#SundayChurchHacks – Worship leaders should minimize their talking before or between songs. These interjections often become mini-sermons & detract from the primary preaching of the Word.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel:  I love the passion, wisdom and commitment of our worship leaders. But, in analyzing worship services as well as polling congregants, I have found that speaking between worship songs can have three unintended consequences.

  1. It can interrupt the flow between the songs.
  2. These mini-sermons often head in a different direction that the eventual sermon.
  3. The mini-sermons can make listeners weary of listening to a speaker before the sermon begins.

CHRISTMAS & “A Christmas Carol With a Rich Legacy,” new article by Bob Whitesel published in #BiblicalLeadershipMagazine.

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 12/23/19, Biblical Leadership Magazine.

Most people are familiar with the classic and oft sung Christmas carol: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” Fewer people may realize that it was Charles Wesley who wrote the words to this tune. Still fewer people may know that Charles Wesley had an important leadership principle in mind when he penned his Christmas classic.

IMG_1151.jpegCharles, and his more well-known brother John, were the practical and theological leaders of the Wesleyan Movement, which today has grown into many varieties of Methodism, including the United Methodist Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, Christian and Missionary Alliance, Church of God in Christ, Free Methodist, Freewill Baptists, Church of the Nazarene, Assemblies of God, Seventh-day Adventists, Church of Christ, Foursquare Church, Calvary Chapels, Vineyard Churches, Salvation Army, many others and, of course, Wesleyans.

In fact, a sizable 26% of all Christian denominations can trace their history back to the Wesleyan revival.

And music was an important leadership principle in that revival. Charles wrote between 5,000 and 8,000 hymns (it depends upon who you ask). He wrote the lyrics, putting them to carefully selected tunes by composers of the day. In fact, it is said that Charles dictated to his wife his final hymns from his death bed.

Charles’ motivation was because he realized that good biblical leadership required hymns to meet the needs of the congregants who sung them. And, in part his hymns were written to address an important need.

Most of Charles’ listeners where were biblically illiterate and many were functionally illiterate too. Therefore, Charles wrote hymns with clear theology, but in memorable phrases. His goal was to help those singing remember biblical truths that they could not read.

Who cannot forget memorable refrains, such as:

Hail the Heav’nly Prince of Peace!

Hail the Son of Righteousness!

Light and Life to All he brings,

Ris’n with Healing in his Wings.

Mild he lays his Glory by,

Born—that Man no more may die,

Born—to raise the Sons of Earth,

Born—to give them Second Birth.

Even in the time of the Wesleys, the religious story behind Christmas was being discarded in favor of rampant commercialism. Only a year after his conversion Charles Wesley penned these words to educate people to the unimaginable sacrifice that God took by sending his son to earth as a newborn infant.

John Wesley even said that Charles Wesley’s hymn book was the best theological book in existence. 

Leaders should understand those they lead. And for Charles this meant using seasonal celebrations combined with poetry and finely crafted theology to educate those who knew little of God’s Good News.

I’ve observed that church leaders usually spend a great deal of time selecting the right music for Sunday services. And they should. But, I’ve also noticed that some music, both traditional and contemporary, tends to be weak in theology and message. Perhaps such songs are utilized because of the catchy music attached, rather than the principles embraced.

Today Christian leaders often worry about a decreasing knowledge of Christianity amid the rampant commercialism of Christmas. Charles saw a solution (which has survived almost 300 years). He wrote finely crafted and theologically powerful songs, set to memorable tunes by contemporary composers.  

In an increasingly biblically unaware world the Christmas Carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” can serve as an example of how Charles Wesley wrote lyrics that educated while they inspired. So the next time you hear the Christmas Carol, “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” make up your mind to follow Charles’s example by picking or crafting songs that not only inspire, but also enlighten. 

For more on the amazing stories of the men, women and children see … www.Enthusiast.life

And click here to read the article in Biblical Leadership Magazine.

WORSHIP SERVICES & My 7 Steps To Launching a New Worship Service (& avoiding the attractional trap)

by Bob Whitesel, Ph.D., 11/13/14

Adding a new worship encounter has its caveats. After helping churches for 20+ years add new worship services, below is my “short list” that I use to help clients see the basic “7-steps” of launching a new worship encounter.

(Note: I distinguish between “launching a new service” and “starting a new worship service.” Starting a worship service first begins indigenously with creating small groups among an emerging culture. See my other post on “Five steps to starting a new service” for information on starting a new service  But once you’ve decided to start one, then this post will tell you how to “launch” it.)

First, you must launch with two important goals:

GOAL 1:  The first goal is the Great Commission to “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Thus, getting new attendees into small groups where they can grow along with others is the major objective.  This is even more important than adding a new service.  So, if you can’t undertake a new service, than at least add more small discipleship groups.

GOAL 2: The second goal of a new worship service is to create a culturally relevant worship encounter.  It is not a performance, nor a time to create mini-celebrities.  It is a time to foster an encounter with God.

Everything should revolve around these two goals.  If it does, then go onto this short list of things you must do to create a new worship encounter for an existing church.

Here are the key principles for starting a new service:

1.    The people who design a new worship encounter should demonstrate that they are missionaries to that culture, or that they are from the culture you are reaching out to.
2.    Ensure you can financially sustain a new service for 18 months, before you launch it.
3.    Make sure you have duplicate leadership too (start training them now, telling them that soon we will launch a new service and they will lead it).
4.    Pick a venue that will be at around 35% full with your projected attendance.
5.    Start small groups (Sunday Schools, Life Groups, etc.) of the culture you are reaching out to, three months before you launch your worship encounters.  Ensure that these small groups are between 5 and 8 people (i.e. they have room to grow) and that they know they are the new discipleship venues for new people who attend the worship encounter.
6.    Keep the worship encounters to 50 minutes total (with 15-20 minutes between other worship services) if you can 😉
7.    Also, make sure your overall attendance is at least 100 before you start a new service.

•    Then ask 50 people to agree to come to the new service for one year (make a covenant to do this, usually written 🙂
•    At the end of that time, they must either recruit someone to take their place, or re-up for another year.  The idea is to create the minimum number of attendees necessary for worship to break out in a larger gathering: usually 35+ people.
•    Thus, with 50 committed, you will usually have 35 in attendance and your new service can grow.

If you follow these principles, you can avoid what these video portray, i.e. the temptation to succumb to a largely attractional tactic (ugh!):

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.