Should worship planning and leadership be done to create a great performance or primarily to help the congregation be involved in what is happening?
This excellent article explains a conflict that exists in the Christian church today. As the author says, a performance orientation in worship services that focuses attention on what happens up front can describe either a traditional service or a contemporary one. But I actually think what has brought the contrast the author describes into sharper focus is the modern trend to place church congregations literally in the dark as in a theater. This trend, I believe, decreases interaction and is culturally set up for a performance mindset. It makes the congregation feel more like an audience.
I have always taught that the most important thing that happens on Sunday morning is not what happens on the platform, it is what happens in the hearts of those in the pews. The job of worship leaders and pastors is to suggest/guide/facilitate those responses in the congregation. But that job cannot really be accomplished unless the Holy Spirit is allowed to work in people’s hearts. Every Sunday morning, what the pastor and others leading worship are trying to accomplish cannot be done by human beings. The transformation of lives, the healing of souls, the conversion of wills, the sanctifying of lives–this is all God’s work. Whatever happens up front has as it’s only purpose to help those who are attending to connect with God and his truth and respond to it. Focusing on performance first will not get this job done. Being aware that congregational involvement individually and collectively in the service is essential is basic to being used of God in worship.
I need to say though that focusing on congregational response in no way means that those leading worship should settle for less excellence in what they do than those who might have a performance mindset. Absolutely not! God’s work is worthy of our best efforts! God uses excellence by his servants to affect the lives of others. Those who minister show their heart for God in their excellence.