WORSHIP & How to tell if it is organic

by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D., 4/27/17.

In the Abingdon Press book ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church I described characteristics of worship that promote an organic atmosphere.  Here is an updated brief list:

Worship flows from the audience to the stage, not the other way around.

  1. Inorganic worship: This is usually manufactured with moving lights in the haze of an artificial fog. It may be lead by the worship team with admonitions of “Come on, let’s praise Him” or “Clap your hands for Him.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve done all of those things (too many times to list).
  2. Organic worship: But, I have observed worship that is more natural and flowing from the Holy Spirit originates from the audience and moves across the stage, not the other way around.

The focus is on what is going on inside of your head and heart, not what is going on on the stage.

  1. Inorganic worship: Often focuses on beautiful slides/videos behind words with moving lights on the walls and the audience.
  2. Organic worship: The focus is on what God is doing in each congregants’ head and heart.  The lights on the stage often come from the back of stage, illuminating the worship team as silhouettes so the faces are not illuminated (so that the expressions of the worship team do not distract).

For more see ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church or email me you additions.


WORSHIP & Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style / More Churches Less Innovative #AmericanCongregationsStudy

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My colleague Aaron Earls, while analyzing Hartford Seminary’s American Congregations 2015 study, points out that innovation in worship is declining today. Earls sums up how this impacts churches by stating, “While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report.” Relevant and engaging worship is critical for the sake of church mission and so she needs to launch into innovative worship again. While writing the book “Inside the Organic Church: Learning from 12 Emerging Congregations” one major takeaway was that innovative worship kept younger churches not only growing, but their worship more joyful too. Read Earl’s article for good insights based on Hartford Seminary’s report.

Fewer Churches Changing Worship Style
by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, 3/31/16.

Most churches appear to have settled on their preferred worship style, according to the American Congregations 2015 study, as the growth of contemporary music in worship has “largely plateaued” and churches’ willingness to change worship has declined over the last five years…

These three points demonstrate the static nature of worship in American churches.

1. Most see their church worship as similar to five years ago. When asked to describe their services as joyful, reverent, or thought provoking, there were only slight variations in the last five years.

Those describing their worship as very joyful grew less than 1 percent, while those calling their worship reverent decreased by slightly more than 2 percent. The percentage saying it was thought provoking remained the same.

2. Contemporary worship has plateaued. To avoid a vague definition of contemporary worship, researchers began asking churches if they used electric guitars. After a relatively large jump in usage toward the beginning of the century, growth has stalled.

Churches using electric guitars climbed almost 10 percent from 2000 to 2005, but since then growth has been under 2 percent in the last 10 years.

3. Fewer churches describe their worship as innovative. Churches where worship is described as “quite or very innovative” declined from 38 percent to 32 percent.

While it may signal less conflict over worship changes, less innovation does make churches less likely to grow or be healthy, according to the American Congregations report…

Read more at … http://factsandtrends.net/2016/03/17/fewer-churches-changing-worship-style/#.Vv0MLGH3aJI

ATTRACTIONAL & How To Keep the Focus Off of the Musicians

By Bob Whitesel, 7/6/14

While researching young growing churches I found that they often diligently work to keep the focus off of the musicians (and subsequently more on the supernatural presence of Christ). At Mars Church in Grandville Michigan the platform was in the middle of the sanctuary with congregants on four sides when I visited. It might be expected that the band would face outward on each of the four sides. But instead the band faced inward toward each other. Turning their backs upon the audience allowed the focus to be upon the large screens above them with the lyrics. The result was the focus was on the lyrics, not the singers.

At Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz the band was off stage out of the limelight on my forts visit. A simple cross was central on the platform. Dan Kimball even preached from the side of the stage, mentioning that his purpose wa to allow the cross to take the central focus.*OC Cover 64K

Not long afterward, I found a similar strategy at Solomon’s Porch in Minneapolis. Here, like Mars Hill, the stage was in the middle and the audience surrounded it on four sides. But the band was behind the audience along one of the walls.

In these and many more visits to young congregations over the years I have found similar strategies to downplay the musicians and up-play the presence of Christ (for more details on these and other examples see my “Inside the Organic Church” by Abingdon Press).

Here are two ways you can start to get the focus off of the musicians.

1) Don’t put the musicians onstage and/or on the video screens. I believe this propensity for focusing/broadcasting the musicians comes from our cultural infatuation with concerts and popstars. It is hard to concentrate on Christ when a 15ft tall image of a musician looms above our heads, even if the lyrics are superimposed.

Instead, put the musicians off stage or off center, and put an icon relevant to the message/theme center stage (such as Vintage Faith’s platform-central cross).

2) If you don’t have room to move the band from the central platform, take the front lights off of them. Instead, put backlighting on the band (that means lighting them from behind with the lights shining on their backs). This creates a silhouette or outline of the band and worship leaders where their posture of worship is visible but not the nuances of their facial expressions. Some think musicians will not be able to see their music this way. But actually backlighting puts more light on their sheet music and less on any unintended facial frustrations.

The idea of putting the band offstage is not new. 35+ years ago I noticed the same strategy at one of the central churches of the 1960s Jesus Movement. Calvary Chapel was the California epicenter of this movement and was the magnet for California musicians both famous or unknown. But Pastor Chuck Smith regularity led the worship himself wit the musicians tucked away from the platform. The strategy took the focus away from the many professional yet hidden musicians and upon the singing of the 7,000 attendees.

CULTURE & Entertaining Videos on Cultural Time-warps #Multi-site #Multi-venue

by Bob Whitesel, 8/15/08

I’ve observed that people can get stuck in a “cultural time-warp” at the period when they experienced new birth and/or rapid spiritual growth. The result is that people connect music, styles, etc. associated with the time of their salvation/growth with “spiritually powerful” songs, styles, etc..  They feel the songs that impacted them, will always impact others.

And, this is normal but not beneficial. That is because the result can be that people will expect (and subtly require) others be touched by the same cultural songs, styles, etc. that they once enjoyed.

Here are some videos that can serve as an example.

Video A: The first was taken during the Jesus Movement of the late 60s and early 70s. I was saved at that time. And, this was how the ideal worship happened back then: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_kaEucoyNI

Video B: This next video is how Jesus Movement morphed into: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FIgiNAB99T0&feature=related

Video C: Here now is an example of how worship can happen in the e-world of today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaJ4A7mXJH8&feature=player_embedded

Which is better? How are they different?

Actually, A and C are very organic and much the same, only one eschewed technology (e.g. it is a cappella – which means “in the style of Medieval church music”) and the other relies on technology. As a person who has researched and experienced both the Jesus Movement and the Emerging Movement, I have pointed out that they are both very organic and similar (Inside the Organic Church, 2006, pp. xxiii-xxxiii).

The middle example (Video B) is what many Jesus Movement boomers grew to prefer. It is more event-orientated and resembles more of a concert format. For many boomers this could be their idea Sunday morning worship expression.

I think we would agree that these worship expressions are sometimes dissimilar, and at other times similar. And, that all three are valid, just for different people and different times. Thus, churches that are seeking to reach out to multiple cultures will want to have multiple worship expressions, so 2+ cultures can be reached. And, they may need to be at separate venues, for different cultures prefer different styles. When a church accommodates different cultural styles, it makes the church more inclusive, diverse and long-lived.