Is Performance a Dirty Word?

Is Performance a Dirty Word?

When you hear the word performance as it relates to your worship team, does it make you cringe? Or does it excite you?

In more conversations than I can count, I’ve heard performance thrown around as a dirty word.

“This is not a performance. This is worship.”

I get where these comments come from. Matter of fact, I’ve said them myself. What I want to guard against is demonizing performance. If you play music in your local church, there’s no need to avoid the word performance or think of it as something less than true worship.

Performance and worship don’t need to be mutually exclusive.

But I can understand both sides. Performance, when used poorly, is not of service to the church.

In church circles, we tend to view performance as:

  • Self-centeredness
  • Showing off
  • Making it all about the music
  • Being a rockstar

But performance in the truest sense, is professionalism. Think about a true performer—they take what they do very seriously. A performer on Broadway wants to do their best in order to create an incredible, memorable experience for the consumer.

But that is also where performance becomes a problem. Let’s define:

The Problem

The problem with our performance is when we are simply creating memorable experiences for consumers. This is actually counterintuitive to the mission and CHURCH that Jesus died for.

Are we fostering an audience of consumers or a CHURCH of worshipers? There is a massive difference.

Are we using the stage as a spotlight for our own glory? Are we raising up fans for our music or a bride with eyes only for Jesus?

More so than manufacturing an experience for people, we want to create context for Heaven to heal hearts. A place where they can awaken to God’s ever-present nearness.

The Need

But performance isn’t entirely a dirty word. Oftentimes our lack of performance is an excuse for laziness. Sure, we want everything to be “about God” and “for an audience of One,” but our lack of preparation and performance quality has become a distraction.

We all know the popular Scripture in Psalm 33:3:

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the Word of the Lord is true; He is faithful in all He does.”

You know whey I love this? Immediately after commanding us to sing and play skillfully, we are presented with an objective statement about God—His Word is true and He is faithful in all He does.

When you think of someone who is true and faithful, do you want to be around that person? Do you trust that person? Absolutely. In an earthly sense, that person is trustworthy and professional.

As a musician in the church, I want to reflect that attitude. I want to be faithful. Faithful in my preparation. Faithful in my performance. Faithful in my worship. Faithful in my compassion for people. Faithful in my serving.

The prayerful, well-thought-out planning on Monday morning and the painstaking attention to detail of performance techniques can mean the difference between a worship experience that draws attention to yourself or draws attention to the grand story of God.

So what’s the answer? The answer is to be aware of the pitfalls. Beware when your performing slips into a template you execute for your own attention.

Do you struggle with this? How do you communicate this with your team?

This article originally appeared here.

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David Santistevan
David is a Worship Pastor at Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh, PA.