Archives for posts with tag: worship

I’m a Mac guy. I own all sorts of Apple products.

I will admit right now that I am severely caught up in the “coolness” of exclusively purchasing Apple products. There is something affirming about sitting at a table at a coffee shop with an over-priced cup of ethically-traded, shade-grown coffee and opening up my laptop so that the soft glow of the Apple logo bursts forth from the brushed silver casing of my MacBook Pro.

With that said, I want to share my opinion on something.

Over the years I have used a variety of different technologies to display words at a church. When I was a kid I changed transparencies on the overhead projector that shown on the white walls inside our sanctuary. I’ve used Powerpoint. I’ve used SongShow. I’ve used MediaShout once or twice.

I have never used a program that had an interface that worked quite as well as ProPresenter loaded on an Apple computer.

At the church I used to work at I purchased an iMac loaded with ProPresenter. For years we had used a PC running SongShow. That method worked well, but there was a pretty long learning curve for volunteers running the software. I would make a volunteer do at least 3 “practice runs” with SongShow before I let them use it on Sunday morning.

With ProPresenter I can give someone a 3 minute tutorial on Sunday morning before a service and trust them to do a decent job of running the slides.

It’s just a lot easier to navigate in a live setting.

Take it or leave it.

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I’ve been avoiding writing about the role of a sound technician (or audio engineer) for a long time… mostly because I am a sound technician and I don’t want to come off as self-important. Forgive me if I convey those kinds of implications. That is not my intention.

Your sound technician is extremely important to your church (how’s that for humility?). Your sound technician has a rare power to completely shut down the progress of a worship service. He (I’ll use the male pronoun here because I am drawing from personal experiences. I fully recognize that woman could just as easily be a successful sound tech.) has a hand in every single thing that goes on during the service. In most churches the sound tech is rarely (or never) allowed to take sick days or vacations. This is because there is usually not a second person at your church that can operate the sound board.

In the most basic form, your sound tech allows everyone in the service to hear everything that is going on. However, if they embrace their job as bigger than that, they can potentially be a serious part of the artistic composition of the worship service.

A good sound technician is hard to come by, especially for what a church is willing to pay. If 90% of your worship services do not have a noticeable sound issue (mic clips, feedback, video without audio) you are extremely lucky.

Tell your audio engineer that they are doing a great job. It will be a pleasant break from hearing “the drums are too loud” over and over and over and over.

I love my church’s traditional service. It’s always so refreshing to hear the hymns that Christians have been singing together for hundreds of years. However there is one small thing that makes me unbelievably uncomfortable about the traditional service.

Whenever the choir sings anything with some soul (a particular rendition of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” comes to mind) the congregation insists on clapping along. If you’ve been to a church with a traditional service you probably know where I’m going with this.

Inevitably the first person who chose to clap began their rhythmic hand-slapping on the down beat. Sometimes that is the right path to take… but not with ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. On that song you are to clap on the up beat. That’s what gives the song the energy. Now, you would think that the next person to clap would choose to correct that misstep by clapping on the proper beat. You would be wrong.

(quick rule of thumb… if you are confused just clap at the same time the drummer hits the snare drum)

The congregation then insisted on all joining in together clapping on the down beat. This went on for the entire song. It was super awkward.

So here is the point of my story.

The tension that I felt in my stomach at this moment revealed a hidden idol that I constantly struggle with (oh shoot, this post just turned heavy). I was so bothered by the fact that they weren’t clapping according to the common standards of rhythm that I completely neglected to see the beauty of the fact that they were engaging in musical worship by clapping.

At the Passion conference in January Francis Chan told a story about worshiping at a church in Thailand (I think). At this church music was being led by an extremely untalented young guy playing an acoustic guitar and singing. He said that it was awful.

However, he also said that it was one of the deepest, most profound, most intimate worship experiences that he had ever engaged it. The sincerity of the persecuted Christians in the room worshiping the God that is truly their only hope overwhelmed the fact that some kid sucked at guitar.

So with all of this in mind, let’s take a step back.

Why do we lead worship? Is it to give people pleasant music that hopefully inspires some sort of internal “warming”? (…pardon the Wesley reference, I’m Methodist) Or is it to engage them in worshiping the God who sacrificed Himself so that we might live an eternal relationship with Him?

Being a Christian isn’t pretty. It isn’t easy. It isn’t fun. Being a Christian is messy business. The founder of our religion (whom we are supposed to emulate) was beaten, tortured and nailed to a cross. The early Christians suffered similar fates. Still to this day Christians are murdered for following the teachings of Jesus all over the world.

Why, then, do we spend so much time making church pretty and comfortable?

I know, I know… we want to be seeker sensitive. We know that if the facilities aren’t clean and the pastor isn’t cheery that people won’t come put their butts in the seats. I get it.

However, I can’t help but wonder what it would look like if we portrayed the Gospel in its full, nasty, gritty, disgusting, depressing, revolting glory.

Good Friday is coming up soon. This is a perfect opportunity to embrace the suffering of Jesus in our church’s communications, music, and art. What is your church doing to prepare itself for the somber remembrance of the darkest day in the history of the world?

This is a nerd post. If you are not a sound engineer or a technical worker you probably wont care about what I’m talking about.

When digital mixer boards burst unto the scene about a decade ago, churches gobbled those things up. Digital mixers had one unique feature that their analog predecessors lacked. They had the ability to save your sound settings into “scenes” which allow you to recall all of your gain settings, fader levels, EQ presets, patching, monitor levels, and a whole host of other information. This is great for churches.

Most churches have dozens of activities going on in their sanctuaries. With the old analog boards, you would have to customize your sound from scratch every time you had to do something different. Every time someone different led worship you would have to change vocal EQ’s. Every time you had a play or a pageant you would have to reset all of your levels. Digital boards made it much easier to save your work and come back to it later.

However, the first generation of digital mixers have one major drawback: they were ridiculously, mind-bogglingly, painfully complicated. I just so happen to have one of the early generations of digital mixers as my in-house desk: The Yamaha DM2000. You can find me behind this beast every Sunday morning:

Look at all of those buttons! I’ve been using this board for over 3 years. I honestly only know how to use about 35% of its capabilities. My father-in-law, who is a very well respected live sound engineer in the Southeast United States recently said “There’s probably 20 people in the U.S. that know how to fully operate the DM2000.” It’s a great board and hasn’t caused us any trouble… I’m just overwhelmed by it.

Over the years digital mixers have become more and more user-friendly. Their interfaces have been designed to look and act a lot more like the old analog boards.

When your church buys a new sound board keep usability in mind. The features may seem exciting, but what good are features if you aren’t able to navigate the interface?

Back in November Seth Godin posted this blog about alienating the 2% of people who complain about everything. The synopsis: 2% of people will always be angry no matter how great of a job you do. Focus more time worrying about the 98% of people who didn’t complain. I would encourage you to take 30 seconds to read the full blog post.

In churches that undergo any sort of progress there is always a handful of people (usually, but not always, senior citizens) that complain about any little change. Those select few (your church’s 2%) make everyone over the age of 65 look bad. They complain that you decided to do a contemporary worship service 15 years ago. They complain that the church got too big as a result of that contemporary worship service. They complain that the drums in the sanctuary are too loud because they can faintly hear them in their Sunday School room.

(Note: It is not only seniors that complain. I hear plenty of people under 60 griping too.)

To the younger generation it can easily seem like all the old folks just want to spoil everything they love.

There are two things I want to encourage you with:

1) While a lot of your older church members may feel alienated by changes, most seniors in the church appreciate the fact that the church is growing and adapting with the times. It really is a small minority that hate all of the changes you are making. In a scenario like this its easy for ageism to develop. Don’t let that happen. Remember that it is individual people that are causing problems… not an entire generation.

2) The people that complain love their church. They are still there, aren’t they?

The Praise & Worship landscape is changing.

There has been a lot of really great, really genuine music written in the last 10 years. However, a lot of it sounds just like everything else. The worship music landscape has been a bit stagnant for a few years now.

There is a new breed (not an Israel Houghton reference) of music that is finally breaking into the mainstream of the Praise & Worship industry. Musicians that embrace the creativity that indie musicians have been channeling for decades are finally getting noticed.

Right now my favorites are: Gungor, John Mark MacMillan, and Rend Collective Experiment

With those bands in mind, who else should I be listening to?