Clear the Stage.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze,
if that’s the measure that it takes to crush the idols.
Chuck the pews and all the decorations too, until the congregations few then have revival. Tell your friends that this is where the party ends, until you’re broken for your sins you can’t be social. Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store and know that great is your reward and just be hopeful.
-Ross King

I was talking with a friend, in our schools coffee shop, about what I had been learning and contemplating lately and how I blogged about entertainment in church. Well we got into great discussion about it and he mentioned this song by Ross King called Clear the Stage. I had never heard it before and so I went and listened to it. Wow.
I encourage all of you who have never heard this song to stop right now and listen to it.

Well recently, we had a See You At The Pole rally for local youth groups to join together in a time of worship and fellowship. When I got there, I noticed that all the lights were off in the auditorium (we were able to have it at our local high school) The band that would be leading us in worship was doing a sound check but I couldn’t see them. So I went backstage and saw that they were behind the stage curtain. I know these guys because we all go to school together. Anyways, I asked them, ”Do you guys need the lights on? And the curtain up so the kids can see you? I’ll go up and take care of it if you need me to.”

To my awesome surprise they said, ”No. We all felt led to have everything silent tonight. Our focus is going to be on prayer and true worship. We don’t want backgrounds behind the text or lights on or to be seen. We want to worship back here as well and lead the kids to worship God for who He is and what He has done.”

It was so great to here that! 🙂 These guys get it. (I go to a school where there are many aspiring Christian artists/bands. They are all very talented, but none of them have I ever seen or heard mention anything like this. These guys just want to worship and lead others in worship and I’m blessed to call them friends.)

They wanted to have true worship as a band, as well as give the kids an understanding of what worship is and isn’t. We all prayed together backstage for the worship gathering to glorify God and for the kids to truly know that worship isn’t about the stage or singing, but living a life of worship.

So the rally went on with about 5 different prayer topics and songs that went along with them. We had a speaker (or rather facilitator) that was to lead in scripture and prayer. (he was the one who made it flow.) With each prayer topic the kids where given different instructions, the first was to be in alone time prayer, the second topic with 2 or 3 people, third topic with 2 or 3 different people, and to finally end with your youth group to pray for unity and commitment.
The youth were to pray about:

1. Repentance
2. Government
3. Schools
4. Friends who know and don’t know Jesus
5. Unity and Commitment

It was amazing! God worked in the hearts of all the youth groups there. I prayed with and saw kids praying together with such a fervent heart for God. They didn’t need fancy lights, loud music, cool/fast worship backgrounds, or even to see the band who was leading. They truly praised God for who He is and what He’s done for them. And I hope and pray they truly learned something.

I pray they learned that they needed to have a repentant heart.
I pray they learned that anything they put before God is an idol.
I pray they saw that they needed to pray on their knees until they blistered.
I pray they learned that worship is more than a song.

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that’s the measure you must take to crush the idols.

Stephen Proctor tweeted this earlier this week that was right on with what I felt at that rally, (I asked to turn on the lights and I wanted to get the perfect background for the gathering and set it up right. But these guys already had it right. So naturally, and I retweeted it Proctor’s post 🙂
it said:

Are you willing to die to your artistic pride in order for your community to come along further in the journey of worship? Something to think about…for all of us.

Now Showing. Entertainment For Your Everyday Church.

Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men,
I would not be a servant of Christ -Galatians 1:10

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about entertainment. I work at our local Gamestop and last week, as I’m sure many you know, was the release of one of the most anticipated games of the year. Halo: Reach. Now I personally haven’t played any of the Halo series, but I do love the soundtracks. I own the Halo 2 and Halo: Reach soundtracks. {Yeah, I’m a nerd for film soundtracks and had to get Halo Reach cause its so good.} Anyway, Halo: Reach tallied at $200 million on launch day. $200 million. Now why is it that people purchase video games, movies, music, etc?
For Entertainment.

So…I looked up entertainment and found that it is often defined as something affording pleasure, diversion, or amusement. Whether that’s attending a sporting event, concert, or movie, we go to be entertained. We are spectators of a performance. Unfortunately in some churches, visitors could easily confuse a worship service with a concert or theatrical show. Now when I say this, I don’t mean ”let’s completely eliminate different types of performance art from worship services”. We just have to be careful of the use of them. We need to ask ourselves questions [Who? Why?]. The more priority we put on entertaining instead of involving our congregations and inviting them into worship, the more we develop an entertainment worship. We end up making spectators instead of true worshipers.

I found this quote and was sadly brought to the realization of how entertainment in our churches is becoming more visible.

“We are not producing worshipers in this country. Rather, we are producing a generation of spectators, religious onlookers lacking, in many cases, a true encounter with God, deprived of both the tangible sense of God’s presence and the supernatural relationship their inmost spirits crave
.”—Sally Morgenthaler

It’s sad, but true. Entertainment is for pleasing the human eyes/ears…but worship is for pleasing God. Worship is for giving God the honor and praise He deserves. When worship services happen just to please the ears of the congregation rather than the heart of God, then how dare we call it a worship service. In the book of Amos, God deals with a similar problem with Israel [Instead of a Show].

Oh, brother or sister, God calls us to worship, but in many instances we are in entertainment, just running a poor second to the theaters. That is where we are, even in the evangelical churches, and I don’t mind telling you that most of the people we say we are trying to reach will never come to a church to see a lot of amateur actors putting on a home talent show.”
-A.W Tozer

I admit it. Sometimes my motives for wanting to incorporate technology in our services have been purely for cool factor. For relevance. For entertainment.
[Great post from Tim Schraeder about seeking relevance in the church today and where its taking us]

On the other side of the spectrum, sometimes I’ve felt like there may be about 10-15 people worshiping God while everyone else watches the performance of the praise team putting on an amateur talent show. I think the fact that we have stages, lights, and cameras all over the place gives the feeling of SNL or Broadway productions. Maybe we need to get rid of stages, lights, and cameras? Maybe not. Maybe its just the atmosphere we orchestrate? Maybe we have a distorted view of true worship and need to understand it for what it is?

Worship is beyond music. It is our response to God, in all that we do [1 Corinth. 10:31], because of who He is. I believe once we understand true worship, we can learn how to lead in worship.
I can’t remember where I found this online, I wanna say maybe Camron Ware and/or Stephen Proctor, but I just had it saved in a text file on my desktop and wanted to share it with you:

We need to take a step back and reevaluate the purpose behind our worship services. We need to ask ourselves why we do what we do. In beginning this process, I see four important steps:

Understand Worship—Unfortunately, many of us have an incomplete or skewed view of true worship. Worship extends far beyond music; it is our continuous response to God, in all that we do, because of who He is. A proper understanding of worship will shape how we lead our congregations.

Check Our Hearts—While our intentions in using entertainment in our services can be pure, we must constantly check our motives—we are all capable of placing our confidence in manmade things. As we incorporate music into our services, we should ask ourselves these questions:
• What purpose does this song serve in our time of worship?
• What does the song have to say about God and us?
• How is this song drawing people to the Lord?

Know Our Congregations—Every church is unique, so no one formula works for all churches. Just because a church in Seattle worships in a particular manner doesn’t mean it’s the right formula for our church. We must know what engages their minds, speaks to their souls, and enables them to participate in worship.

Pray—While this last point may sound cliché, it is of great importance. Leading our congregations in worship is not a minor task. Left to our own devices, our worship times can become about us. We must be in constant prayer, asking for the Lord’s guidance as we seek to serve and worship Him.

I believe there is so much truth in this. These four things are crucial and we need to constantly be reminded of them. I think I’m gonna write them down on index cards and place them in the different places I go to around my church.

I recently had to write a two page paper for a class. The topic was my philosophy on technology in the church. I want to share with you a bit of what I wrote:

Technology isn’t something new. We have always been advancing and discovering new forms of technology. I believe that we can explore past uses of technology and media in the church to better help us understand and communicate the message of Christ, His death, and resurrection. Using history to guide us is a great tool. It can tell us what people in the past have found to be useful and have been able to better develop into what we use today. I believe technology in the church can be used to develop ministries and express God’s truth through media to better prepare us for reaching others. Technology can help us see God’s story woven within our culture and make it easier for us to share that story with those around us. Different ministries reach different people. Ultimately, technology in the church is not about the stuff you have. It’s not enough to just be the “cool” technologically state-of-the-art church. It’s about the people. It’s about glorifying God with our creativity. It’s about looking through rather than reflecting back. The reason we put and use all this stuff is to reach people. To draw people towards God. To open a window to a lost and broken world that needs the church to be the body of Christ, showing His grace and mercy. I read in an article recently that said the cause of the local church is the cause of Christ. Through technology, the church can create ways to lift up that cause. When there is new Kingdom-impacting technology on the horizon, I believe with lots of prayer and discussion, the church should go for it. Not wait around for others to follow in a trend, but go for it for the cause of Christ.

Let’s pray that the church would increasingly give rise to passionate worshipers of Christ, rather than mere spectators of transient entertainment.

Let’s not expand this trend of being spectators, but rather be worshipers the Father seeks.

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.-John 4:23