Modern-day churches and other “worship” centers have distorted the true meaning of worship. It is all too common to come across a church or “worship” center that is more focused on performance rather than praise. The true meaning of worship should be rooted in a genuine love for God. Praise, honor, and glory belong to our God, so keep in mind three crucial ways to recognize when worship is about performance over praise:
Performance Versus Praise
The Bible tells us to praise God in all areas of our lives (Psalm 150:1-6). Psalm 150:6 exclaims, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”. When a person loves God, they will want to praise His name and give glory to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Worship is not about having the latest digital software, the best musicians, or the perfect singer. Worship based on performance would be concerned with how good the singer sounds, how advanced the musicians are, or how well the digital software designed the church bulletin. Genuine, biblical worship should be rooted in praise. Nowhere in the Bible are we told we must have well-trained singers, musicians, or the latest technology in order to worship God. Performance-based worship focuses on these factors, but this is not true worship. Jesus cares about your heart in worship. You do not have to be the best singer, a gifted musician, or well-trained in digital media in order to worship God. True worship is born out of praise for the Lord.
Many people believe worship is only singing in the church on Sunday morning; however, Christians can worship God in every area of their lives. Simple, daily decisions can be made in worship of God. Helping your neighbor take out the garbage, baking cookies for your friend who has recently experienced the death of a loved one, or choosing to praise God for the beautiful day are all ways you can worship God in your daily life. Worship is not based on performance, but rather in praise. If a congregation is more fixated on the performance than the actual praise, then it is time to speak up or seek out a new church congregation.
1. Focus is on the music
A number one way to recognize if a church’s worship is based on performance rather than praise is if their focus is more on the style or quality of the music. As I have already previously stated, a congregation focused on the quality of the singer, musician, or lighting rather than on praising God, has a priorities problem. Church is not a place for performers, but rather, it is a place for worshippers. Churches do not need to have electric guitars, microphones, or the most updated version of computer software in order to worship God in a heart of praise. Simply singing or praising God in your heart is true worship. Jesus commands us to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Worship can be done anywhere, anytime. There does not have to be music in order to worship our Lord and Savior. Modern-day church attendants have mixed the idea of worship with being the same as singing; however, worship can be done in all areas of life. The greatest form of worship is to obey God’s commandments. By obeying God and what He has revealed in His Word, it demonstrates the love, devotion, and loyalty you have for Him. There is nothing wrong with having music in churches as we should sing and music to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19); however, when the focus becomes fixated on the music choices rather than on Christ, then we know the worship is based on performance rather than on praise. True worship for the Lord should stem from a heart devoted to praising God out of genuine love for Him—not on the quality or lack of quality of the music.
2. People-focused rather than Jesus-focused
A second way to recognize if the worship is about performance rather than praise is if the worship is more focused on people instead of Christ. If we are going to church just to hear these singers, then our worship is based on performance rather than praise. If the joy in our heart comes from the people performing rather than our love and praise for Jesus, we have a major problem. Worship should never be people-focused. All worship needs to be focused on praising and glorifying God (Psalm 95:6).
Another element of people-focused worship is that it is based more on the wants and desires of the congregation rather than on true worship of God. If there is more focus on who is singing, who is playing the drums, or who is playing the guitar rather than on Jesus, there is a problem. If you are going to the worship service with the purpose of attending only because a certain person is performing the worship service, your worship has already become about performance instead of Jesus. As Christians, we need to be mindful of our motives surrounding worship. Are we going to worship the Lord at church to see a music performance or are we going to worship the Lord with a heart of praise? We all need to assess ourselves to see if our worship is people-focused or God-focused.
3. The comparison game
A third way to recognize if the worship is about performance rather than on praise is if the worship causes us to compare our church with other church worship services. Different churches will have different things they do in their worship services. There is nothing wrong with having different ways to worship the Lord, such as different cultures worship God in different ways or by using different types of musical instruments. What is wrong is if we play the comparison game. If we are extremely fond or proud of the worship team at our own church, we can grow to become prideful and belittle worship teams at other churches, which can cause a rift between believers. Or, we could become disenchanted with our own worship team so that we covet the worship team at another church. Once the comparison game has come on the scene, we can recognize that worship is more about performance rather than praise.
Genuine worship does not play the comparison game because in God’s eyes, all of His children sing beautifully and play their instruments amazingly. The Lord does not define worship based on performance. True, genuine worship is rooted in praise of our great glorious Savior (Psalm 150:3-4). We should want to praise the Lord for His unconditional love and great mercy. Our entire lives can be offered up in praise to the mighty throne of God. As human beings, it can be easy to get caught up in the circus-like atmosphere of performance-based worship, but this does not have to be the case. By being intentional and mindful to recognize when worship becomes more about performance instead of praising God, we can shift the focus back to Jesus. If you have found yourself placing a bigger emphasis on performance rather than praise in your own worship of the Lord, rest assured that you can start over today by giving proper praise to our mighty God. May we always declare with the psalmist, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Psalm 29:2).
Vivian Bricker loves Jesus, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She has earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Christian Ministry and is currently working toward her Master’s Degree. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, reading, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, she is probably embarking on an adventure.