I believe one of the most important responsibilities and biggest challenges for any worship leader, is congregational participation.
I’ve read too many blog posts than I can count about setlists, lighting, and creative worship elements. And while I appreciate the creativity and, while also being a big believer in the church as a creative force, I do believe that we can place our performance over our congregations participation.
Perfection. Excellence. Performance.
Now before you go off on me and hit the elephant in the room (bad music/poor creativity), let me be very clear… I am in no way letting the church off the hook for poor, lack luster creativity and musicianship.
Our churches and ministry teams need to be setting a high bar and we need to be constantly and continually getting better. I’m a firm believer in excellence in every area of a believer’s life, and specifically, when we serve the church.
But there is a huge difference between a performance and participation. Many of us have either been a part of a big Christmas production or watched one online at some point. Church on the Move, Elevation, and LifeChurch.tv are a few that immediately come to mind. They do some amazing productions and Christmas openers.
But the question I’ve been asking myself this winter has more to do with how well we’re doing with creating and allowing congregational participation versus how great our performance is.
Let me give you an example.
For our Christmas Eve service at my church, we wanted our people to really feel engaged and a part of what was going on. We did not want them to feel like they were being entertained. So we kept it simple.
We chose classic Christmas songs, a couple of videos strategically placed, a story for all of the children, and of course a message. I used an acoustic guitar, had my piano player on the grand, and a handful of vocalists.
I can’t begin to tell you how fun it was and how all around good it was (both personally and performance wise) to hear so many people singing the classic carols. It was beautiful.
Jesus was praised, God was honored, and hope was proclaimed. And get this, all of it without an over-the-top production.
So what’s my point?
It really comes down to this… are we getting more caught up in our performance more so than we are in creating environments for congregational participation?
When I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 5, I’m quickly reminded that our worship is not only about giving praise to our God (although it is) but it’s also about the body of Christ building each other up by participating together.
Alright friends, I’m leaving this in your hands. Will we, as worship leaders and pastors, work just as hard at creating worship setlists that aim at church participation as we do at our performance? Or will we continue to teach our churches that worship is just a really great sounding band?