Leading worship vs. performing

First of all, I love my church. I go to a very large church in northern Virginia that teaches sound doctrine, boldly preaches the Gospel, and actively reaches out to — and serves — the surrounding DC community. I’m grateful to have found a church that takes the Great Commission seriously and isn’t content to keep its message confined within its walls.

That being said, I’ve always felt there’s been too much emphasis on the “production value” of its services. Sure, the church has been blessed with lots of money from its charitable members — and it certainly shows in the state-of-the-art equipment throughout the church building.

The Sunday night worship service has slowly gotten more and more elaborate, incorporating complex lighting, stage graphics, and even a smoke machine.

These things, in and of themselves, are not bad. But if anything in my church gives me some uneasiness, it’s this. I come to church to worship, and instead I sometimes feel like I’m being entertained by a show.

Even the worship band can get carried away during the songs — breaking off into improvised vocals and guitar solos. In these cases, they cease to be leading corporate worship and instead become performers. Instead of the focus being on God, they pull the focus down onto themselves.

I’m not judging their motives — this is just how it appears to me.

I’m grateful for being at a church that wants to do all things with excellence. But we should always remember that everything involved in the production of the services is there to help facilitate worship of God. Not to be the focus themselves.

There’s a difference between putting on a performance and helping facilitate worship. I just hope someone over there knows the difference and isn’t just concerned with finding new ways to distract the congregation.

Personally speaking, I’ve participated in many styles of church worship, and regardless of the environment or musical style, it was always the state of my own heart that made the difference in its “effectiveness.” One church in particular had no musical accompaniment at all — just hymnals and voices — and it was one of the best worship experiences.

Besides, isn’t the point of a worship service to worship God? Not be focused on our own personal mood and feelings? The success of a worship service is not in how well it makes us feel, but in how well it helps us understand our place before a holy God.

Churches just need to get out of the mindset that we have to make worship (or the preaching of the Gospel) more attractive in order to appeal to people. Our efforts are worthless compared to the power of God and the Gospel itself. We should just be concerned with helping introduce others to Him. And He’ll take care of the rest.

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