The Sacrifice of My Pride

My name is Martha Shafer and I volunteer on the weekends by leading a production team of about nine people at the Broadcast Campus of a seven-campus church. I serve twice a month for about two or three services in a weekend. In normal business hours I’m a middle school teacher. Those crazy hormonal lovable nuggets are just the balanced diet of crazy I need for preparing my heart for the weekend services–– mostly because they’ve taught me that it doesn’t matter how much I prepare or how confident I feel, I’m going to totally botch it by the end of the day.

In the world of church production, my screw-ups range from forgetting to set the marker for the beginning of the sermon (so the other campuses have a starting frame) to getting a nice friendly reminder from our speaking pastor, “Hey if you guys don’t start the countdown clock soon, I won’t ever stop,” Mid-service. From. Stage. [Insert a gif of me beating my head against the table]. Church tech leaders already have a reputation for nerdy perfectionism. Throw in a stressed teacher with crippling anxiety and you’ve got yourself a train wreck waiting to happen.

Lucky for me, God LOVES using broken people. It’s everywhere in His Word. Jesus came to rescue the sick, not the healthy (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31, Matthew 9:12). He dines with the thieving tax collectors (Mark 2) and lifts up the poor uneducated fishermen (Matthew 4). Paul BOASTS gladly in his weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12) so that the power of Christ can be made known. In 1 Kings 17, God took away Elijah’s ability to provide and drove him into the wilderness, in a drought, to teach him dependence.

I try my best to prepare for every weekend. Arrive early (check). Meet with pastors and worship leaders (check). Write reminders to start recordings, set video markers, (check, check). I desperately want to make the service as distraction-free as possible. However, at some point I have to let it go and trust that God is going to move where He wants to move and no one (not even I) can stop that from happening. When I’m making mistakes or when my team is making mistakes, we’re now in perfect position for God to show His sovereignty.

On the flip side, the Bible is also full of instances of God shaming the strong (Genesis 11, 1 Corinthians 1:27). If I don’t start in humility, you better believe it’s coming because dependence on God is the goal. We can’t do it without Him. Recognizing that and embracing it, hands open to the sky, “Lord, I’m going to make mistakes today but I PRAISE You that You aren’t held back by my weaknesses. That You’ll show how powerful You are by moving in spite of my failures.” It gives me clear eyes to see the truth of my place before God.

Every week, before the service, a group of us pray that we would be less and God would be more–– that we wouldn’t obsess over our own individual pieces of serving. You’ve heard the prayer before, “Remind us that it’s not about the band, or the lights, or the video…” You’d think that the character traits of submissiveness and humility would get easier with time, but it’s a sacrifice of my pride every single week. In a position of leadership on the weekends, the best I can do is be honest about my faults and ask for prayer from the people I serve beside, praising God for those bold enough to encourage me in truth.

“The Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained.” – Judges 7:2-3

Let’s be honest. If I look at the facts, I want an Assyrian army… the one that never loses, always conquers, always wins. But if I look at the Bible, I see that the Assyrian army is no match for God, who wants us as dependent on Him as possible so there is no doubt who is the one that saves. I want everything to go perfectly, but at gut-check time, I want God to move mightily through me, and he’s only showing up if I’m ready and willing to depend on Him. I get to sacrifice my pride every week because I know what God can do through my weaknesses.

Rejection is God’s Protection

Rejection is God’s Protection.

I’ve heard my Senior Pastor say this phrase for years. But I never understood it for myself until recently.

I’m new to this whole writing thing. So, when I was asked to write my first article for CTL – a site that I deeply respect – I timidly accepted the challenge. I began to explore a multitude of technical tricks and tips – potential subject matter for my article – many that I wish had been shared with me early in my career.

But, instead of an article about turning knobs and pushing faders, this article will focus on what God is doing in my life as a technical leader, husband, and father.

Have you ever been charged with a project or had an idea that no one has ever had before? One that you believe could change the trajectory of the Church? (Insert sarcasm here, as well as a little verse by King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.”)

And then, just like that, you’re removed from the project or have the idea shot down? Well, I have. And I can tell you that it hurts deeply and cause all kinds of reflection in your life.

I was pulled off a major project and it was a huge blow to my ego. The rejection revealed – and continues to reveal in some ways – that I think my ways are the best ways.

It came during a season when I didn’t feel as though I needed protection from anything, especially something that only required my time. But God, in His goodness, was protecting me from something that I could not see for myself. I had become busier than ever He intended me to be.

Looking back to our friend King Solomon in Ecclesiastes, we can see a truth that we as ‘creatives’ often forget. There are no new ideas! Our way is not always the best way. If everything has been done before, then we should take the opportunity to learn from others and share the load with others. Galatians 6:2 tells us that clearly.

This rejection, adding up to what was clearly God’s protection. has been life-changing for my family and me. I’ve learned to work harder and smarter, not longer, which means I’m home much more with my wife and three kids. My laptop rarely makes it home with me these days. And unless they’re urgent, work emails and texts go unanswered until the next day. God protected me from my own nature: working until I fall over, a trait that I see in most technical folks.

I’ve also heard my pastor say that our personal ministry should be a reflection of our personal lives. It should overflow from what’s happening at home. If our home lives are out of balance and unhealthy, then I would suggest that it’s impossible to have a thriving ministry or at least one that reflects the character of God.

So, how do you deal with rejection?

  • I think it is okay to be upset, at least for a short season. Rejection hurts and you may need some time to process the rejection.
  • Be honest with your leadership about the new direction your team or organization is moving in and try to understand their vision with an open heart and mind. Hopefully they will appreciate your honest feedback. Choose to trust them.
  • Be honest with yourself and try to see where God may be protecting you, maybe with your time, resources, or relationships.
  • Have a grateful attitude for all that the Lord has done for you as we are reminded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18.

timcainTim Cain is the Production Manger at the Fort Mill, SC campus of Forest Hill Church based out of Charlotte, NC. He has worked in live production for the past 10 years after an eight-year career as a touring musician. He has been married to his wife Jenny for 10 years and has three children. Tim can be reached at tim.cain@foresthill.org.

Where Is Your Worship?

Everyone who has anything to do with church ministry world will say we hold this truth to be self-evident: Sunday is coming. Ok, Saturday for you Adventists out there. Regardless of your actual day of worship, the fact remains that there is an endless list of details, big and small, that needs addressing every week, and no one knows this more than a church tech team. Sunday is coming. Again. Rinse and repeat.

There are input lists, patch sheets, sermon notes (and the inevitable last-minute changes to said sermon notes), lighting cues, a new Crowder song with a bouzouki part– something you didn’t even know was an instrument, much less what it sounds like– a video to edit (wait, are we even allowed to use this clip?), and that’s all before we even talk about the double ear infection your daughter brought home from daycare and the two-day trip your wife has to take with her co-worker, and…

As funny as the “headless chicken” picture can be, it doesn’t make a very pretty picture of leadership. Yes, you read that correctly: leadership. You may be thinking that leadership is for someone else. Leadership is the luxury of churches with a big staff and the budget to match, right? You can’t even recruit a volunteer to help set up a mic for this Tuesday’s handbell choir alumni luncheon.

“No, I’m not a leader. Not really. Am I?”

You are a Worship Leader

That may sound strange to a person used to coming in through a door that no one else uses at a time when no one in their right mind should be up, dressed in all black, trying not to be noticed. In fact, you have probably been told something along the lines of, “You’ll know you’re doing a great job when no one notices you.” And sometimes, you may have even walked away enjoying the confidence of a job well done while preserving your anonymity. However, being invisible does not mean being insignificant. You need to understand that you are a worship leader. How can you be a worship leader? Isn’t the worship leader the person on stage with the microphone? Yes. And so are you. We all know it doesn’t matter what the person with the mic says or does if it’s not communicated or translated well by the crew pressing the buttons and making the technical decisions.

Our role in tech world is to help prepare and facilitate an environment for the people of God to experience the presence of God through the praises of God. The first facilitators we know about are in the Old Testament. Aaron was the very first high priest called from the tribe of Levi to serve Israel. Exodus 28 goes into great detail on what he is to wear, when he is to wear it, and why. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t say, “Wear all black.”)

The high priest’s job was to be God’s instrument to connect to the people. This is such an essential part of worship for the Israelites that even details involving underwear choices are carefully described. (No – we are not going there.) Read more

Changing My Perspective

We recently installed a wide-angle security camera above our stage looking out into the seating to help with monitoring and counting attendance. As I came into my office on Monday morning, I found a large-scale print out from the camera’s image on my desk. It was an empty room, no special lights on, just work light throughout the room.

As I began to analyze the photograph from a technical perspective for angle, focus, and exposure, I was disturbed by how unimportant the stage was. I was a little appalled that the security team wouldn’t have more of the stage in the photo. It was all about the seats! Ugh.

Then God reminded me: He’s all about the seats.

On a Monday morning, a little more than an hour or so before anyone else would arrive, alone in my office, God knew that I needed a change in perspective. It’s all about the seats.

This started a thought-process for me that went spiraling out of control in my mind (I often have two hyperactive hamsters running opposite directions on the same wheel in my mind.) I glanced around my office and compared my empty house seating photo with the latest worship and church tech magazine covers and online images of amazing churches all across the country. I was struck by another thought: we care a whole lot about seeing and making the 6-10 people on stage look really cool.

Here’s a list of the questions that grew, and continue to grow, from this Monday morning moment. I hope you find them challenging and consider them for yourself:

  • Are the people hearing good sounds from the seats?
  • Is the sound singable? Can they hear what they are supposed to be singing?
  • Volume (dB) should not matter if people are singing and engaged.
  • Where is the subject for IMAG during worship? Do we need it?
  • Can everyone see what is on the screens?
  • Is the font easy to read from the farthest and closest seat?
  • Are we using lyrics like a karaoke party or as a tool to help your people know the words to sing?
  • How do the seats communicate to a video or online audience about what worship is doing or about?
  • Is our lighting encouraging people to be a part of the worship process or to watch and enjoy the show?
  • Do house lights make a difference?
  • Are visuals (motion or still) just pretty, or are they intentional, sacred, and leading people to worship?
  • What makes our facility different to the people than a performance hall or theater?
  • Is there a Holy communication in the experience we create?
  • If a church is healthy, does the number of people in the seats really matter? Is it just for our sanity… or worse, for our ego?
  • Why do we equate a church name with what the stage looks like, or what the worship team/staff is doing? It’s about the people.

I have indeed had a change in perspective. The seats are what should matter the most as we seek to be “bringers of the good news.” (Romans 10:14-15)

chriscrawfordChris Crawford is the Senior Creative Arts Director at Cottonwood Creek Church in Allen, Texas. He transitioned into his current role in 2015 after previously serving as the Technical Arts Director at CCC. His previous experience includes serving as a Media Director, Graphic Artist, Website Coordinator, and Audio Intern at First Baptist Church in Lubbock, Texas.

Chris is a freelance creative serving churches and ministries to better equip the Kingdom of God. When he’s not elbow-deep in tech and creative planning, Chris is spending time with his wife Kristin and their two sons Cooper and Caleb.

this Christmas Season 2015 : Greg Holder

These next weeks leading up to Christmas will be tough for a lot of our church tech friends around the world. Many of us will be in planning meetings stacked on top of change-of-plan meetings, preparation, rehearsals, cues, surrounded by hours and hours of stress running without hours and hours of sleep. You and your team will be working harder and longer hours and be more focused now than any of the previous six months.

At the end you’ll probably also be more tired than you’d care to admit. And that can be a tough place to serve.

During this Christmas, we will be serving so many people that we won’t know this side of Heaven. We get to engage with Immanuel, this gift from God. Our prayer for you is that you can protect your heart this season, that you too can celebrate our God being with us. Our prayer is that you can be in the same moments that you have worked so hard to happen and be present to experience what God will do this Christmas.

We’ve asked some of our friends to share a little encouragement to you. Let these words remind you that we’re not crazy for doing what we do. Let these words soften your spirit when you’re neck-deep in misfiring cues and malfunctioning cables. May you be reminded that God is using you this Christmas to welcome His Son.

Merry Christmas!

Bill Swaringim
Church Technical Leaders

Greg Holder, Lead Pastor The Crossing Church, St Louis, MO

this Christmas Season 2015 : Whitney George

These next weeks leading up to Christmas will be tough for a lot of our church tech friends around the world. Many of us will be in planning meetings stacked on top of change-of-plan meetings, preparation, rehearsals, cues, surrounded by hours and hours of stress running without hours and hours of sleep. You and your team will be working harder and longer hours and be more focused now than any of the previous six months.

At the end you’ll probably also be more tired than you’d care to admit. And that can be a tough place to serve.

During this Christmas, we will be serving so many people that we won’t know this side of Heaven. We get to engage with Immanuel, this gift from God. Our prayer for you is that you can protect your heart this season, that you too can celebrate our God being with us. Our prayer is that you can be in the same moments that you have worked so hard to happen and be present to experience what God will do this Christmas.

We’ve asked some of our friends to share a little encouragement to you. Let these words remind you that we’re not crazy for doing what we do. Let these words soften your spirit when you’re neck-deep in misfiring cues and malfunctioning cables. May you be reminded that God is using you this Christmas to welcome His Son.

Merry Christmas!

Bill Swaringim
Church Technical Leaders

Whitney George, Church on the Move