I was about 8 years old the first time I remember riding in a car with just me and my Uncle John. For some reason, my parents were stuck in other commitments, and I had to go to the doctor so my mom asked my uncle to take me. This was back in the day when anyone could ride in the front seat, and well, you just hopefully remembered to buckle up. On this particular day, I hadn’t buckled up until a few minutes in to the ride. Uncle John in that blue Cutlas was a machine. He made more deliberate moves than I had ever seen. In New York traffic, he moved in and out of cars with precision. He was quick on the gas and very decisive with his driving. We were flying. I got home from what was an incredibly fun experience blown away by what he could make a car do.
Later on that day, I was talking to my mom about the ride I had taken. Seeing my excitement, she decided to give me a little background. She said, “In Indiana where Uncle John grew up, he used to race a bit. He raced in a style of races called figure 8’s.” Now, this isn’t to say I found out that day my uncle (who wasn’t really my uncle but just a very close friend of the family) was a famous race car driver in some prior life. But, he was a professional who drove competitively at a level most of us haven’t. She went on to say, “if you think that was fast, imagine what it would have been like to see him drive a race car.”
But that wasn’t what impressed me that day. He didn’t have a race car. He didn’t really even have a faster than normal car. Uncle John blew me away because I got to watch what he could do with an everyday, normal car. It would’ve almost been cheating in my mind if his car could have gone way faster than everyone else’s car. Uncle John was noticeably better at a craft many other people were practicing because he knew techniques that others just didn’t know.
Over the past few years, I have seen a trend in production ministry. And to be honest, I may have been guilty of contributing to the trend myself early in my ministry. Technique has been replaced with new and shiny. What someone knows has become less relevant than what someone has. To drive it a bit deeper, what gear you have has become the new barometer for your level of success in the church production world. Read that again.
The perception is this: It’s no longer the technique you practice but the brands and sizes of the respective equipment that marks success in the minds of your contemporaries.
All of us are guilty of the desire for affirmation and recognition. All of us want to be noticed for being great at what we do. To some extent, that isn’t the problem. But, in recent years, the drive to be respected has been fulfilled by having the latest new piece of equipment no other church in town has instead of by finding ways to master what you do have. Take for instance a particular guitar player who is on stage at church. You know, the one who knows three chords but has a $4,000 setup. I think every church has this guy. He has the outfit. He has the amp. He has the guitar, so he must be awesome. But after a couple songs, you find yourself… underwhelmed. Every tech guy reading this blog knows this guy. So, here is the question. If it’s true with the guitar player, why isn’t it true with the FOH guy? How many people want the newest, latest and greatest because we know people will be impressed with our stuff? But do we know how to actually use the stuff? Do we actually need that new piece? Could we serve the team as a whole by not spending that much?
What would happen if pastors and leaders over media and production approached their ministries from a different angle? What would happen to our churches if we got so good at our craft that the gear became secondary to technique?
This isn’t to say that at times an upgrade isn’t necessary. Sometimes a room’s acoustics are just bad. Sometimes bandaging an old system can be more expensive then working toward a more modern solution. But, before you go price out the new $100,000 sound console, is there one that can do what you need and is rated well at $60,000? Here is what I know. An expert isn’t the person who can drive faster than everyone else because he has a faster car. Often times, if you give someone with little knowledge of technique a faster car, all you get is a faster collision. Likewise, an expert isn’t the one with the newest piece of gear. An expert is the one who squeezed all they could out of the system they had and made it sound great. The gear is irrelevant.
The passion on the BLUE team at WAVE is to create a generation of tech arts professionals who have learned to master their technique at all levels with a passion for protecting their ministries. Media and production is not about “the event”. It’s about communication. Success on Sunday SHOULD NOT solely be determined by how awesome the production team preformed. Rather, it should also be on how well people in the audience received the unique offering God wanted to communicate to them through all teams. Media and production as much as any other team in the church are pivotal to that mission. No one should ever hold a ministry hostage because their desire for the newest gear dictates a budget their church can’t afford. Make your teams experts at communicating to your audience with what tools you have and the rest will come.
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