REPOST: Worship Mythbusters – Worship leading is not performing

This was originally posted in May of 2008 and since I am at a conference, I thought sharing a favorite from the past would be due. This is part of a series of posts: here

MYTH: Worship leading is not performing.

This is a myth! What is better said is that worship leaders lead in the act of performing worship.

Many in our churches like to use the word “performance” and make it another projectile at the worship team. They enjoy the fact that they can say a worship leader should not be performing but worshiping as he leads as if the two are mutually exclusive. It means that his preparation is devalued and the attempt at beauty and form are discouraged. Worship expression or liturgy to many is simply a means, not and end. Really, it is an act to be performed.

 

FACT: Worship is an act that is performed. It is not random, it is intentional. It is a choice. So, worship leaders perform an act that leads people into this act. Yes, you are performing when you worship! FACT: Worship leadership needs preparation. Many think that a good heart or good intentions mean good worship leadership. Wrong. Become good at guitar, sing in tune and work on your craft. Any preacher worth his salt work on communication. He or she does not assume his desire to communicate is enough. The effective preacher prepares.

FACT: Beauty and form help lead people in worship. Yes, the look of your room, the sound of your music and the overall atmosphere matter. You tell a story beyond the lyrics or sermon through everything that touches the senses. Leaders know this and address this. Thank God for good architects who understand how to design a room. Form is important. Without structure, we lose any sense of taking people somewhere in worship. Form has a story, meaning, and application.

An entertainer uses his or her skills to intentionally engage people in a performance of music or comedy. A worship leader is similar, even though the performance is worship through music or other forms. The worship leader is like a performer–intentionality, preparation, and execution of form and beauty are all part of leading worship.

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Rich Kirkpatrick

Rich Kirkpatrick

Writer, Speaker, and Musician. Rich Kirkpatrick was recently rated #13 of the “Top 75 Religion Bloggers” by Newsmax.com, having also received recognition by Worship Leader Magazine as “Editor’s Choice” for the “Best of the Best” of blogs in 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

35 comments

  1. Well said – thank you!

  2. At times it’s our language that trips us up. “Performance” can have negative connotations And while there can be times where worship leaders may lose their sense of why they are there and it becomes more of a concert than leading people into God’s presence, that can never discount all of the essentials that are needed in preparation for the service.
    And as to pastors who are unduly critical, your comments on the preparation is right on target. Furthermore, any pastor who preaches in more than one service will choose a which service they want to be duplicated for public consumption! They do evaluate their performance.

    1. I don’t know that I would say that our language is at error here. I would say that our lack of knowledge of the words we use is the problem. Sometimes we use words without really knowing what they mean.
      While performance (a noun) can mean “a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.” it also means “the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.”

      The verb form of the word performance is perform: “to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.” With this in mind, virtually everything we do is a performance. Even going to the potty.

  3. At times it’s our language that trips us up. “Performance” can have negative connotations And while there can be times where worship leaders may lose their sense of why they are there and it becomes more of a concert than leading people into God’s presence, that can never discount all of the essentials that are needed in preparation for the service.
    And as to pastors who are unduly critical, your comments on the preparation is right on target. Furthermore, any pastor who preaches in more than one service will choose a which service they want to be duplicated for public consumption! They do evaluate their performance.

    1. I don’t know that I would say that our language is at error here. I would say that our lack of knowledge of the words we use is the problem. Sometimes we use words without really knowing what they mean.
      While performance (a noun) can mean “a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.” it also means “the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.”
      The verb form of the word performance is perform: “to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.” With this in mind, virtually everything we do is a performance. Even going to the potty.

  4. At times it’s our language that trips us up. “Performance” can have negative connotations And while there can be times where worship leaders may lose their sense of why they are there and it becomes more of a concert than leading people into God’s presence, that can never discount all of the essentials that are needed in preparation for the service.
    And as to pastors who are unduly critical, your comments on the preparation is right on target. Furthermore, any pastor who preaches in more than one service will choose a which service they want to be duplicated for public consumption! They do evaluate their performance.

    1. I don’t know that I would say that our language is at error here. I would say that our lack of knowledge of the words we use is the problem. Sometimes we use words without really knowing what they mean.
      While performance (a noun) can mean “a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.” it also means “the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.”

      The verb form of the word performance is perform: “to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.” With this in mind, virtually everything we do is a performance. Even going to the potty.

  5. At times it’s our language that trips us up. “Performance” can have negative connotations And while there can be times where worship leaders may lose their sense of why they are there and it becomes more of a concert than leading people into God’s presence, that can never discount all of the essentials that are needed in preparation for the service.
    And as to pastors who are unduly critical, your comments on the preparation is right on target. Furthermore, any pastor who preaches in more than one service will choose a which service they want to be duplicated for public consumption! They do evaluate their performance.

    1. I don’t know that I would say that our language is at error here. I would say that our lack of knowledge of the words we use is the problem. Sometimes we use words without really knowing what they mean.
      While performance (a noun) can mean “a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.” it also means “the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.”

      The verb form of the word performance is perform: “to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.” With this in mind, virtually everything we do is a performance. Even going to the potty.

  6. At times it’s our language that trips us up. “Performance” can have negative connotations And while there can be times where worship leaders may lose their sense of why they are there and it becomes more of a concert than leading people into God’s presence, that can never discount all of the essentials that are needed in preparation for the service.
    And as to pastors who are unduly critical, your comments on the preparation is right on target. Furthermore, any pastor who preaches in more than one service will choose a which service they want to be duplicated for public consumption! They do evaluate their performance.

    1. I don’t know that I would say that our language is at error here. I would say that our lack of knowledge of the words we use is the problem. Sometimes we use words without really knowing what they mean.
      While performance (a noun) can mean “a musical, dramatic, or other entertainment presented before an audience.” it also means “the act of performing a ceremony, play, piece of music, etc.”

      The verb form of the word performance is perform: “to carry out; execute; do: to perform miracles.” With this in mind, virtually everything we do is a performance. Even going to the potty.

  7. Good post. There is some really good conversation on the Praise and Worship Forum concerning this very topic.
    The truth is, worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of explaining worship to our congregations. Worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of discovering what worship really is all about. The net result of this is that our worship offering to God is wrapped up in “Pop theology” and the ideologies of the latest popular book on worship.

    This is dangerous as our view of what makes worship good and correct actually does more to damage real worship than it does to help it. How can we expect to grow our congregations beyond consumerism when we insist on muddying the waters like this?

    1. Often those who lead worship do not have a forum to explain what the liturgy or worship service is supposed to be. So, I would not put that on the worship leader alone but on those who control the pulpit. If we put so much stock in what we do for a worship service–preaching, facilities and more–why do we not even teach from the Bible about why we do it and what the aim is? We just do not do this enough.
      The reason the waters are muddy is that we throw phrases or terms around and beat up the worship leader with those rather than think. So, you have identified the very reason I have engaged in this conversation the last couple years. Myths about worship/liturgy need to be questioned.

      1. Church leadership as a whole tends to reject good training when it comes to worship…. And while worship pastors don’t have the same platform that executive or senior pastors have, they do have a platform – usually within their own group of servants and volunteers. Which is a great platform.
        The problem that I see is that:
        1. Worship Pastors teach and preach the typical worship cliche (I can’t tell you how many worship pastors I have heard say the “worship isn’t a performance” thing.
        2. Worship Pastors don’t correct wrongs when they see them.

        Just a few days ago I was at a benefit concert and I was listening to a group of worship leaders talk about worship. Some of them were influential. If I had a nickle for every incorrect and silly cliche I would have had enough money for an expensive dinner with my wife, including alcohol!

        Really though, the trouble is systemic. It is going to take a big push to get things corrected here. It is good to see others taking up this daunting task.

  8. Good post. There is some really good conversation on the Praise and Worship Forum concerning this very topic.
    The truth is, worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of explaining worship to our congregations. Worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of discovering what worship really is all about. The net result of this is that our worship offering to God is wrapped up in “Pop theology” and the ideologies of the latest popular book on worship.
    This is dangerous as our view of what makes worship good and correct actually does more to damage real worship than it does to help it. How can we expect to grow our congregations beyond consumerism when we insist on muddying the waters like this?

    1. Often those who lead worship do not have a forum to explain what the liturgy or worship service is supposed to be. So, I would not put that on the worship leader alone but on those who control the pulpit. If we put so much stock in what we do for a worship service–preaching, facilities and more–why do we not even teach from the Bible about why we do it and what the aim is? We just do not do this enough.
      The reason the waters are muddy is that we throw phrases or terms around and beat up the worship leader with those rather than think. So, you have identified the very reason I have engaged in this conversation the last couple years. Myths about worship/liturgy need to be questioned.

      1. Church leadership as a whole tends to reject good training when it comes to worship…. And while worship pastors don’t have the same platform that executive or senior pastors have, they do have a platform – usually within their own group of servants and volunteers. Which is a great platform.
        The problem that I see is that:
        1. Worship Pastors teach and preach the typical worship cliche (I can’t tell you how many worship pastors I have heard say the “worship isn’t a performance” thing.
        2. Worship Pastors don’t correct wrongs when they see them.
        Just a few days ago I was at a benefit concert and I was listening to a group of worship leaders talk about worship. Some of them were influential. If I had a nickle for every incorrect and silly cliche I would have had enough money for an expensive dinner with my wife, including alcohol!
        Really though, the trouble is systemic. It is going to take a big push to get things corrected here. It is good to see others taking up this daunting task.

  9. Good post. There is some really good conversation on the Praise and Worship Forum concerning this very topic.
    The truth is, worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of explaining worship to our congregations. Worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of discovering what worship really is all about. The net result of this is that our worship offering to God is wrapped up in “Pop theology” and the ideologies of the latest popular book on worship.

    This is dangerous as our view of what makes worship good and correct actually does more to damage real worship than it does to help it. How can we expect to grow our congregations beyond consumerism when we insist on muddying the waters like this?

    1. Often those who lead worship do not have a forum to explain what the liturgy or worship service is supposed to be. So, I would not put that on the worship leader alone but on those who control the pulpit. If we put so much stock in what we do for a worship service–preaching, facilities and more–why do we not even teach from the Bible about why we do it and what the aim is? We just do not do this enough.
      The reason the waters are muddy is that we throw phrases or terms around and beat up the worship leader with those rather than think. So, you have identified the very reason I have engaged in this conversation the last couple years. Myths about worship/liturgy need to be questioned.

      1. Church leadership as a whole tends to reject good training when it comes to worship…. And while worship pastors don’t have the same platform that executive or senior pastors have, they do have a platform – usually within their own group of servants and volunteers. Which is a great platform.
        The problem that I see is that:
        1. Worship Pastors teach and preach the typical worship cliche (I can’t tell you how many worship pastors I have heard say the “worship isn’t a performance” thing.
        2. Worship Pastors don’t correct wrongs when they see them.

        Just a few days ago I was at a benefit concert and I was listening to a group of worship leaders talk about worship. Some of them were influential. If I had a nickle for every incorrect and silly cliche I would have had enough money for an expensive dinner with my wife, including alcohol!

        Really though, the trouble is systemic. It is going to take a big push to get things corrected here. It is good to see others taking up this daunting task.

  10. Good post. There is some really good conversation on the Praise and Worship Forum concerning this very topic.
    The truth is, worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of explaining worship to our congregations. Worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of discovering what worship really is all about. The net result of this is that our worship offering to God is wrapped up in “Pop theology” and the ideologies of the latest popular book on worship.

    This is dangerous as our view of what makes worship good and correct actually does more to damage real worship than it does to help it. How can we expect to grow our congregations beyond consumerism when we insist on muddying the waters like this?

    1. Often those who lead worship do not have a forum to explain what the liturgy or worship service is supposed to be. So, I would not put that on the worship leader alone but on those who control the pulpit. If we put so much stock in what we do for a worship service–preaching, facilities and more–why do we not even teach from the Bible about why we do it and what the aim is? We just do not do this enough.
      The reason the waters are muddy is that we throw phrases or terms around and beat up the worship leader with those rather than think. So, you have identified the very reason I have engaged in this conversation the last couple years. Myths about worship/liturgy need to be questioned.

      1. Church leadership as a whole tends to reject good training when it comes to worship…. And while worship pastors don’t have the same platform that executive or senior pastors have, they do have a platform – usually within their own group of servants and volunteers. Which is a great platform.
        The problem that I see is that:
        1. Worship Pastors teach and preach the typical worship cliche (I can’t tell you how many worship pastors I have heard say the “worship isn’t a performance” thing.
        2. Worship Pastors don’t correct wrongs when they see them.

        Just a few days ago I was at a benefit concert and I was listening to a group of worship leaders talk about worship. Some of them were influential. If I had a nickle for every incorrect and silly cliche I would have had enough money for an expensive dinner with my wife, including alcohol!

        Really though, the trouble is systemic. It is going to take a big push to get things corrected here. It is good to see others taking up this daunting task.

  11. Good post. There is some really good conversation on the Praise and Worship Forum concerning this very topic.
    The truth is, worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of explaining worship to our congregations. Worship leaders haven’t done a very good job of discovering what worship really is all about. The net result of this is that our worship offering to God is wrapped up in “Pop theology” and the ideologies of the latest popular book on worship.

    This is dangerous as our view of what makes worship good and correct actually does more to damage real worship than it does to help it. How can we expect to grow our congregations beyond consumerism when we insist on muddying the waters like this?

    1. Often those who lead worship do not have a forum to explain what the liturgy or worship service is supposed to be. So, I would not put that on the worship leader alone but on those who control the pulpit. If we put so much stock in what we do for a worship service–preaching, facilities and more–why do we not even teach from the Bible about why we do it and what the aim is? We just do not do this enough.
      The reason the waters are muddy is that we throw phrases or terms around and beat up the worship leader with those rather than think. So, you have identified the very reason I have engaged in this conversation the last couple years. Myths about worship/liturgy need to be questioned.

      1. Church leadership as a whole tends to reject good training when it comes to worship…. And while worship pastors don’t have the same platform that executive or senior pastors have, they do have a platform – usually within their own group of servants and volunteers. Which is a great platform.
        The problem that I see is that:
        1. Worship Pastors teach and preach the typical worship cliche (I can’t tell you how many worship pastors I have heard say the “worship isn’t a performance” thing.
        2. Worship Pastors don’t correct wrongs when they see them.

        Just a few days ago I was at a benefit concert and I was listening to a group of worship leaders talk about worship. Some of them were influential. If I had a nickle for every incorrect and silly cliche I would have had enough money for an expensive dinner with my wife, including alcohol!

        Really though, the trouble is systemic. It is going to take a big push to get things corrected here. It is good to see others taking up this daunting task.

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