Worship or Performance
by Billy Beasley
The following dialogue took place in my second novel, The Preacher’s Letter. The conversation is between David, the Pastor of the church and Bill, an elder who continually places what he desires, in this case, his daughter, above what may be best for a church.
“Bill, have you spoken with your daughter, Linda, this morning?”
Bill turned and his eyes narrowed as he looked at David. “No.”
“She will no longer be on the worship team. Not for a season at least.”
“You can’t do that. She is the most talented singer in the church.”
“Is that what is important?”
Bill struggled for an answer and failed to respond.
“Anyone who is on the worship team should be actively involved in this church.”
“I don’t understand,” Bill said, finding his voice.
“When is the last time that your daughter attended church here when she was not on the stage singing?”
“I don’t know.”
“I do. It has been almost one year.”
“Still . . .”
“Don’t you see the problem, Bill?”
He shook his head.
“Anyone on that stage should be a worshipper, not a performer, and quite frankly I don’t care how talented they may be.”
Worshipping God on Sunday morning should be such a unifying factor but sadly music often proves to be a division in churches. Many churches offer traditional, contemporary, or even blended services. All to keep the peace. It can almost create separate churches under the same roof.
I am no different in that music is important to me when it comes time to decide where I want to attend church. I am not your old traditional hymn guy. That is just not my preference. It doesn’t mean I view it as wrong.
The important thing on Sunday morning is that we all lift our voice, our hearts, in praise. God does inhabit the praises of his people. That can come from an old hymn and it can come from newer, more upbeat, even louder music.
I love worship music. Third Day, (even though they are no longer together) Jesus Culture, Toby Mac, Matt Redman, Elevation Church. And the list goes on.
Do I think we need smoke machines and fancy lighting like we are at a rock concert on Sunday morning? No, I really don’t.
Regardless, of what music we prefer. I think that being on a worship team is a high-profile place to serve in a church. The people on the stage are the most visible individuals in the church, next to the Pastor. But it comes with great responsibility, one that should not be taken lightly.
I have heard my father-in-law make a statement on occasion that “the devil fell from heaven and into the choir loft.” Well, all jesting aside, there is much truth in that.
The worship team should be united in their efforts to lead us all in true worship. The whole idea of worship to me is that we are worshipping God to show our love, our adoration, for Him. But often on the stage, there are those who want to be seen, taking the glory, the adoration meant for God and keeping it for themselves. This is the place our adversary seeks. If worship leaders are not careful, we begin to aid the enemy in his agenda to steal focus off God by placing it on ourselves.
I heard it said once by a worship leader.
“If you are not willing to set the stage. You are not ready to be on the stage.”
I like that.
Concerning another worship topic. How do you feel about paid performers on Sunday morning? I am not talking about a worship leader, who has a full or part-time job in the church. I know that in some cases that the people playing instruments are being paid for their talents. I am not sure how you decide who gets paid and who does not. Do you value the keyboard player more than your singers?
I have read a few blogs and columns on the subject of paid performers. One worship leader at a small church shared that it was the only way they could get musical talent to their church. But at the same time, if that was all they were there for on Sunday morning, he thought that was a problem. I agree with him. Anyone on the stage, be it a paid person or a volunteer should be invested in the church.
I am no musical person of knowledge. I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. But if you are in a fairly large church, I find it hard to believe that there is not sufficient talent from people who are willing to volunteer. Personally, I would rather the guitar player be a B talent with an A heart for worship than an A+ talent who is on the stage because he or she is getting paid $100 to be there and would not be present otherwise. That is just a figure I threw out. I have no earthly idea of what the going rate is to play at church.
My wife, Julie has sung in many churches over the years. She has a remarkable voice. But that is not the sum of her gift. She has a heart for worship. I have told her often that she is never more beautiful to me than when she is on the stage worshiping her God. There is a glow, a countenance that comes over her. I have had people come to me after a service with tears in their eyes talking about what they felt when she sang.
But I have seen others on stage with their rock strut, trendy dressed, and choreographed motions and I don’t receive the vibe that they are up there for the right reasons.
What if worship leaders asked some of their lead singers if they were willing to sing back up or to share the lead vocal more? If they refused what does that say?
What if on a worship team full of talents that the worship leader chooses to take all the leads? That may be up to five songs or more. I don’t see as a leader of a group how you can justify that, yet I have seen it done repeatedly.
Maybe I am being judgmental, and the problem is me. There is always that.
What do you want on stage at your church? Forget about what type of music. I know what I want.
I want worshippers and not performers.
Worship should unite and not divide us but sadly it does not always work that way.
Imagine if it did. I have had a glimpse of what that can be like.
I was at Passion 2012, in Atlanta. I can’t recall who was leading worship at the moment. But picture 40,000+ people singing and worshipping our God. Most with hands raised and many with tears falling down their face. That is where God finally broke me from all that was holding me back.
I remember the speaker. I believe it was Lou Giglio, saying, “Picture God at the top of this dome. He is looking down and hearing your praises. And he is pleased.”
That was worship. And not because of the number of people. The hearts being poured out. Imagine if you and I brought that to our church on Sunday morning. It wouldn’t matter if it was Old Rugged Cross or God Only Knows, by King and Country.
We would have authentic worship and God, true to His word, would indeed inhabit our praises.
About the Author
Billy Beasley resides in Carolina Beach, NC with his wife Julie and their Australian Cattle Dog, Teke. They are active members of Lifepoint Church in Wilmington, NC.
The Preacher’s Letter is his second traditionally published work of fiction.
Billy’s shares two simple beliefs with his favorite character in his first novel, The River Hideaway—Faith in God and a conviction that ‘Hearts have no color’. His third novel, The Girl in the River, releases summer, 2020.
You can read his “Sunday Inspiration” column on the 2nd Sunday each month here at Mustard Seed Sentinel.