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In the picture above, can you match the people with their appropriate role
in corporate worship ?   (I found this photo on the web, it’s perfect for this exercise.)

God                                                 Performers
Choir, Orchestra, Media                    Audience
Congregation                                   Prompter

If you’re like most people you probably said:

You know, I never liked matching questions on exams; if I missed one I missed at least two. It was harder to keep an A with matching questions on the tests.

Here’s the right answer according to Soren Kiergegaard:

  • The congregation = performers
  • Platform & media people = prompters
    (could be one, could be 150).
  • God is our audience and our worship is directed to Him.

Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) a Danish writer and philosopher  spent the majority of his short life of 42 years living in Copenhagen. Although much of his life work was unappreciated in his own lifetime, many in more recent times have discovered, and are discovering, the wisdom in his writing.

Kiergegaard’s Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing, first appeared in 1847
in Edifying Addresses of Varied Tenor. In a section entitled, “The Listener’s Role in a Devotional Address,” Søren Kierkegaard uses the metaphor of the theater in a way many have since found useful and edifying. First written with the preacher in view, the principle is equally applicable to those of us who preach with music or other artistic expressions.

Kierkegaard’s Metaphor of the Theater

“Alas, in regard to things spiritual, the foolish of many is this, that they in the secular sense look upon the speaker as the actor, and the listeners as theatergoers who are to pass judgement upon the artist. But the speaker is not the actor – not in the remotest sense. No, the speaker is the prompter. There are no mere theatergoers present, for each listener will be looking into his own heart. T he stage is eternity, and the listener, if his is the true listener (and if he is not, he is at fault) stands before God during the talk. The prompter whispers to the actor what he is to say, but the actor’s repetition of it is the main concern – is the solemn charm of the art. T he speaker whispers the word to the listeners. But the main concern is earnestness: that the listeners by themselves, with themselves, and to themselves, in the silence before God, may speak with the help of the address. The address is not given for the speaker’s sake, in order that men may praise or blame him. The listener’s repetition of it is what is aimed for. If the speaker has that responsibility for what he whispers, then the listener has an equally great responsibility not to fall short in his task. In the theater, the play is staged before an audience who are called theatergoers; but at the devotional address, God himself is present. In the most earnest sense God is the critical theatergoer, who looks on to see how the lines are spoken and how they are listened to: hence here the customary audience is wanting. The speaker then is the prompter, and the listener stands openly before God. The listener, if I may say so, is the actor, who in all truth acts before God.”

(Søren Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is To Will One Thing, Trans. Douglas Steere (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948) pp.180-181.)

While I don’t agree with everything Kierkegaard said  —shoot, I don’t agree with everything I say; hence the self-arguments from time to time— on this I sure do!

  • God is our audience in worship.
  • Everything we, the worshipers,  do, say, sing, read, pray, is for Him, for His honor and enjoyment.
  • The people up front are there to help things happen decently and in order. They set the tone and keep us all together.  It might be one person, with or without an instrument.  It might be a full choir and orchestra, it might include media assistance.  Prompters remind us what to say, when and how.  If they’re skilled, we soon forget about them entirely, focusing on God alone.

Consider this one additional thought as you move back into your day (my son Jared and I thought on this concept a few minutes recently when our kids were here to visit for a few days).   Christ is at every point in this applied metaphor. Were it not for His completed work, we’d have no reason to gather each week the way we do.

  • Christ is part of the prompting.
  • He is the One who unites and unifies all who’ve gathered, having trusted His completed work for Salvation and now able to worship God unhindered.
  • He is there, at God’s right hand, listening, watching, hopefully smiling His approval as His bride (the church) expresses her love for Him.

Where else does anything so invigorating happen, I ask?  Nowhere.  Absolutely nowhere, this side of Glory.  What a wonderful thing, this thing we call worship – and when we see Him face to face, it gets even better!

Selah –

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