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...it's not a performance...

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  • ...it's not a performance...

    So what do you think:

    Not long ago, I was helping lead worship at a men's retreat. It was a time of very in-depth spiritual searching and a weekend of life changing decisions. I'm sure you all understand and appreciate how important the worship experience is in setting the tone for such a time, so that Christ followers can enter into the presence of God and find a deeper place than may be typical. Usually, I'm in the "leadership" capacity, but this time it was someone else calling the shots as I was kinda the new kid on the block for this event. Now this isn't about me playing second fiddle, which I'm genuinely fine with. However, there were a few worship moments that I had to grab the reins and take the worship a different direction because what was being provided wasn't "scratching the itch" so to speak. The guy leading hadn't been playing guitar for very long, wasn't a strong singer, and his song choice was more in the "camp-firey" genre (Do Lord, This Little Light of Mine, and He's Got the Whole World In His Hands rather than the more adult expected songs of say, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong, etc.), so the music setting was a bit shallow and (for lack of a better phrase--I mean no disrespect) "bubble-gumish". This wasn't necessarily due to his inexperience of playing but in the presentation (choppy talking in and out of songs, starts and stops with not much cohesion and flow so that, in the eyes of those worshiping, us worship leaders and musicians disappeared from the focus and they could worship to our soundtrack as if they were the only ones in the room with God). I hope that makes sense and doesn't seem like I'm talking this fellow down, yet describes what I hope some of you can relate to and share your thoughts about. Anyway, to make a long story longer...

    I could sense a bit of polite jockeying for territory from time to time, though he would readily agree that he functioned better in a pastoral role (as he was really a pastor and not a worship leader/musician). This brings me to my main thought. One of the comments he made (in very kind, passive moment and manner) was that worship wasn't a performance (something that, generally speaking, I wholly agree with--make a joyful noise, no??). I truly think it was more of a self-comforting statement from him than a shot at me for stepping in from time to time (something I was humbly hesitant to do, but could tell from the rest of the pastoral staff on the retreat that I needed to find a godly way to do when possible). But this got me to thinking and chewing on that thought and I wondered what your thoughts were. Because I've heard others say the same or similar (that worship was not a performance) and I've often wondered if perhaps that was an easy, knee-jerk reaction way out of putting our best committed effort and talents into making the aspects of the worship time everything it could be. Usually, I hear the thought put forth when the worship experience is as spiritually inspiring as would be those songs sung at any kid summer camp (i.e. Boy/Girl Scouts and the like - not Christian camps).

    This has been hard to communicate and I hope it is coming through the right way. I was tempted to just not post it for fear I will misconstrue what I'm trying to put into words. Oh well, it won't be the very first time...

    So what do ya think?
    Last edited by Moosicman; 01-03-2011, 03:48 AM.

  • #2
    Performance

    I think I understand where you are coming from, and it is safe to say that this can happen in music, teaching, leadership, building projects, etc. We are all gifted differently, and God uses those imperfect gifts in a perfect way. We are only strong through our ability to get past those limitations.

    Having said that, part of the journey is discovering those limits, and how to work with them. There are times when stepping in is the right thing to do. There are also times to step back, and let things go as God would have them go. The best answers here are in prayer, an open mind, and thoughtful interaction. Sometimes, we can best serve as a coach or mentor.

    Blessings to you as you continue to serve and worship God...
    Dave

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    • #3
      I agree with your thoughts. Any "worship leader" who has ever argued "worship can't be a performance" with me has been a musician whose skills are lacking, at best. I don't mind somebody saying that their worship isn't a performance, but I take issue with somebody trying to argue that worship "cannot" be a performance.

      But, as you've said, we must be wise when discussing this topic with those who have a limited view of worship. It's one thing to encourage others to grow in their understanding of true worship, it's another to put them down for their lack of maturity.

      From my understanding of Scripture, it would not be a difficult task to show how worship can be a performance. Unfortunately, many people have a false sense of humility that prevents them from ever wanting to "perform" in any way.

      Nate
      Practical Worship

      Please Pray For My Wife

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      • #4
        my view on the issue...

        I too was once one who would say (because I had been taught) that playing/singing music during worship was not a performance. Then it grew to the old saying "Well, it's a performance for one...God." That was back in the 90s, even early 2000s. People used to speak of "vertically" worshiping.

        Today, I think worship is both vertical and horizontal worshiping and ascribing greatness to the One True God, but also teaching and encouraging the body, so I believe that there is a place in worship services to speak to one another... "We will walk with each other, we will walk side by side...." etc. If that is the case, then particularly if a song is being delivered to the congregation (as opposed to congregational singing) it's hard to think of it as anything but a performance. In the simplest of terms, a task is being "performed" not unlike the way the Pastor performs his task, the ushers perform theirs, etc. So I am not against that term.

        However, I think that it is important to note that worship is different and it probably is unfair to compare to performance as we think of from the secular world. It's kinda in a category of it's own in my mind. As a result, I try not to dwell on the term "performance", nor do I run away from and deny it. I think of the role as worship musician as kind of a messenger first and foremost, my personal preference is for a more understated type of performance where I can digest the lyrics (if any)... I don't need or like it to be too showy.

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        • #5
          Ditto what Dave said (and everyone else for that matter!)

          There IS an element of performance in leading worship, even if it is simply to play well enough that people aren't distracted by your wrong notes! There's nothing wrong with encouraging excellence.

          That said, there also needs to be some more grace for new musicians, I think. If someone else chose him for the job, then he would be the one in authority at that moment. And yes, he made several mistakes from our perspective, but anyone that is maturing needs the chance to make mistakes so they can learn from them. While you may not put him up front quite yet at your church, he needs some place to interact with a worshiping community and learn what works and what doesn't. A retreat may have been great training grounds for him.

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          • #6
            Granted, Shine4Him. But again, though I went to great lengths to put some context in that particular circumstance, it really wasn't about that in particular. I just have mulled over the "it's not a performance" idea for a long time and when it came up again it gave me cause to really chew on it. So I thought I would toss it out and see what y'alls reaction to the notion was.

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            • #7
              Music requires performance. Musicians/singers ARE performers.

              It doesn't matter the direction or object of worship (if intended for worship). Either you're a good performer or you're not.

              I don't mean that in a rude way, but the word performer or performance isn't a bad word. People have taken away the hard work and dedication it takes to be a great musician/leader of musicians by being afraid of the notion of performance.

              That being said, you can be a terrible performer and an excellent worshiper, because WORSHIP has nothing to do with performance.

              Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by russhutto View Post
                Music requires performance. Musicians/singers ARE performers.

                It doesn't matter the direction or object of worship (if intended for worship). Either you're a good performer or you're not.

                I don't mean that in a rude way, but the word performer or performance isn't a bad word. People have taken away the hard work and dedication it takes to be a great musician/leader of musicians by being afraid of the notion of performance.

                That being said, you can be a terrible performer and an excellent worshiper, because WORSHIP has nothing to do with performance.

                Very well said. You put into words what I've been searching to say.

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                • #9
                  I have found that to some people, physically expressive, vocally and musically impressive worship = performance. I think it is a subjective thing. Some folks are much more comfortable with a simple guitar and a person of average singing ability leading a song. I can't say why. Or perhaps they prefer Sandi Patty style to Hillsong.

                  I think it gets really complicated because different people have different expectations and definitions of worship, performance, a show.

                  I happen to be gifted vocally and get a lot of comments on 'what a great voice I have'. I get compared to a famous vocalist here and there. That's great. However, there are several people in my congregation who really dislike my style of singing. They also think I'm showy. Does that mean I am? I know where my heart is on the matter. I know that my desire is to worship the LORD in Spirit and in truth. I'll never convince them because they'd rather have an average vocalist and a simple piano melody to sing a song from 1985. That is worship to them.

                  That said, there is a fine line between preparing and providing our music with excellence and getting OCD about the 'perfect' transistion between songs. So much is dependant on balance. And also on whether or not the particular musicians you're working with have the ability to achieve what you're going for. We have 4 teams at our church. Certain of those teams can do pretty much anything together as a team. Others can't. That has to be okay.

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                  • #10
                    Performance

                    Ditto what Ursula said, except my Church would want a song from 1885.

                    I feel that the "performance" aspect is misunderstood, especially the need to strive for excellence. Worship in spirit and truth from the stage is a rather difficult prospect unless you have the confidence and skills to get past the nature of performance pressure. Those who do not understand what it its to deal with pre-worship jitters, a voice that just does not feel right, fingers that won't cooperate, band mates that can't or don't carry their part, sound system gremlins, and stinging criticism from people who don't like your "style", have no concept of the discipline it takes to stand up there and not only perform to the best of your ability, but truly worship in spirit and truth. In my case, if not for the Holy Spirit, I would have given this up a long time ago.

                    Performance in worship is what it is - the ability to provide musical leadership to the musical worship of our Creator. I see no problem with striving for excellence unless we fail to acknowledge the source of that excellence - the Holy Spirit, or if we allow our pride in those skills to be come a barrier to worship. Part of that leadership has to be mentorship, both to the congregation as a whole, and to individuals who may be growing into a worship leading role. That is where having the humble spirit to follow God's will is far more important than our individual musical skills. After all, perfection is a journey...

                    Blessings and peace.
                    Dave

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                    • #11
                      Hey all, check out the post we put up on the front page today. Sometimes we'll take conversations or concepts from the forums and build an article from it.

                      Is There A Place For Performance in Worship?

                      I quoted some of you from this thread! As always your thoughts and discussion is so appreciated here!
                      Associate Director of Worship & Media at St. Simons Community Church .He is also the content curator and editor here at The Worship Community.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Worship leading is not about performance to the same extent preaching is not about public speaking.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by russhutto View Post
                          That being said, you can be a terrible performer and an excellent worshiper, because WORSHIP has nothing to do with performance.

                          I disagree. Worship is a performance as are any other works. To say that God is worshiping for us I think is wrong. God requires us to worship Him not He to worship Himself. In order to worship Him we must put it into motion and this causes us to perform.

                          Faith without works is null.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by russhutto View Post
                            Hey all, check out the post we put up on the front page today. Sometimes we'll take conversations or concepts from the forums and build an article from it.

                            Is There A Place For Performance in Worship?

                            I quoted some of you from this thread! As always your thoughts and discussion is so appreciated here!
                            I finally made it to the big time! Ma is gonna be so proud

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Louis View Post
                              I finally made it to the big time! Ma is gonna be so proud
                              I know! LOL I already tweeted an FB'd the article going "looky!"

                              Comment

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