I’m having a crisis of sorts. The last two weeks, my multitracks haven’t been working on Sunday morning. The first week, I checked the cables, restarted the app, switched the DI, checked the snake, and even dug into the input/output section on the mixer. Turned out that I had updated to iOS 12 and the app needed to be updated as well. The next week, the same issue was there AGAIN! I started troubleshooting and after burning about 10 minutes of precious time, I realized that the stereo/mono button on the DI was the problem.
Wait, why are You laughing God?
No seriously, I was really frustrated! I try so hard to have everything in good working order so that we can get to the real point, and when that’s not going well, I just can’t...
Oh. That’s why You’re laughing.
How did I get there? Where I’m so focused on setting my IEM mix, staying with the click, leading the band, pedal-switching Music Stand, saying something to the congregation...
Just sing to Me?
Yeah, but...we don’t want to be distracting [read: we want to sound great] and we’re trying to set a precedent of quality here [read: quality = how we sound].
Oh ouch. I’m sorry Lord, for the thing I’ve made it, when it’s all about You, Jesus. So I’ll bring You more than a song, for a song in itself is not what You’re required. You search much deeper within, and through the way things appear, You’re looking into my heart...
Brothers and sisters, good production values are not bad. The thing that gets tricky is that those are easy to see, quantify, measure, and improve. What’s going on inside...not so much.
I love that we can watch countless videos of wonderful congregational worship on YouTube. I love that the Church’s production values have dramatically increased. If you have much Artist in you, you know what I’m talking about. We were embarrassed by what the music sounded like. It seemed irrelevant and just lame. But was it? Or did it just sound that way? And how do we know that the quality of the offering of our hearts has risen with the quality of our music?
I wish the opening conversation with God wasn’t based on my own experience in the past two weeks. But it is. And an encounter I had with the Lord last week made me aware that I’ve lost something. Something of ultimate value. And I felt the tension of it in the "current me" and the "original me" when I led this past Sunday.
The current me is honestly pretty caught up in sounding good and creating quality. Of course, I still love God deeply and want to connect with Him when we gather to sing as a Church. But I burn LOTS of energy tending to the way things sound. Lots.
The original me would sneak into the practice rooms at UTSA and spend 8 minutes in between classes worshiping the Lord, often sing spontaneously to the Lord, led monthly worship gatherings called breathing room that were totally unscripted and had really no production value, and still asked God for direction when leading a song rather than just following the "CHORUS 2, 3, 4" voice in my ears.
But the encounter I had last week that left me weeping [read: ugly crying] at the piano is that it felt like it had been a while since I regularly sang straight to God. And when I did...when I did, I knew I was HOME. I knew I was reconnecting with what I was MADE to do. Something I’ve loved to do for three decades. And the intimacy with God that I was thrust back into was o v e r w h e l m i n g !
And the trouble with my love of "sounding good" is that, like the YouTube videos, there’s no measure of the quality of our hearts and the level of our intimate connectedness with Father, Son, and Spirit.
Like you can tell that something is missing when our hearts aren’t really engaged, but everything else can still be clicking along. Pun[ch] intended.
So I’m searching for a both/and solution for this problem. What if you regularly remove the props? Like if you use tracks for all songs, do one song without tracks or do a whole Sunday each months track-free. If you have a band accompany all songs, do one either a cappella or with just a single instrument. [and try starting the set like this, rather than just doing the more expected way - at the end of the set] This could be a great idea for 5th Sundays, where it’s just a worship leader at the piano...without IEM’s.
Or if your context is that of a single leader who might struggle to worship because they are so focused on surviving playing the song, do the opposite: bring a band in or put together a YouTube playlist ...without the ads 😳
If you’re trying to make the worship service better, don’t just evaluate based on production values; evaluate based on how much your love for Him is requiring of you.
Do whatever it takes to turn your focus toward God and sing straight to Him.
In the journey with you,
Ps. Matt Redman talks about the story behind his song that I quoted above here.
Pps. I realized that last week, the link to Jon's course didn't give you many details about it. You can click here to see the bigger picture and here if you just want to sign up.