Performance & Worship
In the context of corporate worship, performance is defined in various, even opposing, ways. For some, the term “performance” is inherently human-centered and distracting from the ultimate purpose of worship. For others, “performance” can be a display of God’s gifting and grace that ultimately lead us to worship Him. For that reason, it is more helpful to think in terms of what would be unhealthy and healthy in the context of public worship and establishing criteria for both.
What follows is a list of characteristics to help us assess any kind of performance. Not all of these characteristics will be present every time, but they serve as general “marks” that we can use to assess whether performances are healthy or unhealthy.
Characteristics of Unhealthy Performances
– The performer or the performance receives more attention than God.
– The congregation does not engage spiritually, but merely admires the performance.
– Clapping and praise goes to an individual or a small ensemble rather than God.
– Compliments revolve around the performer rather than the content or message of the performance.
– Performers are concerned more with their performance than the transformation of people’s hearts.
– Anger or jealousy results after poor performances, or pride after impressive performances.
– Performances stray from the standards / regulations found in Scripture.
– People prefer the performance over their own engagement.
– Prayers for the congregation are neglected.
Characteristics of Healthy Performances
– The performer and congregation recognize that glory belongs to God. (Psalm 115:1)
– The performance serves an intentional, Christ-glorifying purpose in the overall worship service.
– The congregation is invited to participate in some way — e.g., meditating, praying, singing, etc.
– The message of the performance is rooted in biblical truth.
– Performers strive for excellence, but recognize that transformation results from the work of the Spirit.
– Generosity results after performances, longing to give others opportunities to share their gifts with others.
– Performances align with the examples and principles found in Scripture.
– People are led to the priority of God’s Word (proclamation & response) in the worship gathering.
– Prayers for the congregation are prioritized.
New Poem: “These Dire Circumstances”
THESE DIRE CIRCUMSTANCES
a giraffe falls off the edge of the earth,
into abyss, somersaulting head first,
his legs running with no effect through the atmosphere.
o! how he curses himself for ever leaving his homeland!
like many animals near the end, he feels more like sand,
a handful of golden sand let into the wind,
released, separating further and furthermore,
abandoning that childish desire to elope.
but even the hopeless hope.
so he postpones himself with an oversized umbrella,
a multicolored phenomenon that he purchased a few hours earlier
at a dime store on the corner of fifth and fisk.
at the end of it all, he imagines his mother would tsk
for although he planned ahead, he hadn’t planned for this.
New Poem: “From a Room”
FROM A ROOM
i have held photos and heard rumors
of the mud hills of montana,
the fire falls of yellowstone,
and the patient rain of seattle.
a decade has passed by now, and i am here,
waiting in a room, writing poems
about far away places.
with time, the room changes from a living room
to a coffee shop to a doctor’s vestibule,
but my hand remains constant on the pen.
my pen digging deeper into pulp,
into paper harvested from the wild,
i wait for nature to claim its own,
for life to lead me to new life.
First and foremost, resurrection is not a subjective feeling, but an objective reality. Any benefit that we receive on a personal level is grounded in the fact that Jesus Christ actually rose from the dead.
In other words, our hope does not arise from positive thinking, fuzzy feelings, or religious sentimentality, but from the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. His physical body rose from a physical tomb, and because of this objective reality, our hope is not based in ourselves or our passing emotions, but in Christ. (1 Cor. 15)
“After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”
Theology of Art (Piper)
John Piper offers a wonderful theology of art, in which he defines art as that which is done not merely for utilitarian purposes, but to move or affect.
Strengths of this definition:
What we could add to this brief definition:
Urbanization & You
The world spins madly on, and as it spins, our population continues to increase.
Over and over again, artists have questioned our tendency to clump together in urban centers and destroy the natural world around us. At the same time, philosophers and theologians contemplate how historical truths apply in an ever-changing landscape.
We often take our surroundings for granted, but that can be dangerous. Rather than accepting the status quo, we should follow the lead of artists like Yang Yongliang and consider where our trajectory will take us. For those of us who believe in God, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of our time, our energy, our people, and our world.
Snowfall upon the Heart
No one ever told me that my heart would feel this way.
Even the strongest Christians have their weak moments, but the sins of a friend can be depressing. Indeed, many times, a friend’s sin weighs even more than our own sin. We see evil from an outside perspective, and in small measure, we experience how God must feel.
It feels like heavy snow upon the heart. You watch as a friend delights in the world and buries their life in sin. You hope they will stop, come around, and realize what they are doing. You wonder what will happen next. You wonder if they know God at all. You pray that God will have mercy on another soul.
But rather than casting the sin out of our minds, acting as if it never happened, it is good to have heavy hearts. Scripture tells us to restore sinners in a “spirit of gentleness,” as if we were surgeons operating on our own child. When it comes to sin, we are dealing with something far more serious than we realize.
Furthermore, we can be susceptible to the same sins, so Scripture warns us to “keep watch on yourself” (Galatians 6:1). When we are apathetic or brash towards other people’s sin, we disregard Scripture and endanger ourselves, so God reminds us to feel the weight and tread lightly.
As you think of a friend or a relative who has made some poor decisions, take a moment to intercede for them and pray for your own strength
New Image Added: “Shipwreck”
See it here: http://flic.kr/p/dW9Gmk
Good Design & Good Results
Good design has dramatic effects upon the human brain. We have all sensed that in one way or another — maybe through an abstraction painted by Pollock, a computer designed by Apple, or a sunset displayed by God. But have you ever wondered why?
“Why We Love Beautiful Things” (you can read it here) is a well-written article that explores the connection between good design and science. It is worth reading for anyone who enjoys art and its relation to our brains. Here is how the article ends:
“We think of great design as art, not science, a mysterious gift from the gods, not something that results just from diligent and informed study. But if every designer understood more about the mathematics of attraction, the mechanics of affection, all design — from houses to cellphones to offices and cars — could both look good and be good for you.”
I would add that science, too, is a gift from God. Science does not diminish from art, but adds to the incredible wonder of our complex, yet utterly coherent, world that God has made. From a theistic viewpoint, art and science compliment each other because they have a common Creator, so these findings should not surprise us, but rather encourage us as we pursue the arts and sciences.
Photo: NY Times (click image for link)
THE BEST DANCE TEAM ON THE PLANET…
… featuring creative moves in a variety of locations.