Jeffrossman’s Weblog

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Worship and Technology

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Yes I love technology
But not as much as you, you see
But I still love technology
Always and forever

I recently read a little bit of an article about the use of technology in worship – I only read a little bit because it made me angry. Here’s what I read:

“The importance of any technology is found in its utility. This is especially true in our worship communities and events. What can it do to solve a problem or meet a need? If you have technology being used without this focus, you have given way to gadgetry.” (see it in context)

Let me say this up front – I wholeheartedly disagree. That being said, I also understand where the author of this article is coming from. It is possible to get sidetracked with technology. But isn’t it also possible to get sidetracked with the music? Or the preaching? Or any individual element of the service? The reality is that whenever we lose focus on the only worthy Object of our worship, we have become sidetracked, and thus that emphasis, wherever it is placed, becomes a distraction. Be it technology or otherwise.

So what exactly was the problem I had with the above statement? The problem I have with it is that it utterly left out the immense potential of using technology as a creative outlet. The article wasn’t all bad, but to reduce technology to its “utility” is a gross underestimation of its potential. What is the utility of a painting? Or a sonnet? Or a piece of music? None of these have any sort of utility or practical use whatsoever, because art exists on a non-utilitarian plane. Art is an expression of the soul, and our soulish/spiritual impulses are rarely utilitarian. In fact, often those impulses defy utility! I’m a musician, and every now and then I try my hand (and usually fail) at writing a song. I will spend hours hammering out the chords, the lyrics, the melody, and then go back and make minor adjustments, and then major ones, and then I scrap it all and try it from a completely different angle, and so on. From a utilitarian viewpoint, those hours were lost (especially since I rarely come out of that time with anything good). The rational part of me screams about what a waste of time it was to try and write a song, “Think of all the other useful things you could have been doing!” And yet something else in me feels strangely fulfilled and happy, despite my apparent failure. I actually ENJOYED the process! So, technology has the same potential.

If technology is ONLY permissible in worship if it is utilitarian, then why do we put pretty background images behind the lyrics displayed on the screen? It is because we acknowledge that on some level, “pretty” is better than “boring.” However, utility is rarely, if ever, beautified – because beauty serves no function. Art has no practical purpose.

I personally believe that if we could get the people who run our sound systems, and operate the lights, and who run the lyrics, to begin to view themselves as artists, adding beauty and artistry to the worship experience through their several duties – rather than automatons fulfilling some utilitarian function, we might actually get better results out of them. When you view someone’s job as little more than an unfortunate necessity, they will probably feel the same about it.

Someone once said that our projector screens are the modern day “stained-glass windows.” Most people scoff at that idea, but imagine the possibilities!

Someone once insinuated that the sound system is as much an instrument as a guitar, or keyboard, and the sound person is putting on a performance just as much as the people up front. What if we chose to really believe that, and what if our sound technicians really started to believe that?

What if we viewed the lights in our sanctuary as serving a function other than simply illuminating the darkness. After all, the whole idea of the stained glass window was to change the color and shape of the light that came into the sanctuary – now we have almost unlimited capability to do the same with modern lighting equipment.

All of these things are utterly un-utilitarian, and yet they all have incredible potential to enhance the worship experience for those who attend our churches. And that’s my two cents.

Written by jeffrossman

September 10, 2009 at 8:05 pm

Sunday Setlists – Aug. 23, 2009

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This is part of Fred McKinnon’s Sunday Setlist Series.

I’m Jeff Rossman, I play electric guitar for my worship team (usually) at Living Hope Family Church in Tucson, AZ. I’m not the worship leader, but I believe I have as much of a responsibility within the band to be actively engaged inthe refining process, I believe in “honing my craft,” and I believe Psalm 33:3 is a mandate to me and to all worship musicans.

This Sunday both our bassist, and our other electric guitarist were out, and so I played bass instead of guitar. Electric guitar is kind of a staple in our worship diet, and so we were a bit thin this Sunday, but still did well, considering. I can hold my own on the bass, but that’s about all. My right-hand pointer and middle fingers are still raw from yesterday…Anyway, on with the list!

I’m Not Ashamed – Hillsong
I love this song. It’s currently one of my favorites among the songs out team does. It’s very fun to play, it has a great message and it always goes over well with the congregation. However, it is very guitar driven, and so the lack of an electric guitar made the song a little thin.

The Time Has Come – Hillsong United
So this one is very bass heavy, including a bass solo (watch/listen here at 4:08). I just barely made it through the solo. The problem is not that the solo (as is) is overly difficult, but we play it in a different key. Thus, part of the solo uses an open string which was unavailable to me. But, it was still fun to play.

I am Free – Newsboys
This one is always good. It very much gels with the message our church preaches, and thus the congregation connects with it. We play it often, but we have yet to get sick of it.

You are My Strength – Hillsong
This is another one our congregation just seems to love. It’s simple, straightforward and beautiful, which is a good combination.

He Reigns – Newsboys
Even though I like this song, it felt strangely placed in the set. I have no problem with ending a set with a fast, high-energy song, but this song just didn’t seem the right choice. Once we got to the first chorus, it was okay, but it felt awkward until then. (Ramble alert) I guess my thought is that if you want to end the set with a high-energy song, you have go big immediately – otherwise it just feels awkward. It has to hit people quick. Luckily, I attend a church full of people who know how to worship, and they will worship whether it feels awkward or not 🙂 (Besides, it’s entirely possible that I’m the only one who felt awkward)

PS – There was a song between “You Are My Strength” and “He Reigns,” but for the life of me I can’t remember it.

All in all it was a good Sunday. God was praised, and I had a blast (as usual).

Written by jeffrossman

August 24, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Posted in Sunday Setlists

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

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So I feel I’ve received some direction…finally…which is refreshing. The last year and a half of my life has been sort of a reaction or response to what had happened previously (being ‘let go’ from being a youth pastor), and so it has been somewhat of a struggle, and I have often felt an uneasiness as I pondered my “calling,” and couldn’t help but feel that somehow I was sort of off the path, or at least not moving forward. A few ministry opportunities have presented themselves in the past year or so, but I ultimately felt that these opportunities were not right for me, and so I passed them up.

Recently, however, I feel I have had an epiphany of sorts. I have pretty much decided that I will be moving back to Phoenix, re-enrolling at Phoenix Seminary, and finishing my education there. On top of that, for the first time in the past year-and-a-half, I feel “released” (for lack of a better term) to pursue ministry vocationally. I honestly don’t know whether the recent reluctance to pursue ministry was from the Holy Spirit, or from my own insecurity. Despite feeling somewhat “stuck,” this has been a very positive season for me. I have experienced a measure of financial stability (at least moreso than when I was a youth pastor), I have had some soul-searching time, and I realize now how much I had neglected my own spiritual health while tending to the spiritual needs of others. This has been a wonderful time of rejuvination! My church is great, and the teaching from the pastor is phenomenal! I am truly being transformed by the Word, and it is an awesome experience. I have established a wonderful network of close Christian friends – something I lacked during the whole time I was in Phoenix.

So my friends, I covet your prayers, and I will keep you updated!

Written by jeffrossman

August 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm

Posted in Life, Ministry

Creativity and Worship

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It’s sounds so right to say those two words together…like, “peanut butter and jelly,” or “biscuits and gravy” (I guess I’ve got food on the brain).

But seriously! Shouldn’t our worship be creative? Why are we so afraid to break the mold, to take “the road less traveled,” to be daring, even at the risk of failing!? I’m not talking about worship “styles” either. I don’t care if you attend a very modern/contemporary church or a traditional/liturgical church – and frankly, I don’t think God cares either. “Contemporary” can be just as much of a rut as “traditional.” In fact, I believe that the recent trend in Christian music to revisit the hymns and traditional music of the Church is an attempt to get out of the “contemporary” rut! We’re beginning to realize that that “modern” doesn’t equal “anointed.” The anointing flows where the name of Jesus Christ is lifted up!

So how can we bring creativity into our worship? I’m trying to think outside of the box here…I’m realizing that I have a tendency to limit creativity to the platform – what is the worship team doing? What is the pastor preaching? What is being projected onto the screen? Can creativity be used elsewhere? How about the seating arrangement? What if everyone got down off the platform for a Sunday, and the whole thing happened on ground level? What if the pastor preached first, then you ended with worship? What if you decided not to have a Sunday service one week at the church, and decided to meet at a local park instead? What if you had a few people do live announcements from a street corner somewhere? Or what if you wanted to do a lesson on evangelism, and so one Sunday you sent some people out with a camera, and a live feed back to the church, and had the church observe real-time street evangelism, with real-time responses from real people? No editing! What if you had a Sunday of silence? No preaching. No music. Just silent meditation and prayer?

God is creative. He made this world, and thought up all the cool stuff in it. Every rock, tree, insect, and animal. And I am continually amazed by the way God works His will in my life. I NEVER see it coming – at least not it the way He does it. God is FULL of unique and creative ideas, and we should be too! Any other radical or ridiculous ideas out there about how to worship our creative God??

Written by jeffrossman

July 2, 2009 at 11:35 pm

Posted in Ministry

Sunday Setlist for 06/14/09

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This is part of Fred McKinnon’s Sunday Setlist Series.  Since this is my first blog in this series, I’ll give a little background…

I am not the worship leader at my church, but I do have a significant amount of experience leading worship and in worship ministry in general. Currently, I am one of two electric guitar players on our team, and this was actually only my second Sunday playing. Personally, I have a lot more experience (and talent) with the acoustic guitar, so this has been a really great opportunity to grow in my ability on the electric guitar, and I must say, I’m having an absolute blast!

This is a great Sunday to start blogging on this because I think we rocked the house this Sunday – no glaring mistakes, a lot of energy, and the congregation was really feeling it today. It was awesome to be in God’s house this morning!

Now for the review:

Love the Lord Your God:
This was probably my least favorite song in the set, honestly. It was difficult to figure out exactly what the electric guitar should be doing, and so it was very difficult for me, both services, to really just relax and worship while I played. However, I think we played it well, and it had a good energy to kick things off, but it was also a kind of mellow energy which allowed us to comfortably ease into the service.

Break Free – Hillsong United:
Nothing mellow about this song. It honestly amazes me that our worship team can pull this song off congregationally. I love Hillsong United, but they have a lot of songs that I feel are just unreasonable for normal congregational worship. This is one of them…or so I thought. The amazing thing is that not only do we play this song well, our congregation LOVES IT! People were dancing and shouting all over the place during this song – it’s truly an honor to be a part of a church full of worshipers who worship with abandon! I especially enjoyed the instrumental bridge.

I Am Free – Newsboys:
This is another song that our congregation just really seems to connect with. Our pastor preaches a lot on our identity and position in Christ, and I think this song speaks to that profoundly. At one point a couple of the youth started running around the sanctuary at the “I am free to run” part. It was a flashback to my Bible School days – we used to do that all the time. Even though for most churches, people running around during worship would be kind of weird, maybe even distracting, I felt that it was a beautiful expression of worship from these young people – and the energy was high enough that I don’t think it was a distraction at all.

Musically, I think we nailed this one both services. It’s pretty straightforward, but we have some dynamic changes throughout the song that just really make it work well. I don’t know where it came from, but we add a repetitious intro part to this song where we just sing “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” over and over. We slowly build it from just acoustic and some light cymbals to full band, full throttle, and then quickly scale it back to start the verse. Very fun!

From the Inside Out – Hillsong United:
This is absolutely one of my favorite worship songs of late, and even though I think we do this song well, I also think we could do it a lot better. The various parts of this song are not very well defined, and we all just kind of improv our way through it. We’ve got a talented team of musicians, so we pull it off, but I think we could give some more attention to the song, do some fine tuning, and really do it with excellence.

Came to My Rescue – Hillsong United:
Another favorite, and again another song I think we could/should spend some time on working the kinks out. In fact as I think about our team in general, I think we are really good at the upbeat/praise songs, and less good at the slower/worship songs. We have a tendency to pick out worship songs that have  some section of high intensity somewhere in the middle (both From the Inside Out and Came to My Rescue have full band, full throttle sections). I don’t think our team does quiet worship well…

The Enemy has been Defeated/Shout Unto God – Hillsong United:
(As you can see, we like Hillsong United). This was our song for offering. Honestly, this one felt a little awkward – I think we all felt that way on the worship team. We never really got it right in practice, and we didn’t really do it well in service. In my mind, it’s really not a stand-alone song – it needs to be tagged onto the end of another song.

Written by jeffrossman

June 15, 2009 at 5:24 am

Belonging

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So last night I “officially” became a member of my church, Living Hope Family Church. They don’t exactly have a firmly established protocol for membership (which doesn’t bother me), but I felt it was important for me to make my committment to the church known. So earlier this week I emailed the pastor, informed him that I wanted to officially become a member, and last night I was publicly recognized before the congregation – and you know what, it was awesome!

Later, I got to thinking (as I usually do after a significant event) about this whole business of “joining” a church. There was a time that I thought that church membership was a stupid and pointless practice, and that it was unnecessary to have to go through some process in order to truly be committed to a church body. Though it is true that you can commit yourself to a church without “joining,” it begs the question – if you are totally committed, why not join? What I realized is that public recognition of membership in a church is actually vital! First of all, it gives great encouragement to the body, showing that church is growing, and it reaffirms why they initially joined. Second, the new member, by being acknowledged publicly, becomes known to the whole body by name and face, and is usually thus greeted by name from then on (which makes the new member feel even more welcomed and at home). Third, the new member gains a significant sense of belonging which, until being publicly recognized, is experienced only superficially – he/she moves from being an “attender” to a “member.” Last, it is for the new member an expression of not only affinity for, but committment to the local church.

I have come to the conclusion that every church ought to give great attention, thought and prayer to how they incorporate and recognize new members. I can say honestly that even though effectively nothing has changed, I feel more a part of Living Hope today than I did before.

Written by jeffrossman

May 21, 2009 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Life

Movie Log

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Yes Man – watched it last night. LOVED IT! Absolutely one of the funniest movies I’ve seen in awhile, and inspiring to boot! Jim Carey is awesome (not surprising). Aside from one VERY innappropriate gag, it was wholly enjoyable.

Written by jeffrossman

April 22, 2009 at 9:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized