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Your Belief System and Your Church (6): Talking About vs. Doing

"Making music, in fact, is the very best way of learning about music." --Richard Baker

As a college music supervisor, one day I was observing a music student teacher at a middle school teaching a music class to eighth graders. The students sat in neatly ordered rows. During the 50 minute class, the student teacher verbally taught the seven note major scale (Do-Re-Mi-Fa…) and how to write one on a music staff. She showed the students note by note and had them write the same. Then she allowed the students to work independently to write a whole scale on their own. After a brief time of walking around to help them, the bell rang and the students went on to their next class. In my discussion with her, I asked what kind of class she had just taught, and she told me, “A music class!” To which I responded, “But I just sat through 50 minutes and I didn’t hear one single note of music.”

DOING MAKES MUSIC. Unfortunately there are far too many music teachers across the United States who spend more time “talking about” music than “doing” music. Music is an aesthetic art form that is performable by active participation. (Aesthetic is explained in a later section titled Only When Performed.) In one sense, music does not even exist unless it is BEING performed. Take your hands off an instrument for playing or close your mouth for singing, and the music instantly disappears. In a music classroom, MUSIC HAPPENS by singing, chanting, moving, playing, performing, improvising, creating, composing, and arranging. These are all active participation (doing). Very few activities for music are the understanding part; such as, listening, reading, notating, describing, and evaluating (thinking or talking about). Successful music teachers know that developing great music students requires 90% active participation (doing) and 10% inactive (talking about). The not-so-successful ones turn the percentages around and mostly talk about. [Remember sitting in a school music class talking about music and how much you hated it?]

In my music classes, students rarely ever sat in their seats. We were busy doing. Great benefits were accomplished from this way of teaching music. Parents would come to me and ask, “Does anything else happen in this school besides music? The conversation around our dinner table and into the evening is all about music class as if everything else in the school died!” I will never forget another parent, who I found out later was a school board member, who asked, “What did you do to my ninth grade son? Before he had you in the high school for the first time as a music teacher, he has despised music since kindergarten. Now he cannot stop talking about it!” (You guessed it, not even my high school students sat down. This is explained further in The Intimate Risk paragraph in Take Risks and Give Away Control.) In this manner, I produced well-skilled musicians and lifelong music participators. My former students now email me to tell about all their lifelong music activities from hobbyist community theater groups, community bands and choirs, to professional career singing and playing in exclusive city choirs and symphony orchestras.

DOING MAKES CHRISTIANITY. All of this makes a great analogy for pastors, sermons, and churches. In Christianity we have both the “talking about” (doctrine, preaching, etc.) and “doing” (witnessing, healing, praying, etc.). Which did Jesus do most with His disciples? Were Jesus and His disciples mostly learning in the classroom (synagogue) or out doing? Check out John 21:25. Remember the discussion about spectators vs. participators? Check out James 1:22; and James 2:18, 26. Why do churches teach the pillars of the faith, but completely neglect the activities (skills) of the faith? Why is the focus on information instead of transformation? Like the ninth grader mentioned above, can you imagine having a church whose members are so well practiced in all spiritual skills that they cannot stop talking about their church wherever they go?

Pastor, if I came to your church as a supervisor to observe any worship service, Sunday school class, small group, or Bible study, would I see your students sitting in their seats learning about, or up and doing? Which 90:10% ratio do you practice in your church? Are you producing pew-sitting spectators, or well-skilled lifelong participators for the Lord? Do you focus on information or transformation?

Your Belief System and Your Church: (1) Introduction

Your Belief System and Your Church: (2) Your Paradigms

Your Belief System and Your Church: (3) Bondage or Freedom

Your Belief System and Your Church: (4) Gateway Skills

Your Belief System and Your Church: (5) Teacher Accountability

Your Belief System and Your Church: (6) Talking About vs. Doing

Your Belief System and Your Church: (7) Student Accountability

Your Belief System and Your Church: (8) Assessment

Your Belief System and Your Church: (9) Bury Dead Tradition

Your Belief System and Your Church: (10) Teaching vs. Learning

Your Belief System and Your Church: (11) Teachers' Three Phases

Your Belief System and Your Church: (12) Excellence is NOT a Goal

Your Belief System and Your Church: (13) My Teaching Limits Were Their Learning Limits

Your Belief System and Your Church: (14) Unlearning Creates Success

Your Belief System and Your Church: (15) Pioneers vs. Settlers

Your Belief System and Your Church: (16) Real and Lasting Learning

Your Belief System and Your Church: (17) Problems With Memory

Your Belief System and Your Church: (18) Ownership Creates Success

Your Belief System and Your Church: (19) Not Perfect, But Honest

Your Belief System and Your Church: (20) Take Risks and Give Away Control

Your Belief System and Your Church: (21) Out of a Job

Your Belief System and Your Church: (22) KCAASE and Proverbs 24

Your Belief System and Your Church: (23) Responding vs. Reacting

Your Belief System and Your Church: (24) Only When Performed

Your Belief System and Your Church: (25) A Supervisor's Vision

Your Belief System and Your Church: (26) Glimpses Into the Spiritual

Your Belief System and Your Church: (27) One Reason Alone

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Have been in 3 different churches recently and can tell you which I saw happening the most. The church in Broomall was very mixed with both doing and participating. Million dollar question: How might a pastor switch from spectating to doing? I mean how does he do this with the Sunday service? Some folks never make it to the small group or special class.
Great question--I myself have been thinking about this. What sort of transition would I suggest if a pastor asked me how to evolve Sunday services from a traditional sitting church to an up-and-about one? I definitely would begin with the Sunday service. A suggestion might be made for starting another service just for those who want to jump right in, and then go full force with it. Another suggestion might be made for transitioning a degree at a time in the regular service while explaining to the congregation what is happening and why--especially the why--one needs to do much preparation for creating an atmosphere of change. But above all, the PRIORITY is to spend lots of time in prayer, get the mind and timing of the Spirit, gradually develop the full backing of the Board, engage the congregation in special prayer with you about this, plan out the transition in written out steps, publish them in the back of the church, and go ahead with each step when the Lord imparts full peace to do so. If the pastor feels secure with the Board and congregation, have them help evaluate each step and give feedback for improvement and give input to formulate the next step ahead.

I would guess this is a lot like writing a curriculum for a school music program, which the Lord has given me the talent for 35 years to be a master curriculum writer.
Blessings, Dave
Spied a typo in my previous response. I meant the church was mixed with particpators and spectators.

I personally dislike the split service on this idea. I think you'd have one group of energizer bunnies and another of pew potato's. I do like our Pastor's idea today of calling on the men for testimonies, giving them 2 weeks notice and expecting them to have something to share even if simple. He has given them fair warning of what is coming. Ideally it will eventually be everyone but since the fellows are the head spiritual leaders it makes sense to start with them.
Now for some ideas on how to get folks to more actively participate in worship...
Dear Lisa,
I picked up on what you meant despite your typo. After a second thought, I agree that two kinds of services such as I suggested above would be inviting a huge church split disaster.

How does one get everyone to participate? For starters, I'd put all the chairs in a large U with the pastor located at the top of the U. (This way, the pastor has a direct psychological connection with everyone on a one-to-one basis, as no one can "hide" behind another as in rows. A direct psychological connection is the strongest teacher-student relationship building.)

Then I'd present the "sermon" point after point as a lesson that had "doable" activities associated with each sermon point, having the people stand, mix together, and demonstrate each activity. Or if it's a discussion point, then lean over to your neighbor and tell him/herself what your understanding is of what was just presented.
Blessings, Dave
Our pastor staff plans sermons and activities that go together. For example, if the message is on Global outreach, this is usually followed by the introduction of those outreaches we are involved in and how an individual can contribute to or participate in the outreach. If the message is about santification, there may be a set of classes, support activities or volunteer positions available to expand our connections ministries to the newly saved.

We also bring the sermons into small groups so that we can have a deeper dive during the week and decide if our small group feels led to do something together to support the ministry (ie, we may decide to sponsor folks for missions trips, work at a soup kitchen together or have a yard sale to raise money for a family in need).

I think there will always be a group of spectators, but it is very important to be DO-ers - and in order to do that, our church leaders need to have resources available that help guide us to the DOing places. Many folks will be more than happy to DO if they are given a list of things to DO and clearly defined DOing roles. Especially if they see others DO-ing. Some will choose not to do if left to their own devices and some cannot DO (because of physical or time constraints or obligations), but will raise up the Do-ers in prayer and exhortation (which is actually a form of DO-ing in of itself).

Our church is a multi-campus larger church, so I cannot speak intelligently to the 90/10 ratio. I would throw out a guess at 70/30 and call it modest based on what I have seen with my own eyes.
Alright, Mo! Your post is certainly "music" to my ears!!! May the Lord continue to bless your church into even greater realms of service.
Blessings, Dave
Dave, your description of an ideal sanctuary arrangement mirrors the discussion I used to have with a former church member. I don't know that either of us understood anything about a psychological conection with the audience. We were simply brainstorming how to make church different, better, more appealing to those not usually churched. A u-shape or circle simply feels friendlier. It's much easier to relate with, see, and hear the leader and each other. (Call it the simpleton's description of what you said.) We even pondered a t-shaped or long narrow stage that exetends into the center of the room with seats around it. Then again in a church full of muscians everyone would end up on the stage..;
I like the idea of a church full of musicians. I know exactly what to do with a room full of people performing music.
Dave

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