WORSHIP & #SundayChurch Hacks: Don’t move music stands, microphones, etc. during prayer. It distracts the live audience and often more so online attenders who are watching through a narrow camera angle.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Distractions bother leaders, sometimes more than they bother attendees. If a microphone gives feedback, a music stand falls over or a child cries out, the church leader is often especially annoyed. But when stagehands and technicians are moving equipment behind the leader while she or he prays, that leader may be unaware of the distractions going on behind them. Because I evaluate online services for the clients I coach, I find there is generally movement behind the pastor during the prayer that follows the music. The fix is for the leader to review the recorded online services each week, take notes for improvement and address recurring distractions delicately but directly.

The story of Mary and Martha, as translated in The Message Bible, gives insight and this phrase sums it up nicely: “One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Read the rest of the passage to discover what this “main course” is …

38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”

The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.” Luke 10:38-42 MSG

#SundayChurchHacks: Evaluate each part of the worship service with a Likert poll to discover at which points people connect with God (and at which points they are bored).

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: It is important to poll your congregants to find out which portions of your service are connecting them to God (the Hebrew word for “worship” means to “connect with God” face-to-foot). Also poll attendees to discover which part of the service are not connecting them to God.

Here are four principles for measuring which elements are connecting congregants with God during worship.

  • Use a Likert scale and ask them anonymously to respond using either a “frequency” or “quality” Likert scale.
  • Ask congregants to measure each segment of the worship service.
  • Evaluate services separately … don’t try to compare between different services. This is because each service has a different culture.
  • You will discover a numerical measurement for different elements.

Don’t discard elements immediately. Many only need tweaking or rearranging. Make adjustments and re-poll the attendees in 3-4 months.

OUTREACH & 5 Practices for Fruitful Congregations in a Post-Attractional Era

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’ve read with enthusiasm Bishop Schnase’s observations of practices that move churches from an inward focus to an outward focus. I recommend his books highly.

Here is how I have explained in one of my books the difference between an attractional strategy and an incarnational one.

INCARNATIONAL vs. ATTRACTIONAL & What Is the Difference? 

Here is a list of differences between an attractional outreach strategy and an incarnational one (excerpted from ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church, Whitesel, Abingdon Press).

7Systems.church explains the “systems” behind each practices. 


5 Practices for Fruitful Congregations in a Post-Attractional Era

by Robert Schnase in Leading Ideas, the Lewis Center for Church Leadership, October 17, 2018.

(Attraction is Not Enough)

… Most congregations, consciously or unconsciously, operate with attractional assumptions. They imagine that a person, couple, or family becomes aware of their church, perhaps through:

  • the invitation of a friend,
  • an advertisement on a billboard,
  • or by driving past the sanctuary.
  • Churches then hope that what the new persons hear or see will draw them toward the congregation.

…Attractional models worked in the past

  • when the culture expected people to attend worship
  • and people wanted to be members of churches.
  • What happens when people no longer trust institutions in general or the church in particular?

(Incarnational [Whitesel] Outreach is Needed)

…Today, fruitful congregations have discovered that while attractional models are helpful and necessary to fulfill the mission of Christ, they simply are not enough… (it requires) a different posture toward our neighbors, a more deliberate outward focus, and a willingness to carry Christ’s love to where people already live and work and play, rather than hoping for people to come to us.

1. Radical hospitality

Radical hospitality is not merely focused on getting people to come to church. Rather, it focuses with greater intentionality about how we carry hospitality with us into our neighborhoods, work life, and affinity networks. What good is Christian hospitality if it’s something we only practice for an hour on Sunday morning while failing to form relationships with people who live next door?

2. Passionate worship

Passionate worship extends beyond improving what happens on Sunday morning in the sanctuary. Worship becomes mobile, portable, on the move, going where people live, and work, and play.

3. Intentional faith development

Intentional faith development includes more focus on experiential learning, mentoring, spiritual formation, and forming relationships in addition to traditional content-based education in Bible studies and Sunday school classes.

4. Risk-taking mission and service

Risk-taking mission and service explores relationships more deeply and offers examples of shifting from doing ministry for to less patronizing, more relational models of doing ministry with those who suffer hardship or injustice.

5. Extravagant generosity

Extravagant generosity involves helping people learn to love generosity as a way of life not just a way of supporting the church.

This shift of energy, focus, and imagination is life-giving. When the church leaves the building to offer ministries that matter, we view ourselves as part of Christ’s mission in a whole new way, as sent into a mission field uniquely prepared by God that uses the talents, gifts, and relationships God has given us.

Read more at … https://www.churchleadership.com/leading-ideas/5-practices-for-fruitful-congregations-in-a-post-attractional-era/

WORSHIP & Here are the tempos that research says make mood-boosting tunes.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Recently I wrote an article about how to keep worship from becoming monotonous. Part of the solution has to do with varying the tempo of the songs and not sticking to a lethargic pace (as I have noticed many churches I analyze doing). Here is more research that explains what makes a song inspirational and provokes a mood-boosting happiness.

“… back in 2015 a music-loving Dutch neurologist did us all a favor and figured out what makes for the most mood-boosting tunes. The impetus for the study came from an unusual source: British electronic brand Alba. Apparently, they wanted to know what made for a truly happy tune and reached out to Dr. Jacob Jolij to get an answer.

Jolij was happy to comply though he did note the obvious – taste in musicis subjective. What gets your friend dancing might have you running from the room covering your ears. “Music appreciation is highly personal and strongly depends on social context, and personal associations. In that respect, the idea of a ‘feel good formula’ is a bit odd,” he commented.

What you can do, however, is ask the listening public to submit examples of their favorite feel good tracks and then analyze those submissions for patterns to reveal what characteristics are generally associated with smile-inducing songs. Which is just what Jolij did. 

He found that the happiest tunes are slightly faster than your average song (between 140 and 150 beats per minute on average), written in a major key, and either about happy events or complete nonsense. Jolij combined these factors into a formula for the happiest song possible and then went searching for existing hits that matched his template. 

Here, to brighten up the tail end of what has been an all around dismal 2020, are the top ten tunes he identified. (Or if you prefer, here’s the same playlist on Spotify.)”

Read more at … “Neuroscience Says These Are the 10 Happiest Songs Ever,” by JESSICA STILLMAN, CONTRIBUTOR, INC.COM, https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/music-happiness-neuroscience.html

eREFORMATION & Tara Isabella Burton on 3 ways the Internet is reshaping how people congregate. “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Whitesel/ my #14thBook. #Post-PandemicChurchBook

Tara Isabella Burto; “There are three major elements that I would point to in looking at the way internet culture led to our modern religiously remixed culture. The first is the development of a kind of tribalization that transcended geographic limitations. The idea that you could seek out people who were like you, who thought like you, and share your desires and your goals, without those things being based in your geographic community. That fostered a different way of thinking about gathering and tribe based on affinity interest rather than on, perhaps one might say, a fixed point. Secondly, I think there’s the idea rooted in consumer capitalism that our choices define us. What we buy and what we consume can be indicative in how we build our personality. The internet has made this all the more possible, especially as various algorithms determine what news we see and what movies are suggested to us. The narrower an affinity base becomes, so too our approach to spirituality becomes something that should work for us and work for our choices, or so the prevailing cultural ethos goes. Thirdly and finally, I think the internet culture of user-generated content, where we are not just passive consumers but active creators—whether it’s making memes or posting on Twitter—has lent itself to a more participatory and polyphonic understanding of spiritual life. Again, there’s a hunger for ownership; we don’t want to passively consume a text but rather kind of write our own.”

From “The New Godless Religions: An Interview with Tara Isabella Burto, by Kenneth E. Frantz | September 22, 2020. More at … https://religionandpolitics.org/2020/09/22/the-new-godless-religions-an-interview-with-tara-isabella-burton/

More insights can be found in “Growing the Post-pandemic Church” in paperback & Kindle on Amazon https://www.amazon.com/Bob-Whitesel/ my #14thBook. #Post-PandemicChurchBook

Is worship becoming a “slog?” Don’t stick with “Largo tempo” worship songs. Use these 3-steps to intersperse worship with exciting uptempo songs that unite, inspire and awaken. #SundayMorningHacks

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 6/28/20.

https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-to-keep-worship-from-becoming-monotonous/

Leading worship is something most church leaders delegate. Yet it is also something that a church leader needs to understand and to give leadership.

One of the most confusing areas for church leaders who are not musicians is the importance of tempo.  First I will explain the basics of the song tempo. And then I will show the importance of evaluating it and giving leadership in an area where the church leader may not (yet) have expertise.

Having evaluated hundreds of churches, I find that in many plateaued or declining churches their worship leaders are choosing songs in the Lento/Largo tempo (40-60 beat per minute), which means “very slow.”  And even when worship leaders pick up the tempo, they usually only do so slightly, to the Adagio tempo (66-76 beats per minute) which is “slow and stately” or Andante (76-108 beats per minute) which is “at a walking pace.”

Now, there is nothing wrong with worship songs in these “slow and stately” tempos. But in the plateaued or declining church a lack of higher tempo songs (in tempos which are more celebratory) creates a sense of “slogging” through a worship package.

Worship in the scriptures clearly at times involves an uptempo and celebratory spirit. Look at Psalm 150:1-6…

 Hallelujah!
Praise God in his holy house of worship,
    praise him under the open skies;
Praise him for his acts of power,
    praise him for his magnificent greatness;
Praise with a blast on the trumpet,
    praise by strumming soft strings;
Praise him with castanets and dance,
    praise him with banjo and flute;
Praise him with cymbals and a big bass drum,
    praise him with fiddles and mandolin.
Let every living, breathing creature praise God!
    Hallelujah!  The Message Bible 

Monotony can be elevated when a preacher also preaches in a “slow and stately” or “at a walking pace” tempo.  In one client, I witnessed how the entire service seemed laborious, forced and tiresome. The preacher was a gifted and stately speaker. But coupled with a slow and stately worship package, the entire service seemed tiresome. Rather than the preacher’s slow and stately preaching offering a respite from uptempo music, the worship package of only slow and stately music created a Sunday service with little variety, but much monotony.

For many leaders they will want to encourage the worship leaders to intersperse Moderato and above tempos (108+ beats per minute) into most worship lists. This creates ebbs-and-flows during the worship package with both …

  • celebration/reflection,
  • excitement/calmness
  • energy/stillness
  • structure/flexibleness

Here is how a non-musical leader can evaluate worship (and what they should do if they need to lead improvements).

  1. Record each song and measure each bpm (beats per minute). Applications are available to measure this.
  2. Is there a variety?  When do songs under 108 bpm occur? When do songs over 108 bpm occur?
  3. What needs to change?  Are uptempo songs needed during the worship package to energize the worshippers?
  4. Find songs in the tempos needed to create variety and inspiration.

Here is a helpful chart of the most common tempo markings with definitions and bpm:

  • Prestissimo (> 200 bpm)   very very fast
  • Presto (168 – 200 bpm)       very fast
  • Allegro (120 – 168 bpm)    fast
  • Moderato (108 – 120 bpm)   moderately 
  • Andante (76 – 108 bpm)   walking pace
  • Adagio (66 – 76 bpm)   slow and stately
  • Lento/Largo (40 – 60 bpm)   very slow
  • Grave (20-40 bpm) slow and solemn

Remember, every leader may not be a musician. But every Christian leader is called to be a worshipper.

Read the original article on BiblicalLeadership.com https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/how-to-keep-worship-from-becoming-monotonous/

 

#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.

TRENDS & Watch this music video to see fresh expressions of the Church (and be blessed by the singing too).

From the UK, a praise video of the diverse young people choosing to follow Jesus.

#SundayChurchHacks – Continue to improve online worship after onsite worship returns. Some people may never be able to join you onsite (or choose not to).

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/2020.

We are entering “age of the eReformation,” an electronic re-formation of the way the Church shares the Good News.

Yet I have noticed that some churches regard online worship as a “stop-gap” measure required by a pandemic that prevents face-to-face encounter.  But, as I noted in a recent article titled, St. Paul’s guide to leading remotely, Paul faced similar challenges of guiding and discipling the far-flung churches he led.

So, use this time of forced online worship as an opportunity to begin to offer both onsite and online worship that is anointed, powerful and life-changing.

Read the entire article by clicking on this title below:

Screen Shot 2020-05-31 at 11.29.04 AM

For more ideas see another article I wrote for Biblical Leadership Magazine

eReformation: Leading post-pandemic church growth – 10 things to start doing now

WORSHIP & Pew Research finds main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. Because of the Hebrew word for “worship” I call this a “face to foot encounter.”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: The Hebrew word for worship means to come close to a royal personage and kiss their feet in adoration and humility. Such closeness to God that we seek in our worship services I have called a “face to foot encounter.”

Sometimes today churches try to draw in people with entertaining events,. But, Pew Research confirms that people are looking for a personal encounter with God.

Top reasons U.S. adults give for choosing to attend or not attend religious services

“Why Americans Go (and Don’t Go) to Religious Services” Pew Forum, 8/1/18.

In recent years, the percentage of U.S. adults who say they regularly attend religious services has been declining, while the share of Americans who attend only a few times a year, seldom or never has been growing. A new Pew Research Center survey finds that the main reason people regularly go to church, synagogue, mosque or another house of worship is an obvious one: to feel closer to God. But the things that keep people away from religious services are more complicated.

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/

#Olathe

 

WORSHIP & Neuroscience has discovered the reassuring and encouraging value of rituals.

“New research reveals the effects of faith on the brain”

by Annalisa Teggi, Aleteia Magazine, 3/13/19.

An article in the March edition of the Italian magazine Wellbeing, Health with Soul(BenEssere, la salute con l’anima) offers us the chance to go deeper into a scientific perspective on the psycho-physical effects of faith, revealing a truly encouraging panorama. The author is science journalist Piero Bianucci, who from the beginning makes it clear that he’s not trying to draw an exaggerated and utilitarian conclusion such as, “If you believe in God, you won’t have any health problems.” Rather, he wants to share with us the interesting results of neuroscientific experiments showing the positive impact of religious experience.

Spiritual resonance

The article is largely based on the book Psychotherapy of God(Psychothérapie de Dieu, in French) written by French psychiatrist Boris Cyrulnik, which reveals that, through the use of simple, non-invasive MRI scans, it has become clear that prayer and other emotional experiences related to faith activate a specific area of the brain: the prefrontal lobes, which are connected with the limbic system—the area of memories and strong emotions (highly stimulated in childhood).

As a consequence, he says, “Studies of brain circuitry do not reveal the existence of a ‘God zone’ or a ‘religion zone,’ but they do show that an environment structured by religious faith leaves a biological mark on our brain and makes it easier to re-discover feelings of ecstasy or transcendence acquired in infancy.

This leads to an interesting reflection. It’s as if we have a treasure chest within us, ready to be opened when we need it.  Activities such as saying your night prayers as a child, praying the Rosary with your grandmother, or going to Mass with your parents are not passing moments that vanish into thin air with adolescence and adulthood. Even when our adult children reject our invitation to pray, or they turn their backs decisively on religion, we can be sure that the good experiences they had as children sharing faith-based activities with us remain impressed upon their brains, and will be ready to reappear as soon as the prodigal son feels the need to return home.

Singing brings us together

The idea that repetition is necessarily boring is a very mistaken stereotype. Anyone who knows the beauty and the joy of praying the Rosary knows that this “repetitious” prayer makes us like a farmer who is cultivating a field. When hoeing and planting, every movement seems repetitious, but it’s only through this constant repetition that the field is tilled and sown, and becomes fertile and fruitful.

Neuroscience has also discovered the reassuring and encouraging value of rituals. “Prayer and the sacred formulas dissolve the suffering that comes with isolation. When you sing a hymn, you are not alone. Sacred objects symbolize the possibility of having access to Him who protects us all. Acts of faith inspire us with a feeling of belonging. The feeling of brotherhood heals our anxiety.”

Relationships are the most important human motivator, and they are most effective when the companionship is real, in the flesh. If social networks give us the impression of being together and gives us forums for sharing in which each person expounds his or her own opinion, the Holy Mass is a revolutionary gesture, the manifestation of being a choir, joined in harmony, in which we recognize each other as equals, with shared limits and needs. We are joyful because together we have words to express our gratitude and praise, words that work for all of us, and which are true for each and every one of us.

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/03/13/new-research-reveals-the-effects-of-faith-on-the-brain/

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & Alister McGrath eulogies Michael Green, saying: “He taught me the importance of evangelism.” He taught me that too.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: a couple years ago I took a group of doctoral students to Wycliffe College at Oxford. One of the most famous professors there was Michael Green who had tremendous impact upon me when I was in seminary when I read his books “Worship in the New Testament” and “I Believe in the Holy Spirit.” Both of those books transformed me.

by Alister McGrath, Christianity Today, 2/12/19.

… Green, an academically talented student, was converted to Christianity as a teenager. In quick succession, he earned first class honors in classics at Oxford and first class honors in theology at Cambridge. His sense of calling to minister in the Church of England reflected his lifelong passion for evangelism. While serving on the staff of the London College of Divinity, a theological college of the Church of England, Green published two works aimed at a student audience that established his growing reputation as an apologist and evangelist: Man Alive (1967) and Runaway World (1968).

These books were widely read and shared by Christian students and led to invitations to speak at major churches and student gatherings throughout the United Kingdom. I read them both myself while a student at Oxford in the early 1970s, and I recall vividly the impact of a sermon Green preached in Oxford on John 3 which helped me grasp the core themes of the gospel.

… In 1975, Green became rector of St Aldate’s Church, Oxford. As an Oxford student at the time, I recall well the sense of delight and anticipation within Oxford’s Christian student community on learning of this appointment. Many were thrilled at the thought of sitting at the feet of such a gifted and well-known preacher and evangelist. They were not disappointed.

Green’s preaching wove together his love for the New Testament, his passion for evangelism, and a deep sense of care and compassion for his congregation. Green’s remarkable capacity to encourage others in their faith and in exploring their callings led many to explore ordination, missionary work, or ways of ensuring their faith and professional callings were woven together.

Somehow, Green managed to find time to write. His works of this period include his I Believe in the Holy Spirit (1975), whose warm and winsome tone did much to commend the new interest in the Holy Spirit that was gaining sway in student circles and beyond.

Read more of McGrath’s eulogy here … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2019/february-web-only/alister-mcgrath-michael-green-tribute-evangelism.html?utm_source=ctweekly-html&utm_medium=Newsletter&utm_term=20830743&utm_content=635605081&utm_campaign=email

SYSTEM 3 of 7SYSTEMS.church: SUPERNATURAL & How to foster encounter in worship.

7.3 systems yellow

This is third (3rd) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/24/16) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

Before we begin to turn around a church, we need to know what worship should be turning toward.

This is the third in a series on the “7 Marks of a Growing Church,” based on my analysis of the American Congregations 2015 Study undertaken by Hartford Seminary. Free copies of the study are available at http://www.FaithCommunitiesToday.org 

The American Congregations Study found that in renovated churches, attendees describe their worship as “very innovative.” As I read deeper into the study, it became clear that it’s not mere innovation congregants appreciate, but it is innovation that keeps the worship fresh and supernatural. Let’s look at how you can renovate a church to a fresh and supernatural worship encounter.

How to Return to a Freshness in Worship

Everyone knows that worship can become stale. Here are three ways to keep your worship fresh.

1) Content is Fresh: 

Freshness in worship often means utilizing a style with which the audience can relate, but infusing it with fresh content. Church leaders understand people tend to like music in the musical style with which they have become accustomed. So freshness does not mean changing the musical style, but adding in fresh lyrics, fresh structure and/or fresh order. For instance, fresh worship often takes the words/melody of a new song and rearranges it in the musical style with which the congregation is accustomed. Thus, you add freshness without adding offense.

2) Exploration is Fresh.

Fresh worship happens when worship leaders are exploring a wide variety of “new” worship songs. Because the worship leader can separate the musical style from the content, they are able to take the latest songs and rework them into a style that is acceptable to the listeners.

3) Experimentation is Fresh.

The fresh worship leader is experimenting with different arts including poetry, painting, dance, drama, etc. The key is the word “experimentation,” for these are tests, not something set in stone. The fresh worship leader will keep elements to which a majority of the audience relates.

4) Feedback is Fresh.

Fresh worship results when worship leaders get weekly feedback regarding what is working. However, it is important to concentrate on what is working. Christians too easily focus on the negative (what doesn’t work) rather than the positive (what does work). Thus, the fresh worship leader takes note about what elements are creating a freshness and concentrates on them.

How to Return to Supernatural Worship

As I look over the American Congregation 2015 Study it becomes evident that people seek a worship service where they can forget about their problems and encounter the supernatural love, protection and fellowship their Heavenly Father offers. But, too often today worship has centered around attracting people to a church with high production values. There is nothing wrong with high production values, unless they become more important than the value of providing supernatural worship.Why is supernatural worship so important? The very word worship in Hebrew gives a clue. The Hebrew word shachah means to come close to God and bow down at his feet, as “a close encounter with a king which fosters in reverence, respect and praise” (Whitesel, ORGANIX: Signs of Leadership in a Changing Church. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011., p. 96). Thus the word “worship” reminds us that it is about an encounter in which you feel you’ve been in the very presence of God – mere inches away from Him. It is not about appreciating the staging, lighting effects or this seamless integration of the liturgy – but about a feeling that God is present with you.

There are three phases to turning a church back toward a supernatural encounter.

1) Prepare Supernaturally:

Spending time in supernatural preparation often prepares us to lead others in supernatural encounter. A pastor friend told me that his church was stuck in the small size, until God told him to go to church every Saturday night and pray for Sunday’s ministry. God told him, “If you show up on Saturday night, I’ll show up on Sunday morning.” Today a megachurch, it has multiple campuses in Atlanta. God may not say the same thing to you. But it reminds us that to lead others supernaturally, our preparation includes communing with God in prayer, His word and quietude.

2) Lead Supernaturally:

Next it is important that everyone involved in leading worship is not thinking about the mechanics of their task (e.g. singing, playing, words to the song, etc.) but rather enjoying the worship encounter that comes out of it. One church I attended had the band off to the side of the stage and a large cross at the center of the stage, so the focus will be on Christ. Another church, famous for its music ministry, hid the musicians in an orchestra pit so (according to the pastor) “The musicians wouldn’t struggle with pride and the people wouldn’t focus on the musicians.” Of course judging whether someone is worshiping supernaturally is not easy. But worship leaders should gauge their ministry by asking if they are feeling close, within inches, of their Heavenly Father.

3) Participate Supernaturally:

A final aspect to supernatural worship is to observe if congregants are participating in a supernatural experience. I’ve noticed that gifted worship leaders will not only worship themselves, but also notice what’s happening in the audience. They know if the audience is connecting with God and if they are not. The gifted worship leader will make corrections midway through worship.To revitalize a church is not about changing worship to something more attractive or trendy … but it’s about living out in a church what the word worship means: a fresh encounter with a living, loving Heavenly Father.

For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

Speaking hashtags: #CaribbeanGraduateSchoolofTheology
#Olathe

WORSHIP & How the Great Migration changed music in the black church forever. #KatherineKemp #CT

by Katherine Kemp, Christianity Today, 12/6/18.

In the 1920s, Chicago’s first African American congregations were at a crossroads. After decades of investment, the churches and their musicians were proud of their accomplishments as they had “lifted the Negro race” to a position of separate but equal status with their white peers in worship. Worship in these churches largely mirrored worship in white churches in song and liturgy. Black Methodist and Baptist congregations often sang from the same hymnals as their white counterparts. Trained singers in the choirs led the less-literate congregants in the proper rendition of hymns. European anthems were prominent in the senior choir’s repertoire. Restraint was the rule in worship.

This was all about to change. As the Great Migration drew thousands of African Americans to the North, many new residents had little interest in the music of these congregations. Instead, they brought their own songs with lyrics that often drew from the hardships of slavery and Jim Crow and rhythms inspired by African chants and medleys. The metered songs of English composer Isaac Watts, which had served as the inspiration for the revival songs of the Great Awakening, were sung without instrumental accompaniment by Southern emigrants seeking worship in smaller storefront churches where more emotion and common language were welcome.

Gospel music scholar Horace Clarence Boyer summarized this dilemma in the PBS documentary We’ve Come This Far by Faith:

There was the feeling that the more white you acted, the more you would be accepted by white people. There was not that kind of pride about having lived through slavery. … The whole emphasis was ridding every Negro of everything that was Negroid … including the church service ritual. So all of a sudden, now, we get Brahms and Handel. … And here we begin to get a whole conflict between the ways people are going to worship. And many preachers said, “Don’t sing those slave songs altogether.”

… Musical Culture Shock

The 1906 Los Angeles Azusa Street Revival changed the worship practices for many black people. The event initially resulted (temporarily) in an interracial church and became the beginning of the Pentecostal movement, the third major religious denomination of African Americans. The movement encouraged ecstatic worship along with drums, tambourines, and guitars, and as it grew, its upbeat style spread across the country. Those worship practices became embedded in the praise and worship style of the Holiness churches.

The beginning of the 20th century also marked a significant geographic shift for African Americans. Nearly half a million African Americans fed up with Jim Crow atrocities and in search of new opportunities immigrated to the North between 1910 and 1930. They arrived with their religious worship practices intact, an experience characterized by singing, dancing, clapping, and amens. Worship involved the whole body in movement and song.

But as the black population swelled, tensions began to grow between rural and city African Americans, who didn’t always share the same musical tastes...

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/december-web-only/gospel-music-great-migration-black-church.html?

WORSHIP & The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has revealed his favourite hymn is the Charles Wesley classic “And Can It Be” in an interview with BBC’s Songs of Praise.

by David Adams, Sight Magazine, London, 11/4/18.

The archbishop explained that the song – full name, And Can It Be That I Should Gain An Interest In My Saviour’s Blood – was the first hymn sung at his first church service after he “discovered the love of Jesus Christ for me and opened my heart to His love”. He said it’s been his favourite ever since.

The hymn was written in 1738 by Charles Wesley, the brother of the more famous John, and co-founder of the Methodist Church. Wesley wrote hundreds of hymns and wrote And Can It Be, according to the archbishop, “immediately after his discovery of God’s love for him in Jesus Christ”.

Watch the interview here: https://www.sightmagazine.com.au/news/10724-archbishop-of-canterbury-reveals-his-favourite-hymn

WORSHIP & Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Experts weigh in, but #JohnWesley thought they should.

by Morgan Lee, Christianity Today, 8/10/18.

… Should hymns maintain the theology of their author? Or are they theologically neutral—a gift to the wider church, even—that can be modified at will?

CT asked experts on hymnody to weigh in. Answers are arranged (top to bottom) from those who favor hymns staying constant to those who favor their malleability. And they begin with John Wesley himself.

John Wesley, songwriter and evangelist, from the pre­face to the 1780 Col­lect­ion of Hymns for the Use of the Peo­ple Called Meth­od­ists:

Many gentlemen have done my brother and me (though without naming us) the honor to reprint many of our hymns. Now they are perfectly welcome so to do, provided they print them just as they are. But I desire they would not attempt to mend them; for they really are not able. None of them is able to mend either the sense or the verse.

Therefore, I must beg of them one of these two favors: either to let them stand just as they are, to take them for better for worse; or to add the true reading in the margin, or at the bottom of the page; that we may no longer be accountable either for the nonsense or for the doggerel of other men.

Read more from “John Piper Changed ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness.’ Experts Weigh In” at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/august-web-only/great-is-thy-faithfulness-john-piper-lyrics-hymns-theology.html

WORSHIP & How the Hebrew Word Tells Us Worship is Not “Neighbor-directed” … but “God-directed”

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., excerpted from The Healthy Church: Practical Ways to Strengthen a Church’s Heart (2013).

“… the Hebrew word for “worship” implies God-directed, not neighbor-directed reconciliation.(Footnote 1)”  p. 64

Healthy Church Cover sm(Footnote 1) The Hebrew word for “worship” means to come close to God’s majesty and adore Him. It carries the idea of reverence, respect and praise that results from a close encounter with a king, see Francis Brown, S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament Based Upon the Lexicon of William Gesenius(Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1974), p. 1005. Thus, worship should not be about fellowship (the New Testament Christians had meals for that), but rather worship was to be about personal communing with God. This reminds us that worship should be about connecting with God and not about creating friendships among people (we have time before and after “worship” for getting to know one another in “fellowship” halls and in common areas). Making worship into a fellowship among humans, robs its place as the supernatural intersection between humans with their heavenly Father. We shall discuss the Multicultural Blended Model shortly, but I have noticed in most blended models I have attended, that supernatural connection is not the focus or their aim, but rather unity is the objective. While the later goal (unity) is needed, it should not be attained at the expense of worship which is primarily intended as a environment in which to connect with God.  p. 158

HIP-HOP & An interview w/ Rev. Dr. Michael W. Waters: The church should embrace hip-hop

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This week I am addressing a group of African and African-American pastors/bishops at their national conference. One of the topics is the influence of hip-hop and how African immigrants and African-Americans disagree on its use. Here’s a helpful interview with an African Methodist Episcopal pastor who leads one of the healthiest congregations in Texas

Article by Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, May 30, 2017

I really believe that hip-hop serves as a vital theological conversation partner for our present-day work. Hip-hop is without peer in terms of its cultural influence.

It is a global phenomenon, and there is an entire canon, an entire text, that the church has yet to explore. It really speaks to me like the narratives in Old Testament history that speak of communities under oppression facing marginalization and trying to identify where God is at work to liberate them in the midst of their struggle.

So when I hear Tupac, I hear St. Paul, and I also hear St. Augustine, as they struggle with issues of soteriology.

Q: Some church leaders may think of hip-hop as a way to connect to youth. But it sounds like you are talking about something deeper than that.

We can no longer talk about hip-hop solely as a youth movement, because hip-hop as a cultural artifact is now coming up on its 44th anniversary, from August of 1973(link is external). Some of the founders of the hip-hop movement themselves are approaching mid-60s or early 70s.

So we’re really talking about something that is far deeper than just young people in high school.

We’re talking about how generations interact with the world. It has articulated their hopes and dreams as well as their pain and despair.

In many ways, the church in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in the westernmost portions, is dying. But I still believe that there are persons who long for community. They long for deeper faith and spirituality.

I think we have to shift our way, our mode, of connecting with individuals.

I think, biblically, of the apostle Paul in Acts when he goes to Athens and goes to the [Areopagus], and in that space, speaking to Stoics and Epicureans, he speaks to the unknown God. And as he begins to preach in that space, he does not draw his authority from the Torah.

He draws his authority from Athenian poetry, and he uses their conceptions of God as a means of presenting the Christ to them.

I believe we have the same opportunity in terms of engaging hip-hop, using that as a cultural artifact to bridge the gap between the culture and the church.

So we can provide a greater conception of who God is and of who God has called us to be.

Read more at … https://www.faithandleadership.com/michael-w-waters-church-should-embrace-hip-hop?utm_source=NI_newsletter&utm_medium=content&utm_campaign=NI_feature

LITURGY & Episcopalian ministry among millenials: When worship works.

by Jason Evans [Episcopal Diocese of Washington] 5/8/15.

…Almost every Sunday, I visit a different parish within our Diocese. Most of the time, I meet at least one or two young people who have found their way into the Episcopal tradition. Each time, I make it a point to talk with them about what brought them to their church. Whenever I listen to their stories a sense of hope rises up within me…

In his book, You Lost Me, David Kinnaman writes that there is a “43 percent drop-off between the teen and early adult years in terms of church engagement.” The Pew Research Center reported that more than 25 percent of millennials were unaffiliated with a faith community. This is enough to concern any rector or vestry member. But it isn’t a complete picture of what is happening amongst emerging adults. The National Study of Youth & Religion tracked the religious transitions of young people over a five-year period. Sociologist Christian Smith wrote in his book Souls in Transition that the study found mainline Protestants were “… relatively good at attracting new emerging adults who grew up in other religious traditions–good enough, in fact, to hold their own over these five years in terms of overall ‘market share.’”

Referring to anyone as a “market share” makes my skin crawl a bit. But you get his point–enough emerging adults are finding their way into the Episcopal Church to abate what would otherwise be a steeper decline. So, what are we doing right? In order to answer, I thought we should ask some of those I’ve met in our Diocese.

I met Dongbo Wang, a young scientist, a few months ago. He is a member of Church of the Redeemer in Bethesda, MD. Dongbo did not grow up Episcopalian. But he clearly remembers the first time he walked into an Episcopal parish while in graduate school. “When I walked through those doors, I thought to myself, this is what church is supposed to feel like,” he told me during our conversation. “It was something I couldn’t analyze as a scientist. It was something that felt right–I felt connected. The year before I had visited more than 20 churches and never felt that.”

Like Dongbo, Tiffany Koebel is a young adult who did not grow up Episcopalian. Today, she is a member of All Saints in Chevy Chase, MD. For Tiffany, the Episcopal Church provided a consistent, reliable religious culture that countered what Tiffany referred to as, “a culture constantly fixated on the ‘next big thing.’” She discovered more of a depth of theology in the liturgy during one worship service at All Saints than she had experienced in years attending churches of other traditions. “I was struck by the richness of the liturgy,” she shares, “and the central role of Scripture in the service.”

Read more at … https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/article/ministry-among-millenials-when-worship-works

And for more innovative ways some Episcopal churches are reaching out see this article … Church Has No Walls But Many Doors Accessible to Seekers.

 

CHURCH HISTORY & African rhythms, ideas of sin and the Hammond organ: A brief history of gospel music’s evolution

by Robert Stevens, The Conversation US, 3/28/18

The enslaved Africans who first arrived in the British colony of Virginia in 1619 after being forcefully removed from their natural environments left much behind, but their rhythms associated with music-making journeyed with them across the Atlantic.

Many of those Africans came from cultures where the mother tongue was a tonal language. That is, ideas were conveyed as much by the inflection of a word as by the word itself. Melody, as we typically think of it, took a secondary role and rhythm assumed major importance.

For the enslaved Africans, music – rhythm in particular – helped forge a common musical consciousness. In the understanding that organized sound could be an effective tool for communication, they created a world of sound and rhythm to chant, sing and shout about their conditions. Music was not a singular act, but permeated every aspect of daily life.

In time, versions of these rhythms were attached to work songs, field hollers and street cries, many of which were accompanied by dance. The creators of these forms drew from an African cultural inventory that favored communal participation and call and response singing wherein a leader presented a musical call that was answered by a group response.

A cornfield holler.

As my research confirms, eventually, the melding of African rhythmic ideas with Western musical ideas laid the foundation for a genre of African-American music, in particular spirituals and, later, gospel songs.

Spirituals: A journey

John Gibb St. Clair Drake, the noted black anthropologist, points out that during the years of slavery, Christianity in the U.S. introduced many contradictions that were contrary to the religious beliefs of Africans. For most Africans the concepts of sin, guilt and the afterlife, were new.

In Africa, when one sinned, it was a mere annoyance. Often, an animal sacrifice would allow for the sin to be forgiven. In the New Testament, however, Jesus dismissed sacrifice for the absolution of sin. The Christian tenet of sin guided personal behavior. This was primarily the case in northern white churches in the U.S. where the belief was that all people should be treated equally. In the South many believed that slavery was justified in the Bible.

This doctrine of sin, which called for equality, became central to the preaching of the Baptist and Methodist churches.

In 1787, reacting to racial slights at St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia, two clergymen, Absalom Jones and Richard Allen, followed by a number of blacks left and formed the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

The new church provided an important home for the spiritual, a body of songs created over two centuries by enslaved Africans. Richard Allen published a hymnal in 1801 entitled “A Collection of Spirituals, Songs and Hymns,” some of which he wrote himself.

His spirituals were infused with an African approach to music-making, including communal participation and a rhythmic approach to music-making with Christian hymns and doctrines. Stories found in the Old Testament were a source for their lyrics. They focused on heaven as the ultimate escape.

Spread of spirituals

After emancipation in 1863, as African-Americans moved throughout the United States, they carried – and modified – their cultural habits and ideas of religion and songs with them to northern regions.

Later chroniclers of spirituals, like George White, a professor of music at Fisk University, began to codify and share them with audiences who, until then, knew very little about them. On Oct. 6, 1871, White and the Fisk Jubilee Singers launched a fundraising tour for the university that marked the formal emergence of the African-American spiritual into the broader American culture and not restricted to African-American churches.

Their songs became a form of cultural preservation that reflected the changes in the religious and performance practices that would appear in gospel songs in the 1930s. For example, White modified the way the music was performed, using harmonies he constructed, for example, to make sure it would be accepted by those from whom he expected to raise money, primarily from whites who attended their performances.

As with spirituals, the gospel singers’ intimate relationship with God’s living presence remained at the core as reflected in titles like “I Had a Talk with Jesus,” “He’s Holding My Hand” and “He Has Never Left Me Alone.”

Read and watch more at … https://theconversation.com/african-rhythms-ideas-of-sin-and-the-hammond-organ-a-brief-history-of-gospel-musics-evolution-90737