I've had the priveledge of getting my hands on a real copy of Casting Crowns' newest CD, "The Alter And The Door" a few weeks before it's released to the public. The following is my personal review, track by track. The only bummer with these pre-release CDs is they often are not complete versions of the final cut...this one's missing the last two tracks that will be on the final CD.
"What This World Needs" - The first track is perhaps the best IMO. It starts the CD off well, and made me think for at least 4:41 that C2's sound had evolved since their last release. This song offers a very modern sound with a cool digital loop, driving kick/snare and bass line and some heavy guitar effects (think Hillsong United or Chris Tomlin's "Let God Arise"). This first song does let you know right off the bat that the one thing that hasn't changed about C2 is their hard-hitting message to and about the church. Good stuff...
"Every Man" - Track two is much more "traditional" C2...piano driven, male/female harmonies, and again, those driven lyrics. This might be the first big radio hit from this CD. Good song and something to keep on the radar to use in church one day. Listen to the nice bass licks in the last 40 seconds of this one.
"Slow Fade" - Perhaps the most biting song of this project...taking direct aim at the moral failures of Christian leaders. Another more modern sounding song with a driving feel with the acoustic guitar. A great song to use when talking about character/moral discipline.
"East To West" - (The first single released on iTunes right now) A solid song about security in our faith and release of guilt and acceptance of forgivness (Think Audio A's "Ocean Floor").
"The World Is Alive" - A song about the Word coming alive in our lives. The first song in 6/8 time, which is always a nice change...it works well with the melody of the chorus especially.
"The Alter And The Door" - This song, unfortunately (and this is just MHO), is the beginning of the end for this CD. This track, and just about every other track 'til the end loses the modern alt rock sound for a more soft rock/country sound. The lyrics are still good, but the sound of the second half of this CD is radically different than the first half. The only thing I really like about this song, musically, is the second verse...they should have had the girl sing this entire song.
"Somewhere In The MIddle" - Great lyrics, good melody hook in the chorus. Vintage C2 with the piano/violins.
"I Know You're There" - Glad to hear the ladies get a song of their own...their voices are too good to be kept so much in the BGV's. Although, lyrically, this song seems to be more of a "filler" than any of the others...one of two songs not written by C2.
"Prayer For A Friend" - Written by Mark when he was about 15. While the lyrics are not nearly as polished, and the music/melody show their age, it's cool to see that Mark was even writing such honest lyrics at that age. The simplest song, musically, of the CD with just an acoustic guitar, violin/cello and pad.
"All Because Of Jesus" - The second song on the CD not written by C2...penned by Steve Fee Maybe the only song written and meant for congregational worship. A mix of the modern and country sounds found on this album.
Hidden Track - There's a "hidden track" at the end of the CD, I believe titled "White Dove". It's maybe the oddest hidden track I've ever heard...a Korean/English "classical" sounding song... Apparently, this song was performed by the band during its recent goodwill trip to North Korea. Sounds like it belongs on the "Sound of Music" soundtrack...
Bottom line, I am a little dissapointed with this album as a whole. I'm hoping that the last two tracks that I've yet to hear may help to redeem it. Lyrically it's just as good as anything C2's done yet, but the soft rock/country flavor on 4 of the 10 tracks just left me wanting much more, and a few songs seem more like fillers than anything else... But, I'm guessing that this CD will do better than "Lifesong" because it will apeal to a broader musical pallet.
One of the most common and aggravating characteristics of an evangelical church service is the presence of fluff. Fluff is anything that takes up any amount of time in a worship service that is not really necessary to the overall purpose of the church service.
What can you identify (either in your church or another) as fluff?
Do you care about fluff, and if so, what do you do to insure that you minimize the fluff in your church service?
For those who have been keeping up with My Wife, please pray for us now as she's in the hospital again with some breathing problems. Our baby is almost at 24 weeks, which is the earliest that she can survive outside of the womb. Thanks!
The way I see it, there are three distinctive styles of worship service flow:
1) The Stop & Go - every song is it's own separate piece of the worship gathering. Every song has a distinctive beginning and end, with a pause between each song (either dead time, another element of the gathering or some talking/praying/lead-in for the next song). The emphasis tends to be on making each song unique and memorable. You'll see/hear this style at a Bon Jovi or Casting Crowns concert.
2) The Emotional Flow - every song seams to seamlessly flow into the next using extended musical interludes between songs, as if an entire set were just one long song. It's hard to tell where one song begins and another ends. The emphasis tends to be on using individual songs to create one big emotional experience for every set of songs. You'll see/hear this style at a Coldplay or Hillsong United concert.
3) The Anti-Climax - one song leads right into another, building the energy with every song. It's easy to distinguish the individual songs (with solid beginnings and endings), but there is no musical break between...this tends to be a blend of the first two styles. The emphasis tends to be on building a huge wave of energy and emotion with each song in the set. You'll see/hear this style at a Bruce Springsteen concert or...actually, off the top of my head, I can't think of a Christian artist who really utilizes this style well.
There are positives and negatives with each style, and every band needs to determine what their preferred style is going to be based on their own preferences and their own audiences/congregations.
We've determined that our style bounces between #1 and #3 depending on several factors. #1 is definitely the easiest, #2 probably requires the most amount of talent and awareness, and #3 requires the most amount of energy and charisma.
So, what do you think? Can you identify other distinctive styles? Has your band purposely determined your preferred style, or are you still trying to find your way? Let me know.
This Sunday will probably be the last time I'm able to lead worship at my church for a while. That makes me sad. Few things bring me more fulfillment than leading my friends in worship of the True God.
My wife is going to be in Durham for at least a few months (learn more about that story here), and my church has released me to be with her during this time. I'll still be doing as much work as possible away from the church and my normal hands-on ministry, but it definitely won't be the same.
But, I am looking forward to the break from the stress of Sunday mornings and to the opportunity to spend time with Tricia during this time. I'm finding that every moment with her is becoming more precious to me.
I'm also looking forward to giving the people who I serve with the opportunity to step up and carry on without me.
It is said that one of the signs of a good leader is the ability of those he leads to function well and even excel without him/her. I am confident that my people will do well, because I know their abilities and their hearts for God, and I know that our ministry is so much more than me.
Just a friendly heads up. I bought Todd Agnew's Christmas album "Do You See What I See?" last year around this time, hoping to find some good stuff to use at church. HUGE mistake...biggest music purchasing mistake of my life, in fact. I didn't even make it through one full listen. I remember almost throwing up in my mouth.
Agnew's voice makes me want to sit on a holly bush, and the arrangements and music choices were horrible. I literally deleted the entire thing from my computer before I ever listened to it all.
I'm usually not this negative on my blog, but I couldn't live with myself if I sat by and allowed the people I love to make the same mistake I made. I'm sure Todd's a great guy, and we even have used a few of his worship songs in church, but you wouldn't know it from this album.
As I was watching LOTR "The Return Of The King" a few days ago, I was thinking to myself that it would be very cool if Peter Jackson could direct a movie version of "The Hobbit". As I was driving in my car today, thinking about Peter Jackson and the incredible lengths that he took to make the LOTR trilogy, I heard on the radio that indeed, PJ has signed on to direct "The Hobbit" as two movies. Check it out!
For those of you who sit on the edge of your seat every day awaiting my next post (I know there's at least one person out there like this), I'm sorry that I've been less than average with the number of posts the past few weeks. Tricia and I are settling into full-time life here in Durham, and, although I need to make at least one more trip home, it will probably be at least a few months before we are back on the beach again. We've been busy with pregnancy/CF stuff as well as some last minute Christmas shopping, and to be honest, the absence of daily stimulation of being around the church and ministry has left me less than inspired to write much.
Living in a hotel has its upsides...the maid will come every day and clean (which is nice because Tricia can't and I don't want to), and I eat breakfast every day and dinner 4 nights a week in the hotel lobby (which saves money and time on groceries and cooking). But, ultimately, it's not nearly as fun or comfortable as home. We'll be spending Christmas here, but my family is coming up for a few days, so that will be very nice.
Anyway, I hope to get comfortable enough here to get back on track with my posting. I certainly have plenty of time to do so. Thanks for your continued prayers.
I'm a published author! OK...not really, but they did post me over at Worship.com. It's nothing you haven't seen before if you've been reding this blog for a while, but I figured it was a good way to get my feet wet.
I'm basically in charge of everything, although one of my greatest responsibilities is empowering others to be involved and even lead in ministry so that it's all about the ministry and the team and not about me. I organize, create, research, etc. for the band. I lead our practices and worship gatherings. Lot's of other things, but that would take too long to write or read.
2) Do you play an instrument and for how long?
I've been playing the acoustic guitar for about 10 years.
3) How long have you been involved a part of a worship team in general?
I've been involved in consistantly leading worship in a local church setting for about 12 years.
4) How long have you been leading worship?
I consider this and the last question to be the same...
5) What are your strengths and weakness as a leader?
I'm very good at getting people involved in and excited about ministry, working with others, being creative and accomplishing short term projects. I'm very bad at long term projects, anything that has to do with organizing paper-work, music theory and keeping my legs still.
6) How many members in your WT?
We have about 12 in the band(s) (musicians and vocalists), two audio techs and four video techs.
7) Is your church big or small?
That's relative. We're big for our area, but about average on a national scale. We currectly have about 150 members but average over 300 in attendance year-round.
8) What songs are most popular in your church right now?
It's hard to tell. Our people basically love anything we use, and we don't have a local Christian radio station (praise God), so nobody has much of a biased taste. We do a lot of Chris Tomlin, some Lincoln Brewster and Hillsong United and other stuff. We're always looking for new stuff.
9) How do you go about preparing for a service (picking out music, deciding how it will flow, etc.)
I try to keep it pretty simple. We believe that the primary goal of our corporate worship gatherings is to worship God, and we believe that everything we think, say and do can and should be an act of worship, including every element of our Sunday mornings gatherings. We prioritize having a flow in our gatherings (no dead time, easy transitions from one element to the next, no "fluff") and focusing on a main theme/point each week, so everything basically evolves from our priorities.
10) What region are you from?
I was born in VA, US, but have spent most of my life here on the OBX of NC.
11) And if there is any other info you want to share about yourself such as worship style or your idea about worship etc.
Feel free to look around this blog, and you'll figure out what I'm all about.
A new post is up at Worship.com. There is so much I dissagree with in this article that I don't even know where to begin. I spent several minutes writing my thoughts out, but I just can't make them flow in a practical, positive way, so I figured a discussion (not a debate or bashing) would work better. Take a few minutes to read the artical (link posted below) and tell me if you also see anything wrong or if you agree.
So, remember that fun college game from the 90's, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon? I found out a few weeks ago that I am officially two degrees of separation from the actor, Kevin Bacon. Let me explain...it's a short one, obviously (the names, other than Kevin Bacon, have been changed).
I have a good friend named George from my grade school days who I still keep in touch with. George has an older brother named Phillip who lives in Wilmington, NC (which has become the Hollywood of the East Coast) and is working his way up in the movie business in some off-camera jobs. Phillip is a few years older than George and I, but I knew him back in the day and have seen him a few times since high school.
George and his girlfriend recently ate lunch with my wife and I. He shared with us that Phillip is working on a movie with the one and only Kevin Bacon. Now, normally I would not take that to mean that I am two degrees...but, George went on to explain that Kevin was required to shave his head on camera in this movie, and this is apparently something that he had not done before and wanted some practice beforehand (I guess you really only get one good chance to get a scene like that right). He asked Phillip if he could practice by shaving Phillip's head, which Phillip readily agreed to (who wouldn't?).
IMO, that makes Phillip and Kevin Bacon intimately related, creating just Two Degrees of Separation from Kevin Bacon for me, and only three for anyone who reads this blog.
So, help spread the Kevin Bacon love by telling everyone you know to come read this blog. You could become the coolest person at the next college party game night!
And, if you don't believe me, just look for the movie.
> Numbers were low this morning. Or maybe, so many people are sitting at the tables that it seems emptier? Either way, people seemed more engaged than last week, which is good.
> Long day...some of the band got together tonight to play at a youth event at the church. Fun, but it made for a long day for me. I never even made it home this afternoon.
> My new favorite church song is Hillsong United's "Kingdom Come". If you haven't tried this one out at your church, you need to give it a look/listen. So much fun to play and sing.
> Looking forward to going back to Durham and seeing my wife and tomorrow. Left her up there this weekend...her mom went up and stayed with her. She probably won't be back on the beach until after the baby's here.
> I'll probably only be home for a few more weekends, if that, until I'll be spending more of my time with Tricia in Durham. Not looking forward to being away from work and our church family and leading worship with the band, but I am looking forward to the break from the stress of Sundays and being with Tricia.
> Thanks to the people who nearly every week give us care packages and gas money. We love our church family!
> Speaking of our church family, we talked this morning about the importance of belonging to a home church...I can't imagine what our lives would be like right now without ours.
> I'm really getting frustrated with ProPresenter...I don't know if it's just our copy or what, but we seem to have way to many bugs.
> I've been taking a little bashing in a few different places concerning my opinions about "The Golden Compass" and my anti-boycotting. Bring it on!
> My friends over at C3 Church are moving into their new building and will be celebrating their first services there the Sunday before Christmas. I'm really excited for them and about getting to see it in action. It's a lot like our building, only a whole lot bigger.
> Our Youth Pastor (also my uncle) bought a Mac this week. I should seriously be making commission from Apple...I've had a hand in about 6 Mac purchases over the past year.
Here's the graphic for our Christmas Eve Gathering. Didn't spent as much time on this one as normal because it's only going to be used in-house. I'm usually more of a perfectionist when it's something that is going to be displayed outside of our church.
Here's what our announcement loop looks like on Sunday morning. I went ahead and built this in PPT, and saved it as a movie, which I've never done before, so I don't know why the shadow looks so pixilated. But, you'll get the basic idea.
Normally there's a little more flow between graphics, but we're using some Christmas graphics for the season.
Yes, I went and saw This Movie, and yes, I still believe in God.
Seriously, though. I went in with an earnest desire to want to enjoy this movie. I really did. I'm not into boycotting things that I know nothing about (outside of the of reviews I've read from people, most of whom haven't seen the movie either). I'm not into dismissing a movie based on the book it is meant to follow. And, I'm not into telling the world I am a Christ follower by telling them about the things I frown upon.
I really wanted to like this movie, because I knew if I did, I could, with an unbiased opinion address the "Christian" concerns that have been raised. Unfortunately, I was disappointed.
The special effects were great. The special effects were really cool. And, the special effects were very entertaining. Beyond the special effects...let's just say I'm glad I had a free ticket and did not pay for this one.
This movie was way too complicated to be only about 113 minutes long. It's really hard to introduce an imaginary world without spending a lot of time explaining the story behind the story...that did not happen here. It jumped right into the plot, and I swear it took me half the movie to figure out what was going on.
The movie was incredibly anti-climactic...I kept waiting for the big payoff. I kept waiting for the big bad guy to get his, or for the hero/heroine to completely save the day. It never happened.
Neither did much character development. The movie could have easily gone another 20 minutes if that time had been spent explaining some of the characters a bit more. I left the theatre knowing just a little more about the main characters than I did going in.
The heroine, a little girl named Lyra, spent half of the movie being kind-hearted and purely heroic, and the other half giving the mean adults evil looks and figuring out ways to lie and deceive her way out of dire situations. She was cute enough, and her motives seemed good, but I finished the movie liking her little animal soul thing more than her.
Beyond what I've already mentioned, the one huge dynamic that was really missing was humor. I can't even remember smiling once, much less laughing. All of the other fantasy adventure stories that this movie (and by his own admission, stories that the author wants to be compared to) has been compared to had the humor element...it was sorely missing here.
This movie was surprisingly dark and violent. (and not because I'm a Christian...) I can't see many kids under 10 or so enjoying this movie without some nightmares. There were a few moments of serious tension...not just a mean adult chasing a little kid, but a bunch of adults talking about and trying to torture and kill the little kids. I was more than a little shocked when a polar bear dies in a fight by having his lower jaw swiped off by another bear...
And, as far as the controversial "anti-Christian" themes...unless you were looking for them going in, there's a good chance you would have missed them altogether. God definitely did not die, nor was he even mentioned. There was a very obvious anti-church message, but being an evangelical, I'd say it was more of an anti-Catholic message than anything else...and, to be completely honest, that doesn't really bother me.
Anyway, like I said, I was very disappointed. I left feeling like nothing had taken place, and without much of any interest in seeing the next movie in the series. The author did a great job in writing a story to hold up against the likes of Narnia and LOTR...so good a job, in fact, that I felt that I was watching a boring and confusing retelling of those stories. I certainly don't want to tell you not to go, because I'm sure this movie will pull in a good revenue and easily pave the way for the second in the series...but, don't say I didn't warn you.
(Before you read any futher, please know that I typically do not post negatively like I'm about to, nor do I like to use other churches (at least not giving you the name of the church, etc.) as examples of how not to do things. But, I came across this and could not resist the urge to use it to illustrate a point. I know the pastor of the church that produced this video, so I don't feel quite so bad.)
is a great example of why we stopped using PPT a while back at NHC.
Few things do more to further the world's perception of church as a bunch of boring people stuck 10 years behind the times more than a cheesy PPT slideshow with bad Christian music. This video is something you may have seen in our church even a few years ago, but not any more.
If your goal is to propel your church people further back in time and to never reach any unchurched people, please, by all means, utilize clip art, bright colors, custom animation and slide transitions. But, if you're actually wanting to communicate to everyone in a relevant way, just take some time to look at tv commercials, internet pop-ups, newspaper ads, etc. and compare to what you're using in church.
Most times, less is more and simple is effective.
PS. I'll try to make a similar video of our pre-gathering announcement loop. BTW, Forefront Church and Willow Creek had the best pre-service announcement loops I've seen in a church.
So, I've been invited (actually, I kind invited myself) to be a contributing author at the blogs at Worship.com. I'm not sure exactly what it means yet, and you probably won't see me post much there that I don't post here, but I think it's cool that I'll be posting with the likes of Dan Kimball & Steve Fee.
Worship.com is a solid resource for lots of stuff related to leading and being involved in true worship. Check it out.
Here's our first family picture taken several weeks ago:
Here's the story:
(If you don't know already about Tricia's story with Cystic Fibrosis, please take a few minutes to Read This)
On September 1 during our Sunday evening communion gathering at church, I shared for the first time with our church family (which is basically many of our closest friends) that Tricia was going to be placed on the active transplant list...PT was to begin the very next day. Tricia was not there that night because she was not feeling well. When I got home, she had some very scary and exciting news to tell me...we were (and still are) pregnant. She had literally found out as I was sharing the transplant news at church. While we had been trying to become pregnant for several months last year and early this year, we were no longer trying.
At that point, she was about 5 weeks along. She is now almost 4 months along. She is incredibly high risk...about as high risk as any woman can possibly be. Although we immediately told our doctors and family and closest friends, we have waited this long to tell anyone else because the chances of losing the baby in the first few months are especially high, and the added stress of trying to answer a bunch of questions that we couldn't answer was not something we desired for our lives at that time.
(after we told them that aborting the pregnancy was not an option) Our doctors told us that the best thing for Tricia and the baby would be to begin the PT as planned, which, of course, made it very easy to not have people ask questions. Of course, Tricia was immediately disqualified from transplant candidacy. (our prayer is that she will be healthy enough after the pregnancy to be re-evaluated and placed on the list)
Tricia has been monitored especially closely by her CF and OB docs for the past three months. Of course, this complicates everything to the nth degree. Tricia now has diabetes. Her meds have been changed. She has only gained about 2-3 lbs. She is on oxygen almost 24/7. I could go on and on, but that's not what we're focusing on...
So far, the baby is healthy. Everything has come out normal (and we've had a lot more tests than normal). We learned several weeks ago (see picture above) that we're having a girl. Just this past week, we saw and felt her move for the first time. We are excited beyond words, especially as we consider that it is a miracle that we even conceived, much less that we have made it this far.
The due date, according to the size, etc. of the baby is April 24. A fetus can survive outside of the womb at 24 weeks...anything we get to beyond 24 weeks we'll count as an added blessing.
We're guessing that Tricia will need to permanently (at least through the pregnancy) relocate to Durham sometime within the next several weeks. The docs want her close by to keep close watch and to keep her from traveling as much as we are right now.
So, now our focus has entirely changed from transplant to pregnancy. The risks are much higher, as are the rewards. We are taking every day on at a time, counting each as a blessing. The prayer requests have changed and grown as well. I'm sure you can figure many of them out on your own, so I'll mention them in detail later.
We told our church family tonight, so now we're telling you because the word will spread fast. Thank you all for your continued prayer. We're headed back to Durham tomorrow to resume PT.
So, before you watch these, let me describe the set-up:
We were on a 12x14 stage, about 1/8 of which was being taken up by the huge bench thing you can see in the back right corner...why they wouldn't take it down, we don't know...
The stage was about as flimsy as a cardboard box, and my best guess is there was close to a ton of weight sitting on top of it. We were getting sea sick trying to read our music as it bounced up and down.
We adjusted the sound on the fly through the first few songs.
Only the vocals and acoustic guitar and keys were running through the system. Everything else (except for the drums and percussion) was amped. So, if the mix sounds bad, it's because it was.
Our set was cut short...didn't get to do the last three songs because we started 15 minutes late cause they didn't plan very weel for the transitions between bands.
But, we had a great time, and our attitudes were good throughout. It actually reminded us of our old church building...the stage was about the same size.
Anyway, we didn't get video of everything, and some of the video turned out bad (more because of us than our video guy), so I haven't included everything. Enjoy!
Here's the schedule as far as I know for tonight...
6-6:30 - some kind of singing group
6:30-7 - First Flight Church's band
7-8 - the MilePost13 Band
8-9 - The Church of the Outer Banks' band
I've heard that TCOBX does not have an hour of stuff planned, so maybe we can go a little long if needed. I've put the following in order as a playlist on iTunes, and it tells me we'll play for 50.9 minutes if we do everything exactly as the original recording does (which we're not quite doing). I've talked with the churches who are on before and after us, and we're coordinated a little with our instruments and gear to make the transitions on and off the stage a little smoother and quicker.
So, basically, if you can't come, but you want to pretend you were there, download the following, put them in this order, turn your AC down to about 55, and have fun!
It Came Upon A Midnight Clear/G (MercyMe) O Come Let Us Adore Him/G (Passion/Matt Redman) Brief Intro Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree/E (MercyMe) Rejoice/E (Chris Tomlin) Extended Intro Silent Night, Holy Night/A (MercyMe) Joy To The World/D (Third Day) Better Days/D (Goo Goo Dolls) I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day/E (MercyMe) Short Break Christmas Time Is Here/G (MercyMe) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Em (MercyMe) What Child Is This/Em (Sarah McLachlan) Outro O Holy Night/C (MercyMe) Gloria/C (MercyMe)
Just a reminder that the MilePost13 Band will be playing at the Festival of Trees from 7 to 8 tomorrow night. We're stoked to give back to the community in this way and to show people that church can be fun.
We'll be passing out these business-cards to anyone who's interested in learning more about us.
Please, pray with us that we do it all for God's glory and that we do it well. Thanks!
Whether you're a Skins fan or not, whether you're a football fan or not, please, take a moment to pray for Sean Taylor's family and friends. Also, pray that coach Joe Gibbs and the other Christians in the Skins organization will take the opportunity to share the hope and peace of Christ. Thanks.
(I split this into two posts...I hate reading really long posts. See Part 1)
> The band went into two more songs. The first song was up-tempo, and the second was much slower. The words were on the screen, and everyone was standing now, and most people were clapping and/or singing. I didn't sing or clap because I did not know the songs. I did tap my foot a little. The music was similar to what you might here on an adult light radio station. Not really my cup of tea, but not bad either. The percussion guy was sitting on a box drum really low to the floor...he played that and some other hand percussion things...it was a little distracting just because he looked out of place sitting on that box and leaning over to play into his mic.
> The preacher came up after the third song. He mentioned that they were going through a "series" called "Retro", and that they were having a retro dress contest that morning, and the winner was going to get a new iPod. Fortunately, I had looked at their website ahead of time, and wore some retro cllothes. The preacher told everyone to sit down except for those who were wearing retro. I sat down because I didn't know anybody there and I didn't feel comfortable standing up with just a few other people. That sucks cause a new iPod would have been cool.
> The preacher started his sermon...he walked around on the stage some and sat on a chair some while he spoke. He talked about living with thankfulness and gratitude to God. Good stuff. He quoted Bart Simpson...that was cool.
> The band came up as he was finishing talking. The guitar guy asked us to stand again, and they played another song that I didn't know.
> The preacher came up again and finally told us the name of the guitar guy. He told us about a few announcements, and then they asked everyone who dressed retro to come up front so they could decide the winner. Again, I wasn't cool with putting myself out there like that, so I missed out.
> After giving the iPod away, the preacher prayed for the offering. I didn't come ready to put anything into the offering, so I was happy when the basket somehow skipped my row (again, I was the only person in my row)...BUT, I felt really uncomfortable when the girl walked backwards with the basket and offered it to me...I shook my head. That was awkward, and I felt guilty for not doing something.
> The band played one more song that I didn't know, and then the preacher told us to live with gratitude, and then it was over.
> As I turned to leave, one of the guys who was sitting behind me saw my white bag and told me his name and shook my hand. I walked out to my car and drove away.
> After I left, I looked in the white bag. The contents were:
> A yellow and blue water bottle with the church's logo and name printed on it. > A big magnet and a small magnet with the church's name, logo, website and phone number. > A couple of business card size "invitations" to a series that the church did in September and October (not sure how that helps me...) > An info card about their "growth groups". > An info card about their "purpose". > A postcard with info about that same series in Sept./Oct. > A yellow piece of paper about their children's ministries. > A green piece of paper about their student ministries. > A white peice of paper listing their ministry groups. > A white pieced of paper listing their growth groups.
So, those were my thoughts as best I could as a first-time, unchurched guest.
A few thoughts to add:
> Not once was anything about the church or the service explained to me as a guest...nobody told me what to do about the singing, the offering, the seating, the information card, etc. The only time anyone talked about "guests" was when the preacher mentioned guests in a "them" way, not a "you" (me) way.
> The website gave me conflicting info about service times. When I called the church number, the answering machine did not tell me anything helpful either. I guessed and was lucky about which time was right. If I hadn't promised my wife I'd check this church out, I probably would have gone somewhere else.
There were a lot of good things about the church. The band was good. The preacher was likable and relevant and engaging. The worship center was comfortable. The lighting and video were all good. But, the things that would have made the decision for me if I really were a first-time, unchurched guest were mostly lacking. I felt targeted more than simple welcome as a guest. I felt lost as to what was going on. I felt a little lonely.
I'm glad I went this morning. There are some things at NHC that we need to change. We do a lot of things well to make out unchurched guests feel welcome, but theres' always room for improvement.
(Before I begin, let me state that the purpose of this post in NOT criticize this church...my hope is that I can use my experience to further understand how to become the church that God wants us to be. I'm not going to mention the church's name...it's not a church I've discussed on PW before. If you can gain something from my experience, even better.)
I'm in Durham, NC this weekend because my wife is still in the hospital (almost two weeks). Tricia has been wanting to go visit a certain local church for the first time, and although she couldn't go, I went for her. I decided to go in with the mindset of trying to view everything as a first-time, unchurched guest (again, so that I can try to understand how first-time, unchurched guests view their experience at NHC). Because I grew up in the church and was brainwashed for several years, I can guarantee I didn't do a super job of thinking like an unchurched guest...but, hopefully I did OK.
This church meets in a strip mall. I only took a look at the small entrance lobby and the worship center, but I could see some kind of kid's area as well off to one side. The worship center seats about 250. There are colorful stage lights, and decent sound system, two projectors and screens on each side of the stage flashing graphics and announcements before the service, and video/lyrics/scripture/etc. during the service. There are actually two stages...one in the center holds the worship leader guy and his acoustic guitar and wireless head mic, three BGV singers (all ladies), a lady on the keys and a guy playing some percussion things. The second stage off to the left holds the electric guitar, bass and electric drums and the guys playing them.
I parked in the "first-time guest" designated parking space. I'm typically an outgoing guy, but not when I enter into a completely new environment, so I didn't go out of my way to talk to anyone. I walked directly into the worship center and found a seat in an empty row of chairs. I did not sing any of the songs (a few were familiar to me), I did not take any notes, I did not put anything in the offering basket, I did not seek out anyone to meet when they told us to get to know somebody after the first song.
So, here are a few things that I noticed based on my viewpoint as a first-time, unchurched guest:
> They had a couple of speakers on stands set up in the parking lot playing music. This was cool, but I did not recognize the music (actually, I did, but I'm trying to think like an unchurched person...). I think I'd feel more comfortable if they were playing something familiar.
> Before I reached the front door from the parking lot, a young lady approached me and asked if I was a first-time guest. I said, "yes", and she welcomed me and handed me a white bag (I'll tell you what was in the bag later). I thought this was cool at first, until I realized that this was a very sneaky way for the church to tag me as a first-time guest so that everyone else would know I was a first-time guest...this was not cool. I wanted to be able to go to this church and be as invisable OR visable as I wanted to be...I wanted to wait until I had a feel for what this church before I identified myself as the outsider. Furthermore, I did not see anyone else carrying a white bag like mine, which made me feel even more uncomfortable. I could literally feel the people I passed in the lobby and worship center on my way to my seat looking first at my white bag and then at me. When I reached my seat, I tried to hide the white bag as best I could.
> When I reached the front door, a guy handed me a card...he smiled but didn't speak. I glanced at the card and quickly put it in my white bag. When I reached my seat, I pulled the card out of my bag...it asked me for my information and if I wanted any more information about the church. Nobody ever mentioned why they wanted my information, why I should want the church information, or what I was supposed to do with the card.
> Except for the girl who handed me the white bag and the guy at the door who smiled, nobody made any contact with me. I guess that's OK, because, again, I want to be as invisable as I want to be. (But, had I really been an unchurched guest, I wonder if I would have known to enter the bigger room with the seats and lights and stage and sit down anywhere I wanted to sit.)
> I sat in a chair in an empty row of about 15 chairs about the middle left side of the room. Nobody sat in my row...I wonder why. The room only ended up about 35% full, but it seemed that everyone I could see was sitting with other people. It's not that I wanted to sit with anyone, but I wonder why.
> I only arrived about 2 minutes before the service began, so I didn't get to see much of what was being displayed on the big screens, but the ones I saw looked like some announcements that were meant for the people who were already going to that church. The graphics were cool, but they didn't seem like they were communicating to me.
> The service began with when about 10 people walked up onto the stage and grabbed the instruments and mics and began playing and singing a song that I had never heard. The words to the song were up on the screen. A few people around me were clapping and/or singing, but most everyone sat and watched an listened...I was cool with this because I didn't know the song and I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be singing.
> The first song ended and the guy with the guitar (I didn't find out his name until near the end of the service) asked us to stand and then turn and shake somebody's hand. I was sitting alone in my row, but a family of three in front of me eventually turned around and shook my hand and said, "hi".
O Come Let Us Adore Him/G Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree/E Rejoice/E I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day/E Silent Night, Holy Night/A Joy To The World/D Better Days/D Christmas Time Is Here/G What Child Is This/Cm It Came Upon A Midnight Clear/G God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/Em O Holy Night/C Gloria/C
Here's the video we shot for and showed last night at the Thanksgiving Gathering. I met Chris last Saturday just before the shoot. IMO, this is the best (highest quality) video I've produced so far. The video and audio turned out almost perfect. And, Chris' story is excellent.
Do you remember your story? It may be similar to Chris', or it may be completely different. If you follow Christ, do you remember where He has brought you from? Take time today to give God thanks for your story.
About 150 people came. About 100 were our folks, and about 50 were from OBX Nation. Seems The Church Of The Outer Banks didn't get the memo (or didn't care?). But, that's cool, cause we had a great time. Got to meet some cool people.
Pete Rudolph joined us on stage for the entire gathering, painting an impressionist type piece.
Had lots of great comments, mostly about appreciation for the pportunity to worship (which are always more better than comments about how good or bad something was). Had one friend tell me that she experienced something very new and personal for the first time, so that was really cool.
MilePost13, as always, did a great job of leading by example. We changed it up a little...both of our bass players were OOT, as were Chad and Andy. So, both Thanisha and Rachel sang with me, Bonnie and Gail split time on the keys, and Rich filled in nicely on the bass.
And, George's new amp sounds great for his harp (that's harmonica for you uncultured people).
I'll have several videos to post over the next few days as I get some time to download and edit.
My brother-in-law, Terry, resigned from his church yesterday (as youth pastor). He and my sister are moving to FL to be a part of a church down there. Here's video of him giving his resignation:
When I resigned from my last church (similar situation to Terry's), my pastor told the church about my leaving, which was probably much easier than what Terry just did. It's never easy, but it always feels good when it's over with.
> Another LONG weekend...I've been single all week because Tricia's been in the hospital...I'm very glad I got married if for no other reason than it makes me not work as much as I would if I were still single all the time.
> the MilePost13 Band rocks! We practiced again tonight...they're putting in so much time right now getting ready for our Thanksgiving Worship Gathering and for the Festival of Trees.
> Buddy is sick. He's one of our electric guitarists, and a good friend. Pray that he's feeling better so he can work, enjoy the holiday this week, and play with us on Wednesday.
> This morning was weird. The first gathering never really felt like it got any momentum. It was packed with people, but I just never felt like we connected. The second gathering seemed to click from the start.
> Have I mentioned how stoked I am about the Thanksgiving Gathering and the Festival of Trees?
> The Skins lost again...luckily I didn't get to see any of the game.
> I hope Barry Bonds goes to prison, if he is indeed guilty (and doesn't anybody still question that?), and I hope his name and records get erased forever from baseball. Sorry.
> My dog, Meka is the coolest ever. She hung out with us at practice tonight (yes, I take my dog to church all the time). I've had her for about a year now, which is why I mention her.
> Tricia doesn't remember where she packed my razor, so I haven't shaved in about three weeks, including my neck...that's bascially a record for my neck. I probably looked a little scary on stage today.
> Andy did a great job filling in on drums for Chris who hurt his back earlier this week.
> Our Christmas music is going to rock the house and bless God and His people this year...we're really stoked.
> We baptized two people today...one young lady who discovered life in Christ for the first time just last Sunday, and a little girl who was baptized by her father. We use the YMCA pool in the cold months.
> I shot a video with a local guy named Chris on Saturday...we're going to show Chris' story on Wednesday night. I'm really happy with the video...it's the best I've done so far. I'll post it after Wednesday.
> I've been addicted to Sarah McLachlan's "Wintersong" album the past week. We bought it last year just before Christmas, so I didn't listen to it much then. It's very beautiful, very laid back Christmas music. Pick it up if you can.
That's all for now.
PS. I never get many comments on my Sunday Blitz posts, so I don't know if anyone reads them or cares. If you do read them, and if you do care, you can also check out what My Pastor thinks about things as well.
the MilePost13 Band is going to be playing at a local annual fundraiser called "The Festival of Trees" in a few weeks. We're really stoked about this event for a couple of reasons:
1) This is a big event that takes place outside on the property of one of the biggest local bars. That means this is a HUGE opportunity for outreach.
2) We're good. Not like, good for a church band...we're just good, for any band. I don't say that with an ego or arrogance, but with humility and confidence in knowing that God has given us all that we have and are. And because we're good, we're stoked to show our community that church and God can be fun and high quality.
3) This will be our first event like this, where we've been asked to come and play in a "secular" atmosphere. We're hoping for more opportunities like this one.
So, when I got to church today, I immediately went to the men's restroom (yes, the men's, just in case any of you were unsure about that....). (without giving too many details) I sat down, and just as I was reaching for the paper I noticed something stuck on the first square...
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the local vegetation, that is what we like to call a "sandspur". They're basically deadly...one prick and you'll swell up like a cactus until your throat closes and you die.
OK, so maybe that last part about dying isn't true, but they can hurt and leave little splinters in you for weeks...I can only imagine the pain had I not spotted the trap.
My guess is one of the little punk youth boys left that there for me last night knowing that I often dance with the porcelain queen in the morning...there's no way it could have gotten in that place unless somebody planted it there. I've narrowed it down to a few likely suspects. Lucky for me I know where their bathrooms are located...
Here's a cool idea that a friend recently told me about:
"We are holding a 'StoryTelling' Evening this Sunday instead of a normal service. It is about telling the stories (theology, why we wrote it, who wrote it, what is it about) for songs that we wrote during the last year. All these songs have been activly sung in the last 6 months. It has a VH1 storytelling feel to it and we are very excited about it!"
Unfortunately, we aren't writing any of our own music at NHC, but I hope we do someday. I think this idea is really cool, though. Any thoughts?
This is perhaps one of the funniest stories in the history of the world. If you've ever heard that horribly bad version of "O Holy Night" that has been floating arround the internet for a few years, you must take the time to check this out. Give yourself a good 20 minutes to read some of the older posts to get the full back-story, but I promise you it's well worth it. "Funny" is an understatement.
(This may be a dangerous post...not because I'll make anyone mad at me, but because I'm not sure if I can fully explain my thoughts)
So, yesterday morning, Our Pastor talked about "The Thing That Cannot Change". At NHC, part of our vision is that our methods will always change...our message will never change - it is the thing that cannot change. In his sermon, my pastor used the phrase "watered down Gospel" a few times, talking about how some would accuse our church of watering down the message of Christ either intentionally or not because of our use of culturally-engaging methods.
"Watered Down Gospel"...for some time now, I've had real trouble with that phrase. I hear/read it a lot, and it just doesn't make any sense to me. It seems to me that, if you water down (meaning "to dilute" or "to reduce the strength or effectiveness of") the Gospel (meaning the story and message of Jesus Christ), you're left with something that is not the Gospel at all. The Gospel has the power to save. A watered down Gospel would seem powerless to me. Let me explain...
The Gospel is not just that God is the Creator of all things, including man. The Gospel is not just that man has fallen into sin and is condemned to an eternity without God. The Gospel is not just that Jesus was crucified on the cross to redeem man. The Gospel is not just that Jesus rose from the grave three days later to prove He is God. The Gospel is not just that many will now spend eternity with God. (etc., etc.)
All of these facts are parts of the Gospel. One of these facts alone, or even a few of these facts together are good and true. But, without the entire story, any incomplete combination of these facts cannot be the Gospel. The complete Gospel is the only Gospel because everything is true and seemless.
The Gospel cannot be watered down and still remain the Gospel. It's not like cough syrup. If I have a cough, I can dilute some cherry flavored cough syrup with a little water to make it go down easier. Or, I could take out the cherry flavor (don't know why I would do that...). Either way, I still get the full benefit of the cough syrup for my health and well-being. Try taking away the fact that man does not sin, or that Jesus did not rise from the dead, or that we can never spend eternity with God, and you've got something that looks pretty good on paper, but has no benifit to us.
Now, I'm not saying that we've got to explain the entire story of Christ from Genesis to Revelation and beyond, or that a person must understand every little detail about the Bible in order to be saved. If that were the case, we'd all be in big trouble. The Bible says that all a person must do to become a disciple of Christ is to believe and confess that Jesus is Who He says He is. Full knowledge and understanding can/will come later.
And, the proof is in the pudding (I don't know why, but that's where I'm told it is). Yesterday, we had two (I thought it was one, but I was wrong) people discover life in Christ for the first time after our pastor shared the Gospel at the end of his sermon. If what he shared had been watered down...
So, is it just me? Am I thinking too hard? Am I the only one who thinks "watered down Gospel" is a bit of an oxymoron? I'm not sure if I explained my thoughts well, and I'll admit I'm still trying to work this out in my head. Maybe we can understand this better together?
This is going to be short...it's been a long, long weekend...
> Tricia and I moved (thanks to a little help from my friends) on Friday...as in, all day Friday.
> I taught our Discovering Worship CLASS yesterday morning.
> I tried to get two days worth of work into yesterday afternoon.
> I got up at 4:45 this morning to hang with some of our people as we gave cold water to the participants of the OBX Marathon.
> Got together with the MilePost13 band tonight to practice some Christmas music.
> It was all worth it, and I'm glad it's over
> We had one worship gathering this morning to keep from repeating the headache of fighting the crazy traffic patterns that take place during the marathon. It's fun to have so many people singing and worshipping together.
> We showed a killer video that I'll post later this week. You might not think it's killer, but we do.
> At least one person discovered life in Christ for the first time this morning.
> The Skins lost to the eagels.
> I get to see my good friend, Matt Glock tomorrow morning!
We recently did away with our worship team...here's why:
1) At NHC, we do ministry (serving other believers) and mission (serving the world) in teams. We don't have "committees" (that's actually a cuss word at our church). And, as I've mentioned before, we believe that every person in our church can worship God when they serve in ministry and/or mission. In fact, I believe that every single one of our teams can be labeled as a "worship team". To say that the one team who leads in musical worship is the "Worship Team" is to imply that either they are the only team that worships or they are more of a worshipping team than any of our other teams...that's just not true. Our "Worship Team" simply helps to lead others in musical (and some other forms of) worship...the same way our "Hospitality Team" helps to lead our church in being hospitable to our guests. But, it was hard for people to understand that when we defined them as the "Worship Team".
2) Having a "Worship Team" implies that, when that group of people step up onto the stage and begin doing their thing, that's when we're really worshipping God. Again, as I've explained before, we believe that every aspect of our worship gatherings and of our lives can and should be an act of worship to God. The "Worship Team" is not the cue for people to start worshipping God...it's the cue for people to sing and dance and whatever else you can do together during musical worship. "Worship Team"s help to reinforce the misconception that worship = music and singing...and, again, that's just not true. Music and singing is only a part of worship. We don't want to give people any reason to think that the "Worship Team" is the only team that can lead worship.
About a year ago, I began to really think through this whole "worship team" thing when Chris, our drummer appoached me after my Discovering Worship CLASS and asked me why, if some of the things I was teaching were true, did we have a "Worship Team"? (he asked in a very sincere.non-aggressive way, BTW) Shortly after, we made the announcement to the entire church that we were changing our name/title from "Worship Team" to "the MilePost13 Band" Here's why:
1) "the MilePost13 Band" gave us a real sense of identity. It gave a feeling that we were not just a group of musicians and vocalists and techs who got together a few times a week to lead worship, but that we were a strong, close-knit team who loved and cared and shared with one another much in the same way you hear about a professional band existing. It gave us a sense of pride and real ownership in what we were doing. It made us feel like we were professionals (IMO, any musican/vocalist/tech who puts in the hours that we do is a professional) and that we should always strive to give our best and to do things with the highest quality. (BTW, I highly encourage any ministry team to give themselves a name for the same reasons)
2) The name change also helped us to reinforce the idea that we were the band that led in musical worship, not the ministry team that led all worship. It helps us not to become egotistical with what we do, and it helps our other ministry teams to keep in mind that they are worshipping as well in their unique ministries.
So, what do you think? Have you ever considered what your "Worship Team" is really all about? Have you ever thought that you may be sending mixed signals by teaching that worship is a lifestyle but having a "Worship Team" that leads the worship at your church?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read the other posts in the Rethinking "Worship"series:
Ralphie (the cat) and Meka (the dog) are best friends...seriously. Can't we all just get along? I'm really stoked about our Thanksgiving Worship Gathering with two other local churches. I know our folks will be there...I really hope the others show up as well!
We no longer have a room where we do corporate worship called the "sanctuary" or "worship center"...here's why:
1) Dictionary.com defines the word "sanctuary" as a holy place, especially refering to the Jewish Tabernacle/Temple of the Old Testament. God's "sanctuary" is the place where He literally lives and dwells. While we do believe that, when we gather together to worship God, He is glorified in a unique and holy way, but we also understand that God no longer dwells in a building. We know that Christ came to literally change the law and make our bodies the living, holy sanctuary/temple of God (John 2; I Corinthians 3:16, 17; 6:19). So, to call the place/room we use for corporate worship the "sanctuary" is basically bad theology.
2) "Worship center" implies that this place/room is/should be the central hub of our personal and corporate worship. We believe that our bodies and lives are to be the central hub of our worship (Romans 6:13; 12:1). At our church building, every Sunday morning, there is just as much worship going on in the lobby as people hang out together, in the kitchen as people serve coffee and donuts, in the nursery as people change diapers, in the kid's area as people invest in the lives of young kids, even in the bathrooms as somebody changes the toilette paper. Also, there should be just as much worship happening at our work place, our schools, our homes, and our hang-outs throughout the week as what happens in our church building on Sunday mornings. Our worship center should be any place we take our bodies.
Instead, we try to use either "auditorium" or "gathering place" to talk about the place where we gather for corporate worship on Sunday mornings. Here's why:
1) "Auditorium" is a word that everyone can understand and recognize. Both churched and unchurched people would know where to go and what I was describing if I explained that we meet together in the auditorium. As I've said before, anything we can do to build bridges to anyone who gathers with us to worship or observe our worship to make them feel welcome and comfortable to consider joining in on what we're doing is a good thing.
2) "Gathering place" helps us to reinforce some of the things I talked about in my "Death To the Worship Service" post. It's not the place that we come to worship, it's one of the places in which we can gather to worship together.
So, what do you think? Have you ever considered what a sanctuary really is? Have you ever thought that you're basically fighting with yourself and confusing people by teaching both that our bodies are the temple of God and your building is the "sanctuary" of God?
If you enjoyed this post, you may also want to read the other posts in the Rethinking "Worship"series:
So...our church server is STILL DOWN!!! WHAT THE HECK! We haven't been able to use our website or check our email since Saturday morning. This is NOT cool, nor is it very good. We've got too much stuff going on right now to be without these communications.
Just a friendly heads up. I bought Todd Agnew's Christmas album "Do You See What I See?" last year around this time, hoping to find some good stuff to use at church. HUGE mistake...biggest music purchasing mistake of my life, in fact. I didn't even make it through one full listen. I rememebr almost throwing up in my mouth.
Agnew's voice makes me want to sit on a holly bush, and the arrangements and music choices were horrible. I literally deleted the entire thing from my computer before I ever listened to it all.
I'm usually not this negative on my blog, but I couldn't live with myself if I sat by and allowed the people I love to make the same mistake I made. I'm sure Todd's a great guy, and we even have used a few of his worship songs in church, but you wouldn't know it from this album.
FYI...the server we use for our church site and email has been down for over 36 hours now...this is for the thousands of people who hve been trying to email me because I'm so important...hopefully it will be back up ASAP.
> This morning was very cool. We talked about finding your mission, showed videos of Operation Christmas Child, ToT, and several other things.
> We also had a commissioning service today. Last week, we asked everyone to come to church wearing their "work" clothes, and at the end of our gatherings this morning, we commissioned everyone to GO and be missionaries in their work places, schools, etc. Very cool.
> We had a few people say it was our best worship gathering ever, which is good to hear considering the weight of what we were talking about.
> Here's a video about our Kid's Church that we showed at CREST last Sunday night...kids say funny stuff!
> Be right back...we're packing and I've been asked to put some boxes together...Tricia's a beast when it comes to packing.
> Which reminds me...if anyone can help us pack and move our stuff to storage this Friday afternoon, let me know!
> Our communion gathering tonight was great as always. We feasted on thanksgiving food (yeah, that was awesome), and we remembered what God has done and is doing for us. Our communion gatherings have been taken to a totally new level in our new building!
> Still thinking a lot about our trip to Forefront. A lot of people have asked about it, and our pastor even talked about it this morning in his sermon.
> The MIlePost13 Band (our worship band) has been invited to participate in the local Festival of Trees at the end of November. We'll be playing Christmas music for an hour...it's a great opportunity to build a bridge to our community. We're stoked!
> We had at least one family come this morning for the first time because of Trunk or Treat! Make sure you check out all of the ToT Pics.
> We've got just ONE gathering next Sunday at 11. Come out early and me on mission as we serve those participating in the OBX Marathon!
> There's lots more I could talk about, but it can wait until next time. That's all for now.