Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pastor says, "...and don't you come back."

Dwight Mason (Northpointe Church) didn't exactly use those words, but he did challenge his church that if they didn't participate in Sunday's community service day and went to another church instead, they could stay there. That took guts. And I believe Dwight is right on target.

Listen, God's church at Northpointe, is one that is growing both deep and wide (numbers and spiritually).

You go Dwight. May God use your church this weekend for His purposes. Thanks for being the church — not just playing church.

Here's what he said...
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This past Sunday I challenged Newpointe to fully participate in our community service day and not go to church but to be the church. I said that if you choose to attend another church instead of participating in this, just go ahead and stay there, because we are wanting to be difference makers and not consumers.
What most people need is not a hear a sermon, but to see one.
That is my prayer for August 3.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Music Not a Major Factor for Unchurched People did a great review of reasons why unchurched people choose a church. There are 3 surveys that Thom S. Ranier’s book "Surprising Insights from the Unchurched" discusses.

While music was ON the list, MUSIC is NOT HIGH on the list. Check out what IS high on the list. The pastor/preaching, what they believe, and relationships seem to be the major influences.

Here's one of the three surveys. Go to to see the other lists.
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Top 13 Reasons that Unchurched People Choose a Church
(research conducted by Ranier)

  1. 90% - Pastor/Preaching

  2. 88% - Doctrines

  3. 49% - Friendliness of Members

  4. 42% - Other Issues

  5. 41% - Someone Church Witnessed to Me

  6. 38% - Family Member

  7. 37% - Sensed God’s Presence/Atmosphere of Church

  8. 25% - Relationship Other than Family Member

  9. 25% - Sunday School Class

  10. 25% - Children’s/Youth Ministry

  11. 12% - Other Groups/Ministries

  12. 11% - Worship Style/Music

  13. 7% - Location

In recent years, there have been several research studies hoping to discover what motivates church attendance. I previously blogged about research from LifeWay Research and Gallup. Both of those studies offer good insights but can be general.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I'm Heading to Innovate08 Conference

I'm a worship arts pastor, but I rarely attend music or worship conferences. Why? While they were useful for a time, I like to get outside the box. That's why I'm quick to go to non-music and non-worship conferences.

In September 2008, I'm heading to a great church in northern Indiana (Grainger Community Church) where a conference about innovation will take place. I'm looking forward to getting out of my box. Here is what Mark Beeson, senior pastor of GCC, has to say about a podcast he just recorded for this conference.

If you are looking for a conference that will get you out of the box. This one would be a great one. And if you end up going, let me know. Would love to connect with you.
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Innovate 2008

Dustin Maust (the guy who shot this photo) asked his new bride if we could record at their house. She said, "Yes," ('cause she's awesome) so Tim Stevens and Kem Meyer met me there and we recorded a new episode of "countdown2innovate."
"Innovate" gives leaders opportunity to come together so they can understand what we've been teaching and, I hope, benefit from what's right.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Our Experience at Another Church

Getting out of your box can be helpful. A fresh experience. Feeling uncomfortable all over again. This past weekend, my family and I did just that. Because it was youth Sunday at TBC, I took Doug Will's advice and checked out another church. Everyone is going to want to know three things: 1) Where did we go? 2) What was our experience like? and 3) How did it compare with TBC?

A) Where did we attend?

Fellowship Bible Church

B) What was our experience like?

First, it was different on many levels for us as a family.

1. Instead of a 5:30am wakeup, I got up at 7:30am. Wow!
2. We had breakfast as a family on a Sunday morning.
3. We made a pre-church trip to Lowes before church.
4. We parked really close to the church.
5. We were the new family at the church and had no clue what we were doing.
6. We worshipped without any in-depth preparation, except for our hearts.
7. We rubbed shoulders with other believers, and were reminded that millions of other believers worship in places besides the church I regularly attend.
8. We dropped off our kids to some people we didn't know, and placed our full trust in them. And the kids didn't blow a gasket — double wow!
9. We left the church with everyone else. No stage reset. No gear teardown. No other connections to make. I left thinking, "Man, can I really leave? Something is not right here."
10. No full exhausted feeling right after lunch. I actually didn't take a nap Sunday afternoon. Triple wow! Instead I drywalled our basement.

Second, there were many positive things about our first experience at FBC. It's good to know there are other solid-Bible believing churches that are making a difference in people's lives each week. Here is what I observed.

1. They have a brand-spanking new worship center. Nice visual design, nice smelling (like a new hotel lobby), acoustically great for a band, great lighting both natural and stage.
2. It was a baptism Sunday, so no sermon. But the baptism experience was fulfilling, hearing God's story through the lives of the 3 that decided to be baptized.
3. The attendance was ~ 70% full in the 2nd worship hour. They are adding a 3rd service in August and moving their youth program from Wednesday to Sunday morning.
4. The new worship leader, Ken Broom, has an excellent voice. I could express he sounded like a (fill-in-the-blank-with-a-famous-worship-artist), but I won't do that to him. And a nice full band sound coming from the front of house.

1. Of course, I have critiques.
2. I would of any church.
3. Every church isn't perfect.
4. A lot of them are based on personal preference, just like the positives above.
5. But I know some of them are reading my blog.
6. So I'll keep these to myself.
7. If you attend FBC, take me to Burger King and I'll share them with you personally.
8. If you attend TBC, take me to Burger King and I'll still keep them to myself.

C) How did our experience at FBC compare with TBC?

OK. You are probably looking for the side-by-side comparison here. You're not going to get it. It would feed the "us-verse-them" mentality. I firmly believe that TBC and FBC (and other churches truly cemented to a clear purpose of the Great Commission stated in Matthew 28:16-20) are both players on the same team. That being said, FBC and TBC simply serve different roles on the same team — such as a pitcher and catcher on a baseball team. They work together to defeat the ultimate enemy who is against the Great Commission - Satan himself.

The biggest difference personally is how we felt. At TBC we are "regulars." At FBC we were "guests." It was very UNCOMFORTABLE being the outsider for a Sunday. We didn't know where to walk in the building to drop off our kids, we didn't know if they'd want to dig too deep about us, we didn't know the church-family 'protocol' (how they greet each other, if we bring Bibles, if jeans were off-limits, what they do with kids who blow a gasket, etc.). Bottom line, we'd feel like that ANYWHERE we'd go. That's how we felt when we go to any new place — Worlds of Fun, swimming lessons, the zoo, and just about anywhere else.

What would overcome this feeling of the newbie? If someone had invited us personally and encouraged us to go with them. Think about it. All of those things we felt would disappear.

Bottom line, it was a great reminder of what the newbie feels like. It's a good reminder that people will more likely go to church for the first time if they were simply INVITED. The power of the "ask" goes really far.

TBC, FBC, and many other churches have lots of great things going for them. They are on the same team, exist for the same purpose, fighting the same enemy, but serve different roles on this enormous team.

Oh yeah, just for the record — I'm glad God has me on staff at Topeka Bible Church. It's a heavy hitter for the team.

IDEA: A "secret-shopper" at all the Topeka area churches, compile data from an evaluation in an organized way, and share what they've learned with all churches. Imagine if a "yellow book" or "stats" of sorts was published for those who were interested in selecting a home church.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lincoln Brewster "Today Is the Day" Guitar Solo Tutorial

OK folks. This is slowed waaaaay down. It's not pretty, but you'll be able to figure out how it's supposed to sound very slow and picked apart. It's not perfect, but pretty darn close.

Special Creative Chaos: Light Show with Live Musicians

This next post is for Carlos and his Creative Chaos @ Ragamuffin Soul. You can catch his session on his incredible blog here.

Hey Los, you've never heard of me. Maybe because I'm from Kansas. Heard of it? When's the last time you heard of anything creative from Kansas that didn't involve a ugly green woman and her enemy with ruby shoes? Enough, on with the post.

At any rate, I know this one will freeeeak you out. Each week you have intelligent lighting, full rock band, IMAG, drum loops, in-ear, and blah, blah, blah. Well, take what you do and split it up into Imagine: 16 musicians, 11 different rooms, 3-story building, SIMULTANEOUSLY playing Trans-Siberian (yes, that's the band playing on the video - the underscore is not a recording), synchronized to Christmas lights, all at a 15-minute drive-in, at 5 shows a night, in the middle of freaking KANSAS!

We did this 7 months ago (OK, so it's not 2008, but it's within this last 12 month "year" - gimme a break. We are gearing up for our 2008 run. Word of mouth is traveling. We aren't sure what we are going to do — since the parking lot is only so big.

Enjoy the video...and thanks for setting up Creative Chaos @ Ragamuffin Soul.

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Want to Start Somethin', Eh?

I was recently asked, "How do you feel about starting a (fill in the blank) music group?" Great question! There are several elements that need to be in place for any new group to be jump-started and then sustained for a duration.

First, God must set up the environment for the group by raising up a leader to lead the group. I've learned the hard way that music groups need one leader. Not two. And definitely not a democracy. Most groups might sustain themselves through a honeymoon period, but not any longer if a leader is not established.

Second, it must be a group that serves a real purpose, beyond simply giving musicians a place to sing/play (remember, I use the term musicians to describe BOTH vocalists and instrumentalists). You should be able to state the purpose clearly and briefly.

Third, it must be the right time for the group to exist. For example, it may be too soon or too late for a group to begin. Or it might be just the right time. It could be a great concept for a group, but maybe the timing is off. It's got to be both the right time and the right group in order for it to have the highest potential to be sustainable.

Fourth, starting a group as a pilot or test group is the best way to begin. Rarely do I jump into starting groups with the notion that it will last long term. Everything has its own S-curve life-cycle. Starting groups and setting a time line to regularly evaluate makes for healthy groups overall.

Food Worship - Will I ever be able to sing this song again?

Thanks to one of our keyboardists who pointed this out to me (props to Joyce Jordan). Here's a Manwich commercial that takes Beethoven's Ninth, plus a conversion of the hymn lyrics "Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee," and makes a commercial out of it.

I've said it in rehearsals before — we can worship anything. Money. Fame. Pleasure. Relationships. God. Material stuff. And yes, even food.

I might hit Burger King later today. O worship the king...

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Hunt's - Manwich - Ode to Joy commercial

Lyrics used in the commercial

Manwich, Manwich

We adore thee

Fun and easy and sloppy too

Napkins now unfold before thee

Manwich joy does spring from you

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Basement Update and Apology

The last month at the Nelson house has been spent slaving in the basement. For those of you who have been asking and waiting in anticipation, here is a halfway point basement update.

BEFORE (framing not finished, no drywall)

AFTER (halfway point - drywall up, without mud/sanding/paint)

And I sincerely apologize to the Shawnee County Refuse Department on behalf of the Nelson family for the following picture. Thank you, Shawnee County, for your contribution to our basement.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Turn Up the Music — Drink More Coffee

No wonder some churches are putting a Starbucks in their lobby. Check out the following French study. Turn up the worship music, consume more caffè latte!
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Loud music can make bar patrons drink more: study

French researchers have found that music played at a high sound level in a bar leads to more drinking in a shorter amount of time.

  • When music was played at 72 decibels, considered a normal level, patrons ordered an average of 2.6 drinks and took an average of 14.51 minutes to consume a single drink.

  • When music was played at 88 decibels, which is considered very loud, patrons ordered an average of 3.4 drinks and took an average of 11.45 minutes to consume a single drink.

Gueguen said there are two possible explanations for the study's findings. One is that higher sound levels are more stimulating, which could lead people to drink more and drink quickly.

However, it could also be that louder music prevented bar patrons from talking, so they drank for lack of something else to do.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Bad Is Your Band?

I've given out evaluations before, but this one would make me nervous. It's gutsy to ask the world what they think of something, but sometimes — it's the only way to get better. Unbiased, raw feedback can be some of the most useful, if you get it in good quantity and quality. But you gotta have thick skin and dissolve your personal guard before reading the feedback. Kudos to Mars Hill for having the guts on this one.
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Band Review Guide

Our Band Development Team created an online review form that allows trusted people to offer encouragement and constructive criticism to bands in order to help in ongoing growth/development of a band once they’re consistently playing on a Sunday.

Pastor Tim, Campus Pastors, a variety of Campus Production Managers (tech guys!) and I will go to this online form after worshiping in song with one of these bands and comment on a variety of things - from leadership ability and musicianship to the quality of the songs being sung.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fighting Vocalists and Instrumentalists

I was recently asked, "How come the orchestra isn't playing the same weekends when the Mass Vocal Group sings?" Great question. There was simply too much bickering and fighting between the instrumentalists and vocalists. OK, really, I have a good answer. And it's not because of fighting. Having a choir and orchestra has been the standard for years in church music. It's the way I've set up music for the past 10 years as well. When the choir sang, the orchestra played. So why isn't TBC following suit? Great question. Having a choir and orchestra has been the standard for years in church music. So why doesn't TBC follow suit?

First, allow me to paint the picture with some background information for those reading that may not know it already...

Before I arrived at TBC, the choir and orchestra led worship together once a month. Soon after I came on staff, I restructured the vocal worship ministry and the orchestra. Instead of a choir and vocal bands — we now have one big "mass vocal group." While it doesn't follow the traditional church choir structure, it gives a wall of vocal sound. The orchestra was restructured into two groups — an "all-church orchestra" where anyone can play (age, level). The other group is a very small group of studio orchestra musicians — right now one violin, one flute, and one clarinet.

Now to answer the question...

There are four primary reasons why the orchestra doesn't play with the mass vocal group.

Reason #1. There's not even stage space for both groups. The mass vocal group of 50 singers and a full orchestra of 30 instruments take up double the stage space available to us. Both groups simply cannot occupy the space. Therefore, I've had the studio orchestra musicians give the instrumental foundation when the mass vocal group sings.

Reason #2. It's easier to program worship music tailored to one or the other. When both play, I have to pick either vocal driven music or instrumental driven music. Splitting them up allows more flexibility.

Reason #3. It gives me a chance as a leader to connect better when there's less than 80 people involved on the same weekend leading worship. Have you ever tried to walk backstage lately when the mass vocal group is singing? How about when the orchestra is playing? Spreading them out on different weekends allows me to focus on the individual groups.

Reason #4. The rule of balance is you need 4 vocalists for 1 instrumentalist. Since we have 30 in the orchestra, we'd need 120 singers. When God bring the singers and expands the stage, I'd love to merge the two.

So there you have it. The only fight is over stage space. The fact is that the mass vocal group is a great group that can stand alone. The same goes for the full orchestra. Both these groups have life that will sustain them in leading worship for years to come. What great space/number problems to have!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Reinventing Music

I am proud and embarrassed at the same time with the music in my teenage years (1980's). One of those artists was Michael W Smith (aka Smitty).

Smitty has had to reinvent himself numerous times. Hairstyles, piano - then guitar - back to piano, Chicago-horn section, Titanic-like soundtracks, Christmas orchestral boy choir, and the list goes on.

While I don't follow Smitty today, I do admire his reinventions. I wonder if his new release in October 2008 will be a reinvention that's fresh? Hoping that a mainstay in CCM will breathe new life and be able to point people to God with His music while transcending generational gaps.

Reinvention is a difficult job.
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New worship album due from Michael W. Smith

Contemporary Christian mainstay Michael W. Smith has a new disc due out on Oct. 28, and it makes his third foray into the lucrative worship-release market.

The album, A New Hallelujah, was recorded live this June at a Houston, Tex. performance in front of some 12,000-plus fans. At the two-hour event/recording, Smith was joined by a 250-voice choir, fellow Christian market star Israel Houghton, Houston-based worship leader Coalo Zamorano and The African Children’s Choir. Hallelujah marks a whopping 21 releases from Smith, and includes a mix of well-known worship songs and originals penned specifically for the project.

“Since my last world tour a few years ago, I’ve been looking forward to recording a live worship project that reflected something more global than I’ve ever done before," Smith said in a statement. "I had hoped for an evening of worship that reflected the corners of our nation, and the world; I think we captured that."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Today Is the Day Chords by Lincoln Brewster

Recently, I've really been connecting with Lincoln's music. In fact, very soon we'll teach worshipers at TBC his new song "Today Is the Day." Music wasn't available for it at the time of this post. So used to transcribe the music until it's ready for print. Here's a link to the PDF of the chords for Today Is the Day by Lincoln Brewster.

LOOP LIBRARY WITH CLICK TRACKS (including Today is the Day)


And you can get the single on iTunes here...

Going Retro

I have to admit that I'm a fan of taking something old and giving it new life with a spin. Last weekend we inserted a clip from Baba O'Reily (The Who) into the New Doxology (Gateway Worship).

Here's the link to the audio if you'd like to listen...

And here's a great article on the SWERVE blog about the OLD is the new NEW.
OLD is the new NEW

I’ve been noticing that many ideas are sprouting from our American media culture that are not new. Many are fairly old, simply polished to look new. Consider the following list of “oldies” that have recently reappeared:


  • Copeland has redone “Another Day in Paradise” and “Take My Breath Away”
  • Guitar Hero brought back so many rockin’ tunes… My two-year-old knows “Carry On My Wayward Son!” (ROCK ON!)
  • Every one of these was spruced up with technology and a new look to be entertaining and attractive to today’s culture, without losing the idea behind the original concept. Sometimes when transitioning a church or a “churched” mindset, we as leaders may completely kill something that simply needs an update. Maybe we just need to bring back something old and make it new.

    Monday, July 07, 2008

    Most Useful Worship Web Application

    I was recently asked "What is the most useful web application you use?" Since I'm half musician half techie, it's a great question to ask.

    I've discovered a very useful website application that I used for the past 2 years. It's called "Planning Center." Which is funny, because it helps worship leaders - but doesn't have "worship" in the title. Go figure.

    One of the blogs I follow (James Nahrgang - has written a review of the web app here.
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    James Nahrgang
    worshipper / husband / father / worship leader / artist

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    Sunday, July 06, 2008

    Calculated Risks

    I'm all about calculated risks. I like to focus on the calculated...not the word risk. I give this guy credit. Third try was the success. I really appreciate the guys on the cutting's not fun to be the guy who figures it out first. Ever wonder who discovered which mushrooms were the good ones or the bad ones to eat?
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    Kent Couch taking off in his chair rigged with more than 150 balloons

    Kent Couch taking off in his chair rigged with more than 150 balloons. Photograph: Jeff Barnard/AP

    To the glorious roll call of aerial pioneers, daring aviators and magnificent men in flying machines can be added a new name. Kent Couch, a 48-year-old owner of a petrol station, yesterday succeeded in his third attempt to conquer the skies of northwest America, flying more than 230 miles in a garden chair supported by more than 150 helium-filled party balloons.

    Other DIY balloonists have been less fortunate. This weekend, sailors off Brazil discovered a body,all that remained of an attempt to set a record using helium party balloons. Catholic priest Father Adelir de Carli, 42, soared into the sky in April - and met unexpected winds , and was last seen out over the Atlantic.

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    Saturday, July 05, 2008

    Yes, I've Done "Weird Instrument Sunday" Before

    I have to admit, I've done this. And I'm proud of it.
    Ever wondered what an accordion and triangle version of the song, "I can only imagine" would sound like? Got a kid in youth group that is really good at beat box? Do you need more cowbell but are afraid most people would hate it? Well they're all on vacation. Get the accordion out, it's go time.

    Remix - #251 - The "Everyone is on vacation, anything goes" church service. (AKA tomorrow)

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    Friday, July 04, 2008

    Worship Sport

    What a great take on worship...kind of.
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    Controversial Music

    Great to know that even classics were once scrutinized...
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    I am no music scholar, but I feel I know appropriate church music when I hear it.  Last Sunday's new hymn - if you can call it that - sounded like a sentimental love ballad one would expect to hear crooned in a saloon.  If you insist on exposing us to rubbish like this - in God's house! - don't be surprised if many of the faithful look for a new place to worship.  The hymns we grew up with are all we need."

    This letter was written in 1863 and the song they were concerned about was the hymn "Just As I Am".

    Another letter said:

    What is wrong with the inspiring hymns with which we grew up? When I go to church, it is to worship God, not to be distracted with learning a new hymn.  Last Sunday's was particularly unnerving.  The tune was un-singable and the new harmonies were quite distorting.

    This letter was written in 1890 and about the hymn "What A Friend We Have In Jesus".

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    Thursday, July 03, 2008

    TBC Light Show in Jeopardy?

    If this keeps up, no Christmas Light Show at TBC. Doesn't matter. People won't be able to afford the gas to drive to the show.
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    Higher taxes light up Topeka

    It is one of the many ways City leaders have tried to save money over the past few months...turning off street lights in certain parts of Topeka.

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    Tuesday, July 01, 2008

    How Short Can My Skirt Be?

    Summer is here. So are summer clothes. When we lead worship, we are set up for disaster automatically. Why? As mere humans on-stage, we're attempting to draw complete, undistracted attention to God. (It's why chancel choirs in liturgical churches have sung in the back for years.) That's why here at TBC I've decided that I'll now lead worship from the balcony. OK, I'm kidding (although I might try it some Sunday).

    My point is, unfortunately for us, just about anything done in public is bound to distract in some way. Different things distract different people. For some, bowties and cufflinks are a distraction. For others, tie-dyed T's and gummy shoes are a distraction. Yet others, wearing a full superman outfit (pic, video) makes you wonder. We can't win. And it's not our job to win to please man. But it IS our job to please God with our role as worship leaders. While God is concerned with our heart, way before what we look like (1 Sam 16:7), He is concerned about our reflection of Christ. A better way of saying it is "deflecting" to Christ - that is to deflect the attention off of us and onto the One and only One who deserves it. When we take the stage, we represent Christ. Even OFF stage, we represent Christ. So when it comes to dressing for worship - modesty is a no-brainer.

    What's modest? If you aren't sure, ask your mother (if she dresses modestly). When in question, always err on the side of modesty. What you may think is appropriate, may not be appropriate for someone else attempting to worship.

    While this hasn't been an big issue on stage at TBC — summer is here, and so are summer clothes. Let's allow our vertical relationship with God to supercede our desire to be attractive in our horizontal relationships with each other.

    Sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not going to tell you how short your skirt can be. That's not the right question. The right question is, are you deflecting the attention you typically get, to Christ? He's the One who deserves the attention of everyone.

    PS - Sometime ask me in person about my "clothes log." It has nothing to do with modesty — but has everything to do with making sure I don't wear the same shirt two weekends in a row. Embarrassing, but true.