Why the Performance Machine is at Odds With Leading Worship


This post is a part of a series of posts that starts HERE.

Ok, so the point I made previously is that any musical performer is operating on the same basic performance machine. He is working on his craft in order to create performances that are appreciated enough to generate some kind of compensation.  The compensation will fill the pocket-book, the ego, or some other perceived need. I also asserted that operating on the performance machine is natural to us. It is how we’re wired.

If what I’m asserting is true, is it wrong somehow for a Christian church’s worship team to be operating on some variation of the performance machine? Or, rather, is there a variation of this performance machine that is acceptable for church worship bands?

Well, think about the primary motivation for the performance machine: it is the desire to be compensated for one’s performance through the appreciation or approval of other people. Any motivation on that machine is self-serving. The stronger the motivation, the more self-serving it gets. The only possible benefit to the church that the performance machine can produce is more professional-sounding music, but is that the benefit we’re hoping a worship team provides the church?

The reality of the performance machine should be a red-alert to worship teams, but much of the time the control the performance machine has one those who have become seduced by its compensations is strong (and even accidental). In attempts to “soften” the downsides, there are often attempts to lace a performance machine with worshipful goals and religious language. On the outside, we can easily make claims that we are operating for the glory of Jesus while we are more concerned about our own reputations on the inside. We can sing songs celebrating the Kingdom of Christ while internally we are more genuinely motivated by the building of our own little musical kingdoms. Icing the performance machine with the right language can be like icing a stale cake with several cans of icing. It might taste better, but it’s really, really bad for you.

There’s also the “Perform for God” variation of the performance machine. In this variation, the team decides that it isn’t performing for the congregation, but for God. It’s the Audience of One syndrome. The team isn’t performing for the appreciation of other people, but playing in the hope of pleasing God. The theological flaws with this approach are many. We are worshiping Jesus and praising His performance, right? We’re not playing and singing in the hope of receiving God’s praise for ours. This sets an equally poor example for other areas of our life. We worship Jesus. We do not long for opportunities to have God worship us. If you think I’m going too far, just think it through. If God already sees me through the lense of the righteousness of Jesus, what do I think I can do to earn further praise from Him? If He is forgiving every weakness, do I believe that a wrong note or less than stellar musical performance will somehow earn his displeasure?

Finally, the side-effects of the performance machine are always more negative than positive. They include fear, anxiety, boredom, frustration, judgement of others, and many other relationship barriers. Not one of these sounds like a fruit of the Spirit. If we haven’t been given a spirit of fear, but often find ourselves afraid, it is fair to suspect that something is out of place.

It just seems obvious to me that any variation of the performance machine is inappropriate for worship teams. The motivations, goals, and priorities of a worship teams needs to be something completely different. I’ll post what I think the difference needs to be. What do you think?

Categories: Christianity Tags:

About Eddie Lovelace

I am a nobody. Or, rather, I'm a nobody who has all spiritual blessings because my life is redeemed by the work of the risen Jesus. He is everything I need. Hear that, heart?!? HE IS EVERYTHING I NEED!

Leave a Reply