Every once in awhile PraiseCharts.com‘s Ryan Dahl and I will convene somewhere and have an epic meeting of the minds where we discuss trends in music, worship, technology and the Internet. Last week we met in Charleston, SC and Ryan hatched an idea that may very well rock the music publishing world.
Next we drove to Atlanta where we attended the 2nd largest church in the country for Easter: Andy Stanley’s Northpoint Church.
The main Northpoint campus is in an office park and the church looks like an office building. I asked a greeter if it was, in fact, a remodeled office building and she said no, it was designed to be a church.
The auditorium is nice but nothing special and the stage has all the lighting and fog you’d expect in a gigachurch (a church over 10,000.) Outreach Magazine’s 2011 top churches list claims Northpoint is running 27,429.
And now for the music: it was some of the best I’ve heard. A polished, expressive band and vocalists. Ryan commented on how wonderful the mix sounded. They did three songs. Yes, you read that correctly: three songs for Easter, opening with U2’s Pride (In the Name of Love), then Mighty to Save and the hymn My Savior’s Love.
In huge churches with a well known preacher, the sermon is often the centerpiece of the whole service – music is simply a brief prelude to the (lengthy) message. While Andy Stanley is certainly a wonderful communicator, the music was great, too, and I would have liked to hear more of it.
The music I did hear was an A+. Here are 3 things we can learn from Northpoint:
Excellent Worship Flow: I’ve visited famous megachurches that stop between songs with an awkward few seconds of silence. This is bush league and they should know better. Music is the glue that holds your praise set together and Northpoint understands this. I noticed that on the final chord of Mighty to Save the intro to My Savior’s Love started seamlessly without missing a beat. After the set the keyboardist continued the mood by playing softly during a video as the stage was transformed for the message (instruments were removed and sermon props brought out.)
Appropriate Song Selection: With only two congregational songs Northpoint hit a home run – a well-known hymn and a top five praise song, and they reprised Mighty to Save after the message for good measure. If you were a typical “I go to church once a year on Easter” type person you’d be engaged. I’m not crazy about doing secular songs in church but Pride (In the Name of Love) at least fit the day thematically. (Although if they were hoping to connect with the unchurched I think the song would have only rung a bell with the over 40 crowd.)
Variety: Worship leaders, don’t be afraid to share the spotlight with talent in your church. Music director Eddie Kirkland performed Pride and led Mighty to Save while a talented female vocalist did an excellent job leading My Savior’s Love. Variety is the spice of life.
Bottom Line: Worship leaders in small churches often feel they can never compete with the big churches. While you may not have HD video, lasers and lights, you can plan and pray for a seamless worship flow that changes lives by creating an inviting atmosphere of worship rivaling any church in the country.