Away from the worship performance

Harbor Community Church had its first official service on Easter Sunday this year. It was an exciting time for a number of reasons. First of all, Easter is like the Super Bowl for the Christian; and each year we win. So that’s cool. And it was our first official service, so that was cool as well. And we had a number of folks there. We prayed for 100 and we got close to 90, with a 4 or 5 from our core group who couldn’t make it. So not too bad!

Providentially I happened upon Jeremy Vanderloop, a touring and performing Christian musician. Since another church planter vouched for the guy, I pretty much secured his services sight unseen. We were not disappointed. But it wasn’t about his performance or skills as it was his humility, and you could say “ability” to lead us to Jesus’ throne.

I don’t believe that Sunday worship is a performance. That’s a loaded word. I know it. But I just mean that the attention of the congregation is intentionally and regularly diverted away from an individual or individuals and to The Individual. Folks who are musically gifted can sometimes respond with, “Are you judging me because I’m talented and want to play well?” You know, the kind of “don’t hate me because I’m beautiful” mentality. But the skills of the leader don’t need to clash (and often don’t) with the leading of the congregation. Now they can, when the stage becomes a chance to showcase ones mad skills on the organ, or drum. Or the triangle or cazoo.

I probably haven’t been in the presence of a too many worship leaders as talented as Jeremy. And yet he did everything he could to point us to Jesus. He didn’t sacrifice skill or strumming patterns-I enjoyed those. And you could tell he practiced. But he intentionally did some things to put our attention on Jesus. Sometimes he would back away from the mic and go a capella for a bit. Sometimes he would just remind us to that we were singing to Jesus. Sometimes he would sing louder to raise our voices and then sometimes go quieter so we could better hear ourselves singing to the Lord. If there were 4 stanzas, they weren’t all done the same. And that helped grab my heart.

What would that look like for a full band? Don’t know. Not really my problem since we don’t have one. But it goes to show that the performance mindset has nothing essentially to do with talent or lack thereof, or lack of practice in perfecting one’s craft.

Now onto someone who can make a difference in the performance/consumer mentality. You. Me. Not just the heart of the musician but the heart of the congregation. Whether traditional or contemporary or whatever the heck the style of service a church has, the default mentality of the worshiper is that of a consumer. Do I like it?

Here are some thoughts which might help you move from consumer to worshiper.

When you leave, do you primarily reflect back upon how good or how bad the music was? Or do you reflect back on how you did?  I’m not intimating you shouldn’t declare,”Man that dude was off key” or “Wow that the guitar was out of tune.” But how much more of a worshipful environment would we see if people were to think, “You know what, I wasn’t engaged in the sermon or the singing or the confession” What if we graded ourselves?

Do you check your heart and mind throughout the service or put it on cruise control? I think we probably need to do all we can to put attention onto Christ instead of the Rays’ bad pitching match-up (which nowadays would be most everyday), or getting to lunch before “the others.”

Even though the song selection didn’t come from your personal I-pod playlist, could you think, or feel, or remember the love of Christ in the midst of it? Or did you just think that you’d wait till next week?

I honestly don’t do this very much. I need to though. And now that I preach each week, I do find myself paying even better attention during sermons. 🙂

If you have any other things that can help move us from consumers to engaged worshiper, please share. I need them too!



One thought on “Away from the worship performance

  1. Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin). Sadly due to the ever- changing “song list” of worship music, many people do not, will not, or cannot sing today’s Christian top 40.
    Lower the key; Middle C for most, but men will sing an octave lower. Then tell the congregation when you are going to teach them a new song. Old school didactics new school music if you like.. Oh, there IS a list of songs that are more masculine too. Let me know if you want that.

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