Have you ever been in a service where the worship music becomes a performance first and foremost, with actual worship a close or even distant second? I would guess that you have.
The most frequent observable symptom in this scenario is that some or even all of the congregation stop singing and simply watch. This is especially blatant when a ‘star’ worshiper on the platform carries the songs completely, as the congregation falls back, often drawing out chorus after chorus that only he or she is singing or playing, caught up in the seeming rapture in their performance. It may be more subtle than this. It all centers upon attitude as opposed to specific action. The participation of the congregational worshipers is stifled rather than facilitated. In the extreme, people will actually sit down after a time.
Folks, God is not honoured in this. His people are not brought closer to Him in the way Scripture proscribes. I would even presume say it does not bring Him joy though the congregation. After all, all of His sheep are commanded to worship. It is an anathema to biblical worship.
One might assume that this would most often be a problem in large congregational settings, with correspondingly large numbers of talented platform participants. Though that is possible, I have not observed this to be the case. In large settings there is often strong pastoral leadership and worship oversight. Assuming that the worship leadership understands the biblical principles, the problem does not develop. Also, there is usually pastoral mentoring of participants, sensitizing them to these potential problems. As such, they are unlikely to develop.
I have also not observed this problem in very small assemblies (eg. house churches and those of similar scale). They simply do not have the numbers and equipment involved to spawn the problem. The participation of everyone is clear due to the size. Problems of this sort are obvious and unlikely to flourish.
The traditional small to medium church setting is most likely the one to suffer in this regard. Though not the norm, this is an unfortunate by-product of some current attitudes. In this setting, one or two overly head strong, influential members can dominate the worship. Additionally, there may be weak accountability, or it may be over-ridden by the false (though common today) hope that this will generate growth. In this situation, a performance oriented theme can evolve, severely stifling real worship in the congregation as they are converted into spectators. As the paradigm plays out, more and more resources are dedicated to the performance and staging, and the congregation is ever more distant in terms of participatory, Christ-centered worship. In this setting, people often simply drift away for what may seem no apparent reason. The reason, of course, is that they are subtly disenfranchised from real worship, left empty, and must seek the opportunity to glorify their Lord elsewhere.