We all know that the meaning of words can vary depending on the environment in which they are used. This is particularly true of the word “performance”. In the environment of the church, this word has been applied as the antithesis of worship. It implies that one is operating in a manner that is contrary to that which is honoring to God. Words like, grandstanding, self seeking, and/or man pleasing have been utilized to describe one who is performing.
How can we adequately determine whether what is taking place during our gatherings is worship or performance? It is important to remember that the tendency of man is to evaluate things by what is observable to the senses. Therefore it would be very easy to classify worship by observing how many people are singing, raising their hands, or responding in some emotional way. It would be equally simple to classify performance by seeing a lack of these responses and assigning blame to any number of things like: excessive instrumentation, loud volume, song choice, etc…
While these observable actions may indeed be signs of one or the other, they are not conclusive. Man renders judgment based on the senses, God looks at the heart. That means both worship and performance can be defined by an answer to a simple question: Who is the audience? If man is the primary audience, it is a performance. But if God is the audience, it is worship.
Jesus alluded to this notion in the gospels
“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-6
As we gather together, I invite you to wrestle with the question: Who is my audience? Worship leader, are you preparing an offering to bring to God, or are you wanting to gain the favor of man? Are you so concerned with the congregation meeting with God that you yourself don’t go there first?
Church member, are you preparing an offering to bring to God or are you waiting for someone to make you feel motivated to do so? Have you decided to worship regardless of music style, and life circumstances?
In every aspect of our lives, may we operate as worshippers, doing all things unto God.
Read Worship or Performance? – Part 1