By Dr. Christopher Wells
FBC Elder of Worship
This might sound strange coming from your Elder of Worship, but I think worshiping God is extremely unnatural.
Praising our friends, our family, our bosses, career achievements,
material possessions, a new haircut, and on and on … those things are easy to do, but worshiping God week-in and week-out is hard for us.
Everything I do to guide and facilitate worship at First Baptist is based on our Theology of Worship, and for the moment I’d like to draw your attention to two guiding principles: “Worship is work” and “worship is transportational and transformational.”
Every week we put in hours practicing with our instruments, with our voices, and seeking God in prayer, trying to become better worship
leaders. We do so in the hope that the congregation will feel at ease entering into worship with us.
That brings me back to my original point: worship is not at all natural. It requires effort. Being transformed through worship and transported into God’s presence requires our best effort.
It also requires us to reduce distractions during our times of worship. For some of us that means getting to bed a little earlier on
Saturday night. For others it means turning off our smartphones before the service starts.
For the worship team it means having our music in order (with correct keys and lyrics) and our sound balanced.
Over the years we’ve tried many strategies to make the music part
easier. At first we were simply making fresh copies of all the sheet music we needed every Sunday. But this proved to be wasteful.
From there we started keeping binders full of songs: three binders containing lyrics and melodies for singers, and another five or six
binders containing chords, melodies, and lyrics for instrumentalists. This wasn’t as wasteful, but it took time and energy to organize. (For a while I was paying Iris every Sunday to file our sheet music!)
For the last year we have been planning services using a piece of software called “Planning Center.”
It allows us to set up and share scriptures, songs, sermon series, and specials (like the children’s sermon or Moment for Missions) with minimal effort.
It also allows us to keep track of all of our music resources digitally, on tablets and laptops, rather than in binders and files that require constant attention.
Over the past few months, with many thanks to the generosity of the worshippers of First Baptist Church, you have seen our music stands
exchanged for smart tablets.
And hopefully you have noticed a platform area cluttered with binders full of sheet music exchanged for an elegant, clutter-free place of worship.
The issue of balance is a tougher one. Almost 10 years ago a “sound study” was done on our sanctuary.
The consultants who performed this study called the room we gather in every Sunday (and most Wednesdays) a challenging space.
It has a very high ceiling, lots of surfaces that reflect sound, and a big hollow stage that amplifies low frequencies (organ pedals, kick drum, bass guitar, left hand of the piano).
The story here has been the old “two steps forward, one step back.“
For example, we added an amplifier and large monitors (the big, black speakers up front) so musicians could hear themselves without turning up their volume. That was a good thing.
However, it adds more sound in that challenging space, which is not a good thing. Even worse, our soundboard was never wired correctly for monitors.
For ages, there was only one output line. That means if you add sound to the monitors, you’re also adding it to the mix in the room. It’s like every additional sound gets added twice. (Challenging might not be a strong enough word.)
In the past month, we took another step forward in this area, by
implementing in-ear monitors. The big black speakers are gone.
They have been replaced by little black headphones — one set for each musician and singer. These headphones connect to little receiver packs that clip to a belt or go in a pocket.
Best of all, we now have three mixes: one for the room, one for
singers, and one for musicians. All individually controlled by our mixing board. There are still challenges ahead (we took one step forward; we’re trying not to take steps back).
The biggest challenge ahead is getting the mix right to accommodate the organ and drums.
Both of those instruments are very loud, and neither one goes through the mixing board.
I’ll ask for your patience and grace as we work to integrate them properly into everything that we’re doing.
I pray constantly that as the worship team simplifies how we prepare and conduct worship, we would all be able to enter into times of praise more freely and easily!
Soli Deo Gloria.