|from The Providence Journal, August 15, 2012|
You never know where you’ll get worship inspiration. Mine came last night at a Bruce Springsteen concert at historic Fenway Park in Boston. To me the concert was one big tent revival, albeit a soulful modern-rock-‘n-roll infused one, that reminded me once again of the awesome power of music in worship. Rather than focus on the amazing musical journey of songs old and new (I’ll leave that to the music critics), allow me to focus on the worship lessons:
- DRAMATIC ARC: During the concert there was a definite, intentional pacing of energy and sound that led us along. From the buoyant beginning, “Promised Land,” that hinted to the theme, we then settled in, dug deep into the message, and ended on a celebratory, hopeful note (it doesn’t get more upbeat than “Twist and Shout” and “Dirty Water,” does it?). In the same way it is crucial to have an arc to worship to help the message unfold and play out.
- KNOW – AND HONOR – YOUR CONGREGATION: At his level of professionalism, nothing gets by The Boss. He “knew” (or at least his people did!) that a beloved Red Sox icon, Johnny Pesky, had passed away at age 92 the previous day. He seamlessly and ingeniously wove this sad milestone with another more personal one, the death of his longtime saxophone player, Clarence Clemons, a rock icon himself. At various times, Bruce, sang, spoke, showed poignant photos, and used silence (during a ROCK CONCERT!) to mark those important passings. We felt the depth of his sorrow and he honored ours.
- USE VIDEO JUDICIOUSLY: I know, I know, we’re big proponents of the projector here at WCL. But we are keenly aware that you need to know when to use it and when to let your worship speak for itself. Even during a video-laden worship service there are moments, such as times of meditation or prayer, when it’s best to allow the congregation to get lost in its own contemplation rather than the gorgeous, distracting image on the screen. Bruce and the E Street Band let their music do most of the talking, but the video images they used were highly effective devices for honoring the missing souls mentioned above.
- TAKE IT TO THE PEOPLE: The Boss does this with the best of the rock icons. From the start he was traveling, working the crowd, connecting with his audience, recognizing all ages. (He even lugged a 10-year boy under his arm to the stage, a device I most certainly DO NOT recommend for worship!) We all felt a part of his journey and he welcomed us into it. This, my friends, is a most difficult skill that I most assuredly need to work on. His music pours through his veins; if we lay worship leaders could feel even a fraction of this passion, our message WILL get through.
The Boss (The Reverend Boss?!?) is at the top form of his calling, rock-‘n’-roll anthems. What is your calling? What is beckons me? Although I have no misconceptions about my own potential, I’m inspired to challenge myself to consider those elements that can strengthen my own lay worship creations.