Years ago, I had the privilege of seeing Amanda Palmer live. I wasn’t a huge fan of her; however, I was familiar with her work in the the duo The Dresden Dolls and my fiance’ (now wife) were on a double date, so we certainly wouldn’t pass up a concert together. If you do go see Amanda Palmer, I might suggest some discretion for it is a cabaret punk-themed show. While her set was good, and while she did perform some Dresden Dolls material, I was more blown away by the opening band, The Nervous Cabaret – a funky gypsy punk band that I had never heard of. The singer’s eastern voice was captivating, the band drove the songs with a tight brass sound, and they played with an incredible charisma that totally stole the show. Fortunately, they were Amanda Palmer’s backing band, so we got to enjoy their energy all over again.
Later, when we sought out their album on iTunes, their recorded music from the studio paled in comparison. It didn’t feel anywhere
near as good…but why? It sounded the same. If there were any wrong notes live, they certainly weren’t here now. The mix was great. Something; however, was still missing. Energy & Charisma. It’s no surprise that you can’t package these things. The same thing happened when I saw That 1 Guy open for Buckethead. The opening act stole the show, but when I checked out his albums, they weren’t anywhere near as exciting as what I experienced live. While this would traditionally suck for an artist looking to make record sales in the weeks following a show, this is incredibly great news for worship artists, musicians, & leaders – whether or not he/she/they have an album for sale because albums sales aren’t the point.
Providing the musicianship isn’t so terrible that it’s distracting, the selling of the performance (selling as in convincing; performance as in the exceptional execution of your trade) comes through charisma, passion, and in being on fire! Us humans, in our brokenness and fleshiness-state are incredibly visual & auditory creatures. Experiencing someone else love & enjoy something is contagious; however, experiencing mediocrity and apathy results in the same or a further negativity. Worship leaders, musicians, singers – you are in a place of authority whether you realize it or not. Now here is the kicker, the point of brutal truth & honesty. Hold on to your seats people
If you are not in love with God on stage, the congregation will not believe you.
If you are not in love with God on your very own, you won’t be on stage.
Now let me be clear about something. This certainly does NOT mean that you have to put on a performance in worship, in fact, you should never do that. Effective worship comes in being authentic. Waterdeep & Enter the Worship Circle haven’t been successful because of performance or being over-the-top in production. Their success in the realm of worship has been from being authentic, real, and raw – and if you’ve heard their recordings, you also know they’re far from perfect. Singer-songwriter Erick Baker sells out the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville, TN time and time again not from pyrotechnics or lasers, but from being real – whether he’s with a humbly assembled band or by himself on acoustic guitar.
This means for both when you have the musical instrument in front of you and when you don’t – you have to be crazy about loving God. Both when you’re singing and when you’re not, when you’re in front of the congregation, bible study, living room, arena – it is not and does not feel any different. As cheesy as always seems, it’s always the truth that there is only an audience of One. While you may give direction of an upcoming chorus or bridge, you are singing solely unto God. In being a missionary, you have to convince the people you’re ministering to of the wonderful and all powerful love of Jesus. You have to do the same as a musician – and until you do it with conviction and passion, it will fall flat. The harvest may be plentiful & the workers few; however, in worship it often seems the harvest is still plentiful & the workers are a flooded market…just ill-prepared.