lost, a little out of place.  This was my comfort zone.  I didn’t know the words…now I didn’t have any way to worship.  That morning was a turning point because I began to sing, I put my  hands together to clap and realized that worship wasn’t dependent on my music maker, but on me.

How about you…do you need a certain kind of music to worship?  Do you like tambourines?  Does your churches’ worship team encourage you to connect with God when you sing?


  1. Jrogen says:

    Preach it brother! BTW, that was some sick tambourine you shared in that link. That’s the way to play.

  2. Anonymous says:

    For a moment there, I was ready to dust off my tamborine and bring it on Sunday 🙂 But you are absolutely right, we don’t need music makers to worship. All I need is myself with an open heart to praise our Heavenly Father.

  3. Christi Racine says:

    I can see where you are coming from, however I do not totally agree. Now, there is to be no distractions to the right or the left while worshiping. Just people quietly singing or lifting their hands, and oh, please clap on the right beat. I used to get very irritated when people would make “noise” next to me, sing off key, clap off beat, I found it very hard to get into the worship mode. But, then Jesus showed me that being able to worship had nothing to do with what was going on “around” me but what was going on “In” me. It has to be the heart that worships, not the eyes or ears as we can get so focused on the “distraction” rather than closing the eyes and focus on our Lord and Savior. It’s not the perfection God looks for, it’s the heart.

    • pbonanno says:

      You are so right Christi- God looks at the heart. But man looks at the outward appearance. The issue is not so much about perfection but about distraction. I’m all for exuberant and loud worship as long as its not drawing attention “purposefully” away from Jesus. I’ve heard tambourine players and seen banner wavers do it with great heart and greatly focusing on the Lord. Oh…and then there’s that Scripture about how when we gather together things should be done wih decency and order. Somehow I think lots of free for all stuff in a public worship setting doesn’t jive with the Word.

      • Christi Racine says:

        I agree that man looks too much at the outward appearance, how sad. I also agree with that scripture, however in many cases (churches) the decency and order part seem to fall under too much “control” and the Holy Spirit can be snuffed out all together. I just believe it always has to come down to the heart of the worshiper and pray they are worshiping the way God wants them to and not be intimidated by those around them. Sometimes, I have to be careful who I am next to, as some almost smack me in the face as they raise their arms in enthusiasm 🙂 I think I can live with that one. I like your blog Pastor. Good articles.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I remember our worship leader many years ago comment on how very few people know how to use the tambourine, on the right beat, and it becomes distracting. I have been in worship services where it was lovely, and others where it was distracting. I personally connect when singing to God and not so much “about Him.” (music not so loud). It’s quite beautiful when we can hear other voices sing to the Lord.

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