Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Audience of Worship

Who is the intended audience of the "worship" segments of congregational meetings?

If the answer is the visitor or newcomer, those segments are designed (like everything else in such churches) to appeal to the next one in the door. That one must be prospected, projected and then specifically, strategically prepared for. It's a marketing thing, often a niche marketing thing. Is it a worship thing?

If the answer is the folk sitting in the congregation, those segments are designed, often reactionally, to maintain those returning through the door. The wants and wishes (sometimes expressed in grumbling) of those will guide, forestall or derail any attempt to change the status quo. It is a placating thing, but is it a worship thing?

If the answer (regardless of the considerations above) is people, the goal of those fronting those segments will be thrilling or at least satisfying their ticket-paying audience. The likelihood is that those leaders will be inordinately attended to (the astral effect) by both the audience and the church "promoters" who enlist them. It's only human nature, and the result is rock concerts and stage shows.

An innocent misstep a sincere worship leader can make is tugboating, but playing David to the congregation's Saul is not a NT paradigm. The folk in the seats are not faithless fakes who have no God inside and so have to be pushed from without, but are a living temple, a habitation of the Holy Ghost. The worship team doesn't have to "take them into the throne room," they're already there! The issue is their recognition and acknowledgement of God followed by an appropriate response, not getting them there.

With all of this in mind, who is the audience of worship? Well, it's none other than God himself, and God and no one else. When someone says, "worship was great!" he or she is utterly deluded if they had the worship team's performance in mind, but keenly insightful if they had the congregation's participation and God's presence in view. When worship is truly worship, the church acts as orchestra, the Spirit as the maestro, and God is the audience.


Anonymous said...

Good post. I find myself in total agreement yet also feeling restless that this is only a half-told story.

I'm in total agreement that one of the truly amazing wonders of worship is that we get to minister to God as David ministered unto the Lord in his tent. That's truly amazing. I mean ... that we ... get to bless ... Him. Wow! That's one of the reasons that I just love worshipping. He really is the audience and I totally love Him. I get to worship Him intimately forever.

I'm also in total agreement that the fuel for our worship is revelation (e.g. Matthew 14:33) "recognition and acknowledgement, followed by appropriate response" rather than people being "pushed from without" by an over-exuberant and insensitive worship leader.

I don't disagree with anything!

But I do feel like here is only half the story.

There's a wonderful horizontal dimension to worship too.

When people's lives touch God together then there's a truly powerful act of intercession. As we agree with heaven together then there is manifestation of heaven on earth. I'm privileged, and I'm sure I'm not alone, to have seen people healed during worship. No prayers. No laying on of hands. Simply worshipping together.

A little off the beaten track, but I also know some folks who worship in public places and non-believing onlookers are healed or simply fall to their knees and want to know Jesus.

So within worship I really do feel that there is a place of ministry to one another, helping one another connect vertically, as well as the primary business of ministry together unto the Lord. It's an act of intercession. It's allowing our vertical relationship to infect our horizontal relationships.

Whenever we gather there will be some who are broken, hurting, or just plain distracted by the worries of this world. We agree: these folk are not "faithless fakes who have no God inside and so have to be pushed". They are beloved children of Father who know Him and love Him but are at the same time living out the consequences of a broken world - and He wants to scoop them up in His arms and restore them.

I'm lucky I guess to have led worship both in small groups of mixed people in a missional environment as well as in larger more traditional gatherings. It's very easy to overlook the intercession in the larger gathering - if 20% of the people seem to be having awesome encounters with Father then the other 80% are easily overlooked. Whereas you're totally confronted with it in the smaller setting and more so the more missional it gets.

Worship "is great" when Father gets to bless His children and when His children know that they were able to bless their Father.

I guess my rambling has finally brought me to this point: there is NO audience. Not even God wants to simply watch. There is intimacy, interaction and participation - between Father and His children.

Anonymous said...

I agree.. Worship is a two way communication between God and man. Though God is the audience in worship, He also participates and move...

And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the LORD. Psalms 40:3

SLW said...

You are insightful, there is another half coming! I do want to talk about the freedom God has to be himself when there is agreement in the body in worship. As for God as the audience, I see that as the necessary threshold to get there.

Thanks for the thoughtful response.

SLW said...

Truly, we are merely the instruments playing the inspiration of the Almighty. That's appropriate response, wouldn't you say?

Anonymous said...

That word "audience" has dreadful connotations (at least to someone in the UK - so maybe it's cultural?).

How about "object" / "focus" ?

Anonymous said...

When I used the word "audience", I am using it's literal meaning - as per what dictionary says (used wikipedia)

Maybe it just a matter of how we define the word "audience" (I do apologize, I'm an Asian, never thought this word has "dreadful" connotations there. cheers!!).

Yes mark, we can use object or focus.

SLW said...

That's fascinating that "audience" carries some negative baggage in the UK. Is that because of your heritage of royalty? An audience wouldn't necessary be a pleasant thing, if one was called on the carpet before capricious power in human hands. Here in America, even if one got called to the White House, it would be referred to as a meeting rather than an audience.

As to your suggestions for a replacement word, focus would be better than object, recipient would be better than either.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me. I'm still processing my objections to the word "audience".

My favourite New Testament word concerning worship is "proskuneo" (Greek). It seems to carry the full spectrum of profound respect and reverance coupled with intimate knowledge and an open display of affection. It means "to kiss towards" the master in such a relationship. It was used to describe (not solely) the way that a dog licks his master's hands - submission, love, honour, respect, trust, secure, but ever so intimate and expressive.

My own experience, and I suspect probably the popular cultural picture, of "seeking an audience" falls waaaaay short of fulfilling that picture.

Can we say that our worship is truly as intimate as our Father would like? Are we afraid of intimacy just in case it somehow diminishes God in our eyes? Or have we got hold of "proskuneo"?

Or maybe it's just me ;-)

Anonymous said...

I do get your point mark. But when I used the word "audience", I am not describing our relationship to God. I used that word merely to remind worship leaders who is the one that should be "watching" when we are worshiping.

It is more of "who are we worshiping?" rather than "what kind of worship we have or how we worship God?".

We can never have intimate worship to God if what we are doing (worship) is not for God.

As I have said in my comment in the previous post, in most churches today, God is out of the scene (Worship leaders perform, congregation watches (audience), God outside the church peeking on the window). But instead, this should be the scene, the Church worshiping, God watching the Church (audience), and then everything else will follow (God participates in the 'activity').

Worship has a deep meaning and value. It is more than words, songs, actions, etc.. (Romans 12:1). But unless worship leaders know who should be the reason why we worship, then it is worthless.


Anonymous said...

Indeed Marvin. Seems I've maybe run off at a tangent that wasn't there! Sorry ;-)

I kinda take it for granted that every one of us is aware that God is watching over us ALL the time, the faithful Father offering us His encouragement and security, and with that in mind in EVERYTHING we do (not just worship leading) we try to do it first and foremost in a manner which is pleasing to Him.

I'm kinda shocked that anyone who is genuinely born again, let alone worship leaders or others in other kinds of ministry, would think otherwise, i.e. would not be aware of Father's presence and hence would not be aiming to delight Him first and foremost. But you guys have obviously observed it and now I understand this post - and you've given me food for thought regarding the assumptions that we/I make :-)

We are to be pleasers of God, not pleasers of men and women. It sure is nice when the two coincide but the latter is not our primary goal (a secondary one perhaps, within certain parameters), and certainly not our barometer of success or effectiveness.

All of Father's love to ya,


Anonymous said...

It is.. it is...

Mark, Amen to what you said..