Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The WOW Factor

The clock is ticking & we're playing it safe.

I love the Ekklesia, I really do. 
I love it when the Ekklesia gets together, formally or informally.

I'll be honest though: 
I sometimes tire of “church”.

A good portion of my life consists of a lot of interaction w/ ministers: worship leaders/musicians, children's/youth ministers, teachers, evangelists, pastors, the whole gambit & when I talk to them about their services (structure & format) the mindsets are all the same: What's wrong w/ it? Why would we even change?

I commented once on a worship forum where the question was simply as to where most people have the music in their services or where it should be. My response was it's usually at the beginning but be open to having it anywhere in the service that the Spirit leads. A woman came unglued at that, “You HAVE to have it at the beginning!”. I asked her “what if” the Spirit leads another way/time for worship in the service? “He would NEVER do that! It HAS to be at the beginning to set the atmosphere & prepare the hearts of the people to receive the Word from the pastor!” Listen to that statement: you HAVE to... it HAS to be... in other words, it doesn't matter what the Spirit thinks or even if you want to shake things up, tradition is more important.

Some people, just like this sister in the Lord, come unglued when there's any deviation in the structure/format. If they get too dogmatic or combative about worship ministry, I simply refer them to the ministry model of Jesus & the worship team that opened for Him; that usually shuts them down...

Yes, I'm well aware there was no worship ministry that “set the atmosphere” or prepared the hearts of the people to receive the Word Jesus brought. Yet, many people are so adamant about the church service/format, where the music goes, how the service goes/flows, that it too becomes the object of worship & reverence.

Just try suggesting an all-word service & the worship people go nuts, “we're commanded to sing God's praises!”; every Sunday? Every time we gather?

Try suggesting an all-worship service w/ no message & it's a little better received, but there are some who cry, “Jesus said feed My sheep! How are the people going to get fed?” The people can't go one week w/o hearing a sermon? Haven't they been taught to feed themselves during the week?

The WOW Factor.

In keeping the WOW (Worship, Offering, Word) factor 
perhaps we've lost the “WOW!” factor; 
perhaps we've lost the freshness & spontaneity. 

Sometimes it seems like “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” 
has been sacrificed on the altar of “decently & in order”.

The clock is still ticking & for the most part, we're still playing it safe...

Any thoughts or comments?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Ekklesia Exigency

exigency: a case or situation that demands prompt action or remedy; emergency

I'll be honest: I'm a little frustrated.

I've been looking at the Ekklesia lately... in fact, it's all I've been thinking about, the Ekklesia... the solid yet fluid, settled yet mobile, local yet global body of Believers... as my friend Erik puts it, the Church is “the people who are”; I think that's fitting since the “I Am” has children who should naturally be called the “Who Are”...  in addition to all that, I've been consumed w/ everything Kingdom = Kingdom mindsets & perspective, Kingdom economics, etc.

I've been in ministry a long, long time; I encounter & counter many religious mindsets, some I used to defend myself, but lately I've been going back to one thing: Creation & Creativity.

I still marvel at the imagination of God.
I don't marvel at the imagination of the Ekklesia.

  • Why is the Ekklesia not spearheading the fashion world?
  • Why is the Ekklesia not trailblazing the music world w/ new sounds?
  • Why is the Ekklesia not taking a vanguard position in relation the arts?
  • Have the inventions ended or are only secular people inventing things now?  
  • Has the Ekklesia lost it's creative instinct & edge?
  • The same Spirit that created this universe, this world abides in us; where is the “new thing”, where is the creativity?
  • Why is the Ekklesia not setting the standard but playing copycat & catch-up w/ the world? 

This bugs me.
This frustrates me.

There's two words that are closely related as one comes from the other: vanguard & avant-garde.

Vanguard: the foremost division or front part of an army, advance guard... the forefront of any movement, field, activity or the like... the leaders of any intellectual or political movement...

Avant-Garde: the advance group in any field, especially in the visual, literary or musical arts whose works are characterized by chiefly unorthodox & experimental methods... unorthodox or daring, radical... of such artists, their ideas or techniques..,

You get the picture but is this the picture you get though
 when you think of the Ekklesia? 
Is the Ekklesia the vanguard or the rearguard? 

These lyrics from John Elefante's song “Pass the Flame” have been resonating in me:

Any way the wind blows 
Don't you think that God knows 
We must pass the flame 
We must pass the flame 
We are the light in a darkened world 
We are the fire on the arrow 
We must pass the flame 
We must pass the flame

And Lord, help us teach Your children well 
And turn embers in to fire 
Make Your love their soul desire 

I love the line, “We are the light in a darkened world, we are the fire on the arrow”, think about it, the fire on the arrow not the puny, pathetic fiery darts of the enemy...

'Would love to hear some thoughts on this, feel free to comment ~

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Thoughts From a [Semi] Retired Worship Leader: Epilogue

My first two blogs on this subject dealt w/ my gear & settings, but in this last blog I just want to wrap up my thoughts w/ a few ideas & suggestions...

I'm all for doing something different. Some people hate change & the very idea of change scares them. I hear this all the time, “We're not going to do something different just for the sake of doing something different” in other words, they'd rather keep doing things the same just for the sake of doing things the same.

Here are some ideas to consider (& not just for try for a week & then go back to normal, try for a few months & see what happens):

In most fellowships, there's already a physical chasm between the worship team & the congregation, so try closing that. Move the worship team to the second tier or to the floor, worship w/ the people, lead worship in their midst.

If you have a balcony, consider moving the worship team from the front to the back, keeping all the focus on Jesus. It's worth a shot, try it.

If you don't have a full team you can still have a full sound by adding channels & running the instruments in stereo: keyboards, acoustic guitar & lead guitar can all be run in two channels, one panned left, the other right; it just fattens the sound & fills the room.

If you have background vocals, EQ them, mix them & push them slightly over the lead vocal as the congregation usually connects w/ the background vocals (I know that's weird but in my experience, it's true).

If there's people in your congregation who are just learning keyboards, bass or acoustic guitar, the back balcony is a perfect place for them to learn. Give them the music, a headphone for the keyboards so they can play along, unplug the acoustic guitars, etc; they won't be heard but it'll give them a sense of being on the worship team, of timing, of arrangement & boost their confidence when they are asked to be on the team.

Try a candlelight acoustic worship service once a month, just unplug everything, meet in the middle, have the people gather around, make it intimate, make it fun.

Arrangement is huge. I can't tell you how many times I've seen everyone on the team playing the exact same thing at the exact same time, all the time. Pick one instrument to lead & everyone play around them. Too many people playing the same thing is like frosting a cake w/ 4 different frostings, it's too thick, it's awful & it ruins the cake. Remember, it's all about the cake...

In regards to arrangement try this: pick an easy song, something like “Revelation Song” one of the great four chord wonders & take an hour experimenting w/ different lead instruments & arranging; see what works. Try one w/ the acoustic strumming & nothing else... or acoustic & pads... or simply pads & bass... or electric arpeggios w/ trailing delay & swells... get to where you're comfortable w/ any or all of those styles.

Shepherd the worship team, ask each member to lead a 5 minute devotional before each practice, if you have 10 members & practice once a week, that's 10 weeks of seeing where everyone is at spiritually, of watching them grow, etc. Perhaps assign a theme, like… worship!

Encourage your team to learn different styles of music, different chording, different sounds. If the lead instrument is playing an open G major = traditional 1, 3, 5, then try playing a chord voicing of that = 1, 3 or 1, 5, or 3, 5, the possibilities are numerous... 

Always encourage songwriting in the group, your fellowship needs fresh songs, get w/ your leadership & pray about what the fellowship needs to hear, what the community needs to hear & write songs accordingly. The Spirit will always give you the right songs for the people, the community, etc.

There's so many ideas, so many different ways of doing things & people do have a tendency to hold to tradition, sometimes a little too tightly...  Look at Creation, God made all different kinds of fish, birds, plants, animals & bugs yet some people think there's only one kind of music in Heaven or one way to do things here on Earth.

As a worship leader/keyboardist/guitarist/whatever, find your own sound. Hillsongs, Gateway, Bethel, Vineyard all have their own sound but you are not them, you are you so be you. Bird sounds & whale sound are completely different but each is beautiful. 

One last thing, as a worship leader don't (well try not to) tell the people what to do, as in, “stand, clap, shout, jump, bow down, worship” etc; let that naturally come from them, let the Spirit move them; it's just better all around, trust me.

So these are my thoughts & observations. I've learned a lot in the last 30 years of worship ministry, it would definitely have to be God for me to return to it on a regular basis but I'm looking forward to seeing where the next generation will take it.