Is It Worship or Performance?

I’ve never considered myself a performer or an entertainer. One of the things that was hard for me to get over getting on stage at first was feeling like a performer. I also used to go completely the other way and be too introverted on stage. I think there’s a happy balance between the two where the congregation is engaged, and your worship is still genuine.
So let’s look at worship as a whole and see how we can connect with God and not feel like we’re just putting on a show.

What is worship?

I’ve heard the verse where Jesus says we will worship the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). For years I would just put that phrase off as a religious thing that sounded good but was hard to understand. It wasn’t until recently that it started to make more sense to me.
If you think about how people used to worship God back before Jesus came, they had to abide by the strict law in order to be right with God. They had scriptures to go off of, too. They had the word, which is the “truth” part of worship. We are to worship God according to His word. Also, remember Jesus is the word (John 1:1), and he is the way, the TRUTH and the life. (John 14:6).
The second part is the mystifying part – to worship God in spirit. If you go back to the times before Jesus came on the scene, the Holy Spirit was usually just on one person at a time. It wasn’t until Jesus rose from the grave and ascended back to the Father that he sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us – those who accept Jesus as their Savior. So now we have the Holy Spirit living on the inside of us, connecting us to God on a different level that the word alone did.
Worshiping God in spirit is for us to open ourselves up for God to do things in us and through us. When we remain yielded to God’s spirit, we are giving our lives to Him for whatever purposes He has for us. Our direct “link” to the Father is by the Holy Spirit inside us, by faith. So worshiping God in spirit means trusting that there is more going on inside us than just our physical bodies, and therefore EVERYTHING we do (or don’t do) is our worship to God.
Here’s a good read on this topic, if you’d like to check it out: https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/worship-in-spirit-and-truth

Why do we worship?

We were CREATED to worship. Isaiah 43:7 tells us we were created for God’s glory. I once heard someone on TBN say that we are going to worship something whether we want to or not, since that’s how we are made. When we live our lives the way God plans for us, that naturally gives God the glory, because his plans are usually the kinds of things that we couldn’t accomplish on our own. We are made to worship God, so that is the purest fulfillment of our purpose in this life.

How should our stage presence be?

Luke 6:45 says, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” I believe true worship should involve us speaking or singing something. Beyond that, there’s no right or wrong answer for how you should be on stage, but it should be genuine.
I’ve found that the more I remain open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do in worship, the more expressive I am. I’m not one to jump around and yell, but I will sing, raise my hands, and close my eyes from time to time. Sometimes this is just a way for me to further submit myself to God and to reorient my heart toward Him in a worship service. Whatever you do in worship, just make sure it helps you stay focused on God.
The flip side of this discussion is that you don’t want to just stare down at a chord chart or your guitar the whole time. That can make you look like you are uninterested, bored, or even angry. This is another reason it’s important to memorize your music.

In Review

I’ve covered the What, Why, and How of worship. This is by no means an exhaustive study on the subject of worship. I’ve only scratched the surface: Worship in Spirit & Truth, we were created to worship, and it’s OK to have a little bit of performance mixed in with your worship. We’re supposed to show the congregation a good example, and sometimes that means stepping outside your comfort zone for a minute. Just remember, when you step out in faith, that gets God’s attention.
Join the discussion! Let me know what you think. Tell a story about your experiences with worship. I’d love to heard from you!

4 Replies to “Is It Worship or Performance?”

  1. I agree, and disagree with this. I have been performing in one way or another since I was a very small child, solos in the children’s choir, I had a book recital when I was in 3rd grade, I was the singer in rock style worship band from 19 till I was 22(think Petra praise type material). I was the lead guitarist for a Christian mwtla band for 5 years. Performance is something I do naturally. Worship needs to be honest. And me standing around trying not to “over do it” would be a lie. THAT would be the performance…

    1. Hi Matthew! Thanks for commenting 🙂 I agree that worship MUST be authentic. Worship leaders we have to be intentional about the way they lead the congregation. I heard someone on the Beyond Sunday podcast say one time that as worship leaders we are to BE a spotlight (pointing people to God) instead of being in the spotlight. Christian performance is certainly not inferior. It’s just different from worship leading. Would you agree?

      1. But isn’t that just false humility? It’s like If Lincoln Brewster never played a guitar solo,is that worship or is that lying to seem humble?

        1. Ah good point. I don’t think it’s false humility if it’s true…haha. There’s nothing wrong with a good ole guitar solo either. At some point it’s a matter of the condition of one’s heart and the motives. We can judge our own hearts & motives. Perhaps I should have titled the post “Is It Leading Worship or Performance?”. I think that’s another distinction: leading people versus inspiring or entertaining people. Good stuff, sir! You are provoking more thought on this subject 🙂

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