My first memory of actual outrage against bad production was when I was asked to run sound for a church event around age 19. There were several acts and the opener was an older guy (over the hill at 25) with an acoustic guitar. As we started his sound check it became very obvious, to me at least, that his guitar was out of tune. Being young and inexperienced, I stopped him, without thinking and said, “You’re going to tune your guitar, right?” He looked up at me in shock and said, “It’s for the Lord brother, don’t be so picky”. I was in total disbelief! “Shouldn’t that mean we do the absolute best we can?” I lost all respect for that guy and although I can’t remember his name, I have never forgotten his attitude.
I have told that story many times over the years and I am still surprised at the wide range of response I get. Some are shocked, some are sad, and some laugh as they have experienced something similar. I also run into those that say, “Well we can’t all be (inserting the church they are jealous of here); we don’t have all their resources.” Although this attitude is changing, it is still prevalent in many churches today. I think many confuse excellence with expensive and think that if they don’t have every resource in the world, you can’t have a good production.
“Good” is a relative term. Now before you freak out and start yelling at me through your electronic device, let me explain. A Honda Civic is a “good” car, it is reliable, well built, and will get you from point A to point B every time. You are not embarrassed when you take your friends out in your new Honda. In fact, you are proud of the fact that you have such a great car at a reasonable price. A BMW Alpina B7 is a “good” car, it is reliable, very well built, and will get you to a destination a quarter of a mile away in just under 12 seconds. The Honda is 4 seconds slower in the quarter mile and about $75,000 less than the BMW. Both can be driven by good drivers (your results may vary). You don’t care less about driving or getting somewhere because you are driving the Honda over the BMW. The same is true with production in church.
But why must we have “good” production in church?
Like most things in life, good production comes from much preparation and attention to detail. Notice, I didn’t say a fat budget or amazingly talented people. While both can take your good production to a higher level, they are not the most important factors. Many good productions are executed every day with a modest budget and average talent behind them.
We represent the church and Christ. We have the God-given command, “Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men” (Col. 3:23 HCSB). That being said, the production is really for Him and not those in the seats. This is the highest calling we could have, “It’s for the Lord, brother!” We should always be giving our utmost. As the great theologian The Little Drummer Boy once said, “I played my best for Him!” (Well, you get the point.)
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”.
Botany Suit advertisement, 1966
This still holds true today. Visitors make up their minds quickly. And with the level of excellence at concerts and live TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance, visitors expect things to look and sound good as well as go off without a hitch. They don’t necessarily want it to be amazing, but they do expect it to be “good”. I have been to many churches that had very simple lighting, sound, and staging but did everything with excellence. Having a high standard of how you execute services and events has more to do with planning and execution than it does with flash and budget.
Striving for excellence in production is not really an option. It is not only what we should do; ultimately it is what we must do. Remember, “We get to do this!”