Is it Worship or Performance?
Right before our 2017 ministers conference I was asked to take over the position of head of worship for our ministry, The Fishermen Ministry. There were many mandates that came with this position. One of these was to identify and articulate the difference between worshiping and performing, i.e. worship or performance. That has proven a real challenge to work through not only for me, but also for many of those involved in our various music teams.
What is Worship?
Worship is something that we offer, a gift of our praise, to our Heavenly Father. It is our recognition of who He is as a whole, and who and what He is to us as individuals. My father, Richard Eutsler Sr. also known as “Brother Davy,” likened worship to how a pet, most specifically a cheerful puppy dog, reacts when his or her master comes home. Our dog Freddy gets so excited to see my wife Sue that he’ll often pee himself as he’s jumping up and down and simply going crazy to see her again. Now before you get the wrong idea, I’m not saying we need to lose control of ourselves and our bodily fluids when we sing and praise the Lord, but I am referring to the overwhelming joy, exuberance, and abandonment of one’s self (one’s pride, self-consciousness, and insecurities) as they come to realize just how great the grace, mercy, and love of Jesus Christ is in their lives.
Worship is also a valuable tool, when wielded skillfully, that we have at our disposal to do battle throughout our daily walk of faith. I’m going to focus on this aspect in a later part of this series. In looking at where we were as a ministry, it was clear that we had adopted performance and not worship when we came together in our weekly fellowships.
What is performance?
First of all, this "worship or performance" issue was a hard nut to crack with many of those involved in our ministry worship teams. The truth is that performance is not necessarily all “bad.” There is a time and a place for performance songs that teach, encourage, and uplift the listeners and strengthen them in their spirit. The music team may perform a song or set of songs that are received by the congregation and they are uplifted. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that; it’s just not worship. There are some serious pitfalls that can, but not always, create real problems.
Performance tends to exalt the performers and not Jesus Christ. Performance also perpetuates the spoon-fed mentality of most congregations that have fallen out of touch with the need of a personal responsibility to engage in their walk of faith. It also perpetuates more of a concert atmosphere vs a “coming in to the presence of God” atmosphere. None of this helps people in their walk in the Lord. Rather, it creates more space and a larger disconnect to the reality of what it means to serve and walk with Jesus Christ.
How to begin to identify one from the other?
One of the key factors in turning the corner from performance to worship is to look at who is getting the credit. Generally speaking, musicians are egocentric and full of themselves at nearly every level. I can say this being a musician and one that suffers from a severe case of this. But, when everyone on the music team puts that off, as we are all called to do as believers, and we put on the new man and the mind of Christ, then we can approach music and leading worship in a whole new way. In other words, it’s NOT ABOUT US. It’s all about Jesus.
Congregation participation is key to worship. If you as a musician look out and see the people in the pews simply listening to what you are playing, then you are performing. You are not leading people in worship. This can happen for many reasons. One is simply the complexity of the songs that are chosen. If a new person coming off the street can’t pick up the song after hearing it through a couple of times, then you’re probably playing a “performance” song.
There is a reason that choruses became so popular back in the 70s. They were easy to pick up and easy for people to join in, no hymnal required. Simply dialing back to simple choruses and easy vocal arrangements with clearly defined melodies can make a big difference. When you can get the people out of the pews and up on their feet participating, and the whole congregation is lifting up their voices in praise with the hearts and minds focused on the Lord, then you are starting to make the switch.
Do you need help with worship or performance?
So, as we started this year’s ministers conference, I sought to incorporate these changes to bring us away from performance and back into worship. We are still working on making that transition fully and I pray and trust the Lord to bring us the rest of the way.
I will be writing about some of the specifics of what we did and how we did it (are doing it) in the hope that it will be a help to those that are also looking to make the same transition. And, if you have any questions, simply look me up via the contact us form here on the site and I’ll be glad to chat with you.
For now, may the Lord Bless you as you seek to serve and worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.