Monday, October 17, 2011

Theology of Worship: An Audience of One

A previous post discussed the importance of worship being Trinitarian-based.  The next logical question is, “What does that mean?”   While volumes have been written on the topic of the Trinity, in practical terms this simply means our worship should be:
·         God-Focused;
·         Christ-Centered; and,
·         Spirit-Empowered.
Today I want to talk about the first point of this Trinitarian-based theology:  God-focused worship.  If asked if our worship is God-focused, most of us immediately would say, “of course it is!”  I would respond, “Are you sure?”
The truth is the vast majority of worship services are performance driven, with members of our congregations showing up each week for the “show.”  Each week we run an endless parade of performers in front of them in the form of soloists, choirs and worship teams, each giving the very best performance they can.  As the Danish theologian Soren Kierkegaard pointed out, worship is a performance but unfortunately we have the roles wrongly assigned.  Most of our congregations view the persons on the platform as the actors.  God takes on the role of the prompter, directing the activities of the service, while the congregation serves as the audience of worship.  How wrong this is! 
In reality, the congregation should be the actors in the drama of worship.  Their role is to “act out” worship through the songs they sing, the prayers they pray and the offerings of praise they lift to the God of this Universe.  The people on the platform are prompters (i.e., choir, soloists, worship teams), providing direction and facilitating the flow of worship.  Most importantly, God Himself, to whom all worship should be directed, then becomes an Audience of One. 
Biblical worship is always for Him, about Him and focused on Him.  When the congregation wrongly assumes the role of the audience, they elevate themselves to an exalted position that was never intended for them.  When that happens, things like “I don’t like this” or “I don’t agree with that” become the prevailing theme of congregational discussions.  Sadly, at that point we have taken the primary focus off of God and placed it on us…and that my friends, is idolatry!   
I believe if we could teach our congregations this one truth, it would revolutionize our worship.  As worship leaders, if we can take the focus off ourselves and the people on the platform, as well as help congregations understand that it’s really not about them, getting the focus on God would be much easier.  Below are three practical suggestions to help us on this journey:
1.       Never refer to the platform as a “stage”.  Because most of our worship centers resemble performance venues, we must work extra hard to overcome the perception that the congregation is the audience of worship.  When people view the platform as a stage designed for performances, we reinforce an incorrect theology. 
2.       Teach and disciple your team as to their role as prompters of worship.  This includes the choir, band, soloists, drama teams, etc.  There are many great singers and musicians who are not effective worship leaders because they do not understand their biblical role in worship.  Help them get there by teaching them their correct roles.
3.       Work to direct ALL response to God.  We must insure that applause and other congregational responses are directed to God…and not to us!  Remember, our music is not an end in itself, but rather a tool we use to facilitate the act of worship.  Because of this, we must take the initiative to redirect congregational response to Whom it should be focused:  God and God Alone!

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