The Pastors Study by Rev. Jack Hartman
When I asked a friend, "Why do you come to worship week after week?" he responded "To see if the answer is still 'yes'." He explained that much he encounters during the week is less than uplifting and positive. He shared obstacles and hurdles that he had encountered. Like my friend, many persons in our congregations know that life is tough. They want to be assured through worship that the answer from God is still "yes".
Yet, worship is complex. It takes planning, resources, technology and commitment to provide a meaningful worship experience. I know from time spent as a pastor that if you neglect any one of these ingredients the total worship experience is less than it could have been.
Two of the most vital ingredients in worship are sound and song. It doesn't make any difference how good the music, the prayers, or the preaching if one cannot hear clearly because the sound does not have quality. Likewise it doesn't make any difference how good the sound, if the music is not quality. The combination of the two, if done well, can inspire and stimulate. The combination of the two if either is done poorly will be disheartening and boring.
We are in the cutting-edge days of increasing technology and a revolution in church music. We can do more with technology than we have ever done before. There is more variety in music that can speak to different congregations today than ever before. The avalanche of sound and song is coming at a fast pace. What should be the response of the church?
Joseph Fort Newton wrote in his daily journal on March 18, 1921: "Must the church always be last, riding in an oxcart in a day of express trains?"i Super-sonic jets have replaced express trains. But the oxcart is still available. How is your church responding to the advance of technology and the multiplicity of musical forms?
If you wait for technology and trends to develop before you respond, your response will be too late. To be effective, you must be willing to move and adapt as the change is occurring. The leaders of worship must always have their finger on the pulse of technology and trends in worship so they can respond in effective ways.
I have personally discovered that there are three practical issues that must be addressed for effective worship. The most basic issue is a clear understanding of what one wants to accomplish through the worship experience. Is it to glorify Jesus, convert the lost, or empower the saved?
Is the emphasis the same or does it shift periodically? To have effective worship one must start with a clear objective. If you asked the people in your congregation, "What is the purpose of our worship?" how would they respond?
A second practical issue is quality in every aspect of the worship experience. Whatever format of worship one desires, every component must resonate with quality. Doing the right things with less than quality will not make it in today's culture. We have become accustomed to media perfection. The spillover now affects the church and its worship.
The third practical issue for worship is pace. How much time expires when one component ends and the next one begins? Is there "dead time" in the worship experience? Like it or not, society has once again raised the standard. I heard an advertising executive comment that the attention span of people has been reduced to the point where an effective television commercial has to change scenes every four seconds. "Dead time" is deadly; it kills the flow of worship.
So much has changed in the arena of worship that it is difficult to keep up. Whenever I want to improve a skill or gain more insight, I want to learn from those who have been successful practitioners in that particular area. The editors of this magazine are persons who have worked with sound and song in their own congregations. They know from first-hand experiences the issues in sound and song that churches face. While you will find theory and theology in some of the articles, their purpose is to be practical.
Welcome to the pages of Christian Sound and Song. This is a resource for which I as a pastor have been looking for a long time. Resources that combine these two basic ingredients in a unified whole have been almost non-existent. Here is a resource that will provide information on Christian sound and song in one place. It will be a vital resource for pastors, choir directors, worship committees, church musicians, and technical support staff.
Ed. note: Rev. Jack Hartman is Superintendent, Michiana District, The United Methodist Church.
i 20 Centuries of Great Preaching, Word Publishers, 1971