Monday, March 30, 2009

Worship Matters: Book Review

Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God Worship Matters: Leading Others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you follow Bob Kauflin's blog, you know that his routine of answering people's questions about church music ministry is done very deliberately. He doesn't rant. He encourages right relationships first. He emphasizes biblical principles, and in the end he'll get around to answering the question, an answer that usually seems more obvious once he cuts to the heart of the issue, and what is really important. It is no surprise then to see his book written in the same style, and with the same patience we've come to expect from him. Worship Matters is more than just another book about worship, and it is more than a little commentary and list of suggestions on how to "do music" better.
Bob Kauflin's book Worship Matters is a very useful guide for church music volunteers to music directors to worship leaders, to senior pastors. The book's primary focus, however is on worship leaders. He takes his time patiently addressing each topic, even sometimes repeating himself, but not to anyone's detriment. The book serves as a healthy reminder to those who would lead worship-musical or non musical, as to what is important and what should be remembered, and what can safely be discarded.

The book is divided into four main sections. The first deals with the worship leaders in five short chapters. What is important, what should be important? what are the things the leader should love? what are things the leaders believe? what are the things leaders practice? what are the things leaders model?

It is a great centering area of the book for worship leaders to ruminate on even before proceeding further along in the book.

Part two of the book deals specifically with what a worship leader does. Here he presents his definition:
A faithful worship leader
magnifies the greatness of God in Jesus Christ
through the power of the Holy Spirit
by skillfully combining God's Word with music,
thereby motivating the gathered church
to proclaim the gospel,
to cherish God's presence,
and to live for God's glory.

He spends the next several chapters exegeting his own statement, exploring and giving insight phrase by phrase. Here Kauflin gives a nice mix of scriptural, philosophical, and practical teachings and suggestions for understanding the worship leader's role.

The third part to his book explores what he terms "Healthy Tensions." Using the following principles, 1. Do what God clearly commands. 2. Don't do what God clearly forbids. 3. Use scriptural wisdom for everything else.

Even though he spends time expanding on these tensions, I find that the most insight is gained by pondering the existence and identification of the tensions alone. Not meant to be a comprehensive list, Kauflin lists the following:

  • Transcendent and Immanent
  • Head and Heart
  • Internal and External
  • Vertical and Horizontal
  • Planned and Spontaneous
  • Rooted and Relevant
  • Skilled and Authentic
  • For the Church and Unbelievers
  • Event and Everyday

The fourth part deals with Right Relationships: Church, Team, and Pastor. It is always good to be reminded of healthy relationships, and their importance, particularly in church leadership. This section of the book was probably the most meaningful to me, as with great humility Kauflin framed healthy church leadership relationships in light of submission to the pastor, seeking to give encouragement, seeking biblical steps in resolving conflict, nipping personal pride, and seeking evaluation and reproof. Proverbs 12:1 "Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid."

The end notes to this book contain a robust annotated bibliography, short on music sources and heavy on theology. This is no surprise as his writing is rich with scriptural references and one of his fundamental perspectives is that the worship leader, just as all followers of Christ, should first seek to be a theologian.

Some favorite quotes:

A worship leader who barely knows the Bible can't be a faithful worship leader.

We're good theologians if what we say and think about God lines up with what Scripture says and affirms. We're bad theologians if our view of God is vague, unbiblical, distorted, or based on our own opinions.

Misconception: We know God better through music than through Words.

When we're dodgy about our theology, we're really saying we want our own Jesus.

[God] never gets tired of hearing believers' almost-in-tune, somewhat together, faith-filled offerings of worship.

If our doctrine is accurate but our hearts are cold toward God himself, our corporate worship will be true but lifeless. Or if we express fervent love for God but present vague, inaccurate, or incomplete ideas of him to those we're leading, our worship will be emotional but misleading-and possibly idolatrous. Neither option brings God glory.

If you have a role in leading worship in church or parachurch, this book will be well worth your time. Whether you're the primary worship leader, a "chief musician," a volunteer, or a senior pastor, I highly recommend this book and it's valuable insights to you.

View all my reviews.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Philosophy of Orchestration (part 1)

I had a lot of fun gearing up a for a little presentation I did today at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary's orchestration class. The professor, Joshua Waggener, asked me to give some perspectives of "real world" church orchestration and techniques for writing for rhythm sections.

I blew it all out in a matter of fifty minutes. So much to say, so little time. Those poor students.

The following represents the beginning of some things we discussed related to orchestration and your orchestra. The context was specifically church orchestration since that is generally the orientation of the music program at SEBTS.

The first question to ask yourself when considering orchestrating a hymn, chorus, or other song for your church orchestra:

Does the song need an orchestration?

Here I could write almost an entire blog post in response to this question. (in fact, it turned into one!) As music staff we probably don't wrestle with a bigger question: just because the orchestra is sitting there, does that mean they should play? Or asked another way: What is a reasonable amount of material to expect an orchestra to play on?

The tension here lies in the "worth it" factor. If you have three services in the morning, as we do at Providence, is it wise to ask your orchestra volunteers to come and make themselves available for all three services in order to accompany one anthem and a hymn? As servants, we would say, yes, they should be happy to come in and play only the refrain of just one hymn and be glad they got a chance to serve.

A steady diet of this, however would strongly affect their morale and before long, there would be very little orchestra left for whom to orchestrate!

The flip side of this coin, and frankly the side we error on more than the other, is to make a programming decision based on the fact that the orchestra is scheduled to play. An observer might perceive this as the tail wagging the dog. Honestly, this is sometimes the case as we occasionally are forced to change what we felt was an already strong service plan in terms of flow in order to satisfy the "worth it" factor for the orchestra volunteers.

Being forced to make decisions like the one above is wrought by everything from bad planning on our part to an overall lack of quality arrangements available to us. Sometimes, however we are blindsided by another factor: partial orchestrations.

On a day in which the entire orchestra is scheduled, we may plan a service and congratulate ourselves on how frequently we managed to involve the orchestra. Upon closer examination, however, we realize that on song A, B, and D, only the strings play, while on songs C, and E, only the brass play, and on song F, the lone orchestrated hymn selection, the woodwinds get to play.

Planning well requires answering the original question: Does the song NEED an orchestration? If it is decided a song could be enhanced by an orchestration (another subjective decision), the project needs to be set into motion weeks in advance of the service, not only for the sake of the arranger, but for the sake of rehearsal.

But let me just be clear about this one thing: Some songs in the pop world, Christian or secular or not bettered by the finest orchestration. Some band-led songs often need to stay that way. Any attempted horn lick or string line can diminish the pathos of the song in it's original state and derail the emotive qualities of a song. Again, a subjective call, perhaps, but would we really want to try to add to All the Saints Join In, or This is Who I Am? Great skill would be required both by the arranger and by the performer!

Upon answering the question in the affirmative regarding the need for an orchestration, we have several more to answer. (Stay tuned)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Twitter Spam

There have been questions by observers for some time now about how on earth Twitter will ever monetize its service. Recent news has added fuel to the speculation, but in the mean time, I have found how quickly and clever business can be in attempting to recruit customers.

Recently, through the power of suggestion via a podcast I was listening to, I developed a hankering for Jelly Beans. So I tweeted:

Within a half an hour I was being followed by Oh! Nuts, evidently a snack company (I haven't given them the satisfaction of actually trying to find out) who probably scouted out the key words "Jelly Bean" on a service like monitter. Later in the day I received the following @reply:

I haven't followed any of their links, but judging by their many @ replies, it appears that someone has a full time job of scouting certain terms on twitter, and turning their tweet into a direct marketing opportunity. I guess we're gonna have to start blocking until the folks at Twitter figure out how to make money off this scheme.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Are Rebates Worth it?

I recently bought 4GB of memory from a Tigerdirect retail store close to my house. The appeal for this particular brand was simple. I could get "4096MB PC6400 DDR2 800Mhz" RAM for $20.00. Yeah!

First, I have to pay $45.00, the get my $25 rebate. The catch, of course, is the rebate process. I can just picture the execs sitting in a room dreaming up ways to help people loose heart in cashing in on their rebates.

The process begins by going to a CompUSA (really?) web site, typing in the part number I purchased. (This was not easy to find, by the way). So after typing "C13-6082" into the little form, I get a list of possible rebates I could be eligable for depending on the date of my purchase. Once I find my date range, I have to download a pdf document that then instructs me to go to ANOTHER web site to really begin the rebate process. OK.

This web site is happy to send a check for $25 in 8-10 weeks (really?), or in 5-7 days, they'll send me a gift visa or wire me money for a small $3 fee.

No thanks.

I click to get the full rebate of $25, even though the value of the dollar will probably fall enough to make it worth the $22 I am now being offered to get my rebate sooner.

So now, after surrendering my address, phone number, and TWO email addresses (just in case), I am directed to another pdf to print. I then receive an email (at both addresses) featuring these instructions:

  1. Verify all fields on the rebate application including name, address, order number, serial number etc. are filled in completely and the information is accurate. The name and address that appear on your invoice or purchase receipt must match the name and address on your rebate application.
  2. Print out and Sign the completed rebate application. (Your rebate application cannot be processed without your signature)
  3. Attach all required documentation as specified in the rebate application including your invoice and the UPC barcode. Depending on the rebate offer, Serial numbers and other proof of purchase may also be required. The rebated product must appear on your invoice or purchase receipt.
  4. Send your completed and signed application along with all required documentation to the PO Box address indicated on the rebate application. For your convenience the rebate application contains a mailing label with the address preprinted.
  5. Be sure to have your completed submission postmarked on or before the "postmark by" date on your application. This date is usually 30 days from your original purchase date.
Why is the signature so important? If I can produce the serial number, surely all this could be done instantly and online.

I am going to do it all. I am not going to give them the satisfaction of "forgetting" to complete the process, thereby giving them an 80% markup!

The question I have yet to answer, and may never really know for sure: "Is it worth it?"

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why I Enjoy Facebook

It has been said that Facebook is for people you knew, Twitter is for people you don't know yet. I think this is true, as I have particularly enjoyed stretching both directions recently with both tools.

Below is a screen shot of a recent "conversation" I had with several old friends. The cool thing about this to me is that I know that if I could get these people in a room together, they'd probably all get along great! Below are comments from Chapel friends, Cedarville friends, high school friends from Kansas City, high school friends from New Jersey, and local friends. It is a lot of fun to be reconnected, even if the thing that reconnects you is trivialities. Ultimately, I see Facebook and Twitter as a ministry tools, but that's fodder for another post.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Name that Tune(s)

Some may watch this and think the guy who created this has way too much time on his hands. Maybe, but I think it's genius.

All the video clips below edited together in this video were taken from videos posted all over YouTube and sown, and looped together to create this little masterpiece.

Chick-Fil-A, the service economy, and your church

In 2005, Janet and I celebrated our 10 year anniversary with the best vacation ever. We saved money for months and months and blew it all in one week. We went on a cruise to the western Caribbean ports on Royal Caribbean. We loved it!

One of the things about cruiselines and high-end vacation places like Disney is that they are selling you an experience. The commodity is more than the boat, the hotel, the beach, the mouse ears, whatever you may be doing. The commodity is actually everything surrounding it.

Our family has become regular Chick-Fil-A customers. Especially on Tuesday nights when with the purchase of a regular "value" meal a kid's meal is free. The restaurant at this location usually has "the cow," a balloon person, face painter, crafts, plus other freebies for the kids. They love it. We enjoy it.

But the thing about Chick-Fil-A, and the thing about its astounding growth in the last few years relates back to the experience it creates for its customers. Consider this:

  • What other restaurants, fast food or otherwise hand out so many coupons for free food?
  • What other restaurants have specific family-friendly weekly nights? I mean more than just "kids eat free," I mean actively giving away desserts, doing fun stuff for kids.
  • Where else can you go to see a cow walking around on two legs?
  • What other fast food restaurant features a hostess that comes out, offers to remove your trash and tray and get you a refill? And no, they don't accept tips.
  • The phrase "My pleasure." In place of "your welcome." I would wager the same consulting firm that trained the Royal Caribbean staff must have also trained the CFA staff. The difference is subtle, but significant. "Your Welcome" implies automatic response. I-say-this because you-said-that kind of thing. It also carries a connotation of "I didn't mind doing that for you." "My Pleasure," on the other hand has much stronger service overtones. It says "I really wanted to do that for you, and I'd do it again."
  • What other fast food restaurant is specifically and intentionally closed on Sundays because it is The Lord's Day?

Finally, the refills. Has anybody encountered a Chick-Fil-A where the soft drink dispensers are available for you to use? I used to think it was a mistake for CFA to not put them out for everyone to serve themselves. Now I am convinced it is intentional. I believe they keep them behind the counter because they want you to come ask for a refill. They want to force the service interaction, and create another opportunity to say "My Pleasure."

So how do the Chick-Fil-A principles apply to our churches? What lessons of service and kindness are Chick-Fil-A stores teaching by example that the church should already know? If a fast food restaurant can exemplify Christian values, stick firmly to biblical principles, and produce a quality product enough to generate a blog post like this, how much more should people be walking away from a gathering of any kind at a church and want nothing more than to come back?

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Yeah, I can't bowl

There is an axiom concerning my athletic abilities I've discovered over the years: My bowling and golf scores are usually about the same.

I don't know if I'm a lousy bowler because I never bowl or if I never bowl because I'm a lousy bowler. It doesn't matter. I feel confident with a couple of other things I can do with my hands besides serve a spherical object with three holes drilled in it down a greasy runway in an attempt to knock over ten wooden pins. What a dumb "game."

The boys love it, and that's why we did it. Our scores are here below.

In my defense, please note that the boys had "bumpers" up, as indicated by the icons in the orange squares.

You may also notice I scored two strikes in a row. This, I thought was because for fun I switched from a 15 pound ball to a 10 pound ball. I don't think that was it because I used the same ball on the last frame to little fanfare.

I either push the ball from right to left, or I push it in a straight line. The straight line always happens when I'm off center on the right. Yes, I could practice and get better, but then I'd be spending money on something I don't really care about, plus if I got better it would mess up the delicate equilibrium I have achieved between my golf and bowling scores.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

"...and now on to the scores."

I tweeted earlier today that I was looking into Neil Postman, who's book Amusing Ourselves to Death I finally read five or six years ago. It had been a while since I had heard anything about him and I was curious to know if he had done any recent research.

I was prompted to look into him again, wondering what, if anything he has had to say regarding the acceleration of media, trivial information, and bizarre juxtapositions of news items brought on by the internet. His book, "Amusing..." out in the mid-80's before the internet explosion, and really before cable and satellite became mainstream, dealt with how the never-ending flow of information over the airwaves diminished intelligent discourse and robbed truly important events of their meaning by pairing them (unwittingly, usually) with "...and now a word from our sponsor."

Unfortunately, I discovered that he passed away in 2003.

What rekindled my interest in him and these thoughts was an emotional report I saw this morning on ESPN's Sports Center. The story was an update of the NFL players and friends who have been missing off the coast of Florida. A former coach was being interviewed, choked up, could barely finish his statement and then asked quickly to be excused from the cameras.

Back at the anchor desk, we heard (after an uncomfortable pause) "And now on to the scores."

If ever a triviality was unwittingly delivered on the same plain as a life and death event, it was exemplified here.