WORSHIP & These songs, curated by a team of neuroscientists, create a sensation scientists call “frisson” – a feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion or thrill.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Today there is a great deal of discussion about online worship and if it can be as powerful as face-to-face worship. Students of music theory have known for a long time that a powerful musical experience can be experienced in the concert hall or over headphones. Part of this is because the human brain is designed to react to certain surprising musical motifs and chord progressions. Read this article to learn more about “frisson” and how to incorporate it in the songs you write.

This 715-song playlist is scientifically verified to give you the chills, thanks to “frisson.”

by Sam Gilberg, The Big Think, 5/17/22.

… “Frisson” derives from French and is “a sudden feeling or sensation of excitement, emotion or thrill,” and the experience is not confined to music. Historically, frisson has been used interchangeably with the term “aesthetic chills.”

According to a 2019 study, one can experience frisson when staring at a brilliant sunset or a beautiful painting; when realizing a deep insight or truth; when reading a particularly resonant line of poetry; or when watching the climax of a film.

… Other reliable indicators include the entry of one or more instruments or voices; an abrupt change of tempo or rhythm; a new or unexpected harmony; and abrupt modulation. Music psychologist John Sloboda found that the most common types of musical phrases to elicit frisson were “chord progressions descending the circle of fifths to the tonic.” This is a deeply affecting chord progression common in many of Mozart’s compositions.

The 715-song playlist was curated by a team of neuroscientists and is available on Spotify. It includes some of my favorites (below):

  • Twist & Shout, The Beatles
  • The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky
  • Tears in Heaven, Eric Clapton
  • Toccata and fugue in D minor, Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Appalachian Spring, VII, Aaron Copland
  • Eine kleine Nachtmusik, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Across the Stars: Love theme from Star Wars, John Williams
  • One for Daddy-O, Cannonball Adderley
  • Moby Dick, Led Zeppelin
  • Wonderwall, Oasis
  • Fields of Gold, Sting
  • Walking in Memphis, Marc Cohn
  • Vincent, Don McLean
  • The Sound of Silence, Simon and Garfunkel
  • This Must be the Place, Talking Heads
  • Rhapsody in blue, George Gershwin
  • Finale, Les Miserables
  • Battle cry, Imagine Dragons.
  • One Day More, Les Miserables
  • Untitled Hymn, Come to Jesus, Chris Rice
  • Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
  • Sleigh Ride, the Ronnettes
  • One, U2
  • Walk on by, Dionne Warwick
  • Awaken, Yes
  • Oh Come All Ye Faithful, traditional
  • Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen
  • Things we said today, The Beatles
  • Born to run, Bruce Springsteen
  • Across the universe, the Beatles
  • Song for the King, Michael W Smith
  • I can’t get no satisfaction, The Rolling Stones
  • Living for the city, Stevie Wonder
  • Ripple, Grateful Dead.
  • Living on a Prayer, Bon Jovi

Read more at … https://bigthink.com/neuropsych/frisson-song-playlist/

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: Some mid-tempo songs work best in large environments, but not so well in smaller churches. The energy created by a large crowd enhance mid-tempo songs with a liveness because of the experience of an assembled multitude singing together. But in smaller venues more up-tempo songs will be needed to create a liveness and experience for a smaller assembly of worshipers. Song selection should consider which songs best connect to the size of the gathering too.

See the video of the song The Passion by Hillsong Music. It is clearly anointed. And the lead worshiper crying out above the singers, captures the sense of a large cloud of witnesses singing praise.

But sometimes worship leaders, seeking to be faithful to the original recorded in a large auditorium, will cry out above the singers. But this can feel inauthentic because of the smallish size of the crowd assembled.

When choosing worship songs, look to tempos, styles and musical arrangements that have worked best in the past in connecting with your unique audience culture. Don’t necessarily replay earlier songs. But look for common personalities in the songs and wed them with the personality of your congregation (note: each worship service probably has its own unique worship personality).

Here is a helpful chart of the most common tempo markings (with bpm) and definitions from a previous article:

  • 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

For more details, see my full article for Biblical Leadership Magazine.

WORSHIP & #SundayChurchHacks: The worship singers should be skewed toward the age group you are seeking to reach. Nonetheless, they also should be skilled.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I regularly evaluate online and onsite worship services for clients and colleagues. A reoccurring experience is when a skilled worship leader is backed by supporting vocalists who have been faithful churchgoers for some time. However, if you are trying to reach younger generations (see the list of generations here and here) you should include backup singers from missing generations too.

Yet don’t err on the side of participation, and ignore skill. In many churches there is a community music leader, e.g. current or former school music teacher, etc. that can help. Seek out these musical coaches and ask them to work with your supporting vocalists, relieving the music director of having to work with novice vocalists.

Regarding getting younger people involved, see the chart below for the generational names and years (in addition, you will find an explanation of “Early Boomers,” “Generation Jones,” “Generation Alpha” and “Generation Beta” here).

Following the “Millennials” born between 1982 and 2009, the next two generations are now “Generation Alpha” from 2010 to 2024 & “Generation Beta” from 2025 to 2039. 

(chart retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2014/03/here-is-when-each-generation-begins-and-ends-according-to-facts/359589/)

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.

WORSHIP & When Do the Latest Hillsong and Bethel Hits Belong in Your Sunday Lineups?

by Kelsey Kramer McGinnis, Christianity Today, 4/6/21.

“Learn these tunes before you learn any others,” John Wesley wrote in his Directions for Singing. “Afterwards, learn as many as you please.”

The specified “tunes” were those included in the 1761 publication of the early Methodist hymnal, Selected Hymns. Wesley’s seven directions for singing have long been included in the opening pages of the United Methodist Hymnal. They include exhortations like “Sing lustily and with good courage,” “Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can,” and “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”

Wesley wrote his Directions for Singing for a different time, for a church usually selecting congregational music from a confined set of songs in printed hymnbooks. But this centuries-old guide helps establish a theological framework for a new project designed to help worship leaders evaluate a growing catalog of contemporary worship music.

The United Methodist Church’s (UMC) Discipleship Ministries recently released CCLI Top 100+ Beyond, the latest iteration of a project begun in 2015, aiming to help leaders curate worship songs. CCLI stands for Christian Copyright Licensing International, which provides copyright licenses to use music from a vast library of artists; it ranks its most popular songs twice a year in the CCLI Top 100.

The UMC project offers a recommended song list, with a description of each song’s lyrics, theological underpinnings, musical difficulty, and a list of recording artists and alternate arrangements.

The list includes seven titles by Hillsong Worship and Hillsong United, seven by Bethel Music, and five by Elevation Worship; the top-ranking CCLI song at the time was Pat Barrett’s “Build My Life,” and the team said it appreciated “that this song petitions Jesus to lead us ‘in Your love to those around’ us, which ties in to Wesleyan notions of cooperation with God in Christ Jesus.”

Another resource developed by the UMC suggests issues worship pastors should consider, such as finding music from underrepresented regions, engaging global worship traditions with cultural competence, and shifting to more inclusive language without violating copyright law.

… Worship pastors from across denominations may find that the Methodist resource helps them define and articulate the theology of worship that they want to practice and impart. It’s a reflective guide—there’s no list of rejected songs, nor any diatribes about the loss of the traditional hymnals or the dangers of contemporary music.

… Music selection and worship leadership is teaching. To treat it with less weight than that is to miss the opportunity to use a powerful medium to teach, learn, and deepen faith. Through the music we sing together, we teach ourselves over and over what we as a congregation affirm about God’s identity, our identities, and our relationship with God personally and corporately.

Read more at … https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2021/april-web-only/worship-song-vetting-project-umc-ccli-music-bethel-hillsong.html?

WORSHIP & Excited to see this client church creating unity by giving equal space to different worship services (pictured). Lesson – be sure to give equal space to different worship expressions or you will create second-class experiences.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: Usually newer worship expressions are relegated to secondary worship spaces. Usually this is rationalized because they don’t need as much room as the traditional sanctuary affords.

But, this subtly makes it harder for them to grow, giving them a second-class feeling. Here is a church that had trouble growing its contemporary worship service because (in part) it was upstairs in an inconvenient location. But after moving the contemporary service to the sanctuary, interest and attendance jumped.

Take a look at this example exhibiting recommendations to a client. Then note the four things they did (and you can do) to ensure parity between worship expressions.

You will have to do some things to make a cavernous sanctuary feel smaller and more intimate for a smaller crowd. But, this can be done in four ways.

  1. Use lighting to make the space seem smaller. Keep certain parts of the sanctuary darker and focus most of the light on the area in front of the stage.
  2. Rope off seating. This goes along with #1. Roping off seats steers people to seating that is concentrated in part of the sanctuary.
  3. Move the preaching and worship leaders off of the platform. The platform (as can be seen in this picture of a client church) can be utilized for a screen and the worship leaders can move to the floor in front of the first rows of pews. This creates connection and community between the leaders and the congregants.
  4. Move the musicians to a location where they don’t have an extensive setup and teardown between services. You can see the musicians were moved away from the center of the stage, putting them to the side. This meant the musicians didn’t have to take down and set up as much between worship services.

  • Want to maximize the missional impact of your various worship services?

  • And do you want to unite them as well?

  • Get the outside voice you need … with consulting/coaching by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD   bob@ChurchHealth.expert

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

WORSHIP EVALUATION & #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.

#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

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