Performance vs. Worship

Music is one of my passions. Few things can cut through to the very soul like music can. Music is powerful. It can bring a grown man to tears. Or it can stir feelings of joy.

In the christian community there are two major types of music. Both can praise God. Both can point to Jesus as Savior. Both serve a purpose in the life of believers. There is a time and a place for each. Understanding the difference between the two is crucial for church leaders, worship leaders and attendees. Just like when I go to a concert, I want to know what type of music to expect, so should it be in the christian music genre. Sure, the style varies greatly from venue to venue. One assembly may use traditional hymnals and an organ while another has a full band with electric lead guitars and words on a projector. Not all hymns are worship and not all contemporary songs are performance based. The style is impertinent really. Lyrics and posture are crucial.

Here are a few indicators of which type of music you’re listening to, leading, or singing. Performance lyrics talk about or to God. Performance posture makes the singer/leader/band the focal point. Performance puts on a show and strives for perfection. There are many wonderful and talented performance bands in the christian arena. They provide excellent entertainment while pointing audiences to Christ. However, worship lyrics speak to God. They should align with scripture and exalt God to His rightful place as Sovreign Lord. Worship posture makes God the focal point. Worship leads people into the presence of God and offers their best as a fragrant incense to the Holy One. There are several anointed worship bands currently. I use the term “annointed” because it requires far more than technical talent to lead worship. There is a calling and special choosing by God to lead worship.

Recently, I have played in bands of both type. In fact, once in the same night. The first band I sang with was the opener for the evening. The leader hoped to prove that he was a talented leader, worthy of a bigger stage. The songs he chose were to show off his skills as a musician and showcase his abilities. Not necessarily a bad thing. As we sang and exuded energy, I felt the crowd watching me. I had a keen sense that any sour note would be noticed. We were performing. The point of the song set was to entertain and create and energetic atmosphere. Moreover, we used tracks as filler music under the musicians which does not allow any deviation from the rehearsed song order.

The second band I played with was the near opposite. The worship leader had the intention of creating a space in the middle of the event that would usher people into God’s presence. She chose songs that spoke to God and gave Him honor for giving us a second chance, turning our messes into something beautiful as only God can. As we sang the songs, many people in the crowd had their eyes closed and hands raised in worship and reverence. I did not feel critiqued, but instead like an empty vessel for God’s use. There were no eyes on my and so there was no pressure to be perfect in and of myself. Furthermore, the worship leader did not use tracks so she had the freedom to repeat a chorus or bridge as she felt led. It required more attentiveness and skill from the musicians to follow her cues as well as hold their own musically without the assistance of pre-recorded tracks.

I would challenge you to discern which type of music you are listening to or leading. Is it performance or worship? Are you on an amphetheater stage or a church platform? Is the purpose of your venue to put on a show or draw people into the presence of the Almighty? Is your audience in the crowd or on the throne?

Sing out the honor of His name; Make His praise glorious. -Psalm 66:2

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