A friend of mine called the other day to ask my advice about something going on at his church. It seems one of their lead worship singers leaves the room as soon as she is finished singing and sits in the lobby drinking coffee, never attending a service. He has said something to her a couple of times but it hasn’t changed anything. She sings and she leaves for coffee. He asked, “What can I do?”

What indeed. I told him he should let her go ASAP!  All he was doing by letting her sing and leave was shouting to the other band members that worship was a performance, not a celebration.

In their pursuit of excellence, many churches walk a thin line between show and celebration. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference from the outside looking in. It’s one thing to put on a good show, and it’s another to take people into the presence of God: leaving to drink coffee simply doesn’t do that.

I remember when my church had three services on Sunday morning and the same worship group did two of the services. They would lead worship and then leave the stage, but they would then sit in the audience. How your leaders conduct themselves is a crucial issue. Someone is always watching and learning what it means to be a Christian: it’s not performance. Worship is a spiritual moment, a celebration, not to be confused with a good performance. It’s good for us all to remember the difference.

One year, while I was still a pastor, I took our worship band on tour with me. At one of the stops our drummer became ill and we had to find a drummer from the local music community. For three days the drummer rehearsed and played with the band. At the end of the three days, when the event was over and the band was packing up, the drummer asked the group, “What is it you’ve guys got that I don’t have? I’ve watched how you relate to one another, how important the band’s prayer time together is, and I’d like to know more about what this is.” The band members then shared their conversion stories with him and he listened intently. We don’t know what happened to this guy. He may or may not have ever committed his life to Christ, but at least the seeds were planted.

Since then, several people have scolded me for using a non-Christian in the band. It never occurred to me not to use him. It’s important for non-Christians to see how Christians worship and live out their lives. Would I allow that person to play in my band back home? Sure I would. But would I allow him to play and then sit out in the lobby and drink coffee? Not on your life—that’s encouraging performance rather than celebration. I hope you see the difference.

Question: How do you encourage church members to view worship as a celebration? Share your ideas in the Comments section below.