Issues in Worship: Performance

Today is the third post of several where I’ll address some of the issues I’ve noticed in leading worship over the past 20+ years.  Ultimately, all of the issues I’ll address find their root in the heart, and are given wings with our pride. 

Worship_Music_Hands_LiftedI am a worship leader.  Actually, one of many in our church.

Our pastor leads worship.  So, too, does our choir, praise team, instrumentalists and A/V techs.  And, if you’re one who reads scripture or gives a testimony or leads in prayer, you’re leading worship.

If you’re a worship leader, and you’re honest, you’ve dealt with the issue of performance in worship.  From how we sing and play and preach and pray, we can sometimes perform more than we worship.  When that happens, it’s an issue.  A big one.

Much has been said and written regarding performance in our church gatherings.  It’s an issue that worship leaders have had to contend with for ages because we are, by nature, sinful creatures who enjoy, even crave, the accolades.  To rightfully focus our worship towards God, we must constantly check our hearts and minds to make sure that when we stand in the congregation to lead, it’s done with the right intentions.

It’s a good thing

Performance, though, is not by itself a bad thing.  At its most fundamental existence, performance and performer are words that describe any act or person who provides some sort of service in a given setting.  Being a performer can be a good thing.

For example, when you do something – anything – you are a performer in the base sense of the word.  If you hem a garment, mow a lawn, play quarterback for the high school football team, type a document – you are performing a task. Performing a task is not a bad thing.

No…it’s a bad thing

Performance, though, can become corrupted when we are doing something  – anything – that is contrary to who we are.  It’s as though we become actors, transforming ourselves into something we’re not.  That’s when performance in worship becomes an issue.

Here are 4 ways to avoid the issue of performance as you lead in worship:

1.  Be authentic.  When you’re leading worship, be you.  It’s tempting to try to be like someone else, and usually, when we do that, it’s because we want the praise.  If we’re not authentic when we lead worship, the focus can be on us…not God.

2.  Be sensitive to the community.  Leading worship in church means just that…leading.  The purpose is to allow a group of people to do something together.  If we’re singing a song, and I decide to move away from the melody to show my vocal abilities, it can very quickly cease to become corporate worship.  While I may possess a great range in my voice, most in the congregation don’t.  As a worship leader, I have to be sensitive to the dynamics of our congregation so that they can all take part in what we do.

3.  A right view of worship.  When the congregation gathers with the intent of giving glory to God, worship leaders must take the view that it’s about us and God.  If I’m more focused on my performance – how I look, how I sound, what I say between songs – then I’ve lost the right view of what we’re doing.  An active faith can help us keep our eyes and hearts focused on our worship.

4.  Personal prayer (and worship) is a necessity.  To lead worship in the Church, I have to – no, I must – be in a constant state of worship.  This means I need to meet with God daily in prayer, reading His Word, studying His commands – to make His will, and my worship, the affection of my life.  What my heart feels, my mind (and will) put into action.

A faith that lives

To take this a step further, giving glory to God – or worshipping him – can happen in every aspect of my life, every day.  It’s living my faith.  Whatever I do – in my work, my relationships, my recreation – I do it so that God is glorified.

As we struggle to keep pride out of our worship and worship leading, we must remember that we do have to prepare ourselves, both spiritually and musically.  Musicians practice and preachers study so that we can, as the psalmist says, worship “with excellence” (Psalm 33).

As we prepare for worship, we have to constantly be aware that performance in worship is an area where we can be easily attacked, and so we must seek God daily and keep our eyes and hearts focused on him.


Filed under Music, Worship

2 responses to “Issues in Worship: Performance

  1. Archie Moore

    Great blog today. I have seen many” PERFORMERS” in the pulpit in my lifetime but I have also seen many who is focused on The Lord and their worship is directed to The Lord. You can tell the difference. Keep up the good work. Love you!!!!

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Lennie Thompson

    Oh, Mark, where do I start? Great blog : how many times in the Forty years of leading music have I had some sweet soul ask to sing a solo. Mind you, they don’t want to bring that gift of music by joining
    the choir, no, they are extremely talented and have no time to practice with the rest of us. Where in the world is the heart of worship when the heart is overcome with pride ? In all those years I battled the difference between “performance” and truly giving glory to God in rendering a heartful message in song. My prayer was always that I would lead with the Spirit and that He would keep pride from entering my heart; how tempting that is when praises came in abundance!
    My prayer was and is now that the music in any church will always be to prepare the man of God to preach and lead the lost to Christ.
    It should thrill the heart of those who worship in song to know the Lord said. ” I will rejoice over you with SINGING” Zephaniah 3:17

    God bless you Mark, what a joy to know your heart and the heart of your precious parents who paved the way for ” such a time as this”
    In your life.



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