Performing A Role Or Performing A Show? Looking At The Fruit

1Yes, we’re all performers. 

The stay-at-home Mom performs her duties as well as she can on as little sleep as she gets. The mechanic performs his duties with the tools and training he’s gained through the years.

And the worship leader performs his or her Sunday duties on a platform of some kind, with musicians and vocalists of some kind, with training and (hopefully) practice of some kind. So, yes, worship leaders and their teams are performers, in one sense of the word.

But the word “perform” can mean two things: First, do a job. Second, put on a show. It’s the second meaning of the word that worship leaders have to avoid. We have to perform a role (which has both musical and pastoral components) focusing a congregation on Christ, without performing a show, focusing a congregation on us. It’s a fine line. And it’s a crucial distinction to make.

DISTINCTION ONEOur role is to serve our congregation by performing our role of helping them see and savor (and sing to) Jesus Christ.

– This requires pastoral gifts and sensitivities (i.e. knowing, loving, and serving our people).

– It requires musical skill (i.e. choosing songs, directing musicians, running rehearsals, and leading music).

– It requires leadership gifts (i.e. working with volunteers, arranging a team, interacting with different kinds of people, and leading a congregation in singing).

– And finally, it requires a certain comfort level with being up front, being seen, and being heard, in order to ensure the congregation’s confidence in singing to Jesus.

– All of these pastoral, musical, leadership, and up-front gifts go into us performing our Sunday morning role as a worship leader, facilitating the corporate exaltation of Jesus Christ.

DISTINCTION TWOOur role is not to entertain our congregation by performing a show (that they are welcome to follow along to if they can, or just observe).

– This diminishes the pastoral component of our role, since entertaining a crowd allows us to be more removed from the people.

– This disproportionately elevates musical skill to being the primary ingredient in the mix, since the demand is not so much on facilitating congregational singing, but more on keeping them entertained.

– This de-emphasizes pastoral/musical leadership, and instead demands a certain degree of star-power necessary to carry a musical performance from week to week.

– And this exalts the up-front persona, or stage presence, as being less about facilitating congregational singing, and more about performing the songs well.

– This is not the description of a worship leader performing his role. It’s the description of someone performing a show.

CRUCIAL DISTINCTION:
(1) Performing the different aspects of our role with humility, excellence, and skill, for the sake of building up of a congregation into Christ and helping them sing TO Christ, is effective worship leading. The fruit is that people focus on Jesus.

(2) Performing a sequence of songs in front of a congregation in a way that leads them to focus on the performance and the performers, is effectively performancism. The fruit is that people focus on the performers.

Of course we can’t help if someone, or let’s say a whole congregation, just happens to want to focus on us, even though our heart is absolutely in the place of performing a worship leading role. Every worship leader experiences leading a group of people who just aren’t responsive, no matter how hard they try or how much they pray.

But we can help what kind of fruit we’re planting.

If you want to grow apples, plant an apple tree. And take care of that apple tree. It might not grow apples for a long time. But eventually, if you planted it right, it will grow the right kind, and right flavor, of fruit.

Same goes for worship leaders. If we want people to look at Jesus, then plant that fruit. If we want people to look at us, then plant that fruit. We decide what kind of fruit to plant.

But God will only water one kind of fruit. The other kind will shrivel up and die.

6 thoughts on “Performing A Role Or Performing A Show? Looking At The Fruit

  1. Tom May 28, 2014 / 8:01 am

    Excellent elucidation of the best from the conversation elicited by your previous post. I would only add two things: (1) this needs to be the cause embraced by the whole service, including sermon and “announcements” and (2) shifting from performancism to proper worship leading will probably require taking deliberate steps away from anything resembling a concert, such as deemphasuzing the music and adding non-musical aspects such as corporate prayer, prayer in subgroups, responsive readings, readings from the Bible, and carefully planned testimonies. Lord, let the change begin here! Be greater in our midst, and let our musicians and pastors stand aside and show us the glory of your son!

  2. Mike V. May 28, 2014 / 8:26 am

    Well stated. I would add that when the music to be sung (by the congregation) is selected to specifically prepare us for the Word that is to be preached it is an added blessing. Certain songs can help prepare us for certain types of sermons … when that is all coordinated (with prayerful consideration) music becomes a bigger part of worship. Thank you to all those gifted with musical talents who use those talents to enhance worship!

  3. Anthony Pero May 29, 2014 / 12:52 pm

    This is very well stated. Its a fantastic place to start a dialogue from, and to work our way through to application in the real world. I would add a caveat to distinction two that the fact that people may find themselves entertained isn’t the same as making their entertainment the goal. We shouldn’t be working towards making people NOT entertained either, or making ourselves unentertaining… its just not something that should factor into our decision making regarding application and technique one way or the other.

  4. wsforchrist June 3, 2014 / 3:00 pm

    Enjoyed reading your honest approach to the music of worship.

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