This past weekend I had the chance to play with the Eastside Christian Church band led by worship leader Joel Johns in Fullerton, CA. Here’s a (Sun)day in the life of a typical California megachurch.
Eastside has been around for almost fifty years but has experienced new life and growth since pastor Gene Appel arrived in 2008, nearly doubling in size to over 3500 weekly. With growth comes buildings and they’ll be moving to their new facilities in a year. Currently they’re in a 1960’s era octagonal building – the auditorium style was great for choirs of the day but not so great for a praise band and modern sound.
Gene, Joel and service director Jill Gille came from Willow Creek. My guess is that some of that contemporary methodology is what’s fostering the growth. Sunday’s songs are available on PlanningCenterOnline.com. Rehearsal is at 2pm Saturday afternoon with the first of five services at 4:30, so the praise team must come to rehearsals prepared. Eastside has two services on Saturday at 4:30 and 6, and three services on Sunday: 8:30, 10 and 11:30.
Jill’s job is to run around with a headset making sure everything is working ok and technical glitches are worked out. Don’t think only megachurches need a producer – I wish I had one in my 250 member church a few years ago. We had that volunteer position filled toward the end of my tenure but a producer would have saved me a few years of stress and headaches.
The band is the typical format of drums, bass, electric guitar and keyboard with Joel leading from acoustic guitar along with a female backup vocalist. They’re using Roland V-Drums powering the Addictive Drums VST because acoustic drums won’t work due to sound issues in the octagonal building. I was surprised how fantastic the V-Drums sounded with the VST and personally I’d prefer this to the look of having a drummer locked up in one of those weird little Plexiglas sound cages. I’d use the Superior Drummer VST but these days most drum libraries sound terrific.
All songs were played with a click, and some songs had added synth tracks for sweetening. One thing I noticed with this band is that they actually felt the music and playing with them was a blast – I haven’t experienced that in quite some time. If you’re just starting with a click you might get the impression your band is hanging on for dear life, let alone feeling anything. Once they get used to it they’ll loosen up and start breathing life into the music again.
The service order was as follows:
Communion (I played a keyboard underscore)
The hymn Blessed Assurance was substituted for Awakening for the early service to accommodate the older crowd attending that hour.
After the music, a cool glass window is lowered in place right behind Gene, and sermon points and illustrations are rear projected as he preaches.
Their current sermon series is about the end of the world and Jill said it seems like many churches around the country are teaching on this topic. Funny how a mood can sweep through the country, probably spurred on by the recent Harold Camping doomsday predictions. Over 200 people accepted Christ so the theme must have hit home.
One last tidbit – about 60 people were saved at the 4:30 service and some interesting things started happening. First, an alarm went off in the building right as the service ended. Then some odd technical problems cropped up with the drums right before the next service started, and a really freaky, inexplicable track anomaly happened during the set. I’m not a demon-behind-every-bush type person, but thinking back, it almost seemed like something got stirred up because of all those salvations and tried to cause some distraction. The other services continued without incident. The next time you experience a wave of weird problems in ministry, maybe it’s because you’re on the right spiritual track and are getting some opposition.
See more pictures of Eastside: