I have a confession to make.

When I lead worship, it feels like I’m putting on a show, like I have to impress the people in the congregation. Because if I don’t, they’ll probably let me know. I get way nervous, worried that my pitch isn’t just right or that I’ll strum the wrong guitar chord. I worry that people are judging me for my musical talents, or because I don’t look worshipful enough. Maybe I’m not saying the right thing at the right time.

When I’m on stage, worship simply feels like a show.

I have another confession to make.

When I’m in the audience, when I’m supposed to be worshiping, it feels like a show. I judge the leader by all their musical mistakes, or sometimes lack thereof. If they’re too good, I think they’re just showing off. If there’s a typo in the powerpoint, I’m gone. If the worship leader says too much I get distracted. If he’s too confident, it seems like he’s just using his talents and not relying on God.

When I’m in the audience, worship simply feels like a show.

When did congregational worship become such a production? I’m all for rock music and giving the worship set all you’ve got, but sometimes I think that’s all I’m doing. Giving it all I’ve got without a second thought about God.

When I’m overwhelmed by electric guitar riffs and choking fog, I want the floor to swallow me up. I want to be anywhere but in that worship space. I start fighting back the tears of frustration because I’m not feeling it. I look at the people in the front row with their hands held high, blocking the power point for everyone behind them. They obviously “get” it. They’re not comparing this to a rock concert.

And then I glance at some of the people around me. Some are barely mumbling along to the words. Some have hands stuffed in their pockets. Some are gazing down at the floor. Some have their arms crossed in front of them and look very unimpressed. I’m obviously not alone.

When I’m on stage leading, sometimes I can’t see past the excited people in the front row. I am thankful for those that keep the energy up and are visibly into the music. But sometimes my gaze falls beyond them, to the people in the back, who look like I must look when I’m out there. And my heart goes out to them.

And I feel bad that I’m only putting on a show for them.

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