July 22, 2016

If you have read even one of my articles in the past, then you will know that “corporate worship” is a huge part of my philosophy as worship leader and teacher. This means that I believe it should always be our goal to encourage our congregation members to participate on as many levels in our services as possible. Today, I want to talk about one of the “dirty words.” The word that we seem to consistently be avoiding in worship. The one thing that we try to eliminate from our worship vocabulary – performance.
Usually, when we think about performance we think of individuality. We think of the opera singer on stage putting on a show, we think of the rock star running from one end of the arena to the other or smashing their guitar, or we think of the pop singer dressed inappropriately. For today’s purposes, I think we can talk about performance in worship in a different way. Performance does not have to be a negative. After all, almost anyone who stands in front of the congregation is performing. Think about it. The lead pastor performs when he delivers a well-planned and well-executed sermon. Associate pastors perform when they lead prayer or deliver the announcements.         
Congregation members perform when they deliver a testimony. Therefore, church musicians should always be performing to a certain extent. This is does not mean church musicians should perform extravagantly. This just means that congregation members need to see that we believe what we are sharing with them. The problem seems to have been that in an effort to make our services not about the individuality of the worship team members, we have sometimes created a barrier for group participation. I believe that there is a balance somewhere between.
What does effective performance look like from a practical standpoint? First things first – get your face out of the music stand! When church musicians are staring at the music with their head down, it is difficult for participants to connect and engage with the service. Let’s compare this to the lead pastor for a moment. If your lead pastor delivers his entire sermon with his face buried in his notes, rarely looks up, and barely makes eye contact with anyone, how is that going to make you feel? It’s going to make you feel like not paying attention, like you’re wasting your time, and like he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Why would it be any different for a musician?
The next step is to figure out what to do after we’ve gotten our faces out of our music stands. Keep in mind that everything the musician does in worship should reflect their pursuit of God and set an example for others. We should avoid making it about ourselves but to always keep Christ in our hearts and minds. We can still have fun though. Instrumentalists can turn to each other and connect. It’s okay to move around, it’s okay to move with each other, and it’s okay to make eye contact. As long as we aren’t distracting from the goal of corporate singing, it is all good. Singers need to make eye contact with congregation members. Singers need to know how to use their hands to gesture toward an atmosphere of invitation. Just keep in mind that it’s all about God.
Contact me anytime if you need help or know a young person interested in making a career of worship music. I can be reached at (660) 651-9964 or rmclouth@centralmethodist.edu. Until next month, keep playing and singing!