Worship Confessional 7-20-08

So yesterday was a pretty good day. Still in the ‘Big Stories of the Bible’ series, we were raring to go with some good music and two skits.

The most exciting part is the way our team is expanding to include live music in our Power Jam kids’ service. The band that plays the big room one Sunday goes on to do PJ the following Sunday, and so far, so good. There’s a bit of a strain on our tech resources in terms of people, but we’re managing and learning and working out the kinks as we go.

We all gather at 9:05 – no matter what – to pray. (Yesterday, ‘what’ was the middle of our tech run – but we stop and pray regardless of what’s happening. We hope to have finished the tech run by 9:05, but thus far it hasn’t happened.) It’s awesome to see a big team gathered to pray…

Anyway, yesterday’s message was ‘The High Cost of Standing Your Moral Ground’, on the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. Again, Brian stepped away from the podium and did his message unscripted, which is a huge step out of his comfort zone – but one that is bringing great results.

Here’s what we did:

T-R-O-U-B-L-E – Travis Tritt. Yeah. First time I’ve ever heard ‘you’re a sweet-talkin’ sexy-walkin’ honky-tonkin’ baby’ in church. It was risky, but we had a disclaimer to ‘pay attention, and it’ll all make sense’, and it did, more or less. Of course, we’re talking about Potiphar’s wife. Trouble. Get it? One of our acoustic players, all-around-great-guy did the vocal, and he killed it. That’s a lot of spelling in one song.
Everywhere That I Go -Israel Houghton. We love it. This song was especially powerful for me as I got up and ready early in the morning. I listened while I was getting dressed, and the chorus really dug into my heart and gave me strength for the day. ‘You promise me/you’ll never leave/you promise me/I’m never forsaken/I believe/your goodness and mercy will follow me, surrounding me where I go/everywhere that I go’. I just needed that yesterday.
O Taste and See – Brian and Jenn Johnson. Another blog find; great tune. First time I actually got to play it, and our girl Gina rocked the house.

We transitioned with a short skit about small groups, home-grown and funny. Out of that one of our small group leadership team members did a short welcome, and we continued. During the offering, we’d showed pics from last week’s Mega Camp (VBS) and played ‘I Am Somebody’ underneath.

The message was excellent; he led us into a skit, The Ring (Willow Creek) in a very subtle fashion. As he finished, talking about the cost of sin, Brian just walked away and the lights came up stage left on our actor, a table and coffee cup. We found a track of coffe shop sounds on iTunes, looped it and played it during the skit, which set the perfect ambience. The piece worked well, with just two actors – the point was that the male character had cheated, and the female character was giving his ring back – but it was extremely subtle. Highly recommended for any services on adultery, betrayal, commitment, the cost of sin, etc.

As the skit ended, the female character walked away. We faded the lights on the man at the table and began the piano riff from Rebecca St. James’ version of Forgive Me (Scott Dyer, from Willow Creek). A lone male singer did the first two verses, as the ‘voice’ of the male character; after a creative key change, we brought the rest of the vocals in for the third verse, where the lyric changes tense and perspective:

“Lord, we come to honor you
We are forgiven
We bring our praise and thanks to you
We are forgiven now
Lord, we praise you for your grace
Before you we are raised…..forgiven”

Christian sang the final word – ‘forgiven’ – alone, and it was powerful. Then Brian returned to share the truth about forgiveness through Christ, and as he did, I played underneath, a little noodling that built as his words increased in intensity. He quoted Romans 7, and when he got to Romans 8 – ‘There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus‘, the crowd erupted in spontaneous applause. We kicked it hard and the band launched into the chorus of ‘Amazing Love’:

“Amazing love, how can it be
That you, my king would die for me
Amazing love, I know it’s true
And it’s my joy to honor you”

Then everybody went home. It was a good day.

Big Stories Of The Bible Video

Here’s the video we produced to launch the our series – even though, due to technical difficulties, we didn’t really “launch” until two weeks in. There are a few inside jokes (our pastor is follically challenged, as is one of our worship leaders – who also preaches – and the creator of this video as well.)

Kudos to Scotty G., the other bald guy, for creativity and technical skill. The idea grew out of somebody’s blog; I don’t remember who, but another church did this overdub idea and posted it and we thought it was funny. **Yes, I DO know who – I tracked down Stephen Parris at unmediocre and he confirmed that it was, indeed, his team who sparked this idea for us. Thanks, Stephen! And y’all check out his blog – good stuff!

Worship Confessional 7-13-08

I already wrote about my personal experience today, but here’s a run-down of the actual service.

We’re in the third week of Big Stories of the Bible 2.0 (or II) and today’s topic was Abraham and God’s request that he sacrifice Isaac. Heavy stuff – child sacrifice – for a 21st century church. Brian did an awesome job with the message (check out Powhatan Community Church on iTunes to get podcasts), and the rest of the service, though challenging, worked.

Today was the first day that we began to run live music in Power Jam, our kids’ ministry. To make this work, I split all of our musicians into three teams (they’d been running as two bands, serving two weeks on and two weeks off). The new schedule has one team in ‘Big Church’ for one Sunday, then in PJ the following week, then off one week. We’re going to try this until the end of August and see if we can get some momentum going and work out the technical kinks.

Today the tech issues and lack of manpower bit us hard during set up, and we ran really late. Our ‘Big Church’ team was heavy with teens and we really needed the extra time – but we didn’t get it. We ended up cutting a tune and working up to the wire with a good bit of stress – but attitudes were remarkably good and I sensed a prevailing spirit of unity.

Here’s how the service went down:

Happy Day – Tim Hughes. We had to change the key so our girls could lead it, and it lost some of its punch – plus we only had one electric guitar, and this song needs a bit more power. But it was a good start.
Marvelous Light – Charlie Hall. A first for us, the teenagers suggested it because they loved it at World Changers. Good song, pretty much the same chord progression as ‘Happy Day’, which I realized after we got into it…
Mighty To Save – Laura Story. Great song.
Our series introduction video was homegrown and a great first effort by Scott Gordon; I hope to post it here tomorrow.
The Guide – Borne. This is the tune we ended up cutting, but we’ll throw it in next time. Sweet song. It talks about Jesus, but I really don’t think it’s literally about Jesus – however, we chose to present it as such because that’s how those of us who know it interpret the song.
I Need to Wake Up – Melissa Etheridge. We left out the second verse for expediency and to avoid any political overtones, but this song stands powerfully in a worship service that calls for change, commitment, movement, etc. We wrapped it around a video – Clean Slate by Friendswood Community Church (check it out at WorshipHouse Media here); after the first verse and chorus, which were mostly acoustic, we played a quiet vamp underneath the video and its audio. As it ended, we pushed hard into the chorus, did the bridge, and then back through the chorus again. It really worked.

It was a good day – trying for us in terms of human resources, but also informative and a blessing. We stretched ourselves a good bit. Before service, when we gathered all of the Power Jam folks, the tech crew, all the musicians and everybody involved, we had a crowd of close to forty people. Now that is a powerful sight, seeing that many individuals commited to making church happen for their community and to ‘bring up there, down here.’


Worship Confessional 6.8.08

Still in the midst of ‘Goodbye Ordinary’ and we tried to create a service yesterday that would continue in that vein.

Opening worship was great, even with a post-rehearsal song addition per our pastor’s request. A note on that; we have a mutually respectful arrangement in which either of us can push back as hard as we want about song choices or other creative elements. Fortunately, my pastor is wired just a bit like an artist, and he gets it. When we butt heads about creative stuff, it usually results in something good. He called on Thursday (after rehearsal) and asked if we could change the closing song. I was already stressed about how some of the other music would go, but he pushed hard. I always ultimately defer to his judgement, because we’ve established a level of trust that undergirds our decision-making process – plus I have a great deal of respect for the fact that God has called him to lead the church as a whole. I know he respects the area that I lead. So, it works.

Anyway, the topic this week was ‘Do What Matters’; we were addressing the idea of serving God through the local church. Here’s the run-down:

Happy Day – Tim Hughes. I stumbled upon this song through somebody else’s blog and it is KILLER. For a church like ours, it is a shining example of something that invites the seeker and thrills the believer; it’s a high-energy tune, easy to sing, a great example of joy for someone looking in from the outside to witness. For the believer, it’s a great opportunity to declare O happy day, happy day/you washed my sin away/O happy day, happy day/I’ll never be the same/Forever I am changed. Great opener.

Great Things – Matt Maher. Again, a blogging discovery, and what a great one! I really like Maher’s music and this song was an instant hit with our crowd. Even though it was brand new, they were all singing along by the time we hit the second chorus. Excellent worship tune; it goes in the rotation for sure.

That’s Why We Praise Him – Tommy Walker. Can’t go wrong with this guy…great transition for a baptism day (from a happy day to lots of great things, all of which come together to be the reason we praise Him. Get it?)

During the welcome and comments, we presented gold-plated serving spatulas to four of our high-capacity volunteers (two in each service). We went over the top, making it look like an Oscars presentation (including the beautiful glamour girl trophy presenter, which happened to be one of my daughters…) It was a bit risky, I felt, because it was silly – but the crowd was so with us that they gave the honorees a standing ovation, completely unprovoked, which made it work. Brian said a few nice things about the investment each individual makes to the life of the church (we’re talking about 20-30 hours per week volunteers – amazing people).

We commissioned a team of 20 senior high teens who are going on a World Changers mission trip next week, and they helped collect the offering.

Baptism – Randy Travis. This was our nod to the baptism we planned for the afternoon. Our country crew pulled it off beautifully – we have a guy who plays dobro and a killer mandolin player. Along with my buddy Don, they did a great job giving the tune just the right flavor.

During the message, we played a video interview with a fellow who heads up our ushers team. Tom and his wife credit the church and Jesus with saving their marriage after they started attending a few years ago. He was baptized last year, which was unforgettable; Tom is in a wheelchair, and several men of the church carried him into the river to baptize him with his wife. We showed a clip of that with the interview, where he shared about the impact the church had on his life, along with his relationship with Christ, baptism and call to serve. It was cool.

Majesty – Delirious. Wow. Just wow, again. Powerful worship.

Something remarkable is happening in our worship experiences lately. It feels different, as if the spirit of God is moving in a way that is fresh and new for our body. I am remarkably grateful…

We met at the James River later that afternoon and baptized almost 40 people. What can you say about such a thing? It was incredibly powerful. Baptism remains my favorite part of the journey – and to be outside, in the river, surrounded by family, friends (and people just hanging out fishing and drinking beer and lazing in their boats!), hearing the cheers with each individual’s rise out of the water into ‘new life’ – there’s nothing better.

It was a good day.

How was yours?

Worship Confessional 6.1.08

We launched our new series yesterday – “Goodbye Ordinary”, with a nod towards Mercy Me and their new cd, All That Is Within Me. Which is good – really good. I’m not a huge fan, though I have a ton of respect for what they do and enjoy their music – but I’ve only ever listened in terms of what would work in a service. I find that I really enjoy this record personally.

Anyway – we’ve built a series to address stewardship, serving, evangelism and missions over the next four weeks, culminating in a community/church-wide service project that will – we hope – have a powerful positive impact on the community. We’re having one service only on June 22, which will be a huge thing in itself, to have all 1000+ of us together at one time. After a quick lunch, we’re headed out to blanket a neighborhood with service projects, home repair, yard work, etc. Anything that’s needed. I can’t wait – I’m excited and apprehensive! We’ve never undertaken anything that feels quite this risky! I think it will be a great opportunity for us to truly make a difference in the community.

Yesterday, we launched the whole thing. It was one of the most laughter-filled services we’ve had in a while – the message had several memorable, funny illustrations, and the service was just plain FUN. Here’s how it went:

Goodbye Ordinary -Mercy Me. As mentioned, good stuff. Heavy guitar tune; it plays like a great rock and roll song. Great chorus: Live like there’s no tomorrow/love extravagantly/lead a life to be followed/goodbye ordinary, goodbye ordinary
All To You – Lincoln Brewster. We do this tune a lot, but we like it a lot.
Hosanna -Paul Baloche. Hadn’t done this one in a while and I was glad I pulled it out. Great worship song, and I received a really cool email this morning that turned into a true God Story. It’s posted on our church blog; if you have a minute, go read it and find out how God can sometimes get His fingers in our worship planning in ways we can’t even imagine.
He Is Yahweh – Dean Salyn/Vineyard. Amazing tune. Anytime we have a few extra percussionists, we pull this one out. It works every time, even though it’s one of the longest tunes we play. Our church has really come to love this song.

It was a longer-than-usual worship set, but it worked.

Next came the fun stuff – I stepped out front to introduce the series. I had a copy of the Mercy Me cd and offered to give it away to the first person to text me the correct answer to the question of the day. Since we’re living in ‘extra-ordinary’ times with the price of gas and food, the question we posed was this: What was the price of a gallon of unleaded gas this morning at Sheetz (the one big local gas station/hangout in our little county)?

Smart me, I upgraded my texting plan Saturday night. Cleared out all of the old messages. Was prepared.

But no. Try it sometime – try having about 80 text message hit your phone all at the same time. Every time I tried to open the text to read the response, another one would come in and take me back to the main menu. I couldn’t pick the winner because I couldn’t read the texts.

And there I stood, fumbling a little…at one point, I think I whined, “Stop texting me!” Everybody laughed and it was, honestly, pretty comfortable and funny – but I just about died. At one point I glanced over at my pastor, who was simply smirking at me and (I think) enjoying watching me squirm.

I finally found the correct answer, saw the number long enough to identify it and we managed to give away the cd. Our media team had stopped by Sheetz in the morning and taken a photo of the sign out front, which they happily posted. We changed locations for the second service and picked another local, well-known gas station/restaurant (yes, seriously. Frisby’s is where you get gas AND the best breakfast in the county, if you can bear the smoky haze in the ‘dining area’.) New picture, same phone issue – but it worked eventually and we had fun.

I felt like a game show host.

After that, our offering tune was Surrender; I posted about that experience below. It was beautiful – love that song, and love it when the band really listens to one another and makes some seriously beautiful music. We have this mandolin player who is, I am not kidding, a genius.

The message started; it was called “Ways To Be Miserable” (catchy title for a teaching on stewardship and money). As Brian started talking about one of his most miserable times in his life (due to physical illness while on vacation), a few of our band guys interrupted with a quick a capella piece. They sang:

Gloom, despair and agony on me (OH!)

Deep, dark depression, excessive misery (OH!)

If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all (OH!)

Gloom, despair and agony on me

It was hysterically funny, for those who remembered “Hee Haw” (props to Buck Owens and Roy Clark, God rest their souls.) (Anybody with me on that? Bill? Jayne? Mindy, probably not….Kim, probably not…) (Anyway…)

Message was great, and we ended with Dear Money by Josh Wilson. On the guitar solo, Kevin opened his wallet and threw his credit cards and money all over the stage. Funny.

It was a good day and I think people enjoyed the morning, and swallowed that pill of Jesus-talked-about-money-more-than-anything-else-in-the-Bible pretty well. We’ll see. My 13-year old daughter said that she thought it was enough funny, she wanted more serious. Oh, well.

Sunday’s right around the corner.

How was YOUR day?

And by the way, how did it get to be June? Where did May go?

Worship Confessional 5.25.08

Finishing up our ‘Growing Great Families’ series, inspired by our pastor’s study of family systems. I think we really helped some people these past few weeks. It’s awesome to deliver some relevant truth about life, humanity and relationships, center them on the Word and then open the door for further conversation and study in small groups and other meetings.

Here was our set:

Everywhere That I Go – Israel Houghton. Always a great way to start a service, though we struggled with the groove at times…
Sing to the King – Billy Foote (has this guy every written anything but a great song?) This tune gave our young worship leader a chance to step out a bit after a long maternity break. Awesome song, easy for the congregation to sing, and powerful in that second verse, ” ‘Cause Satan is vanquished and Jesus is king!!!!!”
God of Wonders – Marc Byrd, Steve Hindalong. Haven’t done this one in a while. It doesn’t lose its power, in my opinion – unless you do it once a month.
I was sick this week and didn’t get a chart written for the song I had hoped to do as a special during the offering, so we defaulted to a band jam. I brought in the simple chart for David Crowder’s version of All Creatures of Our God and King . We played it three times through, after one run-through during sound check. Of course, we got tons of inquiries and compliments. Sweet song and timeless melody…

The message was based on how to have a healthy relationship with your spouse, and our pastor tied the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ to the Galations text about the fruit of the spirit. He gave good, solid instruction on how to view the bible holistically in this case, and take seriously what it meant to be ‘fruitful’ in the context of love-joy-peace-patience-kindness-gentleness-goodness-faithfulness-self control with your loved one. It was excellent, and out of his comfort zone; he memorized most of the message, and his wife came out and wordlessly illustrated his points with the couch he used as a prop. One of the best messages he’s given.

As the message ended, our go-to acoustic player (Andy, who has a band you can listen to here) wandered out on the stage with his guitar. The worship leader came out and together they did a sweet version of Steven Curtis Chapman’s I Will Be Here; a perfect end to the service and our own tribute to the Chapman family this week.