The first time I ever saw one of these “beatboxes” used in a live setting was Imogen Heap on Letterman singing “Last Train Home.” You can catch that awesome performance here.
The first time I ever saw one of these “beatboxes” used in a live setting was Imogen Heap on Letterman singing “Last Train Home.” You can catch that awesome performance here.
It can surprise, and make you feel, and reflect beauty, and shout about God’s genius.
My good friend Mark Edwards (aka Original Mark Edwards aka OME) is releasing his new album (“Tired Birds”) this Friday, January 14, here in the Twin Cities. See details above. If you want to know more about (OME), click here. Get “Tired Birds” on iTunes here. If you want advanced tickets to the Friday night CD release party, click here.
And if you want a taste, here you go…
Here’s the thing… iPads and iPhones (a nod to modern culture) and funny hats (entertainment) and secular music (a nod to modern culture) and a sense of humor (entertainment) are a comfortable part of the Sunday Morning experience at North Point Community Church. By their methodology, it’s easy to see they are intentionally creating an entertaining venue… and it’s fun.
So… the question of the day… Is that bad?
Attractive to “seekers,” or according to Northpoint, “a church for the unchurched.” And I really need to press the point here… Is that bad?
What caught my attention as I viewed this funkalicious Christmas tech-fest on You Tube was the “like-dislike” count at the bottom of the viewing window. Sure, over 3,000 have given their virtual thumbs-up. But I was more interested in the 100+ who voiced their red-thumbed “dislike.”
Triple digits worth of “dislike.” For musical awesome sauce via gadgetry. How can this be?? And yet, I get it. Because church is about reverence. And worship. And worship is about giving of ourselves in grateful devotion to God. Church services are not for our entertainment – and the mixing of penitent adoration of the Almighty with “funny hats” is not only inappropriate… it’s vulgar. Maybe even blasphemous. Further still, we do a deeply dangerous disservice to “seekers” when we lure them into church for more of what the world has to offer, don’t we? More production and slick camera angles and lighting and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” We’re missing our golden opportunity to share the deeply counter-cultural message of Jesus, humiliated on our behalf, and come to earth as an infant. A breathtaking descent from glory… and we give lost sinners “Feliz Navidad” auto-tuned for a laugh?
That is bad. Right?
Although comments have been disabled for this video, I have friends whom I’m sure would be quick to punch that little red down-turned thumb of disapproval. Maybe you did. If your reverence for the Lord just can’t stomach this kind of “fun” and “church” in the same space, I totally understand. I think there is valid reason for concern. Northpoint’s methodology says something about their theology…
I just ask this of my red-thumb pushing friends… Consider that what you THINK this video says about the theology of Northpoint Community Church may not actually be what this video says about the theology of Northpoint Community Church.
Assumption #1: Northpoint doesn’t value reverence – they treat God and the Sabbath with casual indifference rather than pious humility and devotion.
Assumption #2: Northpoint believes they need to pander to culture, rather than creating a counter-culture, in order to connect with the unchurched.
Assumption #3: Northpoint displays a fundamental misunderstanding of worship when they mix “entertainment” into the church service.
I’m here to challenge all of those assumptions.
On the first point, I’ll submit the following alternative… Could it be that Northpoint DOES, in fact, know how to lead their congregation into times of deep, reverent worship? Is it possible that they have a VERY clear understanding of worship, and that it is a sacrificial offering of ourselves to the Lord? Is it possible that Northpoint sets aside times for communication with God that are intensely personal and reverent, while having the freedom to laugh together and have fun in community at other times? I can answer that… yes they do.
I have seen, heard, and participated in worship with the Northpoint community. Their reverence for God runs deep. He is exalted as sovereign over all. Remember that this video was only 7 minutes long. What did they do with the other 76 minutes they were together that morning? I bet the truth of the Word was shared. I bet there was a time for people to think, and listen to God, and respond. I bet reverent worship happened in that space. Maybe a better question… considering that we are called to worship as an ongoing state of being, is there really anything wrong with taking 7 minutes out of the 110,880 minutes we have each week to have a little fun?
In response to the second point, I’ll submit the following alternative… Could it be that Northpoint does not “pander to culture” because they don’t believe that the Gospel is “enough” to win the spiritually skeptical, but instead they “become all things to all men” (like Paul on Mars Hill in Athens) and speak the language of the culture (like Jesus did, using present day analogies to communicate timeless truth through parables) in order to START the conversation… to get the unchurched neighbor in the door… in order that they might hear the life-saving message of the Gospel? I can answer that… yes they do.
In but not of. IN but not of. IN THE WORLD, but not of it. “I do not pray that you take them out of the world…” Jesus asked His Father on our behalf (John 17), “but that you would keep them safe from the evil one.” Again, how will our neighbors come to faith if they never hear the truth? And if an iBand video on YouTube brings some curious visitors in the door… in the door of a church… where the Gospel is preached… Is that bad?
In response to the third point, I’ll submit the following alternative… Could it be that Northpoint is not sinfully engaged in irreverent license here, but instead is joyfully reflecting the freedom we have in Jesus?
Um… I actually can’t answer that one. Not for sure. But I give them the benefit of the doubt. Here’s why:
And this one is actually a really big deal. I’m a deep believer in allowing FUN in church. We are commanded over and over again to rejoice in the Lord, and that the JOY of the Lord is our strength. Further, we are set free for freedom’s sake in Jesus Christ. FREEDOM and JOY. I’d submit that a theology that does not allow fun within the walls of the church is not somehow more pious. It’s just less fun.
Because I have seen the clear preaching of Law and Gospel from Northpoint, and because many many many many souls have been saved through this ministry, I trust that this yuletide iBand is simply in keeping with their clearly stated calling as a church… to be a church for the unchurched. I trust that they know full well the difference between entertainment and worship. I trust that they have learned that flash and production values might pique an unbeliever’s interest, but only Jesus can save a soul. Bottom line… I trust that God is at work there.
I’m deeply concerned that we understand our place before a Holy God. That we know what it means to fear Him as the Sovereign King. But I think Northpoint understands that, too. I think they just enjoy being alive. Maybe where you fall on the thumbs-up/thumbs-down scale with this technogeek carol fest in church has less to do with your theology and more to do with your assumptions. Or maybe it says a whole bunch about mine.
What do you think?
“northpoint, ipads, and christmas cheer :: can fun and reverence coexist?” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
That just happened.
(1) 0:07 — Bearded guy’s hand dance.
(2) 0:38 — Sal’s rock-star double head bob, Christian-style
(3) 0:57 — “rock and roll…” BWAAAhahahahahaha!!
(4) 1:14 — The sudden vocal tone shift out of the curious and inexplicable quasi-ethnic pop staccato of the majority of this song into a swarthy baritone, for just a moment, bringing special emphasis to the text for “…of mine.” Genius.
(5) 1:51 — Jesus is a Mountie, eh?
(6) 1:56 — You know it. “ZAP.” Good times.
(7) 2:11 — Pretty sure we’re seeing a drug addled Mandy Patinkin rocking those acrylic drums.
(8) 2:22 — “Hoo.”
(9) 2:25 — The evil spirit of Elvis Presley’s lascivious hips seems to be possessing of our poor bespectacled guitar player.
(10) 2:35 — “I have a friend in je-SUS.”
I’m just going to sit here another minute and savor the goodness. Can’t wait to rock this one at Living Hope with matching outfits. So reverent. So real. So good.
“four and a half million shades of wrong :: ‘jesus is a friend of mine’ top ten list” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
As a Worship Pastor, when I hear that, I feel two things simultaneously… a sudden urge to give someone a hug, and a sudden urge to throw up in my mouth a little bit.
I know… people are out to encourage the worship guy. And they probably did have a genuinely inspiring time connecting with God. I get it. As the encouragee, that’s the part of me that wants to embrace my encourager with an “I love you, man” back slap.
Truth is, I get a little bit uncomfortable rating worship on a scale of “horrible” to “awesome sauce.” Truth be told, if we are “rating” our worship experience, we don’t really understand worship, right? Now, I’m not an idiot. (Some of you may want to chime in here, but we’re moving on…) I do understand that this may be a matter of semantics to some degree.
But words matter.
Precise language matters. Sometimes you can accidentally communicate all kinds of things you never meant to say, simply with careless word choices. So, as a Worship Pastor, I’m careful about this stuff.
Worship doesn’t = music. You probably came to that conclusion years ago. But what is it again exactly? Worship is our response to God for who He is, for what He has said, for what He has done, and for what He is going to do. We love God because He loved us. Worship at it’s core is a response of love and gratitude expressed to God because of the gospel. Music works great to help that happen, when a whole group of people are in the same space for the purpose of worshipping God. That’s why churches use it. Music helps focus many individual hearts on some aspect of God, so that we might respond with love… or examine our hearts and humbly confess our need for God… our brokenness. Our sin. But the response – whatever God prompts – that response is the worship.
If we keep that in mind, how strange to rate our worship experience on a quality scale, right? But we do.
At Living Hope Church, I love it when people talk to me about the music AND their worship experience – as two separate thoughts. It shows me that they get it… The quality of their WORSHIP response to God has much more to do with their view of GOD then it does with the quality of the MUSIC we lead.
This stuff has been rattling around in my brain these last few days since a friend of mine posted a thought on Facebook about excellence in church production…
AMEN. As a long-standing and vocal promoter of excellence in church art, music, design, programming, production, etc. I think this bears repeating often. My ultimate standard in measuring “excellence” in ministry production is this… Is it effective?
I don’t mean “effective” as in just “good enough for church.” I’ll even take “inspiring.” Good times. But my ministry PURPOSE must help clarify my methods. As a worship leader and service planner, my purpose is to help clearly communicate the hard truth that we are all depraved sinners, dead in our sin, needing rescue and resuscitation… and the AMAZING true love story that Jesus Christ died on a cross and rose from the dead for us, to restore us to life and meaning and joy again. Our purpose is to provide space and opportunity for people to respond to that truth week after week. That’s it. The heart of it.
Therefore, if our music and lighting and production becomes SO “excellent” that it begins to draw attention to itself… then it is no longer “excellent.” Because it is no longer effective. Because then the production is drawing attention AWAY from the Lord. In fact, that’s not just a little bit of a focus problem… that is the polar opposite of the ministry purpose.
So, can BAD musicianship / drama / art / lighting / production hinder worship? Absolutely. And can AMAZING musicianship / art / drama / lighting / production hinder worship. Absolutely. Non-distracting + inspiring + authentic + humble = thumbs up. Amazing showmanship with extra flash sauce = thumbs down.
So if you’re in the habit of giving your worship leader at church a high five after a particularly rippin’ guitar solo and telling him “The worship was AWESOME today!” you might want to take a step back… Ask yourself if you gave yourself to Jesus again today, fully surrendered, as a walking THANK YOU to God for who He is and what He’s done in your life. If so, worship WAS awesome today. Even if the Praise Team played with the sensitivity and musical agility of a pregnant yak. Doesn’t matter. What matters is what was going on in your heart, and how you responded to God’s love today.
If you’re a worship leader who is in the habit of rating your church’s worship experience based on the quality of the music you produce, you are giving yourself too much credit. Worship isn’t “better” if you sing like Tomlin, play like Brewster, and your light system looks like a Pink Floyd retrospective. Remember that the music, the art, the production is the TOOL.
Worship is the goal.
“supressing my gag reflex :: worship leading with excellence… but not too much excellence” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
I mean, I’m pretty much regular-sized… but I do love me some Don Miller.
This summer I read two of his books in a week. One of them was A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, the story of Don’s best selling book Blue Like Jazz being made into a movie, and how that caused him to examine his life story… to see if he was living one worth telling.
I loved it. LOVED it. He challenged me to live a life story of passion, risk, purpose, and adventure. To help my boys see themselves as heroes – as men of honor – purposing to live out valiant life stories of their own. I’ve been waiting for the theatrical release of “Blue Like Jazz” with the kind of anticipation six-year-olds exhibit between dinner and the opening of the gifts while the grown-ups wash the dishes on Christmas Eve.
But now… well, watch this:
So I figure now we have a chance to make this story even more unique. What’s more fitting than a fan-funded effort to help birth this great story on the big screen? You want some ownership in a great story? >> Go here.
There is a team of artist-historians called StoryCorps
This is the story of Danny and Alice. Danny is dying.
I have three thoughts:
(1) I love my Amy. I love her.
(2) Everybody, everybody, everybody dies some day.
(3) I Thessalonians 4:13-14 >> “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died.”
“danny loves annie :: danny is dying :: hope stronger than wishes” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
I could just let that stand as my entire blog post, and I’d probably field a slew of comments… albeit far ranging in subject matter and context.
But if you have lead worship in a church with any contemporary leanings in the last six months, I’d bet you a ham sandwich that you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. I am referring, of course, to that great declaration of the love of God in the epic ballad “How He Loves,” by John Mark McMillan (or “JMM” as the church creative community calls him these days.)
I knew this song was a big deal. I knew it the first time I heard it. And then a couple weeks ago uber-blogger Carlos Whittaker posted a question on his blog (ragamuffinsoul.com) about what songs really seem to be powerfully impacting local churches across the country right now. Hundreds of worship leaders, pastors, and lay people commented and left their lists of what God seems to be blessing and using right now to speak to his church. At the top of the list? Yep. “How He Loves.”
The crux of the issue of discussion comes in verse three. Listen to these two brief examples, first in the original format, the way John wrote and recorded it, and then the updated version, as recorded by David Crowder:[audio:http://www.jskogerboe.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/howheloves_2kisses.mp3|titles=howheloves_2kisses]
>> Original (via JMM): Heaven meets earth like a SLOPPY WET kiss…
>> Updated (via Crowder): Heaven meets earth like an UNFORESEEN kiss…
If you’re a worship leader, you have most likely already come down on one side or the other of this debate. It has been interesting to watch. Now the debate rolls on, as various congregations and artists consider the ramifications of rewriting someone else’s poetry to edit out the distracting (or offensive) phrases. How does John Mark McMillan feel about all of the hubbub? You can read his excellent response here. In a nut shell, he has no problem with David Crowder recording his song with the new text… on the other hand, he’s asking why the Church can’t handle singing about God stuff using the phrase “sloppy wet kiss.” “Are we in Kindergarten?” he asks.
And to be clear, John wasn’t EVER intending to say that somehow God interacts with us, His children, through a “sloppy wet kiss.” The lyrics are “heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss.” It is the messy, beautiful mingling of the divine and the natural realm through Jesus’ condescension – most specifically at the cross – that John is marvelling at here. “But,” he says, “Heaven meets earth like a ‘gory mess’ didn’t have the same ring to it.”
Right. Here’s the thing…
When it comes to the corporate worship setting, we as worship leaders are called to model authentic worship and lead in such a way that people can focus on and respond to God in an intimate way. Free of distractions.
And THAT is the issue for me. Like I said at the top of the post, I prefer sloppy wet kisses to unforeseen kisses. The artist in me revels in the beauty of that poetic idea. Just a few well chosen words convey so much depth and emotion. So if I am singing this in my car, or in the shower, or in my prayer closet… I’m all about those sloppy wet kisses.
But when I lead this song at Living Hope Church, I know… because they have told me so… that a number of people in our congregation just get weebed out singing that phrase. It’s not that we’re not mature enough somehow to sing “sloppy wet kisses” without blushing. It’s simply that the phrase is awkward. It is arresting, because it is so vivid a metaphor. And the fact that it is arresting makes the phrase both powerful (in an artistic sense) and ineffective (in our church) as a worship tool. So what could be a POWERFUL reminder and declaration of God’s love for us runs the danger of becoming… that “sloppy wet kiss” song.
One little change of wording, and the whole song works – powerfully – free of distraction, and full passion.
Yep, I’ve done this song both ways. On one occasion, when I failed to communicate clearly with our vocalists on the Worship Team, we did it both ways at the same time. I don’t recommend that.
But from this point on, I’ve choose to lead with “unforeseen kiss.” At the end of the day, it is NOT about my preference. It is NOT about singing the better poetry. In the end, when I lead worship I want to help our people throw themselves deeper into their love response to God – and that means removing distractions as we lead them. That means that our purpose trumps our preferences every time.
How about your church? Are you all down with your bad selves and rockin’ that sloppy wet kiss? Or are you surrendering to the less provocative unforeseen kiss? And more to the point… why?
“the great sloppy wet kiss debate :: preference, poets, and purpose” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
To know Jeremy more deeply, visit JeremyErickson.com. And you do want to know Jeremy more deeply. His life/art/story/faith/God will make your life more beautiful.
Thanks Jer, for letting me post this here. The honor is mine, brother.
“dakota skies :: jeremy erickson, art, and mirrors” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.