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Leading Vs. Performance
by Sally Morgenthaler

The "contemporary" trappings of worship do not guarantee leadership

What is good worship leading? Lately, I've found myself ruminating about this subject in the least likely places: time-out during one of my son's basketball games, standing in front of the frozen food section, waiting for the little cylinder to pop back into place at the drive-up teller.

It's only worship leading, for heaven's sakes! You'd think I was obsessed. It all started at a worship conference. Wisely, the organizers of the event had made sure we weren't just analyzing worship ad infinitum. We were actually scheduled to worship! I was looking forward to our corporate fellowship and intimacy with God more than to the classes themselves.

Half-way through the first worship service, I wondered if I'd registered at the wrong conference. Here I was in an ostensibly interactive, God-focused environment, but I had no sense whatsoever of being authentically engaged. It was as if someone had plugged in a pre-fab worship video, the kind that seems permanently stuck in cultural reverse. Picture it - hundreds of sincere worship devotees, dutifully clapping double-time for five songs straight, mimicking the worship leader in multi-minute, shoulder-abusing arm-lifts, spitting out worship-correct statements on cue.

It was less than awesome.

Admittedly, several of the trappings of interactive contemporary worship were present: extended corporate singing, mini-prayers interwoven within medleys, expertly segued moments designed for brief (very brief!) personal reflection. Still, there was something hauntingly synthetic about it. Was it just me? Two conference attendees talked with me afterward. Their experiences had been similar to my own.

Since then, I've concluded that the overriding problem was the worship leading, or, more accurately, the worship performance. What's the difference between the two? Here's an in-process list refined from months of frozen-food section/basketball game musings. No doubt you could come up with a few entries of your own.

Worship Performer

Worship Leader

It's a given that nobody will ever "arrive" as a worship leader. But if you or someone under you is responsible for weekly worship and is displaying several "worship performer" characteristics, some decisions must be made and made quickly. Corporate worship is the single, most life-impacting activity of the church. Are we going to sabotage God's work just because we don't have the courage to face reality?

And the reality is this: before any of us can engage people in the authentic, interactive adoration of God, we must first of all become worshipers. That may mean stepping down off the platform and getting our lives in sync with God. It may mean sitting in the pew and learning how to worship for the very first time. Depending on our situation, it may mean a process ranging from weeks to years. But, face facts we must. There is only One worthy of our praise (Rev.4:11) and that One desires truth, not pretense; being, not performance. If and when we step back up and get behind the microphone, we must do it as an instrument, not the object of praise. And we must be willing to cast off our "glittering image" so that we reflect only the glorious image of Christ.

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