The Audience of One?


This is Rev. Mike Temperato - he loves Jesus, and he loves his drums! 

You can check out some of his playing here.

Now, I'm not writing here to critique Mike's playing or his vision...but it does provide a very apt illustration for an issue that is probably familiar to us all.

You could argue that Mike has taken something that is inherently 'team based' and made it into a solo endeavour.  Most would agree that the drum kit is designed to be played as a part of a band or ensemble - playing the critical role of rhythmically gluing the ensemble together.  Not for Mike...

“I have a long reach and stay in shape for all the swinging, extending and twisting. My solos can last 45 minutes or more!”
— Mike Temperato

Even the set up of his drum kit reinforces this soloist approach - an impenetrable cocoon of drums, percussion, cymbals (and lava lamps) that physically and visually block him out fully from anyone else on the outside - whether other musicians or the audience.

worshipping God...

At the end of the clip, there is a quote that gives some context to Mike's approach to drumming...

Mark plays for an audience of one
The creator of the universe
Everybody else gets the overflow

Now there's a soundbite that I'm sure you've heard before - we play / sing / dance / mix the audio / "insert ministry role" for an Audience of One.

Now, hopefully we all get the main point of what this metaphor is intending to communicate.  When we do these things in worship and service, we're not supposed to be seeking approval or praise from the people around us.  Our worship is in response to and for the pleasure of God.*

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters
— Colossians 3:23

But I wonder whether we can misuse this principle to try to justify and encourage a bunch of unhelpful individualistic tendencies?  The desire to have the lights turned right down and the volume turned right up so it feels like there's no one else there to distract my worship.  The encouragement to pursue my unique, personal expression of worship and not to worry about what other people think.  Or even at a more basic level, people not gathering with other believers at all because its "just about me and God - I worship for an audience of one"

worshipping God... together

Just like drumming should inherently be a group activity, so too should our worship, both as we intentionally gather for worship and as we live it out 24/7.  At EV Church where I belong, we've been exploring the book of Philippians.  How does Paul encourage the Philippian church to respond to God's love, comfort and compassion shown to us in Christ? 

...being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
— Philippians 2:2-4

Similarly in Colossians 3, in light of their new identity in Christ, Paul exhorts the church to...

...clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another, if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
— Colossians 3:12-14

You just can't do this stuff by yourself!  What does compassion look like without someone to show compassion to?  Patience without someone to be patient with?  Christian worship must be a group activity because it is inherently other-person focused.  And it's important to emphasise that this edification isn't just the 'overflow' or byproduct of worship - it is worship. It is enabled by and expresses the reality of Christ among us when we love and serve one another like this.

So lets not cocoon our worship away from others, but in worship serve and submit to one another.  Yes - we worship for an audience of One. But we do so together as families, communities, churches...and with millions upon millions - and will do so for eternity!

So Mike...bring the drums, we'll be up for a jam!

* However...we also need to make sure we don't fall into the trap of thinking our performance in and of its own merits can please or disappoint God!