BullseyeThis morning, I read five or six blog posts that referred to the same thing, in one way or another.  They all wrote about a really important concept for church leaders who have the responsibility for pulling off the weekly Big Show.

(If you’re new here, I usually refer to the weekly worship services as the “Big Show”, as a not-so-subtle reminder of our propensity (got that Krystal?) to turn our services into elaborate productions that require professionals to do on behalf of the adoring crowd who come to watch…and pay…every week.)

The concept is “Know Your Target”.

It’s actually a well-known marketing concept the church co-opted years ago. Companies that are in the business of selling products, following profit margins, and expecting quarterly growth understand it well.

It’s all about knowing who you’re selling to…knowing your demographic…knowing who you’re trying to reach with your product.

In the church, that means since you can’t reach everybody, make sure you define the audience you are best at reaching (or who you desire to reach), and “target” them. Understand them.  Identify with their interests and personality.  Play to those things that connect with them.

The targeting strategy is built on the idea that if you don’t structure to hit specific kinds of people, you may end up missing the mark altogether.  In other words, if you try to reach everybody, you’ll end up reaching nobody…and forever be stuck in the horror and irrelevance of small churchdom.

As a marketing strategy and plan for expansion, I happen to agree with the concept.  I even understand the logic of applying a form of it to church family life, although I’ve always struggled with the visual image of people walking around with a bulls-eye on their foreheads.  What happens if we only wing them?  Yikes.

I don’t mean to be petty, but I guess the fundamental problem I have with targeting an audience for a weekly Big Show, comes from my understanding of the nature of worship.

In worship, there is an audience of one.  The only target we are trying to connect with is the one we have come to worship.

And that’s not the awesomeness of the pastor.  Nor the hipness of the music.  Nor the coolness of the building.  Nor the vision of the church.   Nor the bounty of the program smorgasbord.

We target the King.


The Big Show

i’m going to come clean.   i’m going to own up to something i’ve been saying behind closed doors for years.

you may have heard me say it in passing.   i think i have written it a few times,  but it’s always been packaged in humor.   or sarcasm.

today i’m going to man up.

i call our sunday morning worship service the big show.

at first glance,  it looks/sounds totally offensive.   i’m pretty sure if i wasn’t me,  i would be more than annoyed at the reference.   on the surface,  it’s disrespectful,  irreverent,  and completely flippant.

but for me,  it means something different.   sure,  some of it flows from my childish,  misbehaving,  formerly-repressed-latent-adolescent-rebellious side.   (even though i’m honest,  i’m anything but angelic…).   surprised?

calling sunday mornings the big show is a reminder to me:

…to be constantly aware that it really is a performance.   just not in the way we naturally perceive it.   real corporate worship is a performance by the whole church family…to an audience of one.   together we are all on the stage…putting on a display of our love and adoration of the one true god.   it is a show of the greatest magnitude.

…that i am not the one giving the performance.   at least not alone.   although i stand on the stage (really,  it’s the floor),  in front of a pulpit  (actually,  a broken music stand),  with tons of adoring parishioners  (uh…maybe dozens would be more accurate),  sitting in rapt attention  (except for the ones going to the bathroom or texting their friends or taking a short nap or waiting for the basset hound to return)…it’s not about me.

…that when the slides don’t work right (what language was the second slide of the scripture reading?),  or when the screen doesn’t retract properly before the baptism,  or when crazy hand motions to songs make people look…and feel…ridiculous,  or when i get completely lost in my notes,  or when communion servers pass the juice before the bread,  or when things get totally out of order,  or…or…or…it’s still ok.   if this study through the sermon on the mount is teaching me anything,  it’s that god is not nearly as obsessed by the outward appearance as we are.   he’s obsessed with the heart.

…that there are a bunch of other things that are way more important to us than what takes place during a few hours on sunday mornings.  like friendship and eating and serving and helping others and praying for  others and showing people who don’t come to our big show that we aren’t any better than they are and showing them that god loves them.

i’ve heard that church growth experts  (that’s a club i’m apparently no longer welcome in because of the team i play for now)  encourage a church to spend 80% of their budget and resources  (staffing, technology, promotion and advertising,  facilities,  and electronic gadgetry)  on the sunday morning big show,  if they ever want to have a bigger show.

80%.   whew.

that’s a lot of pressure on the people who put on the big show…to put on the biggest,  baddest,  rock-star-worthy,  show every week.   no wonder the stars of those shows command such hefty salaries.   no wonder the stars of those shows are under so much pressure.   no wonder the stars of those shows are so susceptible to groupies who worship at their feet and wreak havoc in their marriages.   no wonder the crash and burn stats of the rock stars are so crazy high.

yeah…i call it the big show.  

i don’t ever want to forget.

Chairs 4 Worship

i drove up to turner falls today to pick up the kids from camp extreme and pull the trailer home.   it was a good camp.

on the way home,  i passed by this big warehouse (not sure if it was in oklahoma or texas.   doesn’t matter anyway…) with a huge sign on the outside that said,  Chairs 4 Worship.

after i got home,  i did a little research and found out that it is a chair manufacturing company that specializes in chairs that churches or other kinds of organizations would use in their sanctuaries or auditoriums.

the name of the place made me think.   the name was so blunt.   and it said way more than the owners intend.

somewhere in the midst of our buildings and bands and fancy video projection and oratorical masters and…soft, over-stuffed, stackable chairs…we have created a definition of worship that can’t be found in the bible.

i have this image of a bunch of comfortable chairs,  lined up neatly and symmetrically around the foot of the cross.   it’s a painful image.   worship on chairs?   are you kidding me? give me a short leash for a moment…

there are two primary words for worship in the new testament.   the first is a combination of two different words:  the prefix is “pros”, meaning towards or in the direction of. it’s where we get the word prostrate…the idea of laying face down,  spread-eagle,  in front of someone or something.   the second half of the word is “kuneo”, the greek word for kiss.

the first definition of worship,  then,  is to kiss towards or better yet…to lay face down and offer expressions of love and adoration.   whoa.   pretty intense.

the second word for worship in the new testament is  “latrueo”…and it is the word found in romans 12:1…

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.

the “flip-side” of the coin of worship means to roll up your sleeves and go to work. it means to climb on the altar of life and offer your body…your time and talent and effort and sweat and service to god.   and when you do that,  it’s worship.   wow.   even more intense.

so how did chairs get into the equation?   this is messed up.


compared to most 54 year-old men, i’m a pretty flexible guy.  i’m challenged by innovation and new ideas.  i love change.  i’m way more post-modern in my orientation than a lot of 20 and 30-somethings i know.  i think if the church (our church) continues to do the same things in the same ways, we’re going to continue to lose young people in the same way.  like i said, i’m all for change.

so when i read about this new idea, well…i’m still kind of steamed when i think about it.

tim stevens is a church-leader-blogger that i like to read.  he had an interesting post about outsourcing worship leaders the other this morning at his leadingsmart.com website.  i’m curious what you might think about it…

(thanks to mondaymorninginsight.com for the synopsis)

tim met with a church leader from mississippi that temporarily hired worship leaders to come in to help them out after their worship leader left for another job.  it worked out so well, that the church decided to permanently hire temporary worship leaders.  they have settled on four or five leaders that they bring in on a weekly basis.  according to tim stevens, here are some of the advantages this church leader told him about this approach:

  • many worship leaders don’t enjoy building teams, managing budgets or organizing departments. they just love to lead worship. this strategy let’s them stay in their sweet spot.
  • this decision saves money for the church.  they are able to pay them really well for a weekend and still save enough money in the church budget to use toward another staff position.
  • they love the variety that this brings to their church.   keeping things unpredictable is a plus to keeping people’s attention.
  • they have learned so much from these worship leaders that they wouldn’t have learned from one person.

in spite of my sometimes reckless love for change and my willingness to go out to the edge for the sake of reaching people for christ, i gotta tell you that i hate this idea.  i appreciate the outside-the-box thinking, but this church has got some messed up thinking.

the premise is all wrong.  the justifications are all wrong.   the expectations are all wrong.  sorry for being so wishy-washy about my opinion on this one.  the definition of worship leader is wrong.  the motive for doing this is wrong.  what about relationship?  what about family?  i’ll stop now.

agree or disagree?

for the record, you people at north point better not get any wacky ideas about outsourcing the preaching around here…

I miss this

music is important to me.  it wasn’t very long ago that playing my guitar and leading singing and helping people (especially kids) learn to go deeper in their awareness of the presence of god through music was something that characterized my life.  i miss those days.

but music is still important to me.

back in the early 80’s, i was introduced to music of rich mullins.  his music and lyrics challenged and sustained me during some really difficult times.  his theology stretched my thinking and impacted my lifestyle.  the depth of his understanding of god and the kingdom was profound.

he died an untimely death.  our loss was beyond words at the time.  it’s still pretty much beyond my words.

anyway, i thought i’d share a few of his songs with you.  his music was simple.  it never topped the charts.  it wouldn’t today.  but his lyrics…

If I Stand

There’s more that rises in the morning than the sun
And more that shines in the night than just the moon
It’s more than just this fire here that keeps me warm
In a shelter that is larger than this room

And there’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiments
And a music higher than the songs that I can sing
The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance
I owe only to the Giver of all good things

So if I stand let me stand on the promise
That you will pull me through
And if I can’t, let me fall on the grace
That first brought me to You
And if I sing let me sing for the joy
That has born in me these songs
And if I weep let it be as a man
Who is longing for his home

There’s more that dances on the prairies than the wind
More that pulses in the ocean than the tide
There’s a love that is fiercer than the love between friends
More gentle than a mother’s when her baby’s at her side

i think i’ll give you some more insight into rich mullins tomorrow…

a thought on worship…

i was doing some reading this morning and came across this quote.  it’s by a guy named don chapman…a pretty well known composer and worship guy out of nashville.  i’m wondering what you think…

Some worship leaders get into the rut of constantly throwing new songs at the congregation and then wonder why nobody’s worshipping.  Remember, we musical worship leaders are way ahead of the average person in the congregation.  We’re tired of the latest worship songs before 99% of the congregation even knows the songs exist (most Christians never step foot in a Christian bookstore or listen to Christian radio, let alone care about the latest hot worship leader).  “Open the Eyes of My Heart” is STILL in CCLI top ten, and “Lord I Lift Your Name On High” is still in the top 20!

A few years ago I was out in Dallas visiting worship media guru Greg Atkinson. He took me on a tour of all the big churches in the area. Great productions, great music, but little worship going on and lots of performances. However, at one megachurch in particular I remember very distinctly being drawn in and touched by the worship. Suddenly it hit me: I happened to know all the songs in the set and I realized something important: people worship best with songs they know. It’s simply harder to worship when the mind is intent on learning a new tune, but the mind is freed up when the song is familiar and the heart can worship more easily.

i love the fact that we learn new songs on a pretty regular basis at north point.  it inspires me…challenges me…opens my eyes…and gives me a greater vocabulary to praise god with.   but this quote caused an interesting list of questions.

  • is sunday morning the only time you sing?
  • how important is singing in your worship experience?
  • how do you define worship outside of singing?

i’m really interested in what you think…

Friday is Top Five Day

it has been pretty fun for me to think back over the past thirteen years here at north point and consider all the different songs we have used in our worship experience.  i don’t think for a moment that singing is the only way we worship the creator, nor do i believe that it is nearly the most important…but it is a significant part of it…especially the way we do it here!

on the past two fridays, i’ve list both my favorite high energy songs and my favorite mid-tempo songs.  both serve a purpose for me, though my love for loud, explosive songs of praise will not be denied!

today, i’m going to list my favorite slow, contemplative music.  there are critics who say that our use of music in worship is manipulative and contrived.  don’t get defensive.  it is…sometimes.  there is something about music that moves emotions and stirs my heart.  my feelings are touched, my mind is stimulated, my body reacts, my will is challenged.  it’s potentially powerful.

when that music is offered to god, it can be all of that and more.  here are some of my favorite slower songs that didn’t make my top five:

  • Oh How He Loves Me
  • We Enter In
  • Come Home Running
  • Psalm 9
  • Come Ye Sinners
  • Still
  • The Old Rugged Cross
  • Blessing
  • Lord You Have My Heart
  • By The Grace of the Lamb

these are all awesome songs…some we haven’t sung in years…but i will never forget them.  they are permanently part of who i am.  so…here’s my top five:

5.   Word of God Speak – by Mercy Me (short, simple, powerful)

4.   He Knows My Name – by Tommy Walker (i found this song years ago on a calvary chapel worship cd called “dry bones dancing”…i’ve never heard anybody sing it except north point!)

3.   You Are My King – by Chris Tomlin (one of tomlin’s earliest songs…before anybody knew who he was…i don’t normally like the whole “repetitive” thing that goes on in a lot of worship circles…singing the same chorus over and over and over again…but this is one song that always leaves me wanting to sing it one more time)

2.   It is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford and Philip Bliss (maybe the most famous and well known hymn ever…you should do a search and read the story behind the song, if you don’t know it…i like the up-tempo way we do it at north point, but i miss the majesty and power and richness of it’s original ballad form.   there is nothing like it!)

1.   This Road – by Jars of Clay (this song was penned for “voice of the martyrs” and the international day of prayer for the persecuted church six or seven years ago.  i cannot sing it without experiencing polar opposite emotions…radical identification with fellow believers who worship in the most severe conditions of human suffereing…and the absolute wonder that god allows me to experience the life i have).

there you have it.  what about you?  is there a slower song that moves you that’s not on my list?