There’s a recent blog that’s been getting some traction lately. It’s titled “Are We Headed For A Crash? Reflections On The Current State of Evangelical Worship.” Here’s an excerpt from the blog that captured the main point of the author:
…I picked up on a common theme. It’s been growing over the last few decades. And to be honest, it’s a troubling theme. And if this current generation of worship leaders doesn’t change this theme, then corporate worship in evangelicalism really is headed for a major crash.
It’s the theme of performancism. The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall.
It really is a problem. It really is a thing. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm. Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performancism while we can.
I’ve discussed this blog with one of my co-workers recently, it has been on a Facebook group of worship leaders from across the county in my denomination, and most recently showed up as a discussion among leaders of the church that I will be pastoring at soon in Appleton, WI.
When I first read this blog I was in agreement. I thought it was good insight into worship and thought it was well-written. Upon further reflection I have some concerns with it.
First, I get a bit concerned when any author generalizes and makes statements about the state of Evangelical Worship. I’m not sure this person is the authority on such a subject?
Second, It’s kind of a typical blog where the beginning is very kind and he seems to be very accepting of different views. Then he turns it around and becomes critical. It’s a bit confusing and misleading to some degree. But this is a minor point, I guess. It just bugs me.
Third, I don’t like the ‘blame it on the worship guys’ mentality in this blog. This is the most concerning part of the blog. This goes back to my first point. Who is this author to assume he can be the voice of the state of Evangelical Worship? Maybe he’s brilliant, maybe he’s a person that lives a life of worship…but I just don’t know. All I can do is read his blog to make this observation or question. It really stinks of another form of a ‘worship war’ and I’ve lived through too many worship wars in my 25+ years of leading worship.
In my opinion (and I’m not claiming to be the voice of the state of Evangelical Worship, I can only comment on my own experience) this blog has the potential of being a dividing tool of the enemy for our local churches. I have rarely, and I mean rarely, met a worship leader or worship pastor who was into performance to the degree that it hurt the local church. I have run into young worship leaders who were simply performing their “job” in their church–this situation is more of a reflection of leadership, not the worship leader.
Many churches have a vision or DNA that includes some form of performance which might be less than genuine worship but this is not typically the fault of the worship leader. There was a time recently when I thought God was directing me to be part of a mega-church where my musical abilities could be used effectively. I would’ve been good at this and I have been blessed by large churches, this setting would suite me very well. I’m sure I could make a good living and enjoy my job in this type of venue. I know several mega-church worship pastors who do a great job of facilitating worship with large groups of people by leveraging technology, musicianship, best business practices, quality leadership, etc. This does not necessarily mean that they have a performance approach that is destroying the state of worship in our Evangelical circles.
So where do I stand on the idea of performance and worship? I’m glad you asked. I’m in favor of performance in worship. Yes, performance in worship is a good thing and here’s why. God is worthy of our best. When I lead worship I try to perform my best for my Heavenly Father who gifted me, through his son, Jesus, to be able to worship him with musical abilities. I don’t perform to please men. I do it to please God, because that’s what I’m made to do. The Old Testament is full of examples of God wanting skilled craftsmen designing and building, skilled musicians singing and playing instruments, and more. The New Testament is full of teaching about being skilled at sharing the Gospel, Paul and Timothy were skilled at disciple-making and church planting. 2 Timothy 2:15 says that we should study to show that we qualified workman — in other words, we should perform the act of discipling and teaching solid doctrine in a way that honors God and produces disciples. Pastors are constantly improving their skills of delivering a sermon–a performance–to effectively communicate doctrinal principles and empower people with biblical knowledge. Actually, we expect this don’t we? How long would a preaching pastor last at a church if he did a lousy job of delivering a sermon? Compare that with the so-called performance problem of worship leaders that the author talks about.
The idea of performance, in the correct context, is clearly shown throughout the biblical story. As a worship leader and pastor I believe it is very important to pay attention to competency and excellence…and I would also put performance in this category. However, I’m not in favor of a performance in the sense that the congregation is the audience. We should be performing to an audience of One and that would be God. If our corporate worship becomes a performance to man and not to God then we will be in trouble. Giving the author the benefit of the doubt, I’m going to assume he’s talking about this type of problem. However, he seems quick to blame the worship leader, which I don’t agree with.
Bottom line…we are not going to crash anytime soon, at least not because of worship leaders performing. If the church is going to crash it will be because of a lack of relationships and disciple-making. I believe the single most important issue for the Evangelical church is actually a problem with how we view and live (or not live) a life of evangelizing through disciple-making. The church is designed to multiply, to start new churches, to train up leaders who can train other leaders to be disciples who can make more disciples. Worship is who we are, made in God’s image to glorify him as we live a sacrifice of praise. Making disciples is who the church is, made to multiply and glorify God by collectively letting the Holy Spirit work through us to expand his kingdom now!
Let’s be worshipers who perform for a God who is worthy of our best. Let’s be churches that embrace the idea of multiplying disciples who can plant new churches. This is the conversation that we should be having rather than blaming worship leaders for the potential crash of the Evangelical church.