Archives For July 2013

Part 2 of 3 in the series The Message of the Stage

 

©2013 Joss Monson

©2013 Joss Monson

In this series, we’re applying the concept that “the medium is the message” to our modern church services. Last time I said that every form of communication has an embedded message that can’t be separated out. The challenge is that we get used to our forms of media and start to think our content is all we’re communicating to our audience.

According to Jesus “… all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11) So I think it’s fair to ask the question – do our stages, lights and cameras exalt us or humble us? Remember, we’re not talking about content yet, just the message inherent to the form of communication. I think it’s practically a rhetorical question: by their nature, stages, lights and cameras exalt people. So, if we’re teaching people about Jesus from the platform, there is going to be a real tension between the form of communication and the content.

So is that it, then? Should we knock down our stages, turn off all the lights and dress in giant brown paper bags? As much as I would love a career shift to the fast-food industry (my only other real option) I do have some ideas to share.

But first a history lesson. Continue Reading…

10 Things

When I’m up on stage, there are a few things that I wish I could just stop and say … but have never had the guts to:

10 – I’m probably going to forget the words at times … To “cover it up”, I’ll sometimes just make random vowel sounds until I realize what I’m supposed to be singing again.

9 – We’re probably not going to sound like those guys that you were listening to in your car on the way to church You’ll have to wait till that band tours through town to hear them.  But even then, you’re listening to a produced album (even if the album is “live”), we’re giving you the “non-overdubbed, not singing to tracks” version of these songs.

8 – When I back away from the microphone, sometimes its because I’m leaving a space for everyone to sing together … Other times its because I have to burp and I don’t want to rip it into the microphone.

7 – I know it’s the weekend and I know it’s morning, but chances are, I was up earlier than you today, so let’s all try to wake up a bit. I think we should all agree right now that what we’re doing is more important than the coffee you’re holding.

6 – There’s more to what we’re singing than just a list of songs. Have you ever realized that the songs we sing are actually thematically building on one another?  That maybe there’s a reason why we had everyone shouting out “How Great Thou Art!” only AFTER we sang about God as the creator of the universe?  When you tune out for a minute during the musical worship set, you might miss out on a truth about God that we’re going to be responding to in a couple minutes.

5 – I’m not here to perform for you.  I’m here to sing WITH you.  We don’t need the show to worship our God together in this way!  (If you’ve missed the conversations over production levels during weekend services, you can check it out here)

4 – I’m not intentionally doing “those things” so that I can receive “those e-mails” on Sunday afternoon (If you’ve been in ministry long enough, you know what I mean). We’re likely trying to accomplish the same goal. We might just be taking a different approach towards that destination.  We’re on the same team.

3 – Even though we can’t make you show up on time, musical worship is not viewed as optional around here.  For those who prefer the teaching over the music, hopefully you realize that there is the huge potential for teaching moments within the music set and the songs we’re singing. You may not feel comfortable joining in this way that may seem weird by our culture’s standards, but really, we’re declaring with our voices, out loud, that we are not God, He is Great, and we submit to His leadership today and forever.  Of COURSE it’s uncomfortable …

2 – When you’re walking in late, talking with others, or even just reading your program, you’re distracting more people than just yourself.  Those who are trying to engage might be pulled out of the moment by hearing your conversation or seeing you walk across the front of the room.

1 – It’s not my job to prepare your heart.  I’ve heard and have even agreed in the past with the statement that Sunday mornings are a glass of fresh water to take in to refresh you and energize you for a week.  Then we come back again the next Sunday to be filled up to be sent out again.  I don’t necessarily agree with this statement anymore.  Instead, I would be in the camp that says our hearts should be so full of joy and excitement for what God did in, through and around us all throughout the week that our Sunday mornings are a community celebration of joy over the goodness of God!  If you haven’t thought twice about what God is up to in your own life before walking in on Sunday morning, than chances are, you might not “feel” it by the end of the 15-20 minutes that I’ve got with you.

Continue Reading…

Part 1 of 3 in the series The Message of the Stage
© 2013 Joss Monson

© 2013 Joss Monson

I’m often asked why we don’t use _________ at the Meeting House. Why no moving lights or haze? Why don’t we use video backgrounds or show camera shots of the band? It’s a great question. I mean, we are a fairly big church with modern and relevant services. If technology is just a tool, shouldn’t we have the best tools possible? And we own lots of these tools already, so why don’t we use them “to their full extent”?

I’d like to challenge the notion that technology is “just a tool”. It is a tool, yes, but I believe it’s much more than that. It is a form of communication – a medium. This brings to mind Marshall McLuhan’s famous expression, “the medium is the message.”

McLuhan was at the leading edge of media theory when network broadcasting was booming in the 1960s and he predicted the World Wide Web decades before it became a reality. McLuhan taught that the form of communication is imbedded in the message and can’t be separated out. Whether it’s speech, braille or 3D movies we need a form of media to communicate content. And media is not neutral – each form comes with its own message.

Think about these examples: Continue Reading…

July 7 Header

As I’ve mentioned recently, one of the most common conversations I have with other leaders is on the topic of transitions and flow through worship sets. I’ve written to this topic a couple times, but thought that perhaps just walking through my train of thought behind a set list that I’ve led could be a practical application for what I’ve been writing about.

Sunday, July 7th (2013):
How Great Thou Art (B) – Paul Baloche verison
King of Wonders (B) – Matt Redman, and about 30 others …
I Will Exalt You (B) – Brooke Ligertwood
In Christ Alone (E) – Kristian Stanfill arrangement

I started off the set with a very quick ‘Good morning’.  I try to give a brief explanation every Sunday about what we’re doing and why — we have visitors that come through every week and we want them to understand why we’re doing something that may seem so strange. And let’s be honest, even those of us who have been involved in worship services for years need that kick in the butt on a regular basis. I believe our worship is completely out of a response to a revelation of God, so what I say needs to point people in the direction of a revelation that they’re responding to.

I believe our worship is completely out of a response to a revelation of God …

This particular week, I knew that Isaiah 40 said what I wanted to say much better than I could have ever said it, so I read that as the band started to build into the first song. I’ve said it before — if scripture can say what you’re trying to say, 10 times out of 10 it’s better to stop talking yourself and just read scripture!!

Continue Reading…