Performance Driven Worship

John Piper has a chapter in his book (Brothers, We are Not Professionals) on worship. In typical Piperian fashion he speaks of worship as ‘treasuring Christ in our hearts’. While discussing this at length he notes a subtle change that can occur in our public worship:

If the focus shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that, subtly, it is not God that remains at the center but the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Are our instrumentalists playing with quality fitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord himself onto the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts.
John Piper, Brothers p. 239

This speaks to me. I’ve had it up to here (hand well above head) with people discussing worship in functional terms. I’m guilty myself. Has the right effect been achieved? Instead of our focus being on God himself, the gravitational pull of self is so attractive, subtly distorting our public worship.

It is interesting, then, that yesterday Tim Challies should also write about worship. He likens the problem to someone admiring a sunset, but then that person ends up admiring himself admiring the sunset! Daft, eh?

Al Roberts also has a challenging post on how the worship experience becomes all important. The analogy he uses is much less palatable than Tim’s.

Performance Driven Worship

4 thoughts on “Performance Driven Worship

  1. John says:

    I know what you mean – I’ve been at churches where the quality of the music group, the clarity, zeal and purity of the preacher, or the vigour of the congregation are touted as evidence of the church’s “excellence” in worship.

    The problem is, of course, that it’s not possible to measure “excellence” in worship, whether functionally or not. We can measure technical proficiency, emotional impact and even numerical growth, but none of these corresponds to excellent worship.

    Surely, all we can say is whether or not we try to follow and worship Christ to best of our ability and knowledge? The judgement of how well we do this is for God only, and trying to second-guess God is unlikely to be fruitful! Humility is a virtue in our corporate life as much as it is in individual life.

    pax et bonum

  2. Stephen says:

    Was this request directed at me? I looked at your post and there was not much there. There are two possibilities I see.

    1) You want me to read the discussion on predestination. I don’t have time at the moment to trawl through such a lengthy discussion.

    2) Did you want me to comment on the title of your post? Upsetting.

  3. rev-ed says:

    Stephen, that’s a great passage to pull from an great book. The idol of excellence we’ve set up can truly draw us away from why we worship to begin with. I’ve had some mighty poorly drawn pictures pinned to bulletin boards and stuck to my refrigerator. It wasn’t because they were so excellent, it was because I was proud of the artist. Why can’t we simply give our best while focusing on Him and let God be proud of us for that?

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