How long was this guy just sitting there waiting for this picture? Timing is everything. Enjoy and as always the winner receives nothing but my respect and laughter – which is still practically worth nothing.
This was the last week for our interim pastor to be with us as we begin the transition of a new Senior Pastor. We left a little extra time this week knowing that he had been with us for about 5 months and had grown to be a great part of our family. Goodbyes are alway hard so we left a little extra time.
Floodgate - Paul Colman and Michael Neale
Majestic – Lincoln Brewster
Depth of Mercy – Chad Cates and Tony Wood
Your Name – Paul Baloche and Glenn Packiam
You can check out other setlists from around the country at Sunday Setlists at TheWorshipCommunity.com.
It was about a year ago when I was asked to begin directing our church choir. At the mention of the idea chills ran up and down my spine as if the company you rented the sound system from messed up the ground loop and your slightly wet lips completed the loop as you begin to sing the first words and strum the first power chord on your electric guitar. I mean I have sang in a number of choirs through school and church but never had thought I could direct one. My Original thoughts were honestly that we would slowly begin weening out the choir and favor a more contemporary and modern service. A majority of the music we received through the major choral music companies was way to over orchestrated and didn’t seem to really fit with the worship band scenario (not all products were like that but you have to look long and hard to find the ones not completely driven by horns and strings). That being said it has been about a year since I began directing our choir and to be honest, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have come to love directing our choir and am finding that it fits in so much better with a contemporary and modern music style than I would have thought. So much so, that I strongly recommend a choir in modern worship and here is why.
1. Visual Energy – I am a big believer in the importance of visual energy. If the person/people leading worship are visually engaging, (not distracting or for show which can sometimes be a fine line but is better hashed out in length in another post) then it engages the congregation as well. Basically if you don’t look like you are enjoying worship (ha ha think worship pain face – you know what i’m talking about) or even look as if you are worshipping then how can you expect those you lead to enjoy or worship. A choir in a modern worship service provides a great visual energy. Though I have never directed a choir before I was always enthralled with the gospel choir – the energy and engagement they provide just draws you in like a moth to a candle flame. That is what I am talking about – a large group of people in total worship and engagement breaks down some barriers for those who might be uncomfortable otherwise.
2. Built in Group Who Know New Songs – I witnessed this once on a Hillsong DVD where they were teaching a large group some new songs so that they were able to sing with the band and Joel (grant it, it was because they were recording a live DVD and who wants a crowd who doesn’t know the songs). But think about it, sometimes as we introduce new songs the congregation can be uncomfortable singing along because they don’t know the lyrics. And while it may not seem logical that they would magically know the lyrics if a choir happened to be singing as well, I have found better response to brand new songs when we have a choir singing along. There just seems to be some visual connection when seeing a large group singing to feeling more apt to sing along as well (as long as you actually teach them the song prior to service – sorry those in our choir for forgetting this crucial idea from time to time ha ha). Plus sonically it’s nice to have the sound of many voices making the unfamiliar familiar.
3. Ministry Involvement – Let’s face it, sometimes it is hard to involve everybody that wants to be involved in the music ministry. It either becomes a scheduling nightmare which never pleases anyone, or you have to tell someone they can’t serve with their giftings (and full disclosure not to be simon but that still takes place sometimes and I am still not sure if it is for the best or not… again another post). But what better way to garner, energy, excitement, and involvement from those who want to serve and worship? I have seen some churches go as far as just creating a worship choir who – for all intensive purposes – are just congregation sitting/standing on or behind stage with no real micing just involvement in worship. No matter how you go about it, it is a great way to connect people to a ministry within the church plain and simple.
4.Vocal Adrenaline - we talked about the visual energy brought through a choir but there is a distinct audio energy that exists with a choir as well. Simple physics would teach us that the more people you have singing the same thing the more energy produced per note – More people = more loud!!!! (but our choir goes to 11). For certain modern worship songs this is just a huge plus for the whole feel of the song – I am thinking Fee, Tomlin, and others that create wonderful musical and vocal energy. There is just something powerful behind a large group of people lifting up the name of Jesus together and in my opinion it provides wonderful worship leading.
5. It is a Blessing – I realize I don’t have a lot of experience as a choir director but let me share how much fun this experience has been. Yes it has been hard at times, challenging at others, but most of all this has been a huge blessing. It has grown me spiritually, mentally, musically, and has allowed for musical diversity in our services beyond what we would do without a choir. You may not choose to go down the road of Choir specials and anything other than modern worship music with a worship band but for us it has allowed us to present worship in many different ways and connect better with those who come to worship with us. Yes we pull choir music from the most modern music as well as liturgical, hymns, a cappella, southern gospel, and more. Sometimes we “modernize” the music (a lot of times we use the arrangements for structure and vocal arrangement but band-wise we play like the modern worship recordings which yields pretty cool results) and sometimes we stay traditional. And we as a church, as a music department, as a band, and as worshippers are better for having our choir being a huge part of who we are.
Yes there are challenges to a choir – stage space, to robe or not to robe debate, micing the choir, rehearsal schedules, more people always means more challenges in keeping the peace. But in my experience it is so much more of a blessing to join together and worship with a choir than anything else.
Does your church use a choir? How does it utilize one? Do you see a complementary relationship between a choir and the modern music style? What are your thoughts?
Well I was on vacation this past week. It was nice to get away and relax for a few days but I always miss my church family and our Sunday morning worship together. I was able to attend the church I grew up in; the one that sparked the whole life of worship for me. It was nice to sleep in a little and not have to worry about playing but at the same time I did miss it. Bittersweet. He is the set list for Grace Church this past Sunday
Let The Praises Ring – Lincoln Brewster
Blessed Be Your Name- Beth Redman and Matt Redman
You Are Good – Israel Houghton
Hungry – Kathryn Scott
You can check out other setlists from around the country at Sunday Setlists at TheWorshipCommunity.com.
Bulletins are pretty much a staple at most every church. They are the gateway to your church’s information, branding, and so much more. It is a handheld central hub that your church gives to just about every person that walks through the door. What you place in their hands says a lot about your church; design, information, quality, and more all represent an impression of who you are, what you believe, and the direction you are heading. So my question is what does your church do to manage, prepare, print, and so forth your bulletins/worship folders. I am shocked to see the lack of really good bulletin/worship folder resources online – mostly bad shells, clunky designs and formatting and so on but to have a custom template/shell can turn into a rather hefty price tag. Fill out the poll if you will and also feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, past experiences in the comments below. Also if you choose “Other” from the poll please elaborate in the comment box below.
This past Easter I had the pleasure of meeting the daughter of one of the guitar players on the worship team. She expressed how much she liked the service and that she wanted to start coming more but normally worked on Sundays. She was a server at a nice cajun restaurant near here. I joked with her a bit about the perils of being a former server and expressed my condolences that she had to wait tables on Sunday – and she reaffirmed what every other server I have ever known had told me, Sunday afternoon crowds are the absolute worst people in the world to wait on. In thinking about this again it reminded me of common phrases I heard from Sunday afternoon patrons that I thought I would share in hopes that we never say them again (every phrase you are about to read is true, not an isolated incident but a repeated comment heard most often on Sunday afternoons – sad but true).
Phrase #1: “I gave your tip to Jesus.”
Nope, not kidding – wish I was but I heard this phrase more than a couple times while waiting tables. Other variations ranged from, “I tithed your tip,” “I gave your tip in church,” or “10% for God, 10% for you.” Now correct me if I am wrong but tithing is a spiritual discipline as well as a form of worship. I am pretty sure you can’t tithe for someone else. How about leaving me the money and letting me decide whether or not to tithe. Seriously all that phrase will do is further reinforce the idea of a crappy church crowd on Sundays. And no leaving the note in a track does not make it better.
Phrase #2: “We don’t drink, we’re Christians.”
Ok so I realize that some denominations and some individuals stay away from alcohol. That’s not a bad thing. But the phrase we don’t drink we’re Christians is a broad stroke. Look most restaurants make a majority of their money from the sale of alcohol. It’s no surprise. Go to a local establishment look at the price of a glass of wine and a bottle of wine then go find that same bottle on your own and do the math. So servers are trained to ask you if you would like to start with a glass of wine or beer or such. Plus mathematically even if your a lousy tipper the higher the check the better the tip. So an appropriate response when your server asks if you would like to start with a wonderful house red would be, “No thank you.” Also never ask for a glass a wine served in a coffee mug so your church friends don’t see you drinking – it happens!
Phrase #3: “Don’t worry we’re good tippers.”
Ehhhhhhhhhhhh Wrong! Listen if you start of your conversation with your server about your tipping habits you mine as well be honest and say “Look I’m a crappy tipper but I’m hoping by telling you I’m good you’ll work extra hard.” Servers hear this all the time. Honestly if you start off by talking about your tipping habits, we know your not gonna tip well.
Phrase #4: “Uh, where’s my extra ranch?!?”
(Implied rudeness with a huge side of I’m the King of the World attitude). I started waiting tables in the south which is notorious with manners (I hear yes sir, yes ma’am more in one day here in TN than all 20 years of living up north). So why do servers see those manners a majority of every other shift but Sunday afternoon? Barking orders and treating your server like a 17th century house maid is probably not the best way to share Christ’s Love. There is such a huge difference between “Get me the salmon none of that sauce” and “I’ll have the salmon please, hold the remoulade.” Yes you are essentially paying your server for serving your, being basically your servant. But Please and thank you go a long way, trust me.
What other phrases have you heard others use? If you are so brave as to be honest, what phrases have you used that I’ve missed thus far? Why is it so hard to represent Christ with a loving attitude after we leave church?
Some of you may remember the implementation of worship lyric presentation as it happened from hymn books to the current video projection. While not terribly old yet, I too remember the beginnings of the process. After moving from hymn books to chorus books (those little books with just the words to more “contemporary” choruses printed in them) to overhead projectors and clear plastic lyric sheets, to powerpoint and beyond. Man those were the days leading worship with a wonderful volunteer crouching or sitting next to an overhead projector switching the clear plastic sheets on which someone had copied verses and choruses and all the wonderful call and response parts that formerly resided in neatly bound books. The only control you had over the look was to use neat fonts like comic sans to give it that cool and modern look – oh yeah you know you used it don’t lie. If you were hip enough to be able to afford color ink that would print onto these clear plastic sheets you could change the color between bridge and chorus. Or maybe you hand drew each one which was really the only way to create anything unique and visually interesting for more than a few seconds.
The church quickly began to employ the power of computers and powerpoint to give life and color to the lyrics and backgrounds for really the first time. It wasn’t long before the desire for a more spontaneous approach to the order in which lyrics were displayed (more non-linear rather than a set linear order and structure) and you saw the creation of certain plugins which led to basically the worship presentation choices we have today. We seem to now sit in a world of almost endless possibilities as far as how we display and present lyrics for the congregation to read in order to participate in worship. We currently employ the use of the recent phenomena of song tracks which give motion not only to the backgrounds but the lyrics as well. We’ve come a long long way from overhead projectors and clear plastic sheets. But where do we go from here? How in the world is there anything left to add to the way we present our worship lyrics (which also begs the question as to why employ these current and future technologies and ideas – but thats for another post)?
I was watching and episode from ChurchMediaDesign.tv on the Hologram Church. Now granted that particular episode had nothing really related to presentation of worship lyrics per say but I think it did without even knowing it. The episode focused on a new technology that allowed for venue churches to move from showing the pastor on a large screen to employing hologram technology to make it appear as if the pastor is standing on the stage. Basically moving a video feed of a pastor from two-dimensions to three-dimensions. Know my personal opinion on that idea is mixed. I mean I get it but as of right now it compares similar to the new advent of 3D movies that really just create a little bit more depth of field than the regular 2D version. I personally don’t see much difference in the two movies and would rather save my money than have minimal depth of field effect. Just the same I am not sure how different a 3D version of a TIVOed pastor would be from the 2D version but do understand the idea visually of looking at a Pastor that appears to be walking around on the stage in front of me versus a large screen where it is obvious that he is being piped in from somewhere else (once again that is a topic for further discussion at another time).
Here is how I foresee the technology being utilized by the church in the near or distant future as cost is the determining factor of time. Imagine seeing Fee take the stage and as they lead in worship the lyrics appear to be onstage with them, appearing to physically take up stage space. Imagine Fee being able to interact with those 3D and moving lyrics by walking in-between them, around them, and through them. Imagine those lyrics moving, changing, morphing, and becoming like set pieces that add to the worship experience. Imagine Chris Tomlin singing a song with the African Children’s Choir who appear to be on stage with him and the lyrics they are singing. I think the possibilities of this hologram technology have many more applications that just a virtually present pastor. Drama set pieces, three dimensional backdrops, sermon illustrations that interact with the preacher, the Gorillaz leading worship (ok a bit of a stretch but they are one of the pioneering groups of this technology), the sun rising behind 3D lyrics, 3D environmental projection and so many more applications that the future church can run with and employ to share God’s love in a new and powerful manner.
How do you see this hologram technology being used by the church? Does this seem too “out there” (remember drums seemed that way at one time as well)? If not hologram lyrics, where to you see worship lyric presentation going in future? Comment below.
Man oh man it has been like 2 weeks since I have blogged. I have tweeted sparsely and updated my Facebook the same in this dry spell of social media. Suffice it to say that I just plain became busy and overwhelmed with everything I put on my plate that the Loch Ness Monster would have been easier to find than free time. My wife is a saint for putting up with me or the lack of me for about 2 weeks when it all happened at once. I’ve often joked that I not only burn the candle at both ends but quite frequently light the sucker from the middle as well. While in school (which I started 4 years later than the rest of my high school class) I double majored through the Honors program, at one point worked 3 part time jobs, and finally one full time job, drove an hour to and an hour from school and somehow managed to get married, move twice, and write my thesis while finding some time to sleep (if i had bought stock in Starbucks coffee and 5 hour energy drinks I would have made back all the money I spent on the stuff). So unfortunately this is not a new thing for me.
When I first began to plan our Easter Production I dreamed big and shot for the stars. I talked enough about the idea that I began to realize I better figure out a way to back up all the talk (I was completely in over my head). My idea was to present our wonderful choir and combine it with media. Two worlds that had not come together that much here at Grace Church. The last Easter Production we did – 2 years ago – was more of a full blown passion play. While it went over with great success I wanted to try something different this time. I wanted to leverage the power of media to creatively share the message of Easter. All the while bringing quality music and choir to the mix.
My whole idea was to feature our Choir center stage and have a screen or something immerse them as then worship. I rolled around the ideas of a large projection screen, environmental projection, lighting, and more. I have worked with Maxx Technologies out of Franklin TN, on other projects and have some friends who work closely with them so I asked them what they could manage within our budget to create a wonderful experience. What we settled on was a 14′x8′ Winvision LED Video wall and 14 LED par can lights to help create mood. Now I was surprised it worked in our budget to be honest – and as it turned out it was just coincidence that they had one for that weekend. We were officially the first customer to use it as they had a tour leaving the Monday after our production taking it. So I am not asking questions, I just know it worked out perfectly.
Now to some that may sound like a ton, to others it may sound like their normal Sunday service. Let me put it in perspective for us. We don’t have real lighting. We have 5 individual dimmers controlling our outdoor flood lights that light our stage. We have 2 dimmers on the other side of our sanctinasium that control our former gym lights that we converted to be able to dim them (basically removed the ballasts and used 500 watt incandescent bulbs). We have a somewhat large 4:3 screen but gets lost because of the size of wall behind it. It is actually about 10′ wide but there is 22′ of wall so it doesn’t look as immersive. So when this became reality and we had 20′ of that 22′ wall covered by LED screen and trussing it was visually stunning. The lights gave us something we never had before – control of our lights from a central location! Imagine the ability to blackout with one fader, to direct the congregations attention with light rather than just all on or all off (and not all turning off all at once).
We created songtracks for every song in the production. Each timed out with a click track so everything worked together. We filmed members of our staff telling the story of the crucifixion and resurrection from different points of view: the centurion, the thief, Pilot, and Mary Magdalene. These monologues were interwoven in-between appropriate songs and added a lot of power plus a plot and a story movement from beginning to end. But the most powerful moments came when we sang “You Humble Me” while we timed scenes from the Passion of the Christ behind the choir and band. To be completely honest – I was not a fan of that movie in general. I felt it lacked movement from beginning of the story to the end – movie wise it was an OK movie but story wise, well, its the greatest story ever told and it has great moments of emotion and depiction that go well beyond anything that has been done previous. Needless to say picking specific scenes and putting it to powerful music well just plain worked. It was powerful as was the whole night.
Anyway that is where I was for the past few weeks, working on the production, rehearsing Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, all the while working like a dog on the videos because my laptop hard drive crashed and I had to recreate a number of the media we used. But God saw me through and worked through everyone involved. And that was really our prayer, even though it would seem at first to be a “production” being all that technology that is new to us, we wanted to point towards Christ and leverage the power that lighting, video, and music can have to share the Greatest Story Ever Told.
I will post pictures and video as I get through all of it to share what God has been doing here at Grace Church. And I will catch up on sharing our past set lists as well… I promise.
We are drawing close to our Easter production: Redemption. We decided to add in videos telling the story of the crucifixion from different perspectives at the cross. And as much as we shouldn’t let time be a factor when telling the story of Easter, we had to do our best to limit these video stories to around 2:00 min. There are many details of the story that are unfortunately lost due to time but we hope to keep the main point and keep the story moving through as we share these powerful stories.
This is one of four scripts we wrote to use: The Centurion.
There was a Centurion present the day of the crucifixion of Jesus.
He was normally one of Caesars elite guards but on this day was to oversee the crucifixion of two common criminals
and Jesus the Nazarene, King of Jews.
The Centurion was close enough that day to hear the sound of the hammer hitting the large square nails that pierced through his hands.
He stood by and watched as the cross was raised and placed into the ground.
He was witness as others took his legs and bent them in such a way so that the nail would pierce through both of his feet.
As he stood by and watched this man gasp for air and struggle to breathe he heard these words uttered “Father forgive them, for they no not what they do.”
Dark clouds began to fill the sky and block out the remaining daylight
and the air grew cold and before the Centurion knew it, it was pitch black… and silent…
Beneath his feet the ground began to shake and heave so much that it knocked him to his knees.
As he crawled in the darkness he found the cross on which Jesus hung and even though the ground everywhere was shaking the ground at the foot of the cross was solid.
He felt the wooden splinters on the side of his face as he looked up and felt drops of blood fall upon him – and he felt safe.
Through the darkness he heard the man cry out: “It is finished”
And at that moment the Centurion who has been part of countless crucifixions before cried out from the foot of the cross:
Surely this man is the Son of God.