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

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In this series, we’re applying the concept “the medium is the message” to our modern church services. Last time I covered some recent church history and told you about some changes we made to our services at The Meeting House. This post will wrap up things up with some practical advice.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I’ll assume you agree there’s tension between between the form and the content of a modern church service. A room set up like a rock concert sends a message that’s a least a tad out of alignment with Jesus’ humility and self-sacrificial love. But, as I’ve already hinted, I’m not ready to throw the whole thing away.

Under the Old Covenant, worship had a particular form based around tabernacle and temple. But, under the New Covenant, the gospel spread faster than any cultural form could keep up with! It’s no surprise that, after a few years, the early Christians backtracked to hash out some of the cultural implications of a movement that was rapidly losing touch with its Jewish roots. If you want to read up on the history, have a glance at Acts chapter 15.

I believe God can reach anyone precisely where they’re at, and He’s not afraid to roll up His sleeves and get His hands dirty. So I don’t believe there’s any disqualifying style or form of doing church. But that’s not the same as saying the form doesn’t matter. I believe it matters a lot. 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…

Transitions, Flow & U2

Andrew Stanley —  June 20, 2013 — 1 Comment

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Their main set was over.  Any one of the over 50,000 people in the Rogers Center would have said they got their money’s worth.  But the show went on … 1st encore, expected … 2nd encore, wow! … 3rd encore, only U2!

And for those of you expecting me to say I was at the Taylor Swift concert the other night, you’re way off.

Anyways, my point … the band walks out for one of the encores to the voice of Desmond Tutu preaching about love and unity, and Bono begins to belt out Amazing Grace.  Just him and a guitar.  Sure enough, in a matter of seconds the entire stadium has joined in. Who knew this many people knew the words to Amazing Grace!? Who knew people could sing this loud!? (no reference to Sunday mornings intended …) Continue Reading…

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A Set List …
It can flow places you never thought it would go.
It can be just as much of a teaching moment as the message or sermon.
It can grab the attention of even the hardest of hearts.
It can determine what people are thinking about when they leave their seat.
It can make or break the flow in the service.
It can be a determining factor of whether or not someone comes back next week.

Am I putting too much emphasis on the proper development of a set list? I don’t think so.
Even the best leadership of a bad set can leave a mediocre impression.

We need to be intentional when we’re planning sets. Sometimes, they come together with ease. Sometimes, you may feel like you could have grabbed two random songs with your eyes closed, bashed them together and it would have flowed better than what you had spent two weeks planning.

I think one of the most important approaches to choosing a set list is to determine a common theme throughout the entire set. I know this may sound obvious, but we all need the reminder. Continue Reading…