The Worship Experience
At Long Hollow they wanted to do something fresh and innovative. Often in our churches, we’re afraid to move away from the traditional way of celebrating Easter. But Christmas and Easter are some of the biggest times of attendance. That’s when we reach the most people. And they wanted to reach people in an experiential way while still honoring good doctrine and the truth of the Word. They didn’t want just the traditional songs, message, and Easter eggs.
They wanted to tell a story, and they knew the music would be what defined that story. Just like in a musical, the music would keep the story moving. They also knew they wanted it to be the type of songs you’d hear on the radio or top 40. The Long Hollow team was trying to appeal not only to those who come each year, but also to the ones that people were bringing for the first time – those that come to church once or twice a year. They wanted to get them to come back again the next week.
Because of the way they were going, it wouldn’t be your traditional stand up, sing songs, and sit down event. Instead they embraced the idea of an experience – of a journey of worship told in story. They let it flow a bit more between the story and the corporate response.
There’s always a fine line between corporate worship and spectator piece. Gerald Trottman, their worship leader, comes from New York where he wrote for musicals and worked in musical jazz theater. Because he comes from such a story-intensive background, he really values things like journey and experience. Whether it’s a movie or theater piece, the story is what really engages you. And he wanted that to be one of the engaging factors in the worship elements.
“We could go see Maroon 5 or Carrie Underwood and we would have our hands raised up. We’re excited and engaged in the excellence of the production. But in worship, for some reason it’s ‘forbidden’. The perception of entertainment is how things are done and how we engage people. If we approach what we do as entertainment, people know we are there to entertain. If we do it worshipfully and take them on an experience and journey to teach them, we get to show them an example of what worship can be.
“It comes down to the individual heart. The only way we can educate people in worship is to take them out of a box they’ve been encased in. They’ve been told worship is this or that. What if we show them how other people worship? Some churches don’t have instruments. A lot of people would say what we already do is entertainment driven. And they might be justified because we use computers, videos, lights. But why wouldn’t you take those things so common to culture and use them in a way that glorifies God?”
It was a journey. And isn’t that what worship is supposed to be?
The overall vision was extremely successful. They got a lot of great response and saw people legitimately engaging in worship.