The Next Generation
- J. Gary Walker Contributing Writer
- 2004 11 Oct
The gift of vision is often a double-edged sword in today’s world. Pictures that speak of such disparate things as war and peace, love and hate, and freedom and tyranny crowd our line of vision on a daily basis. At times we see more of the world than we would care to. It pays to remember, however, that God gave us our senses to enable us to experience the universe that we live in—a universe that reflects the majesty of its Creator. It makes sense, then, that those same senses might allow us to experience Him in some fundamental way that logic and reason cannot.
The success of Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of the Christ, is a well-known, contemporary example of how intensely powerful images that portray the love of Christ can be, among believers and non-believers alike. Through the medium of film, Gibson allowed viewers to experience a small part of what Christ endured for those he loves. Believing, of course, must not rely on seeing, but those who do believe can enter an entirely new dimension in the way that they understand and worship their God.
This hunger for a visual element in worship, then, suggests that the postmodern believer is seeking something deeper, more experiential. Integrity Music, in response to this need for a visually oriented approach to worship, released their iWORSHIP series in 2002. Produced in partnership between Integrity Music, Maranatha! and INO Records, iWORSHIP was intended to give believers a total, well-rounded worship experience. To date, the iWORSHIP product line includes three double CDs, a children’s CD, a Christmas CD, songbooks, CD trax, devotional books, a Bible, and DVDs created for use in home and corporate worship settings.
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The DVD component of the iWORSHIP collection—the audiovisual portion that has since become the hallmark of iWORSHIP—offered the most advanced audio-visual presentation features to give worship leaders and music pastors options for creating a personalized worship environment. With three audio modes, “on/off” lyric choice with on-screen placement options and pre-programmed three-song themed worship sets, the DVDs became an instant sensation. "We have used the worship DVDs in our worship service and have in fact built a whole worship service around them,” said Steve Hendricks, a worship leader from Akron, Ohio. “They are awesome!”
To say that the iWORSHIP series was merely a success, however, would be an enormous understatement. Artists like Michael W. Smith began using iWORSHIP videos in their concerts, and churches around the world reached out for this new innovation in technology. Worship leader and songwriter Paul Baloche quickly became a fan of the iWORSHIP experience. “iWORSHIP is an awesome new tool to inspire worship in our congregations,” says Baloche. “It provides breath-taking creative visual images that enhance the meaning of the song without distracting people from worshipping God.”
Technology, much like any other tool, is only as honorable as those using it, and iWORSHIP is a fine example of how it can be used to further help believers experience their God. Integrity has since added to the technical versatility of the visual portion of iWORSHIP by creating MPEG libraries, which allow users to incorporate individual videos into presentation software programs such as PowerPoint or MediaShout, enabling them to fully customize their worship experience.
THE NEXT GENERATION
Fast-forward to today as Integrity unveils its newest line: iWORSHIP Next. The new line will contain a new 33-song double CD, CD trax, a transposable songbook, and the concurrent release of the newest resource DVDs. Rather than just an old face with a new name, however, iWORSHIP Next is a definitive answer to a question that the folks at Integrity believe the church is now asking. “Today’s worship leaders and worship music fans are among the most sophisticated consumers and they ask for creativity and innovation in the music products they buy,” says Danny McGuffey, chief marketing officer for Integrity Media.
The iWORSHIP Next CD consists of two discs: the NOW disc, which contains some of the most popular songs in the church right now, and the NEW disc, which features new worship songs popular in radio. Michael W. Smith was the first artist approached by Integrity to appear on the iWORSHIP Next Double CD. He had already been using iWORSHIP videos in his concerts, so it seems only fitting that he should be featured on both the new CD and the latest DVD. Along with MercyMe, Darlene Zschech, SONICFLOOd, Todd Agnew, Israel & New Breed and Phillips, Craig & Dean, Smith helps make up the impressive and diverse artist list on iWORSHIP Next. Some of today’s biggest worship songs, including “Word of God Speak,” “Agnus Dei,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and “Blessed Be Your Name,” make up the 33 tracks on the two CDs.
The new DVD, the latest in the series of resource system DVDs, is called the iWORSHIP Resource System, Volume I, and features a great mix of seven top worship songs, including Michael W. Smith’s brand new radio hit, “Healing Rain.” Smith’s “Agnus Dei” is also included along with “Arise,” featuring Don Moen; “At The Foot Of The Cross (Ashes To Beauty),” featuring Kathryn Scott; “Days Of Elijah,” featuring Robin Mark; “Praise Adonai,” featuring Paul Baloche and “When It's All Been Said And Done,” featuring Don Moen.
The visual elements in the iWORSHIP Resource System have also been carried to a higher level. "The thing that I love about the worship visuals is that they're one more way to help redirect our hearts and minds towards God,” says Adrienne Gray, Manager of Multimedia Development for Integrity Media. “Some songs show how vast and beautiful His creations are. Others are more of a visual celebration. And there's nothing but good things to come." It is likely, in fact, that one of the leading reasons for the success of the iWORSHIP series has been its stunning visuals. Using amazing footage taken from around the world, the iWORSHIP resource DVDs present the small part of the Creator embodied in His creation. After all, the very world in which we live serves as an ever-present reminder of all he has done for us. Who can stand at the Grand Canyon and not marvel at the power of the One who created it? Is it possible to watch the beautiful fury of a thunderstorm and not feel awed at the God by whose hand it all works? These are only two of the things that tie us to Him and that give us a small glimpse into His glory.
It is a certainty that progress breeds progress, and Integrity is determined to keep up with the needs of the church through iWORSHIP Next. “Integrity has not been content to rest on the laurels of the success of the previous worship projects and it definitely shows in the quality and innovations of iWORSHIP Next and the new iWORSHIP Kids,” says Chris Thomason, Sr. VP of Integrity Label Group. “Not only do we have the best songs and artists, we’ve tried to offer cutting edge features that demonstrate our commitment to making iWORSHIP Next a total and fresh worship experience.”
In a world full of divisive and often frightening pictures, it is encouraging when images are used for the purpose of helping people draw closer to God. “Since the beginning of the series, the goal has been to reinforce worship through visual immersion—not to entertain, but to help people enter in,” says Gray. “I really believe we've made some serious strides towards hitting that mark consistently while getting better and better.” Rather than violating the trust of those who watch the images, iWORSHIP Next allows the worshipper to enter into a place of security in and respect for God where they can feel the awe and majesty of His creation. When Jesus spoke to his followers, he spoke in parables that broke his lessons down into elements that they would understand. Doesn’t it make sense, then, to believe that He would encourage us to seek Him in similar ways?
J. Gary Walker is a writer and editor who lives in Chickasaw, Alabama. He can be reached at [email protected]