This Is Why Folks Don’t Take Church Seriously Pt. II: The Shout or Praise Breaks

Well, this really isn’t a solely religious blog, but as most of my close followers know, religion is very much a part of a my life.  I mean, I would love to have a blog about this Tavis Smiley town hall I heard that aired on TvOne over the weekend, but I guess you’ll have to go to the other Tavis Smiley-hate blogs to get your fill, but for now, because of a previous post, I found a way to get a series out of this.

The first post, which is the one just before this one, I just was showing how some wanton foolishness leaves a bad mark on the church.  There’s a clip, probably at a concert, and not a church service, with Gospel recording artist Hezekiah Walker and they’re having a shouting/dancing contest.  Well, I’m from the church, I get it.  That clip makes sense to me.  But, for those who don’t attend church like that, let alone for those who don’t have any semblance of a church background, that looks like pure-D, Grade A Fool Fest.   I mean, my friend always makes the comments that “white folk must think we look a fool in Pentecostal churches.”  Just take out “white” and insert any group and you kind of get the picture.

So, just for clarification purposes, let me just drop my knowledge of what “the shout/praise break” really are.

Actually, my same friend says that the modern day praise break is evidence of African retentions.  The best that we can point to from this contemporary vantage point is the “ring shout.”   The ring shout originating from the shores of West Africa was an ecstatic moment in a worship service either outdoors in the brush arbors of the “invisible institution” or even inside near the altar of the church.  The men and women would start singing or a chant and shuffle their feet in a circle until it got higher and higher into a frenzied pace–almost until exhaustion took place.

Well, this translated easily into the Spiritualist and the black Pentecostal churches because of them being tuned into the emotionalism and spiritualism of the moment.  So by the time Charles H. Mason founded the Church of God in Christ at the turn of the 20th century, his background, whether COGICs will admit or not, albeit Baptist, he was heavily rumored to have believed in the gris-gris bags and the chicken feet and “putting a root” on someone.  Something many Spiritualist churches still heavily believe in until this day.

What we see in the modern day church when it comes to a praise break is a result of the influence of Gospel music as a genre through the ages.  Before when there was just a piano, and then drums were added and by the fifties there would be a whole band including guitars and bass guitars and also the ever influential Hammond organ.  

One would be remiss to not understand Gospel music without the Hammond organ.  Generally, at most churches, their primary goal is to be in possession of one of these badboys.   The stopped making the original B3 and C3 models in the 1970s, but many people have rebuilt them, along with the Leslie speakers and now the company has made the “new B3” and “new C3” models, but most purists say, if I’m gonna go through all of that, just give me the original one.  

The sound that is associated with the shout is all based on the music–namely the organ.  And much like the ring shout, a true praise break or shout is spontaneous.  That is to say, often times a praise break’ll happen after a song that the choir sang really stirred up the emotions of the congregation and the praise break acts as the cathartic release.  OR, it’s like the praise break is a good nut after some awesome foreplay and love-making session.

Here’s a good example of praise break:

Usually, it’s one or two people that get caught up, the organist or keyboardist is instigating and before you know it, the keyboardist hits one good beat and if the church is Pentecostal, thats all they need because they’ve gotten a beat going.  I’d submit that even without the organ and drums, as long as you have a beat you’ll have a shout.  I’ve been to churches–with wooden floors–and between the stomping, the hand-clapping, the tambourines and, yes, even the washboards, that more than satisfied the spirit.

Are the people shouting and reacting to the music?  Simply put, yes.  It’s a learned reaction, much like Pavlov’s dog who heard the bell before he saw the food and would begin to salivate.  Nonetheless, I think many times its real.  I can’t deny my own experiences while sitting on the organ versus sitting in the pew when there have been high ecstatic moments in a church and I’ve truly felt something unexplainable.  Then there have been other times where I’ve been in a church and seen folks damn near do flips–and felt nothing.

Yes, I’ve been to services like that, and I just sit in my pew and look.  I’ve had a few people walk up to me and say, “How could you sit and not move or do anything?”  Which to me is the exact opposite of those who say “It don’t take all of that.”  But, I remember as a kid watching that scene from the “Blues Brothers” if that’s what they really did in some churches because I most certainly wasn’t raised in a church like that.

Personally, where I am is what is the efficaciousness of doing all of that?  I firmly believe that God isn’t impressed with how well we speak in tongues, how well we dance, or even the fact that we did it just because it felt good.  I say damn the idea that we should praise God just because of “who God is” and that’s all that that is doing.  I think doing all of that falls bankrupt when, as other commenters said, that our actions fail to meet up with our worship services.  At first I used to rail against church outsiders saying “all y’all just hypocrites” and I grew up hearing pastors provide a ready response to that of “Oh, there’s always room for one more.”  The older I’ve gotten, the more I see the outsiders point of view:  we claim to have all the answers and all this power from God, but not a lot has changed.  We’ll hock and spit in church on Sunday, and be ready to cuss someone out leaving the parking lot 30 minutes later.  To me that’s just evidence that at the core we’re all human, but the badge of self-righteousness many of us wear prevents us from seeing it as such.

At its core, I have nothing wrong with praise breaks and shouts, and of course as a musician I love hearing what riff the organist or band is going to go into next.  And yes, many of us are used to keep up such a pace for extended periods of time.  I mean, for our last Late-Night at school I think we were gone for about 45 minutes from start to finish and not to mention after the preacher was done.

I open this for discussion and further inquiry.  I’d be interested to see what’s the psychology behind all of this because most interpretations rest solely in the theological realm and negate other points of views.  Stay tuned for part three tomorrow.

I welcome comments and rebuttals for discussion.  Also, tell me what your favorite church scene from a movie was, lol.  I’d be interested to know.  This is my favorite below.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL



36 thoughts on “This Is Why Folks Don’t Take Church Seriously Pt. II: The Shout or Praise Breaks

  1. Although I’ve never been one to advocate ‘Blackness’, I cannot deny when I attend a Black church service, there’s something I truly ‘feel’ in the music that seems to stir that African blood in me that all my reflective Catholicism cannot deny. Whereas the great J.S. Bach wrote deeply spiritual music specifically to be plaid on those soaring, multi-piped church organs, there is something special about how Black folk have used that electric organ to shape a cultural strand in America.

    Bottom line: no matter how bombastic and ‘out there’ these praise breaks, etc. may seem, as they relate to our African roots, I get it.

  2. How do we know what honors God and one’s self? When we are lost, how are we found?

    Does being ‘moved’ during a ‘praise break’ move us toward treating people the way we want to be treated (even despite real or perceived mistreatment)?

    1. We Can know what honors God by first, Loving him with all our heart, mind, and Soul. Then loving our neighbors they way God would expect. Also, as well as loving our enemies.

    2. I feel that when I come to service I’m coming to worship our Heavenly Father for being good all week now when I praise him I just think HOW REALLY GOOD HES BEEN MY HOLD LIFETIME NOW THAT TAKES ME SOMEWHERE and I might shout and scream sometimes walking this walk is not easy and you need a praise break ,but I feel your walk is personal you want to bring God glory it’s not in a shout a dance it’s how you live when your not in a church now that’s glorifying God

  3. My favorite “chu-ch” scene was Joel and Ethan Cohen’s “Ladykillers”. The choir director was spot on. Come on now It’s a comedy!! you know you want to laugh.

  4. I have to say something in regards to the praise break…I love it. Im Haitian and I grew up in a haitian non denominational church where there certainly was a spirit of liberty in regards to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. We never really had praise break music I think like maybe once or twice we’ve had it. But other times it was quite spontaneous usually during a worship song a praise song or after the song as we go up in worship. What use to annoy me about my old church as a worship leader sometimes the Pastor woul step in and just kill the spirit because he was so overtaken by his own flesh and his own understanding and would never realize that sometimes the people just need to worship and really bask in the spirit. Im not saying that you shouldnt the presence at every service because on the contrary you SHOULD always feel the presence in every service because when you worship God in spirit and in truth shouting and speaking in tongues is the evidence of that

    Now, Im attending an african american church and its a COGIC and our praise breaks are HOT! What I feel during the praise break is real! Its the same holy ghost feeling I felt when I was at my old church. The praise is always meant to be spontaneous and never forced. I disagree with you saying that the praise break is a learned reaction to the shout music. If you go to a church and theres a praise break and you dont react to it its because heart isnt open and you werent lookin to “go in” But if you have your hands up and your just praising God and that music starts you cant help but to “pick em up put em down!”

    The music is just an added bonus to help us usher into the presence of the Lord. Before I ever went to COGIC assembly I remember listening to Hezekiah Walkers Lord Do it and the praise break they had following that song and I had to pull over because I was so touched by the spirit that I couldnt stop crying and started speaking in tongues.

    In my clsoing shout music done the right way is a holy sound. As long as the muscians that are playing it are lead by the spirit then the assembly will feel it. The paslmist said to praise the lord with the harp and the lute so why shouldnt we do what the bible? Everyone praises God in their own way or form as long as it is in truth and in spirit who are we to judge…can I get an amen?

    1. As for me I never shout, fall out, run around the church, or dance. God knows my heart and He knows that I love and depend on Him regardless. I do feel like people do it for show bc when the music stop they stop, but it’s not for me to judge. Sometimes ppl judge the ppl that don’t dance shout or run around the church they say we ashamed or we too good but we just praise our Heavenly Father differently. It the end of the day God knows if it’s for show to be seen or if it’s all for Him. God bless yall

      1. Amen! However, Remember what the Prophet Jeremiah had to say according to ch. 20 verse 9. I know he is speaking about the word of the Lord. But remember all through the bible expressions of
        praise and gratitude are expressed in many ways, including song and dance i.e the children of Israel in the wilderness after their great deliverance from the Egyptians.

  5. I found your comment “it’s like the praise break is a good nut after some awesome foreplay and love-making session.” to be completely inappropriate.

    I know I cannot be the only Christian that found this offensive.

    Please choose your words more carefully next time when you’re speaking about something so delicate like one’s religious beliefs.

    1. @Not

      Well, the joys of this being my blog is that I get to say what I want to say and recall the imagery that I prefer to invoke. That being said, I think your finding such a comment as inappropriate has more to do with our general approach to sex and sexuality as being something that is to be covered, private and I daresay taboo. Sex is common. Everyone’s doing it, but we act as if no one is. My point was clearly illustrated and such an image drove home my point directly–which is what I wanted to do.

      Thanks for your comment.

      1. True That! Our Sexuality is also intertwined with our own unique spiritual consequence. I understood what you were going for, I think the person would have rather you use some other analogue instead.
        But, point taken. There is a release of some sort when engaged in the Holy Spirit.

    2. I don’t understand how deep religious feelings can be threatened so easily by that image. What is sinful about the pinnacle of conjugal joy? Marriage and its pleasures are blessed by God, and I think we come closer to Him at those moments.

      To the author: I really appreciate your willingness to use such metaphors.


    1. I understand your point completely. The truth is, I think, we can allow the flesh to get in the way of what the Lord has. I don’t mean every time all the time. I think it depends on lots of factors. mainly the motive and intent of the heart. God knows all, we can know the mind of the Lord if we ask to discern what is Holy our just flesh. I also know we are to be careful about judging God Holy spirit.
      Mark 3:29

    2. I was raised in a Holy Ghost filled Church as well. When we praised the LORD the spirit of Holy Ghost fell
      down people was set free. The new comers and visitors did not leave out the same way they came in. Back in my Church days we only had a wooden floor. Now some Churches need music and practice and need to be stir up. We need the old time mothers back into today’s Churches. That had the real anointing to tell you to sit down you don’t have it yet. Amen😀The Bible does say that everything that have breath praise Ye the LORD.In spirit if we do not the rocks will cry out.Some people do let there flesh get in the way of true praise.

  7. I am white, but I feel like I have soul. I know at my church, which is non-denominational, we get caught up in the Holy Spirit. There are all races there, and when the Holy Spirit moves, you better get out of the way. No matter what happens, as long as God is in the center of it all, that is what counts. It does not matter what someone thinks. I am white, and I don’t care what people say. I will shout, get my praise on, etc. God moves in my feet and my hands, my whole body gets to moving. I praise God for finally being in a church where I feel FREE to worship God and just cut loose. Heaven must be an amazing place of freedom and rejoicing.
    The word usage about a “nut” is not appropriate in my opinion. Yes, people have sex, but that is something to be kept in the bedroom. The Holy union between man and woman has NOTHING to do with the amazing, uplifting moment when God comes to inhabit your soul and body. It is WAY better than sex, it can not even be compared with sex. So even though sex feels amazing or climax; I would not DARE compare that to the feeling I have in Christ Jesus. That is so sacrilegious to me, but this is your page, and your opinion. I pray you ask God to convict your heart about that. I am not here to condemn you, only God can judge us. Honestly, I know where you were going with that, but no, I would not have used it. God is HOLY of Holies and sex is just not that.
    Be blessed…I love this “Praise Break” and I learned something new today. I would love to visit a church like that.

    1. If God is Holy? who created Sex? Then sex must be holy, are at least meant to be. Sex is Holy, just like God is Holy. Everything that God created, is in fact Holy. Even the Orgasm that men and women
      experience during sex.

  8. i think praise breaks are ok…but they dont move me though. im more of a “why” person in church. my questions are more like…yes dance, but why that dance? and why that music? i believe we ARE programmed, trained by tradition. some of us are so much so that they cant see past it and try to justify and defend it. i know why you dance but why that dance? and do you believe its the only one acceptable to god? can you do something different? they say its to god, but most just show off…ive seen it. i tend to think god wants something different, i think he is sitting up there saying “look they are dancing again, same ole thing for the past few centuries, same music, same dance, oh me! (because he cant say oh my god…he is god) guess ill give them the same ole blessings and miracles…from the past few centuries”. im sorry but i would be tired of getting the same praise for that long…lol. its like getting the same present for every birthday, and since god has millions of kids he gets millions of the same….ole…thing. ive never danced like that and dont desire to, but to each his own, if it works for you then great. final point…alot of the dances we do (not me though) in the clubs came from africa too but they are not acceptable in church…we let the enemy have all that and we get one little dance thats looks like the ho-down if yhou put a banjo to it.

    1. I like the way you put that 🙂 “Like God getting the same ole present for years and years…” The true PRAISE is in the heart…and that is what matters the most. If your heart and soul is not in it, then a person will have to answer for that SIN when they are standing before God on Judgement Day. I bet God will be asking them, “Now why were you jumping around like a chicken with it’s neck cut off, thinking about this afternoon’s dinner, I saw your heart, but you were just thinking with your stomach????”

  9. I was at a service and people were praising, clapping, jumping, dancing and I was caught up in a trance and the Holy Spirit started to show me the congregation almost like a slow motion movie scene, I couldn’t hear Holy Spirit impressed in my heart, that He was not pleased with the worship, It was like I could see the hypocrisy, lots of the people there were doing it for show and their hearts were far from Him; insincere. However I could also see a few scattered figures that the Lord was pointing out as true worshippers. Another instance a long time after I was at a church and they began to have a praise break, usual for a Sunday service, and I started to clap to join in and the Sprit took control of me and my hands became numb, I couldn’t move, clap, sing, nothing and aging I couldn’t hear, except when the pastors wife grabbed the mic and started to pray, for the record an anointed prayer warrior, I heard only her voice no music no praise team no piano nothing, That time I understood from the Lord that not all who praise Him are doing it from the heart and He doesn’t hear the prayers of those with iniquity in their hearts. God is looking for people who worship Him in spirit and in truth.

  10. I am a Disciple of Christ and I can pick em up and put em down with the best of them. I have been in the Church since I was little and have been in just to about every type of church from COGIC, where my roots lie, to Baptist, to non denominational, to Kingdom churches. I have to say that what people call Praise Breaks is not the Holy Ghost coming upon people or anything like that. Dancing and falling out is not one of the signs that the Bible says is a sign of one being filled with the Holy Ghost. The main two signs is that one is speaking in tongues and the other is that I have love for my fellow Brother and Sister in the faith.

    The Praise Breaks are just a way of Celebrating in our own unique way the love that we have for God and our thankfulness towards Him. Does it make us look foolish…I suppose it does but even to Michal, King David’s first wife she was filled with utter contempt and disgust when she saw her husband, THE KING, Dancing to the point where he was naked before his subjects. We must remember thought this same Uppity Princess remained barren all the days of her life because of this one act of contempt when it came to her Husband’s praise towards God as the Glory was returning back to Jerusalem by way of the Ark of the Covenant.

    As for the Bust a nut comment…..Today’s Christians must realize that the bible is a Holy book that does use certain sexualized terms to explain the process of God. When in the Bible when it says that Adam KNEW his wife…that meant to have sex with but the emphasis is not on the sex act but the intimacy that is needed in those times with ones wife. As for the Church to be the Bride of Christ we are to know God in the most intimate way. So the term as it was used does not offend me but in a way is the best, if harsh sounding way, to describe these moments….What needs to be understood is also how these wild ecstatic moments usher the believer into an intimacy of worship that cant be compared to. A lot of times people in the church try to move us on to the next order of service when in actuality we need to stay in the worship moments that are an effect of the praise break. This can be equated to the intamacy of sex between a man and a woman and that moment where indeed orgasm is reached then there is that tender moment when the husband and the wife (Christ and His Church) commune with one another on a whole other level.

    1. ^^^this dude has obviously never read the Song of Solomon. Now, hear is my issue with “shouting”…. The way it is shoved down your throat and you’re made to feel like you don’t love god or have a relationship with Him because you don’t shout. Why do I have to shout? Why can’t I close my eyes and lift my hands? My other issue is people doin things am having no history knowledge or reasoning behind it. My third issue, how does shouting help me LIVE this Christian life? How does it help me love god with all my heart? And my neighbor as myself? How does it help me in times of my faith being tested? How does it help the condition of my heart which is desperately wicked above all things? (True Word for you) I just hate how shouting is pushed down your throat but not true Word. And no, The Lord had never moved me to shout. I have been slain, prostrate, on my knees in services before and hats where I got true deliverance and healing. It’s not in a feeling… Folks wanna catch something. The Holy Ghost isn’t a virus, it is an endowment ou receive when you become saved to help you live saved. he is your guide to all truth, not something you catch and start running around all crazy like.

  11. I’ve lived my whole life in penetcostal church. Shouting makes no sense. Why does everyone’s shout look the same?! “Learned behavior” indeed!

    1. learned behavior does’nt have to be a bad thing. It could be good. I’m Saved and filled with the baptism of the Holy spirit. I was’nt always though. This all happened when God saved me. It just so
      happened in a COGIC church ,which they teach about the gifts of the spirit and learning to praise God with a freedom that I have’nt really experience anywhere else. I tend to think alot of chruches miss out on Who God is because they are so stoic.

  12. I find your detached, cerebral approach refreshing in a way. I was raised in the pentecostal church, but have my own intellect. I’ve often thought of how African heritage and other factors may influenced the outcomes of our spiritual and emotional expressions, including “praise breaks”. I think there is a cycle to intellectual analysis of one’s own race and circumstances. One part is distancing… and even disgust as we digest and identify with external perspectives. For me, this has come full circle. I understand how our spiritual and emotional expressions reflect our heritage and I’m perfectly okay with it.

  13. I’m reading Sacred Possessions, edited by Olmos and Paravisini-Gebert, a collection of scholarly articles on the subject, focusing on the practice in the African diaspora. Though not religious, I attended a Pentecostal church steadily for 3 years back in the 60s and I and my wife (who was raised in the church) go back often. Despite a huge increase in material and educational well-being of the congregation, the shouting is still very prominent. I once felt it start in me and I quelled it (chicken), but the best description I’ve read so far is an old one by Maya Deren in Divine Horsemen, how an outsider found herself possessed. Her description matched what I felt. How I would have behaved, having been raised in a White, non-religious home, I don’t know. Most White people I see shout just twirl around but some really do it all. I’ve read a number of books on possession but none that explained it from a neuropsychological pov. Religious people have their own explanation, of course.

  14. The praise break is an expression of the manifested joy that God has given to believers. Joy as we thank God for who He is, what He has done and is doing in our lives, how we receive by faith the things that He is bringing into our lives, how He has brought us through situations, and how He is connecting us to the faith on the inside of us. The Bible says “Praise Him with the timbrel and dance. There is a joy in knowing Him and fellowshipping with Him and the praise break is an opportunity to express this with other fellow believers as we celebrate and await our victories and breakthroughs in life.

  15. I grew up in Pentecost. Don’t dig it. Anybody know the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel with the prophets of Baal? Well, for me, that’s how I view “Pentecostal” churches. They wouldn’t know the “still, small voice” if It came and bit them in the back-side. All they know is how to work themselves into a dervish– and then have the guts to call it the Holy Ghost. Not for me…..

    1. I would disagree! Most of the times that I’ve broke out into a frenzied shout was after I “heard” the Holy spirit speak directly to me in his still small voice on the inside of my soul.

      1. How do I discern whether it’s my feelings or if its the Holy Spirit I’m hearing.
        It’s hard for me. I don’t want to make a mistake in my daily walk with Christ.

  16. Addendum: I’ve been trolling through YouTube videos of worship services in the African Diaspora, from Benin to Kingston and Oriente to Mobile. My favorite part is the excellent twerking done by the Christian choirs in Africa; it is just a way of dancing. Holding someone close in dancing can be sexual, too (rolling). The praise services, whether to Obatala,or Jesus, have the same root idea: rhythm and song combine with movement to make worship. It will take a long time to turn all the people of the African Diaspora into Norwegians.

  17. I have witnessed this “emotionalism” many many times as a child in a Pentecostal church and as an adult in a COGIC church.
    You know it’s fake…especially when you see notoriously wicked individuals “cut-a-rug” and return to evil words/ actions shortly thereafter.

    Granted some folks may have pure intentions but for most it is emotionalism triggered by music/ learned behaviour.

    Yes David danced unto the Lord to celebrate the arks return and I’m sure that was genuine.
    However outside of a man being healed by Christ and leaping afterwards… there is no mention of this being a common worship practice regularly throughout scripture OT or NT.
    If it is normal & accepted than why is it not written by ANY of the disciples.
    If it is “real” worship than wouldn’t Christ himself do it???? As our Example ????

    It’s Traditionalism like many other non biblical church practices…

    BTW this blogger KNOWS that that “nut” comment was inappropriate/ vulgar/ stupid
    # FACT

  18. I am here wondering if someone can tell me why the Pentecostal churches I have attended for 36 years in New Hampshire and now Mass. have all decided not to praise the Lord. I began my walk with God in New Hampshire in a church that was very powerful and I refuse to give in to the idea that it is not proper to rejoice in the Lord, it is not polite, it is excessive emotion, shallow and undedicated, just
    pleasure seeking and selfish attention seeking. I will not accept those lies. And I say NO to the demons whispering in my ear saying, “Just go with the flow. It is a new day. It is not necessary to praise and rejoice like you do. No one wants your outbursts.” Thse churches are not rejoicing and they are not travailing either. That is just too much work, too painful too humbling to cry and groan and double over for the lost souls all around us, even when they have come to visit the church and are sitting there wondering how to find God..
    I know that when we give up our fleshly dignity and pride and praise Jesus with all our strength, together as a body, and allow him to move us to dance and run and bounce off the walls, and scream and leap and shake, together, not just one or two of us eccentric folks, we are allowing the miracle working power of God to be released through us. Through our praise, God does miracles in the service and erupts through us like a volcano, blowing up into the atmosphere, spreading a divine ash that falls on the harvest fields all around our communities far beyond the four walls of a church. Our praise and willingness to enter into the spiritual dimensions of joy and power and complete surrender give God a body to shine through and to bring his power into this dark world. I am so upset that churches have become a place to hear four professionally performed songs, a few moments of prayer, a nice sermon, a dead altar call, and a happy bunch of Christians filled with the holy Ghost hobbling our of church still sick and still downcast, and still blind, but totally unaware of the power at their disposal as a body to travail, to bind together for the work of the service, to bring people to the new birth, to lay hands on everyone for healing, to rejoice in the victory together. I am very upset.No one seems to even know what they are missing.

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