Playlist: How to Tackle Psalms

What do you do creatively for a seven week series in the Psalms called “Playlist?” 

For us, it starts with a bumper that leverages music but in a unique way. We chose to use an old radio in a 1953 Dodge Coronet as a backdrop while stations are changed featuring mashups of songs most people would know. Each mashup featured two well known songs mixed together giving us twice the airplay in the same amount of time:

Our Playlist Bumper includes mash ups from the following artists:

1. “Staying Alive” by The Bee Gees / “Back in Black” by AC/DC

2.  “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” by Aerosmith / “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars

3.  “Get Down” by Kool & The Gang / “24 Karat Magic” by Bruno Mars

4. “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran / “Every Breathe You Take” by The Police

5.  “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air” by Will Smith / “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynyrd Skynyrd

6.  “Loose Yourself” by Eminem / “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve

7.  “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele / “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor.

Music can bring people back to memories and feelings. Mixing songs together can make an experience interesting and can also bring humor.  The Bee Gees and AC/DC? Really? Yes. Really… and it’s funny. 🙂 

At the same time, any reading from Psalms could use a good reading. It’s poetry and song lyrics, after all. So we decided to do a reading of our first Psalm (Ps 90) in a stark, black and white look – that eventually turns to full color near the end of the Psalm. Near the end, as the video turns to color, the band begins to introduce our special music that fits the theme of the Psalm – TIME IS SHORT; USE IT WISELY.

We chose a Ben Rechtor song called “Like The World Is Going To End” to connect with our Ps. 90 reading. Behind the band, we built a video with some of the lyrics highlighted behind. We used ProPresenter to work with Ableton to trigger both video and click track for the band…  Here’s a link to view:

 

Learnings:

1.  Mash Ups can double impact of songs if used well. They can also provide humor.

2.  Contrast of stark/black and white to cheerful song and color can impact the heart.

 

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Keep it Simple for Maximum Impact

As we started 2018, we kicked off a new 8 week series in the book of Philippians.  And as we did so we wanted to make impact through simplicity.  Part of the need for simplicity came from the fact that this service arrived on the heels of multiple Christmas services with over 10,000 people in attendance.  The turnaround back into creative process required something with impact, but from elements we already had in play.
After some discussion decided to create a moment just after communion with the song “Do It Again” – at the point when the song builds at the bridge toward the end.  We thought a spoken word would work well in that section of the song while the band slowly drove the dynamics of the song to a crescendo in keeping with the build and close of the spoken word.  Two people from our team combined thoughts that were in keeping with our passage this week in Philippians with some words from Steven Furtick.
Here’s the final version of the spoken word:

No he has never failed me yet

In Christ I put my confidence, and because He is near

There will be no place for failure or fear

When I look back on every trial I faced, I see the trail of love he traced

He’s never left things a mess before, only beauty from ashes and I see it more and more. 

In this New year the only failure that needs to be feared is the enemy’s 

I will resist his lies, as he tries so hard to deceive me

but with God by my side we WILL retrieve all that the enemy has tried to steal from me, kill in me, and destroy around me

Though he might try to convince me that my past holds failures that will cast a shadow on my future, 

I will resist those lies with the truth that I am more than a conqueror through him who loves me

That Jesus has already won, that his promise still stands as does his faithfulness

And so great is his faithfulnesss

Greater than my fear, Greater than my failures

It overcame death and the grave 

When the world thought he was dead and gone, 

He raised to life and brought me along

Theres no need to be afraid, failure won’t get in my way because what God started in me… He will finish

 

See the video here:

 

 

Learnings:

  1. Keeping things simple can often bring maximum impact.
  2. Small tweaks in your current programming may be all you need.
  3. Find the seam in service where you can thread the heart element.

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Skeptics Wanted: Week 1 (April 23, 2017)

Easter was huge for us this year! Almost 10k people and over 185 baptisms! See our recap video here:

 

As we hit our first Sunday after Easter, we entered into a new series for Skeptics – we wanted to have a strong service for any returning from Easter eager to dive in.  But how do non-skeptics reach out to those that are genuinely skeptical? We felt that the best way would be to hear the story from someone that was once a skeptic, someone that struggled big time with the idea of a all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God of the universe.  This search for someone laded us with Dan Ward.  Dan currently serves with us on staff, but there was a time where the thought of attending church, let alone working in a church would have broke Dan out in hives.  He was not just a skeptic, but one that actively and somewhat agressively attempted to discourage faith in others.

Then we wrestled with a song choice… was there a song that spoke about skepticism that would fit Dan’s story?  After a lot of searching, we landed on John Mayer’s “Something’s Missing” off of his Heavier Things album.

Here’s the lyrics:

I’m not alone
I wish I was
‘Cause then I’d know I was down because
I couldn’t find a friend around
To love me like they do right now
They do right now
I’m dizzy from the shopping mall
I searched for joy, but I bought it all
It doesn’t help the hunger pains
And a thirst I’d have to drown first to ever satiate
Something’s missing
And I don’t know how to fix it
Something’s missing
And I don’t know what it is
No I don’t know what it is
At all
When autumn comes
It doesn’t ask
It just walks in where it left you last
You never know when it starts
Until there’s fog inside the glass around
Your summer heart
Something’s missing
And I don’t know how to fix it
Something’s missing
And I don’t know what it is
No I don’t know what it is
At all
I can’t be sure that this state of mind
Is not of my own design
I wish there was an over-the-counter test
For loneliness
For loneliness like this
Something’s missing
And I don’t know how to fix it
Something’s missing
And I don’t know what it is
No I don’t know what it is
Something’s different
And I don’t know what it is
No I don’t know what it is
Friends
(Check)
Money
(Check)
A well slept
(Check)
Opposite sex
(Check)
Guitar
(Check)
Microphone
(Check)
Messages waiting on me when
I come home
(Check)
How come everything I think I need, always comes with batteries?
What do you think it means
How come everything I think I need, always comes with batteries?
————
The theme of something missing gave one of us the idea of a large puzzle with someone trying to find that missing piece.  What if we had a puzzle made with images of daily life on it (family, work, etc) and had someone trying to fit these pieces together? This idea was then combined with the Dan Ward story.   What if why he’s telling his story, he does the puzzle pieces?  We created a 50 piece large puzzle(through Portrait Puzzles, available on line) from an image we created, set up a time to shoot, and started production.
————
Here’s a time-lapse of our video shoot:
Here’s the final product:
We played Dan’s story in the room and then went straight into the song “Something’s Missing” as a set up for the message.
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Learnings:
The power of story cannot be underestimated, especially when tackling a difficult subject.
Sometimes your best idea comes from combining several ideas into one.
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A Gethsemane Moment

 

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We’ve continued in our series in Mark (entitled “Encounter”) as we inch closer to Easter this year, and the inevitable moment arrived in our creative planning: How do does one handle the topic of pain through the lens of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Such pain is not normal pain… it’s not like a toothache or a broken heart.  It’s wholly other.  It’s the type of pain that alters the course of one’s life.  After a “gethsemane moment,” one is forever changed.

But how can a team capture such a moment?  Such a powerful moment from Scripture cannot find an equal, but we figured there might be a story from someone within our church that could relate to this sort of pain or loss.

In 2006, two teenage girls – Brooke and Kylie Prendes – discovered that their daddy, a policeman, had been shot and killed forever changing the course of their lives.  Here is their story:

 

To handle the scope of such a story, and to do so from the perspective of BOTH Brooke and Kylie, we decided it would be best to capture their story through voice over.  We asked them to each take some time and write their stories down.  What they wrote would make an incredible short film. Truly. The details… the small things easily remembered through such a tragic event can really leave an impact on the reader. However, we only had about 5 minutes in our service carved out for this moment, So, we asked them to trim it down… a lot. The next iteration was better and much shorter.  Yet even after their edits, this video would have easily been 7-8 minutes in length. So… we asked them to do the impossible: Trim each block of their story by three or four more sentences each. Undoubtedly, the cuts and edits were hard for them to do since every memory was precious and worth sharing.  But here’s the beauty to this process… both Kylie and Brooke were the ones that determined the cut, not a video editor. They were the ones that distilled this story down to it’s essential elements.  (This is KEY when tackling a powerful story within a tight creative timeline within a service).  The result was a beautifully crafted story from both of their prospectives that hit 5 minutes in length on the mark.

Since the story was captured through voice over, we had to capture video in a way that told the story through compelling visuals.  We decided to shoot at four locations: 1. The Police Memorial Park – where there is a tree planted in Henry Prendes’ honor. 2. One of their homes – where we would also capture family photos. 3. In front of a police station. 4. And finally Henry’s gravestone with the full family present.  In all locations, we also captured b-roll of items that related to their story (uniform, badge, and cartridges from his 21 gun salute).

With the exception of a few scenes of video from the memorial that took place soon after Henry’s death in 2006, every seen was shot in 4K at 60fps – This was to fit the feel of the story.  When the footage was slowed down, it created a “slomo” effect that seemed to fit the mood of the piece.

Coming out of this video, we chose a song called “Do it Again” that speaks to God’s providence in times of trouble. As the video neared it’s end and the music bed faded, our worship team went into this song – this created a seamless transition from video to song.

So, how does one handle the topic of pain through the lens of Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane?  Answer: through a lot of planning, working and re-working, and people willing to share their life-altering experience.

 

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30 Minutes to Raise the Dead

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Many years ago, one of us on our creative team had a mentor that  had written a book about preaching. His book was called “30 Minutes to Raise the Dead.” It is a clever title, and also an all too real tension many of us face with the creative process: How do we rouse a deaf world?  How do we get people’s attention in a world full of distractions?  Obviously it is God’s roll to do that, but how do we partner with Him to give people the opportunity to listen?

In our Art Effect Series this fall we have been highlighting a Psalm each Sunday as well as continuing our Transformed series, while also drawing from the talent of artists from all kinds of creative genres (photography, vocal performance, song writing, dance, video, etc), This past Sunday we highlighted Ps. 72 and also drew upon the artistry of Hosanna Poetry, a spoken word artist.

For the Psalm 72 moment, we discovered a retelling of the psalm from a Rabbi named Brandt Rosen.  We asked Hosanna to deliver this before the message. Here is the text:

Psalm 72: Transformation | Rabbi Brandt Rosen

let the lowly rise up,
let them crash and collide like
tectonic plates, let them burst forth
leaving soaring mountains
in their wake.

let the oppressed, buried deep
within the earth smolder and
shape like pressurized carbon
gliding inevitably upwards
only to emerge like diamonds
in the morning sun.

let the justice that trickled first
from shallow creeks now
roar through the valley and saturate
the dry parched earth, let it flow
relentlessly throughout the land
where life once grew
and will grow again.

let those who cry out in pain
feel your presence growing within
their broken souls like green
stems shooting through cracked pavement,
let them live to see new life spreading
through abandoned streets and
neighborhoods and cities and nations.

let the promise of your transformation beckon
still that we might finally take the first
tentative step into this new day, yes
let it be so.

Here is Hosanna’s live version:

 

 

After the message, we asked Hosanna to perform one of her own works.  She performed “Speak Lord.” Here is what she shared:

 

Our prayer is that when God speaks, He will rouse a deaf world… that He might rouse our deaf ears… to listen when He speaks.

To see more of Hosanna’s work, please visit her website: hosannapoetry.com

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Risk It (Racial Reconciliation)

If you turn on the news or watch your newsfeed lately you will see a story about racial tensions in our country.  This issue has become a very hot topic as of late that can often divide us, even divide us in the church.  Unfortunately, this divide is often clearly seen on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media with people angrily taking sides.  Yet with all of the voices expressing anger and hate, there is a still small voice that needs to be heard: God’s.  We may ask, “Where is God in all of this?  How is the church to respond?”

With the recent events of this summer where tensions were heightened, our team had a deep sense that we could not ignore this.  Undoubtedly, your worship or creative team have felt the same way.   At a certain point, normal programming can seem out of place in the light of current events.  So, what do you do?

As we processed the best way to tackle this subject, we brainstormed a bit on various options:  The first thought was to take a picture with people praying together from our church that represented people from all backgrounds that we could share on social media.  The idea was to give our people something to share on social media that was positive and not divisive.  But our team didn’t feel like that was enough, but only scratching the surface.

Then the thought was do we shoot a video or capture a story that way?  Though a good idea with some advantages to it, we passed on this idea as well, because we felt like it would be too canned… too distant for a topic that needed to be hit head on.  Therefore, we decided to do a live interview.  We felt bringing this conversation live and in the room was the best idea.  And for us, the best idea wins.

But this led to the next question: how do we best represent the issue of racial reconciliation?  Who would be the best people to ask to participate?

We landed on two incredible people:

Brandon Watts, Pastor of Epiphany Church in Brooklyn (http://epiphanybk.com) to speak of the African-American experience along with his Christian / pastoral response to recent events and the biblical call to reconciliation.  The Crossing is partnering with Brandon and his congregation as they minister in Brooklyn, an area that is undergoing heavy gentrification at this time.

And Jim Seebock of the LVMPD to speak to the tension of law enforcement and the reality of tension there from a Christian perspective.  Jim is proud of the work the LVMPD has done to ease such tension and will stressed that community engagement that is taking place to good affect.

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We wanted the interview to land towards these four outcomes:

1.     Awareness (The church needs to be involved in the conversation, not absent)

2.     Understanding (Some perspective from both Shane’s message and the guys experience)

3.     Acknowledgment (This is a complex issue. We are merely putting a comma on it, not a period)

4.     Engagement (This was specifically geared towards our community partners as a means to engage in our community, improve it, and be “together” in stepping across any barriers).

We did a practice run through of the interview the day before and used the following questions as a beginning point of reference, but the final ones were changed a bit:

1. In light of recent events, what frustrations have you felt watching it unfold and what realizations have you come to that you have had to wrestle with from your unique perspective?

 2.  What do you wish people knew/understood about your perspective/context that could change the way you are viewed or interacted with?

 3. How has your experiences been similar or different to what we may have been exposed to through the media or our own personal lives?

 4. Acknowledging that the farther you are away from a problem, the simpler it seems, what can you say to help bring us closer? 

 5.  In 1967 MLK said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”  How can we not fall silent as your friends?

 6.  We just talked about Acts 10:27- Peter being sent to Cornelius- The gospel survived 2000 years ago because racial and social divisions made concessions to culture and to each other for the sake of the cross.  It has to start with the church.  How do suggest we own the problem as Christians and then what would you say to the church that we need to own- in regards to our Christianity- not as Americans or culturally, but as Christian people? 

To see the message in its entirety, see below.  To see the interview only, scroll to the 24 min. mark:

To close the service, we felt as a creative team that there needed to be an ending to the service that truly appealed to the heart.  We felt the best close was to use a hymn or two that people would know that could bring everyone’s focus back to Jesus and in a way also remind everyone that we are the Church (capital “C”) no matter what our racial or socio-economic background happens to be. We landed on two hymns from which we created a medley… “How Great Thou Art,” and “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  We intentionally moved our host moment up to the front of the service so we could simply land and close with this medley.

The response to this service was incredibly positive, but we realize we’ve just added a comma to the conversation, not a period.

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RUN SHEET:

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Parables: Week 2 (The Two Brothers)

twobrother.jpgSometimes a passage of Scripture can really challenge a creative team.  Some passages are used often in church, while others rarely (if ever) get air play on Sundays.  What are your options if you hit a wall on how to proceed as a team?  Do you let this stop your process? Does it become a barrier to creative communication?

We found ourselves in a spot like this on Sunday.  We loved the rather obscure parable of the Two Brothers, but it wasn’t a story that any of us had ever heard taught on before. That made it a bit of a challenge to produce creative content to enhance the worship experience.

The obvious point of the parable is that our actions of obedience mean more than our lip service to God. This led some of us on our team to consider Jesus’ obedience to the Father to go to the cross on our behalf.  Like the two brothers, Jesus also had a choice of whether to follow His Father in obedience or to go another way.

From this discussion, we decided that perhaps we should lean into our communion moment and do something special/unique for it. Dave Cowan, our Arts Pastor, wrote the following and we expedited a quick video shoot.

The night before Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus came to his usual place to pray: the Garden of Gethsemane.  There, the bible says, Jesus “fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.'”

Jesus knew what awaited him in crucifixion, and the thought of it was enough to ask God to see if there was another way.  The Prince of Peace that walked on water and calmed the seas now found himself in need of peace.

There was a crossroad in the garden. Not one that could be seen, but rather felt. Would Jesus choose to follow his own path, or the one the Father had for him?

Thankfully for us, Jesus chose obedience.

The truth is… We each have a cup of our own… Our cup represents the moment where we know God is calling us to action, but the road before us seems so hard.  Will we take our own path, or the one of obedience? 

Each time we take communion we remember what Jesus did on our behalf – and each time we take communion we look to the week ahead with a fresh start. 

Let’s take the bread together…  The bible tells us that Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.  Let’s take the bread together…  

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

May we follow our Savior’s lead and be a people of obedience.

Learning: There are times when a team may hit a creative wall. Our experiences with this has led us to take our creative juices elsewhere in the service (a creative communion moment, a creative call to Christ, a creative way for people to respond to the message).  Give it a try the next time your team struggles. It may lead somewhere great.

Set List:

Only King Forever

Fierce

O, Come to The Altar

Special: I Will Follow

No Longer Slaves

Run Sheet:

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