No. That’s the answer one can assume when looking at the extensive planning that goes into proper technical church production. Even audio production planning seems to leave little room for God. Or, so one might think. Brian Gowing and I have been involved in church audio production for decades and we’ve found one thing to be true of production planning; the more planning, the more room for God.
I’ll start with Brian’s thoughts on this, or better yet, his story.
“Only God can change hearts. But, He expects us to give him our utmost, for His Highest. This is why proper planning and execution are essential to allowing God to reach out and touch those hearts that, may or may not, be prepared to be touched.Let me give you a very personal experience about this. I became a Christ follower in 2003. I hadn’t planned on giving everything I am over to God but it worked out that way. He called me to leave everything behind and follow Him and I did. How did He reach me and touch my heart when I wasn’t planning on Him doing that?
My family decided to start attending this little Vineyard church plant at my wife’s request. I have never been very religious up to that point. But that day, God decided to call me toward Him via a tiny church holding service in a senior center. In a church where they were still using an overhead projector. In a church where the sound guy was sleeping most of the time. But, where the worship leader sang his soul to the congregation.
One song, “Breathe,” took a hold of a heart string I didn’t know I had. Soon after, I was in my home studio playing the song and all of a sudden I couldn’t stop playing it. I felt like electricity was surging through my body and I could feel God calling me to Him. It was at that moment that I gave everything to Him.
What would have happened if I had been distracted by the lousy presentation and the inadequate sound in the service? Did God need any of that to reach me? No. If I hadn’t been in the proper frame of mind to hear His whisper, in that song, what would have happened? What if, when that song started, there was feedback? Or, the words weren’t on the screen? Or, I wouldn’t have been able to hear the worship leader? Were there plenty of distractions? Yes! Could any of them have prevented me from hearing Him? Absolutely! But, they didn’t.
Here’s my thoughts: God will change hearts whenever He wants to, whether we help or not. But let’s try to help Him open doors by removing the distractions that come from poor planning and execution. I plan every service to lay out a red carpet for our King. To welcome Him in triumphantly and in the manner He deserves. If it’s anything less than your best, why are you bringing it to our King?”
Now for my thoughts
During my life, I’ve worked on audio teams at four different churches with a number of other “guest mixing” church gigs. I’ve seen a huge varying degree of production planning, from highly detailed to try-to-keep-up. I’ve seen congregations where everyone was lifting their hands in praise and throwing their whole selves into worship. I’ve seen congregations where everyone was restrained. In all of the cases, God was working.
The problem was that with churches with a lesser focus on planning, there couldn’t be a total focus on God. The more the pastor, worship leader, musicians, and congregation had to worry about “what might go wrong,” the less they could focus on presenting the message or leading worship or receiving the message or worshipping. I’ve been thanked for running sound, at guest gigs, because people knew I could mix a distraction-free service unlike their sound crew. A congregation member shouldn’t become anxious because of who is standing behind the mixer.
Deliberating planning isn’t about scheduling every moment of the service to control what happens. Planning is about ensuring the church staff can focus on their duties and the congregation can focus, ultimately and rather entirely, on God. Through this planning, we are saying, “we are ready for you, the congregation is yours.”
There is one other part of planning that must be addressed.
How does one stop the spreading of the message?
- Stop the message from going out.
- Distort the message.
- Distract those receiving the message.
In the realm of audio production, it’s called screwing with the sound system. Wireless mic batteries sudden die, though well-charged. Fuses are blown for no reason. Power goes out. Mixers stop working. That’s just the direct hits. The less planning that goes into what-if scenarios, the more we are saying, “go for these weak spots.” Planning isn’t only about preparing the room; it’s about preparing for spiritual attacks. And they will come. Trust me, they will come.
The more planning, the more room for God
Brian and I know God can do anything, anywhere, anytime. We know spiritual attacks happen. We also recognize that disorganization leads to confusion and distraction. Production planning isn’t about limiting the movement of the Holy Spirit. It’s not about trying to manipulate the heart-strings of the congregation. It’s about honoring God and His house.
One final note: please don’t think we are, in any way, saying production planning should turn the spotlight on the tech department or any department for that matter. The greatest compliments we get are when we overhear people talking about how God spoke to them during the service or how great the worship time was for them. We don’t want the spotlight. We want transparency.