The Myth of the Audience of One
The audience of one.
You may have heard it in a song or sermon, read it on a t-shirt, or come to adopt it as a model for your ministry. The phrase is noble and worth considering. But in grace and humility, I want to address some concerns regarding an ‘audience of one’ mentality—specifically concerning corporate worship. Then I want to offer alternative thinking constructed from Scripture.
We don’t need to be persuaded that worship is all about God. And we don’t need to hear another mind-bending worship quote to tweet about. I believe what we need is a healthy dose of Gospel-injection to kindle every ounce of our spirits for the glory of Jesus Christ and let that shape our approach to the gathering of God’s people.
Colossians 1:15-20 says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together…”
Jesus is the forever Fashioner, Forerunner, and the Final Word. He’s the Great Glue of the galaxies upon galaxies. So needless to say, without him we wouldn’t be. And without his perfect life, sacrificial death, and victory over darkness, we have no chance at a hopeful life and joyous eternity. Furthermore, Hebrews states that Jesus’ priestly work has once-and-for-all given us direct access to the Father. We can now draw near to God with confidence having our hearts washed clean and accepted because of Jesus Christ.
With this passage in mind and in review of the phrase ‘audience of one,’ allow me to submit that God in the position of audience is limiting. Yet, sticking to the metaphor and considering culture’s propensity to idolize the performer… We could say the audience’s experience and pleasure is primarily contingent on the presentation. Consequently, the performer is then placed in highest regard.
But isn’t God (and I’m using ‘God’ in the Trinitarian sense) fully pleased and sufficient within three persons? Is he dependent upon us for our worship (see Acts 17:24-25)? Is God sitting and waiting for the show to start and judging us on every melody sung and chord strummed? Stay with me as I interject this alternative: We are the audience of the One—Jesus Christ. If I’m the main event, the event is going to stink. But if Christ is, then it’s surely going to rock. All of creation and heaven sings, “Jesus.” And I want to make sure I’m doing the same.
God has initiated the fellowship with us through his Son and has breathed within us the Holy Spirit to live for Christ. By His grace, we’ve been invited into a partnership—a divine dance to edify the Son. So the translation in a Trinitarian perspective is: Jesus is the Perfect Performer once and for all, the Holy Spirit does his perfecting work in and through us to conform our image to Christ, and God the Father is pleased with our worship when rooted in the Son. We are in the Savior’s symphony because God has given us a part to play. He’s graciously working with us by his Spirit to be co-writers of a song called Life.
Additionally, what’s super neat is that, through this partnership with the Spirit, we speak the good news into one another’s lives as we participate in song. As the Spirit speaks in and through us as we lead/sing, that same Spirit within the hearts of God’s gathered people addresses others (Eph. 5:19). Thus, corporate worship becomes a trialogue (yes that’s a word as I had to make sure): ‘God ministers to us, and we respond to God, as we minister to other people’ (Engaging With God, Peterson).
So, what are the practical implications of this alternative notion of being in the audience of the One—Jesus Christ?
As the worship leaders/pastors, recognize your job is not to put on a perfect performance (still play skillfully and with highest excellence as this is biblically commanded) for your people but to rely on the perfect leadership of the Holy Spirit.
The more aware and tuned in we are to God, the better we’re able to lead his people. As you submit to the Spirit’s leadings and promptings, you’ll be surprised at what He says to his people through your obedience.
Remind your people that physical engagement (singing, posture, opening your Bible, etc.) is not just simply about individual preference but for corporate exhortation. You never know where someone is at in their journey with Christ. Your participation may be just the action God uses to change their heart.