Recently, I’ve had a few conversations about the term. What does it mean, and what does it imply? On the surface, a worship concert is simply a means by which worship artists perform in a concert setting. The point of the music, and the point of the musicians, is to point people to God in some musically compelling way. As the Christian church has done for the last two thousand years, She adopts the cultural setting and technologies and uses them to express the timelessness of the Gospel. And there is great validity to this.
But then I got to thinking. Just for grins, what would happen if the Old Testament worshippers adopted a worship concert approach? Would we see Levitical priests advertising an evening concert featuring a particular name artist? Would they sell tickets? Would they play an encore? Would they have a merchandise table in the back with logo’d T-shirts and hoodies? Would the band be signing autographs and having photo ops with fans?
I was recently at a worship concert where the focus was directed specifically and unapologetically to God. And I was at a worship concert where the focus was seemingly blurred toward the performer in spiritually unhealthy ways. The thing is, these two experiences happened at the same concert.
Certainly, there are dangers as well as opportunities here. So I polled a few of my worship pastor/leader friends, and asked them a question I think might shed some light: “What is the difference between a worship concert and a worship service?” Because I think the answers might help us better understand the role of the up-front people in our worship experiences. Here’s what they shared, in no particular order.
“A worship concert is designed for passionate response from the crowd. A worship service is designed for passionate participation from the crowd. Hopefully both produce passionate disciplined life-change.”
Dave Bollen, Twin Cities Church
“Perhaps it is simply a matter of direction, as both are acts of worship, an invitation. A worship concert offers people the beauty of music well performed. The audience is blessed and directs gratitude for that to God. In a worship service, the audience is an active participant and becomes part of the musical/artistic offering.”
Eric Aiston, Church of the Foothills
“If the concert results in both personal and public worship of God, then great. However, the typical concert setup makes it very easy for our human nature to applaud the ‘Leaders.’ Therefore, a concert is a risky (but not impossible) thing to associate with worship. Any time you have people on a stage, with lights, sound, talent, cameras, everyone looking at them—we take the risk of ‘concertizing’ it. That is why leadership is such a critical gift in helping make the ‘Front’ become transparent and point to who we are worshipping.
John Broadhead, Village Church
“Where both the worship concert and the worship service intentionally seek to engage the audience and usher them into the presence of God, a worship service is more likely to include components such as offering, preaching, and communion, and the worship concert has more of a presentational environment. Both are great and valuable, but they serve different functions.”
John Plastow, First Covenant Church
“’Worship Concert’ means the worship band will be bringing lots of music in a wonderful way. ‘Worship Service’ means that I, the layperson, bring my gift of worship.”
Cate Morris, Artist and Worship Leader
“For me it is a heart thing and about being intentional in the experience you are trying to offer. I believe people are blessed at both even though the overall purpose and experience can be different. I also believe the above two can be woven together artistically as an evening moves from moment to moment. And I believe God honors both when He is the focus of our hearts.”
Len Jones, Journey Church
“In a worship concert, I listen and am blessed (for me). In a worship service, I participate for Him and (I am blessed). I’ve usually looked at a worship concert as us being the audience. What’s the difference between a concert and a worship concert?
Jim Heinze, New Hope Fellowship
The last response brings up a good point. Soren Kierkegaard once compared worship to a stage play. People typically see God as the “director” of this play, the worship leaders as the “performers,” and the congregation as the “audience.” But he argues that in corporate worship, this is completely backwards. When we worship as we were intended, the worship leaders are the “directors,” the congregation is the “performers,” and God is the “audience.” Of course, this is a simplification. But this metaphor may expose the differences between a worship concert and a worship service.
The question I pose to you then is this: What type of worship are you experiencing in your church?