You’ve heard the opposite sentiment mentioned. Muttered, probably. Or spouted, more likely, as a platitude formed into a knife-edged critique. At a vocalist, a guitarist, a worship band, most likely:
“Worship should not be a performance.”
It’s either a performance, or it’s worship. Or so the thinking goes. Either or. So if someone is performing, they’re not worshipping.
I used to believe that, until someone lobbed it like a stink grenade into a conversation the other day. For some reason, instead of primping my self righteous puffery, the words got me thinking. And changing. And so now, I’ve come full circle, in full disagreement.
Worship absolutely is a performance. I’d even go so far as to say, “If your worship ain’t a performance, it ain’t worship.”
When it comes to praise, things are more vague. Praise can be offered about someone. You can praise someone behind their back. But not worship. Worship is offered facing the Object. It’s a gift given to Someone or some thing.
Think of the pageantry of the Old Testament. Robes, gold, silver, trumpets, draperies, arks, smoke, blood, bowing, chanting, choreography, crowd participation, and yes, PRACTICING. Know what that was? A worship performance, offered for an audience of One. The problem, you see, isn’t the performing. It’s our choice of audience.
When a worship team leads us in worship, they’d better be performing. They’d better be offering the performance of their lives, in fact. Not for us, goodness no. For Jesus. For God Almighty, in who’s presence we stand. And what’s supposed to happen, church, is we’re all supposed to join in—every last one of us, young and old—until the only one not performing is God, the Object of our worship.
Yesterday morning, I gave my voice to him. I sang my best for him, drummed my best for him with my fingers on the pew in front of me. Parum-papum-pum. Oh, I moved. I danced. I lifted my hands, stretched them into the sky as if trying to touch his magnificence. I knelt humbly before his majesty. Not trying to feel something, trying to give something, to demonstrate my faith. As a Pastor, I can tell you—if more of us thought of our worship as a performance, we’d probably think less about the goosebumps of our “worship experience” or whether or not we “got something out of worship.” God is the only one qualified to measure the worship experience. The only thing that matters is, did he get something out of my so-called worship?
One more thing. Don’t make the mistake of equating a performance with an act. The two are not synonymous. An act isn’t real. It’s put on. Fake. A performance is my bona fide offering—the real me, putting myself out there. Ask a pianist if her latest performance was merely an act. Then back up, duck, and excuse yourself.
My question for your comment: How might your worship deepen by seeing it as the performance of a lifetime for an audience of One?