Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Worship from the Booth

John Northrup is the Technical Director for Element. He's a professional audio engineer and computer systems architect who has been doing video/audio/systems/assorted tech production service for churches for a very long time. John, almost literally, has spent his last ten years of church attendance in a sound booth or video suite, and in the rare moments when he is "merely" attending, he has found it difficult to not be in production/evaluation mode.

I wanted to share his reflections on our Easter service, not really to comment further on the Easter service, but because I find his perspective, as a guy running the show (so to speak), really interesting and unique. While they talk about producing the experience and crafting the service quite a bit, I don't encounter much talk online from church tech guys about their actual experience in worship.

Here's what John wrote:
I actually found myself singing and participating in corporate worship. The significance of which I'm sure I can't do justice in describing.

When you're in technical ministry, you rarely - if you're doing it right - have a chance to worship with / like everyone else. You're focusing on the mix, the camera shot, the program flow and what must come next. When you're not actively doing that - your mind is conditioned to run those scenarios anyway. More often then not as a technical guru you will find yourself in a worship settings with your mind flipped to a position where you examine, critique, and observe everything about the worship... without actually engaging in worship. As a leader in technical ministry we teach people that their paradigm of how they worship changes with this particular role of servant hood. Instead of worshiping with their voice and hands lifted, they give their offering in their talents that they use to make worship happen. Having said all that - I cannot express how personally gratifying it was to sing, smile, and praise my risen King last night. I can count on two hands the number of times that has actually happened in 10 years of technical ministry.

Josh, our worship pastor, has also talked before about being a part of worship bands and worship sets that are so focused on the performance, on the production, on whatever, that they effectively must remove themselves from the actual experience of worship. He is passionate about eliminating that obstacle for those who play on the Element stage.

Would be interested in other music/production/tech perspectives . . .


Jared said...

Thinkling Bill emailed this comment:

Man, is that a needed post. I personally think being "the sound guy" at a church is a straight ticket to the desert - your immersed in church (it's your job), but most sound guys don't get to worship hardly at all, because they're not freed up from concentrating on their work.

When doing student ministry, I noticed that there were kids for whom the sound booth was a protection of sorts. It allowed them to be in church, but they got to limit their interaction with others, and they didn't have to necessarily listen to the message and song content, they just reacted to it technically. It was a way to serve without really being part of things (ironic).

It's awesome John was able to worship the other night. That's special - it's sad those times are so rare.

As a former worship leader, I can relate a bit to the worship leader's struggle as well, but it's different. I worshipped many times from on stage, but the great temptation is to begin worshipping the way being a worship leader makes you feel, or begin worshipping the worship team (as an adult leading a group of students in this, this was a particular temptation - I was proud like a dad over them, and that's dangerous). I think that worship bands are a net good, but they are also a huge danger (bigger than I think modern church culture will admit). They draw, whether they want to or not, attention and adoration to themselves due to their skill and the pervasive, emotional power of music on immature spirits. I've seen students worship their guts out for years, but I've often wondered where the worship was directed (this was a big conflict for me when I was the equipper of the student bands). Often times the thing being worshipped was the environment and emotions of worship itself.

That being said, when it is done right, and God is glorified, it's amazing.

Daniel said...

I lead a worship band and I worship when we sing and play. I focus on every word we sing and often have to close my eyes to do that (I know that makes me look like I'm doing the 'I'm so in to it' eyes closed thing - but that's not it at all, honest).

Part of my worship, though, is preparing the songs and seeking to lead our congregation in a sound way through the words that we sing.

Don't know if that's what you're looking for here, but that's my two cents.