I was glued to my TV on Sunday night as I watched The Tony Awards!
As a theatre girl myself, The Tonys are must-watch television. I find myself in awe of the talent. These writers, directors, actors, singers, and dancers are at the top of their game. Endless hours of training and sacrifice have gone into raising their craft to such a high level. Watching their performances inspires me to rehearse more, learn more, create more...
Yesterday, I had lunch with a friend, and she explained how her church is going through the all-too-cliche battle of Performance versus Worship. Sitting in the glow of Sunday's telecast, and thinking back to the thousand times I've been caught in this exact argument, my blood began to boil. This is an argument that, at its core, is based in an ignorance of what we do as artists.
I could write a book about how we need performance skills to be effective worship leaders, Gospel artists, and even preachers. But here's where I think this argument is so horribly misguided: It sees all performers as divas and all performances as selfish. And that's just wrong.
The best performances are always an act of generosity.
When a Work of art is created, it is in one state of being, but it's truly not complete until it's performed in front of an audience. The artist chooses the Work because it speaks to them; it has a message that connects with the soul of the artist, something he or she thinks must be communicated. The artist learns, rehearses, and perfects the Work until the audience is present. And then, the Work is shared.
And in that living moment, something important is given to the audience - a story, a song, a character, a dance that has the power to transform, enlighten, afflict, sooth, fill. The artist wants the audience to leave changed, to experience the world differently than before the Work.
Isn't that what we're trying to do with worship music?
Yes, there are some artists that are in it for the fame and the adulation, but you know who they are. You can sense their selfishness when you watch them. They leave you feeling cold, unmoved, uninspired. They clutter the airwaves. We don't need them in the theatre, or the studio, or the Church.
But true artists aren't that. True artists want to communicate. They want to share their passion, their trials, their hopes, and their convictions with the audience. And you know what these artists look like too. They create the art that changes your life - the song that you always need when you're sad, the play that made you laugh til your gut hurt, the painting that was so beautiful you bought the poster to take home, the book you reread every summer.
Aren't these the kind of artists we want in the church?
Aren't these the kind of artists we want sharing the Gospel?
It's dynamic relationship between the Creator, the Artist, and the Listener. God creates the Artist and gives them the skills of creativity and performance; the Artist uses those skills to share their message, and as a result, the Listener hears the Gospel in a way that is transformative, enlightening, afflicting, soothing, filling...
As an artist, I've chosen to use my talents to share the message of God's love and grace. Not every artist will make that choice, and that's okay. Artists need to be able to tell the stories of their own humanity. Whatever our walk through life, we need to hear the stories of all people if we're ever to learn about each other. It's that unique telling that allows us to share in the human experience, discover the greater truths of the universe, and learn to love our neighbour as ourselves.
But when artists do make the choice to use their voices for the Church, let's not pin their heels and limit their expression. Let's encourage them to use the full breadth of their talents - their artistry, their creativity, and yes, their performance - to generously share the Good News...
Worship Wednesdays is a weekly series to encourage and equip worship leaders and songwriters. Bookmark this page & visit us every Wednesday!