In this consumer-driven world, church has very much become a performance. Everything about the way we are set up, including the seating arrangements, reflect this format. Music has, in many cases, become the cornerstone of the performance event, sometimes involving elaborate set-up and groups of professional quality musicians; some churches even producing and selling their own albums. Bright lights, large screens and pretty multimedia displays accentuate the performance nature of modern church services.
Performance-driven church has significant weaknesses. For one thing, everybody has different personal tastes, and different generations and cultures may have preferred styles of music and communication, which means that it is difficult to build an intergenerational, multi-cultural community when the basis of meeting is all about the performance. As for the people who don’t enjoy singing or listening to sermons (and there are lots of them) – they are left without virtually any options of church services.
However, a far bigger issue I have with the performance model of church is what it does to the people who are sitting in the rows – it disempowers them. It turns them into consumers; it takes away their voice and their value; it treats them all the same; and it provides no opportunity for active participation or responsibility. It is like feeding God’s people with milk, when they are grown up and ready for meat.
There are only two roles in a performance; one can either be a performer, or an audience. Church was never simply meant to be a performance. It is meant to be a place where God’s people are connected and empowered. If we change the underlying format of church, we will increase our ability to empower God’s people to learning; to growth; to transformational change, and to potent interpersonal ministry.