Anticipation Over Production

sat-feb-18-2017-19-48-59-gmt-0500Earlier in February we took our junior high students to the CIY BELIEVE event near Cincinnati. It is an annual trip we take because the programming is excellent, our students love it and it’s a great 30 hours to spend with our junior high students.

One of the main elements at BELIEVE is the singing. There is always a top-notch worship band that does a great job engaging the students and inviting them to sing. At one point during the weekend, nearly all the people in the arena (approx. 3,500) were lifting their hands as we sang Great Are You Lord. It was a cool moment and felt very genuine.

It turned out, without really planning it, a week later we sang the same song in our church service. I referenced our experience at BELIEVE and even showed the picture at the top of this post after we sang the exact same words, Great are You Lord.

A couple of people made a similar comment that went something like this: isn’t it hard to sing here (meaning church) after you have been there (meaning BELIEVE)?

That’s a question that usually surfaces after coming back from a great event. How do you generate that same energy and engagement back at home once you’ve experienced it a camp, conference or convention?

As I mulled that thought over in mind, two words came to mind.

The first is Production. BELIEVE is a production. I don’t mean that in a negative way at all. In fact, it is one reason we continue to attend and BELIEVE continues to grow. It is an excellent program.

But, it is a production. A team works for a number of months to put together a quality event that they duplicate in venues all over the country. They gather the best speakers, the best worship bands, great light rigs and sound systems, cool graphics and videos, along with quality entertainers (artists, comedians) that all work together to engage the hearts and minds of junior high students. While it is genuine and has the purpose of pointing teens to be followers of Jesus, it is a production. And it is done very well.

One reason I love taking students to BELIEVE is that they can do what I cannot do.

There is another word that came to mind as I considered the weekend. That word is Anticipation.

One reason I think students engage so strongly in BELIEVE is that they are excited to be there. For students who have attended in the past, they can’t wait to go back. 6th graders are excited to experience for the first time. When they become 8th graders, they are sad they cannot go to BELIEVE anymore.

There is a strong sense of Anticipation. Students want to be there. They pay to be there (well…their parents pay for them to be there). Youth leaders promote the weekend and there is a strong sense of anticipation.

So, imagine if we had that same anticipation when we arrived on a Sunday morning?

Take away the light show (we don’t have that). Remove the awesome worship band (honestly, we just aren’t as good as what we see on stage). Don’t count on the cool graphics and videos that serve as a backdrop to the sessions.

Do we still have the anticipation of raising our voices (or even our hands) to sing Great are You Lord?

Now, our worship teams are good. And they work hard to lead our church family in singing and worship each week. And we have some pretty talented people. But the more I think about it, Anticipation can be as powerful as Production.

As those who lead, we want to do the best we can to engage people to respond to God (Production).

For those who are coming each week, perhaps we should consider our level of excitement and engagement as we participate on a Sunday (Anticipation).

Anticipation over Production. Something to think about as we look to next Sunday.

Advertisements

Solid Rock in Wilmington July 16

11741220_794323657331836_1518476368536126449_oSOLID ROCK is a team of high school students (grades 10-12) who audition to be a part of the group. They combine singing, instrumental music, acting and other artistic expressions to present a program to encourage people in their relationship with God. Prior to a one-week tour, including stops in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky and New York, they meet for a week on Cincinnati Christian University‘s campus to rehearse and prepare.

We are looking forward to hosting SOLID ROCK as one of our own students is a member of the group. We have had several students from our church family who have been a part of the group in the past and they have great stories of their experiences.

The picture above is a photo of this year’s group at one of their earlier presentations. I snagged it off of the aforementioned student’s mom’s Facebook page.

If you are in or near the Wilmington area, we’d love for you to join us. SOLID ROCK will present their program on Thursday, July 16 @ 7:00 pm. Hope to see you there!

solid rock

Praise You in the Storm

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

photo credit: SimpleSkye via photopin cc

The Christian music group Casting Crowns released a song a few years ago called Praise You in This Storm.  The chorus of the song says this:

And I’ll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I’ve cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

This past Sunday, as I was leading our song set, I witnessed people in our congregation living out this chorus.

I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I have a unique perspective on a Sunday morning.  Most Sundays I am up front with one of our praise teams leading our community as we sing.  I get to see people as they sing and respond to God by bowing heads, lifting hands or simply closing their eyes.  Being involved in the church for a number of years I also know some of the struggles that people go through.  I was struck by how a number of our people were able to praise God even though they were going through a storm.

Some in our church family are dealing with relationship struggles and marriage issues.

Others are experiencing loss.

There are individuals and families impacted by health concerns.

Still others carry the burden of a family member who is far from God.

Yet, many are still able to praise God in the storm.

I was moved by their example and reminded that God is faithful no matter what our circumstances might try to tell us.  One of the benefits of corporate worship is being encouraged by the faithfulness of many of God’s people who continue to praise Him in the storm.  It was a good reminder to me that I need to and can praise Him in the storm.

Top Worship Songs at WCC in 2013

worshipLast year I borrowed an idea from another worship leader and posted the top worship songs we used in our services in 2012. Even though it is now February, 2014, I thought it would be interesting to look at what songs we did in 2013. These are listed in alphabetical order and are included due to the number of times we used them throughout the year.

The songs we used the most often were

I also marked the ones that we introduced in 2013.

One thing that I am continually reminded of as I select songs and lead is that there are so many worship songs to choose from! I will look at one church is doing and their list is so different from ours. The number of songs available just continues to grow.

The makeup of your congregation makes such a difference in the songs you select. Our church family is made up of multiple generations and so preferences are varied and even songs people are familiar with is quite different. Each Sunday we offer a time before our service where we sing hymns. (We moved away from using a hymnal several years ago) One of the songs we sang was A Mighty Fortress is our God and two of our praise team members had never heard the song. It surprised me that they didn’t even know the tune, but that is a good example of how much “church music” is out there.

So, here’s our list from the past year:

  1. 10,000 Reasons – new for 2013
  2. At Your Name (Yahweh, Yahweh)
  3. Awesome is the Lord Most High
  4. Christ is Enough – new for 2013
  5. Cornerstone – new for 2013
  6. Enough
  7. Give Us Clean Hands
  8. Glory to God Forever
  9. Hallelujah (Your Love is Amazing)
  10. Holy is the Lord
  11. How Great is our God
  12. Jesus Son of God
  13. Lord I Need You – new for 2013
  14. Lord Reign in Me
  15. My Redeemer Lives
  16. Not to Us
  17. Open the Eyes of my Heart
  18. Our God
  19. Shout to the Lord
  20. Thank You
  21. Unchanging
  22. We Fall Down
  23. Worthy is the Lamb
  24. Your Grace is Enough

Men Not Singing In Church

worshipYesterday, a member of our church family tagged me in an article called “Why Men Have Stopped Signing In Church.” I have pasted the content of the article below or you can click on the link in the previous sentence. The nice thing is that the tag on Facebook contained a compliment to me (thanks Marilyn!) and even generated a couple of comments.

I thought the article was well-written. It contained a history of congregational singing provided a perspective of how worship has changed over the years.

While we certainly haven’t cornered the market on wisdom regarding worship in the church, I had a couple of observations related to what the author of the article set forth.

In regards to men singing in church, I think we need to recognize that there are some men who just won’t sing. Regardless of who is leading or what songs are used, there are some men (and women, too) who just don’t like to sing. I can think of a couple of different men who are believers and leaders in our church, but simply don’t sing in a group. I don’t think it is a sign of lack of maturity or an indication that they don’t worship. They just don’t choose to express it through singing.

I do think it is important for the worship leader to use songs that each congregation is familiar with so they can sing along. When we introduce new songs (and there are a lot of good ones out there), we use it several times in a short period of time so our church family can learn it. With the growth of Christian music, a lot of people can listen to the worship songs outside of the Sunday morning experience. That is helpful in shortening the learning curve, but not everyone will hear it outside of the worship service.

We take our time in adding new songs to the rotation so that people are familiar with what we are singing. One very large church that would fall into the description the author of the article uses (band, lights, screens, etc.) uses a rotation of about 25 songs. They acknowledge that not all those who attend their church are present every Sunday, so they limit the number of songs they use to increase the chance people have learned the songs.

I don’t think you can judge worship by musical style because there is just so much music out there and many different preferences. The article was good food for thought and should encourage worship leaders to examine what we do on Sundays in leading people in worship.

Here’s the content of the article:

It happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

A few months ago I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.
Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).
Reformers gave worship back to the people in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. Since most people were illiterate in the 16th century, singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About 20 years ago a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about ten years ago. Worship leaders realized they could project anything on that screen. So they brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.
In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now,” they would say. “We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, sung in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.
What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.

How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang. Even the men.

Riley Sings (Don’t Tell Her We’re Watching)

My niece Riley lives in Nashville, TN, and spent some time watching the storms that went through this weekend. My sister Krista and her husband Jason try to capture Riley on video, but she’s usually aware when the camera is on. While watching the storm the other day, she was singing in the doorway and Jason and Krista seized the opportunity to snag some video footage.

Here’s an additional fun fact for you – in the picture to the left, Riley is modeling her new skirt. My wife (Aunt Cheryl) went shopping with her mom a couple of months ago and picked up a few items for Riley. Guess she loved the skirt. Shout out to Aunt Cheryl!