In the United States, this is the time of year when we celebrate several of our most important patriotic holidays. Many churches have additional services, choir concerts or fireworks events, particularly on Independence Day. And it is fitting that we do so. It is right to take time to be thankful for the country that we live in and the freedoms afforded us here. It is right to honor the sacrifice of those who have fought for freedom and against tyranny and injustice.
As Christians, however, we have to maintain a careful balance. While enjoying and participating in our national celebrations, it must always be foremost in our minds that our primary citizenship is in the Kingdom of God. This place is not our home. We are sojourners here. Our first allegiance must be to Jesus Christ alone.
It may be unpopular to say, but this also means that we actually have a greater bond with Christians that live in other countries (even "enemy" nations), than we do with citizens of our country that are not Christians. The bond of Christian brotherhood has to transcend national ties - it is a bond in the blood of Christ. We need to be able to see their suffering, their persecution, their poverty, their victories and setbacks as our own.
Jesus said that there is rejoicing in heaven every time a sinner repents - sounds like a party to me. So while it is proper and good to join in our national celebrations, let's reserve our greatest parties for celebrating victories with our brothers and sisters in the Kingdom of God.
with Stephen Proctor
Recent developments in technology have made it affordable for many churches to worship in multi-screen environments for the first time. This opens up a whole new door of creativity to the local church and could have a dramatic impact on what the future of many of our worship services will look like.
The term “multi-screen” simply means spanning your projected media across two or more projection screens. Currently the most common configuration seems to be a three-screen display (referred to as “triplewide”), but there are virtually endless possibilities.
In a church context, triplewide projection usually takes on one of two forms: multi-screen video staging and Environmental Projection®. Multi-screen staging refers to the use of multiple screens as a significant feature of the stage area of the room. This may take the form of an array of screens hung directly above the platform, or an array of screens that serves as the backdrop for the stage.
Environmental Projection® refers to projecting images onto the architectural surfaces of the worship space interior. For some great examples of this, take a look at the gallery on VisualWorshiper.com.
To get set up for a typical 3-screen configuration, you will need a worship presentation software package, such as EasyWorship, MediaShout, or ProPresenter. You will also need an additional plug-and-play device, the TripleHead2Go, made by Matrox, that takes your outputted signal and splits it across three projectors (around $300). Most of the presentation software packages take the image and stretch it across the screens, however, with the Advanced Module from ProPresenter, you can actually control which screen or screens display text (e.g., song lyrics) and which screens display your background image (video or still).
One important key to great looking triplewide projection is to project media that is made for that format. With the release of our Worship Animations III collection, WorshipFilms now offers video in 2400 x 600 resolution, specifically designed for this application. Additionally, we plan to produce more video products for this format in the coming months.
I, like most of you, have set in meeting after meeting where we, as Christians, have come together to cry out to God for revival, for a move of the Holy Spirit across our city, region and nation. Yet year after same-old year it has failed to materialize.
None of what I am about to say is meant to minimize the role of prayer in seeing a great move of God come - without question it is indispensable. Prayer is the seed of real transformation.
But what if God's response to our cries for spiritual movement is "I'm ready when you are!"? What if God is waiting for us to start doing the core things that He has told us so many times in so many ways to focus on: visit the prisoner, care for the orphan and widow, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, love one another, pray for the sick, cast out demons, preach the gospel, make disciples, go into all the world, invite the stranger to your party...?
Scripture is clear that obedience is better than sacrifice. And I know for a fact the obedience is something God honors.
If we want to see God move, if we want His anointing, if we want to feel His pleasure on our lives, if we want to see our neighborhoods be something other than what they are, if we really want revival, then maybe we should give obedience a shot.
One of my least favorite Christian phrases is "I want to live a BALANCED Christian life." I hate it because it is not usually a statement that indicates a desire to be theologically sound - it's a statement that really means, "I want to live comfortably." It really means, "I want to live without risk or inconvenience."
I was reading a book by John Perkins recently in which he asked whether we have conformed our Christianity to our lifestyle, or conformed our lifestyle to biblical Christianity. We cannot fully answer the call of Jesus Christ without changing our lifestyles from self-centered to God-and-neighbor-centered. The change that the Gospel calls us to is not just about giving up immoral practices - it is call to embrace a radical love that is willing to take any number and types of risks to see reconciliation and justice and wholeness for others. It is a change that means incrementally dying to ourselves and our self-interests. The degree to which we are willing to do so is the degree to which the love of God can flow through us to a broken world.
Jesus told us that "he who seeks to save his life will lose it." Is that what we have been doing? Have we been unconsciously or consciously been spending our energies on making our lives safe? Perhaps there is no better time than now to pull out our calendars and checkbooks and take stock of where our lives are centered. If we find that it indicates something other than a lifestyle of radical, Christ-centered love, let's start taking some intentional steps toward change.
We’ve made a big investment in projection equipment, computers, software, and media. We’ve spent a lot of time learning and tweaking the system so that everything looks the best that it can. We have to use it to its fullest potential – we have to get our money’s worth. So we should be projecting something every minute of the service, right? Well…no, not really.
Certainly, almost every church should be using imagery during the service. But remember, projection is a complimentary tool. What is done on the screen should flow with the rest of the service. And sometimes, projecting nothing is the best we can do.
Here are some service points where you should consider projecting nothing:
- a quiet, reverent moment of worship when the congregation is completely silent.
- you are singing a slower, familiar song, you have repeated the chorus several times, and the worship leader has the instruments stop, so the congregation is worshipping acapella.
- the pastor has finished the main part of his message and is closing in a thoughtful, poignant tone.
- the pastor is giving a salvation invitation.
- someone is leading the congregation in prayer.
At those times, having something on the screen can potentially be more of a distraction than a help. Again, the goal is to flow with/be a part of what God is doing during the service – and sometimes, doing nothing at all is the best way to accomplish that.
We are having a FREE résumé writing workshop at our church this weekend because so many people are out of work. I called our local Employment Security Commission to ask them to post an announcement about it, since so many unemployed people come through there. He said the workshop is a great thing to do, but he could not post an announcement about it because they are a state organization and we are a church.
Now, keep in mind that this is in the middle of the Bible belt. I'm not mad, but that is absolutely mind-blowing to me.
In case we missed it, the U.S.A. is changing at a rapid pace. I hope we are ready to live radically for Christ in a country that is growing increasingly uneasy with Christians.
I have been doing some thinking over the last year on the actual words that Jesus said.
I think, because I have been in church most of my life and listened to a lot of teaching ABOUT the words of Jesus, I have a library of phrases in my mind that are connected with those words. So when I start to read a familiar passage, mentally I go straight to the interpretation that I have been taught instead of taking in what Jesus actually said.
So, I am trying to slow down - slow down and force myself to meditate on what His actual words were. And then I am asking myself if I have been living like I believe them.
Of course, Jesus did not intend for every single word He uttered to be taken literally. But often, I think we have been too quick to generate a what-He-was-really-trying-to-say version of His words, instead of letting Jesus speak for Himself. And often, we do that because His words are calling us to a radical way of life, and that makes us fearful.
In the end, however, we have to come to the place of knowing that anything Jesus said was said in love and for our benefit. We can and must trust Him. And if we really believe Him, really take Him at His word, then we will do the things He said.
Many churches over the last 7-10 years have rightly come to the conclusion that they need to tailor their communication styles on Sunday morning to the needs of the people filling the chairs (or pews). They have done this because, while not wanting to compromise the Gospel in any way, they want to be as effective as they can be in their communication. And of course, projection and media made for church services has been a huge part of that change in communication style.
However, as Sally Morgenthaler pointed out several years ago, there is a danger that comes with this change: we tend to start depending on the style to replace some of the big things the church is called to do, namely evangelize and disciple.
Videos can do a lot for you. They can bring practical application to a message. They can make a message point more memorable and stir the heart. They can enhance your worship time. They can help you communicate information in a way that grabs and keeps the attention of your audience. They are an important ministry tool.
But videos cannot go out and form a friendship with the guy who goes to Little League games on Sunday mornings. They cannot talk one-on-one with the woman who grew up being abused by a church member, and help her see that God really does love her. Videos cannot serve in the soup kitchen, or bring groceries to shut-ins.
Let’s face it: to have creative communication in your church service (videos, dramas, sets, object lessons) takes time and effort. So do evangelism and discipleship. A healthy church is a church that has found an effective way to do all of it.
And there is no short cut – the only way to do it all is for every member of the body of Christ to step up and do what they are called to do.
These are serious, sober times. We desperately need each other, whether we realize it or not, to be fully engaged in the cause of Christ. So this week, encourage your brother or sister who has been sitting on the sidelines to get back it the game. It’s game time, and we need them on the field!