Thursday, July 26, 2007

Q&A #6: Flat Black Stage

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"We are in the process of completing a new community life center which includes a stage in the fellowship hall. It is time to consider the paint color for the stage walls and floor.

Some of our folks visited your church lately with the youth group. (One of the persons) said that your stage area is black. That's what I am considering but we have some members who want the stage area painted the same color as the fellowship hall which will be a fairly light nutreal color.

Is it possible for you to send me an email with the pros and cons of having black walls for the stage area? I know this is asking alot, but I would really appreciate your help."

My Response:
"Our stage (see photo above) and the entire top 1/3 of our worship center are painted flat black. Here are the pros for us for painting using the flat black:

> Flat black (use flat...if you use anything with a gloss, all you see are reflections of everything else...flat black means no reflection or sheen) gave us the theatre look and feel that we wanted. Our Sunday mornings are what I like to call “big”, from music, video, drama, speaking, etc., everything we do is meant to have a big impact on people, and the black stage helps give that feel.
> Anything painted flat black becomes secondary to whatever else you are looking puts the focus on everything on the stage and off of the stage/walls itself. Anything with color or lights becomes the primary focus. Our instruments, people (as long as they’re not wearing dark clothing), video screen, etc. really stand out and just look good. It’s like composing a good photograph...why allow the ugly, blurry, pointless background to overshadow the person(s) who are supposed to be the focus in the foreground? Anything other than flat black will do that to the people and things on your stage.
> Related to the last point, flat black is basically unnoticeable. People will only notice it if you’re repainting the stage from a previous color AND/OR if you make a big deal out of changing the paint color (ie. Bring this to a church vote...), and the only ones who will complain are the ones who will complain no matter what color you paint it... Anyone new who walks into the room will notice everything other than the black, unless they’re musicians or some kind of artists, and those are the people who usually like the black, so that’s a good thing.
> Flat black is easy to keep clean and repaint. The only thing you have to be careful of is lots of dust build up because thick dust will show, but it’s still much easier than dealing with smudges and scratches and stains on a lighter colored wall...basically anything other than flat black shows those blemishes. Flat black can take more of a beating than other colors and finishes. And, you never have to worry about matching colors...flat black from one store or can is almost always the same flat black from another.
> Related to our ceiling. The highest point in our ceiling is about 40 feet, which is very tall and makes the room feel way too big. And, the ceiling was basically white plastic insulation and red steel rafters. If we had done anything with the ceiling other than flat black, it would have been the first thing you would have noticed when walking into the room...instead, your eyes are drawn to the more aesthetically pleasing things in the room. We also painted the top 1/3 of all the walls in the room flat black, which made the ceiling feel much shorter and the room feel much smaller. This will also allow us to later install theatrical lighting in the ceiling without anyone ever noticing that it’s never been there.

There are only three “cons” that I can think of with flat black:

> You have to clean for dust if you have any ledges, but again, that’s only occasionally (maybe every 6 months), and very easy to do.
> If your walls are drywall, any large dings or scratches will bring out the white wall behind the paint, but again, touching up is easier with flat black than with any other color or paint type (just always use a roller).
>People will complain, but again, people will complain no matter what you do...the complainers always either leave the church or stop complaining when they realize we were right, and either way works for us. :)

When I made the call to paint the stage and top 1/3 of the room flat black, both our contractor and my pastor weren’t exactly sure. But, they trusted my decision, and as soon as they saw it the first time, they understood why. There is absolutely nothing spiritually or Biblically “wrong” with painting part or all of a church building black, and in the end, it will look good if it’s done by a professional painter."

Q&A #5: Fried?

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

OP (brought to the table by my friend Steve):

Christian musician/recording artist Saun Groves recently taught about the situations that can lead to ministry burnout, and how to address them. Shaun questions whether the "model" of many church infrastructures, and the culture's influence, may be adding fuel to the fire. But there's more to it than that. How can we help one another prevent/recover from burnout? Here's a segment from Shaun's blog,

"....I got up late and “taught” about burn-out. Really, I’m getting paid to tell my story and remind folks of some very basic things I stopped believing and doing that left me physically, relationally and spiritually unhealthy. Afterwards, several people came by to tell me their story. A pastor’s wife, a single music minister working two other jobs as well, a seminary student wishing they taught this basic stuff in school - all burned out or believing they’re headed that way. It was rewarding to say something so simple and see immediate results - people feeling less alone and weird than before, people resolving to quit jobs or ask for a more clear job description, people vowing to take a vacation or take their wife out on a date. These aren’t world changing resolutions but they could save a marriage, extend the life of a person, build a better dad and a healthier church.

The thing I kept thinking was “Is there something inherently unhealthy about our current church model in America?” The problem of burnout is so rampant, it seems, that it makes me wonder. Is the problem how we respond to the model we have or is the problem the model itself? Or is it a combination of the two? What do you think?"

Saturday, July 21, 2007


My oldest sister (still a few years younger than me) is getting married today. After today, my parents will finally have an empty nest. I'm sitting in our church worship center helping with the last details. Our church building was designed with weddings and similar events in mind, which is nice. Just thought you should know.


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You Can Start a Post!

If you're interested in getting a discussion going about a certain subject, issue, question, etc. that you feel may be fruitful for this blog, please email me and I'll consider posting it. Thanks!


Monday, July 16, 2007

Q&A #04: Late Comers To Worship

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"What to do about people who are always lat showing up to church?

It seems that many of us share this problem at some time in our ministry. I have it now!

It can be:
• Awkward and embarrassing for new folks who show up on time and even ahead of time.
• Discouraging for the musicians and the pastor when 5 minutes before kick off there are very few people in the auditorium ready to go.

We kick off on time even with very few people in their seats until the first song or 2. Then they all arrive.

I think this:
• Is not God honouring
• Reflects disorganization./ lack of commitment

I don’t want this to continue – I would really appreciate your suggestions."

My Response:
"For at least 3 weeks in a row, start the service off with the sermon. We did that at my last church, and the quick turn-around would have been funny if it wasn't so sad...nobody likes walking in late for the may make your guests feel uncomfortable, but's it worth it to get the message accross to your regulars.

And, I'll echo the above remark (see blog comments)...try to do it differently at least every couple of weeks. People come late because they anticipate what is going to happen.

One more thing, begin using every opportunity to teach your church that every aspect of your service is important as it all can and should be an act of worshipping God. Rethink every aspect of your service, and cut out anything that doesn't support this."

Comments Up!

I hopefully changed the settings and you should now be able to see your comments as soon as you post them. Let me know if it's still not working.

Thanks for the discussion!


Saturday, July 14, 2007


A few weeks ago, I got into a "discussion" with a very vocal and active poster in the theology forum of one of the church leader chat sites that I am a member of. This particular area of this forum is considered by many (especially myself) to be a hotbed for theological debate, most of which is very pointless, IMO. And, while I rarely post in this forum, I decided to join in this particular conversation with the hope that this discussion could be different. Unfortunately, the conversation was not much different than the rest…the subject and actual conversation doesn't really matter...what matters is that I came out of our conversation with a very clear reality about the time I spend on these forums. Three very real and necessary questions formed in my head as I continued over the course of a few days in this discussion:

1) How valuable was this conversation for my personal spiritual growth ?

2) How valuable was this conversation for the spiritual growth of the other person(s) reading and posting?

3) How is this conversation helping me to fulfill my purpose of loving God, loving others, and reaching people to discover life in Christ?

About this particular conversation, the three answers to these questions were, respectively: No Value, No Value that I Can See, and Not At All.

Sometime in the middle of my forming these questions in my mind (in my best Nacho impersonation), on another of the church leader site that I am a part of, the following was posted by one of the Moderators on a thread that was simultaneously locked because of the heated and futile debate over a dead-horse subject:

“I'm going to close this thread. I believe it has ran its course.

Before I lock it, I'd just like to say something to a few of you on some direction for the forum as a whole. Not specifically just this thread... it's only a small part of it.

To those of you willing to listen:

Make it a point to notice those who are almost always on this forum, they practically live here. They've lost their balance. That alone says a degree of unhealthiness.
Make it a point to notice who has something to say about every issue...
Make it a point to notice those who always respond to some kind of a debate calling it Christianity.
Make it a point to notice who are the ones that constantly goad others to respond and seem to enjoy it.
Make it a point to notice those who always think they are right and have all the answers.

Have you noticed who they are?

My advice to you: please ignore them. Stop allowing them to draw you into these ridiculous and yes, I'll even say childish debates. All it does is make you look bad, it hurts your credibility as a leader and a man or woman of God... and they win.

This isn't a test of wills... and it isn't supposed to be a constant oneupmanship. Nor is it a contest to see who is smarter and who is the king of the mountain of the debate.

Don't give in. Let them debate with themselves and dig their own holes. Eventually they always do. Without an audience... without those who respond to their constant attempts to "stimulate your thinking" by circular "biblical" arguments that only end badly, choose to not partake in their game. Believe me, they can call it whatever they want, but it IS a game. One that some play on a regular basis.

Here's a challenge... Spend all that incredible energy that you focus on the debate or the argument and turn it into energy used in ministry to God, His people and His Kingdom. Focus on convincing people who can be convinced... people you can convince of the good things of God. Things that make a difference.

Can you imagine the mountains that you would move for the Kingdom? It would be amazing. You'd become one of those people that we all hear about. The ones we look up to who are mountain movers in the Kingdom.

Stop wasting your time and energy on the what steals your time and energy. I have incredible respect for some of you guys... and I hate seeing waste so much time that could be spent in better ways.

Yes, I realize this is correction. For those who "have ears to hear", they will hear it and begin to have the potential to be mountain movers for the Kingdom.

For the rest............ ?”

Ouch…and not for the rest of them, but for me. This post really drove home what I had been thinking, and for a long time more than just those few days…that I’ve really wasted so much of my time even just reading and being entertained by these debates, much less being a vocal part of them.

How many times have I read (and yes, I’ve used this a few times myself) the excuse for posting rhetoric and meaningless debate: “But, it helps me to figure some things out so that I can be ready when I really need to discuss these things with somebody who matters…” IMHO, it’s about time that I stopped talking about figuring these things out and started just getting out there and practicing them…

So, in light of my new convictions, I began asking God to change my desire to be one of those people mentioned in that Mod’s post…and I began praying that others on the forums I frequent would also begin to view their lives differently as well…not for God to change their minds on certain issues so that they would all confess that I’ve been right all along, but so that we would all begin to use our time more wisely, to spend the time on these forums to encourage and advance our united mission, and to actually spend less time on these forums and more time on our mission.

Which is actually part of the reason I’ve begun blogging…I can say what I want to say, and delete anyone who comes in here and comments with an agenda. I can spend more time simply fleshing out (through experience and practice more than just talk) some real, practical, missional issues on my own (or with some help from some like-minded people) so that I can be clearer about my purpose and the time I spend fulfilling my mission. I can talk about the real things that I’m doing, hear about the real things that others are doing.

Anyway, God is changing my heart, and it appears he’s working on some other’s as well!


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Q&A #03: Worship Choir?

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"Do any of you guys have a worship choir? How difficult is it to incorporate with music such as Passion, Hillsong United, etc. Do you have to be as technically proficient as with a traditional choir, or can you use simpler harmonies such as with the background vocals? Do they sing all the time with the congregation, or like typical backing vocals?"

I'm going to leave this one open for comments before I post. We've been using a "worship choir" for the past year, and I'm still putting all the pieces together, and I'd also like to hear what other people have to say about this topic...

Q&A #02: Youth Camp Worship

(Before reading this post and jumping in on the conversation, please check out the explanation of the Q/A Series I posted on Read Here First! on July 10, will help you understand a little more. Thanks!)

"Hey everyone. I am leading worship this year at a camp, and I'm looking for some fresh perspectives from contemporary worship leaders. First let me say, our team is really into the Hillsongs United stuff, as well as David Crowder, Jeff Deyo, Chris Tomlin, and Charlie Hall. We have a team of honestly great musicians who love the Lord. They sound excellent...anyways...I was just speaking with the assistant dean of the camp I'll be leading worship at, and have kinda ran into a small roadblock. I sent him my songlist, and he wrote back saying that he thought I was doing too many "new" songs. That he tries to keep up with the new stuff, and that even he hasn't heard these songs. He also said that it would be frustrating for students (sr. high) to have to try and learn new songs instead of singing stuff they already know. He also said that if he didn't know them, he was sure that the campers wouldn't either. My thoughts: I want to always be singing new stuff. I think that camp is the place to introduce "new" songs. And I plan to do fewer songs, and repeat them, so by the end of camp, the kids know these songs really well. Having said that - the songs aren't that new at all.

So, any thoughts? What would you do?"

My Response:
"When I've led camp worship (several times) in the past, most of the stuff I use is new, and like you, our total song list was usually under ten songs so that we were repeating the same songs all week so they'd learn them quickly AND recall a good spiritual memory of that week of camp whenever they heard one of those's never been a bad thing. The general rule of thumb is that it takes most people at least three times hearing a new song before they really can do a good job of singing along... if you repeat a song five times in one week, that gives them enough time to learn the song and remember it when they go home.

I'd ask the assistant dean if he might be willing to trust your judgment on this and take a little risk and see what happens. If not, that's OK with you, but you really beleive that this is where God is leading you. Ultimately, you've got to submit, but it's worth a shot. Got to be honest, I've never been in your situation before of being asked to modify what I was doing when leading worship at youth camp...I've always had the honor of working with other leaders who gave this area over to me completely, and again, it always was awesome to see how God worked to bring everything together.

BTW, and this is just my rebellious mind at work...I wonder if your camp speaker(s) are going to be teaching something new this year to challenge the kids, or if they're planning on bringing the same old same old so that they don't scare the kids with something new that could lead to a freshness in their relationship with God...?"

Q&A #01: Service Order and Flow

As I surf the net and participate in several online, church and worship leader chat forums, I especially like to seek out questions and issues posted by church and worship leaders related to leading and teaching about worship. I love the interaction between people as we bounce ideas arround, and I love to be able to share my own thoughts as, usually, typing things out helps me to form my own ways of doing things. Often, I'll come across something new, but most of the time, the questions and issues raised seem to be common situations that many deal with.

So, this post is #1 (I've been reading a lot of stuff about Comic Books lately) in this Q&A series in which I'll actually pull, usually word for word (although I’ll keep the OP anonymous), a question or issue posted on one of the forums I frequent along with my reply with the goal of starting our own, productive and encouraging conversation. So, feel free to chime in with a comment, or just sit back and soak in the wisdom that I offer you freely (tongue is in the cheek).

OP: "At the new church I pastor they were without a pastor four eight months. We are trying to get the service in order…we are trying to do hymns and praise songs. We start at 11:00 am (making plans to start at 10:50) and this is our first week trying and it did not go as good as I thought it would. It didn’t mix well…it was like we had some leading hymns for the older people and praise and worship songs for the younger people. It's like we had 2 music parts of the service. And the person who is leading the praise songs wants to do it all but he is not ready so I’m praying about what to do. I need your help and advice on how to solve this problem. We are just trying to come up with some thing that will "smooth out the edges to get a more cohesive feel to the service as a whole.

here is how the service went last week...
open song
2 more hymns
Praise songs

But, they both sing too many songs...what do you think we could try?”

My Response: “Some suggestions:

1) Do a dress rehearsal with everyone involved (speakers, musicians, technicians, ushers, etc.) until everyone involved gets the natural feel for things.

2) Do NOT allow any unexplained "dead time" during the service. It's great to have time in your service to "be still", but only when you've explained that this is what's going on. One of the biggest killers in the flow of a service is "dead time" between any two elements of the service. Work with your stage leaders to create good transitions. See my first suggestion.

3) Begin teaching everyone, those on the stage and in the congregation, that every part of your service can and should be an act of worship: praying, Scripture reading, singing, confession, silence, being still, listening to a sermon, taking notes, giving an offering, baptism, communion, signing a commitment card, and even greeting other worshipers. Another big killer of a service is the mindset that every aspect of the service is it's own little thing...your mindset should be that every part of the service relates to every other part of the service, and you've got to get the whole church thinking this way to create the natural flow that you want. Two great ways to subliminally do this: the wording in your bulletin, and what you say from the stage. In one of my churches, we changed the wording in our bulletin for the order of service to read: Worship through Fellowship, Worship through Our Singing, Worship through the Word, etc. When we get up on stage to lead into an element of our service, we say something like, “We invite you to worship with us as we sing to and about our God” or “We’re going to take a few minutes to worship God with our offerings and tithes”.

4) Related to number 3: make sure that EVERYTHING you do in your service is done with a purpose in mind and that it all fuels your ONE purpose for the service. You’ll need to decide what these things are. For example, we decided that making a lot of announcements just did not fit with our purpose…announcements tend to mess up the flow of the service, and most announcements only target a small percentage of the audience. We now usually just make 2-3 quick announcements, and they always are targeted at the majority of the audience. Begin questioning everything that you do during your service: Why do we sit when we do, stand, sing, why do use the bulletin, video, why do we do the offering at a certain time, the singing, the preaching, etc?

5) Set a goal for everyone to do everything with excellence. Do NOT set the goal to give it their best…some really bad (poor talent) people can give it their best and it will always be bad. Aiming to do everything with excellence will help you figure out who’s found the right ministry team to service in, and who needs some help to find a different ministry team. Even if you’ve put hours into something (a song, a video, a live skit), if it can’t be done well, cut it out.

6) Spend all of your time casting the vision, which means you need to figure out what your vision is for Sunday mornings. Every time you open your mouth, you should be casting the vision…whether it be for the purpose of your church, your worship service, your small groups, people’s lives, whatever, always cast the vision. Paint a picture of what things could be, relate it to how they really are right now, and offer a simple strategy for fulfilling the vision.”

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Read Here First!

Explanation of Q/A Series:
As I surf the net and participate in several online, church and worship leader chat forums, I especially like to seek out questions and issues posted by church and worship leaders related to leading and teaching about worship. I love the interaction between people as we bounce ideas arround, and I love to be able to share my own thoughts as, usually, typing things out helps me to form my own ways of doing things. Often, I'll come across something new, but most of the time, the questions and issues raised seem to be common situations that many deal with. That's what the Q/A Series is all about. When I see/hear a thought provoking question, I'll copy and paste the original post (OP) as well as my original response to the question/issue.

Explanation of Discussion Series:
This series is similar to the Q&A Series, but, instead of pulling third party questions for discussion, this series will focus on practical issues that you and I directly bring to discuss. The topics may be posted as statements or questions. If you're interested in getting a discussion going about a certain subject, issue, question, etc. that you feel may be fruitful for this blog, please email me and I'll consider posting it.

Explanation of Music Video Series:
This series is simply video of our band leading worship in nd around our church. I always love being able to attend other church and observe and/or steal some good ideas, but I don't get too many opportunities to travel. So, here's your chance to see what we do. Feel free to post links to your own videos as well!

Explanation of Our Church Media Series:
As our church grows bigger, we're learning more and more about how to use multi-media (video, music, graphics, etc.) for the glory of God. This series will present some of the stuf we do. Some of it is serious, some of it is silly, and some of it might actually be something you want to steal (and we give you permission to do so).

Explanation of First Impressions Series:
Beyond leading others in worship, my other big passion in church ministry is creating outstanding first impressions for the guests (especially the unchurched) who visit our church every week. This series is devoted to this passion of mine.

Explanation of Music Review Series:
As a worship leader, it seems I'm always listening to music with a critical ear...always looking for a new song that we could use on Sundays or in another ministry area. I'm guessing that other worship leaders do the same. This is my attempt to help us all out. Feel free to post your own reviews as well!

The purpose of this blog is to be interactive in an encouraging, challenging and unified way. I appreciate any attention that this blog receives, but what I'm really looking for is some good interaction and discussion, so please, feel free to jump in. Since this is my blog, I will excercise my ability/right to delete any comments that I consider to be offensive, demeaning, attacking or otherwise anti-the purpose of this blog. While I would love to read about differing views on the subjects discussed here, I will not allow for any negative "debate".

If you're interested in learning more about me and what I'm into, check out MilePost13.

Also, please, take a few minutes to read My Wife's Story.