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The Myth of the Audience of One

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.

God in the position of audience is limiting.

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.

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.

About The Author

Chad Cecil

Chad is an assistant pastor at Lifecentre Church in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. He enjoys cooking, 80's music, and dialoguing about worship. He and his lovely wife, Jennifer, live in Ottawa, Ontario.

6 Comments

  1. Johan Heinrichs

    Some good points. But I think that you are viewing ‘audience of One’ as us being on stage, and God is sitting in the empty seats watching us. I think you need to view it as ‘God seated high on His heavenly throne and we are gazing up and staring into HIs transcendence. Putting God on His eternal throne surrounded by things that we cannot begin to fathom is hardly limiting Him.
    Our performance is a response to who He is and the revelation we have of His transcendent beauty, not an act of impressing Him (that would be impossible).
    I have a bit of vested interest as I wrote a book with the very title, “Audience of One”
    I appreciate your view IF you bring it down to the level your typical concert venue. Perhaps calling ‘audience of One’ a myth, is a little too much of a blanketing statement if you are simply talking about leading corporate worship. I’m not trying to be argumentative, I just want to defend a term that has meant a lot to me and many of those in our church community. Thanks for your thoughts!

    Reply
    • Chad Cecil

      Also…i’d love to check out your book! Where can I get a copy?

      Reply
      • Johan Heinrichs

        Thank you for yoyr reply, the book is available atll major online book sellers.

        Reply
  2. chad cecil

    Johan,

    Thank you for your comments! You’re correct in that we can’t limit, God. Well said. I was simply trying to convey that viewing the Trinitatian God simply as audience seems limiting…when it’s both God at work in and through us for his good pleasure (Philippians 2).

    I’m thankful you took the time to read my opinion. Blessings as you serve!

    Reply
  3. Robert Stecher

    HI Chad. Thanks for your article. To me the notion of singing my song of worship to the Audience of One is that of comfort knowing that although it may not be musically perfect or polished, it is to Him as my children’s art is to me. Not perfect but from the heart. I do think that there are maybe two types of songs sung in the church. Those sung as songs to minister to the people. I think that is perfectly fine and the Lord loves to minister to us. Then there are songs we sing to Him to minister to Him. I do recognize that we live in Greco-Roman culture in that we have very much inherited and brought the culture of the stage and the performance into the church and that does not necessarily fit in with Biblical culture. The temple architecture that is detailed in scripture for example does not describe a stage and an auditorium. It describes a progression toward the Holy of Holies, where there is an audience of one. We know our God (plural) is one God. That is another revelation though. So, I am perfectly comfortable with having the Lord our God as the sole focus of my worship – audience of one. I am also perfectly okay with ministering to people in song to encourage them and bless them. Cheers. Rob.

    Reply
  4. Chad cecil

    Great thoughts Rob! Thank you for sharing!

    Reply

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