Monday, June 19, 2017

Kill Performancism in Worship ("Oh Magnify My Face With Me")

Store, in Ann Arbor, Kerrytown district

My own belief is that fog machine, stage lighting, click tracking worship are signs of acquiescence to cultural decadence, out of a need to be relevant and cool, and make people happy. With that stroke of my theological brush I paint a broad canvas. I am certain there are exceptions (if, e.g., God says, "Pull out the fog machine for this coming Sunday,"; or God says, "I want this worship song to last exactly 5 minutes, 28 seconds."). But it is instructive to remember that the last thing the First Church (book of Acts) was interested in was being relevant.

This is not a judgment against individual churches. It's the kind of thing Matt Redman did when he got the attention of many of us in his song "Heart of Worship." As a musician myself, I know how easy it is to slip into a performer more than a worshiper. (If you have never read Matt's story behind "Heart of Worship" it's worth reading, as a call away from the Consumer Church.) 

We need new voices to call us to attention when it comes to worship. Jamie Brown echoes the same in "Are We Headed For a Crash? Reflections On the Current State of Evangelical Worship." 

Brown was at the recent National Worship Leader Conference. A common theme there was:

"Performancism. The worship leader as the performer. The congregation as the audience. The sanctuary as the concert hall. It really is a problem. It really is a thing. And we really can’t allow it to become the norm. Worship leaders, we must identify and kill performancism while we can."

That's the point, right? 

Brown suggests we can kill the Entertainment Church by doing the following.
  • Sing songs people know (or can learn easily).
  • Sing them in congregational keys.
  • Sing and celebrate the power, glory, and salvation of God.
  • Serve your congregation.
  • Saturate them with the word of God.
  • Get your face off the big screen (here’s why).
  • Use your original songs in extreme moderation (here’s why).
  • Err on the side of including as many people as possible in what’s going on.
  • Keep the lights up.
  • Stop talking so much.
  • Don’t let loops/lights/visuals become your outlet for creativity at the expense of the centrality of the gospel.
  • Point to Jesus.
  • Don’t draw attention to yourself.
  • Don’t sing songs with bad lyrics or weak theology.
  • Tailor your worship leading, and the songs you pick, to include the largest cross-section of your congregation that you can.
  • Lead pastorally.