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A New Vision in Praise

  • J. Gary Walker Contributing Writer
  • 2002 3 Oct
A New Vision in Praise
“Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

This adage, often attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, is, in many ways, more relevant today than ever before. What St. Francis was getting at was the fact that our actions speak more eloquently and persuasively than our words ever could, but this is also true of the way that we experience God. Subsequently, it also affects the way we communicate with Him and with others. While God's truth always remains the same, the way we communicate it can, and should change to meet the needs of those around us.

We are becoming a society accustomed to experiencing things. Instant access to information from around the world— images of war, disaster, triumph— are now part of the way we communicate with each other. The days when students trekked to the library for term paper information are over. If we want to know more about a subject, we only have to click a few times and it’s right in front of us. We are able to see it almost immediately, but more importantly, we are able to experience it, and thus become part of it. Since images are becoming the language of our 21st century, techno-savvy culture, we as Christians need to be adept at speaking in those terms—especially when witnessing to post-modern seekers through our worship. We need to learn to use visual communication to minister to one another, and to be fully able to minister to those around us.

Recognizing the need to integrate other forms of media into our worship, Integrity Music has joined with Maranatha!, INO, M2.0, Vertical Music and Hosanna! Music to develop iWorship, a new line of praise and worship resources that includes a CDs, songbooks, tracks and, for the first time ever, DVDs. Until now, worship music has only incorporated the sense of sound for most of us. But, the new iWorship brand goes beyond the song set, taking the worship experience to a new level by weaving sound and sight. Each of the new iWorship CDs contain two discs that are packed with 33-songs that flow seamlessly for a non-stop worship experience. But, it’s the companion 7-song DVDs that add a revolutionary new interactive dimension to worship, bringing the power of the songs, combined with stunning video, to the big screen—either at home or in the church.

For the first time on any collection, iWorship features Mercy Me’s “I Can Only Imagine,” winner of the 2002 Dove Award Song of the Year. Also featured are songs like “Come, Now Is The Time To Worship,” “Breathe” and “Shout to the Lord.” New and major hits like “Above All,” and classics like “I Will Sing” and “You’re Worthy Of My Praise” are also included.

So what prompted this new integration of sound and sight? Think about the dominant forms of communication in our world today. Television, movies, the Internet, and music—they all play huge roles in our society. In fact, these methods of story-telling have influenced people’s lives more effectively than any other means of communication ever known to man. From the evening news to ads for blue jeans and luxury cars, the combination of emotion-evoking images and music stirs us. Turn on the television or open a newspaper or magazine and you’ll see that the way companies present their products has changed dramatically over the past few years. Whereas commercials used to be primarily concerned with giving us every bit of verbal information that could be squeezed into a half-page ad or 60, 30 or even 15-second spots, now they are often more concerned with images. In fact, television commercials sometimes consist solely of visuals and music. And you can rest assured that companies won’t pay for commercials that don’t work; so, they must be experiencing dramatic results from this type of presentation.

There’s no doubt that our culture is becoming more and more visually oriented, but what does this mean to the average Christian? Most of us would agree that it only takes a glimpse at the majesty of God’s creations to feel the reality of His presence, and this is part of the concept behind iWorship. The series facilitates worship through evocative sensory DVD visuals married to artistically displayed lyrics for every worship scenario—from small home groups to mega-church environments. But this is much more than a “music video” featuring people performing a song. iWorship only draws the worshipper’s attention to where it belongs—on God. The DVDs are also ideal for personal times of worship, allowing the user to disengage the “lyrics option” from the visuals when desired.

The series promises to be a hit with worship leaders and other performers. The DVDs also contain click track and instrumental track options for vocalists, musicians and worship leaders. Worship leader and songwriter Paul Baloche is already a fan of iWorship. “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.”

The DVD’s flexibility allows users to choose full stereo, split track or even a click track, to accompany a full range of performance needs, customizing playback for personal worship, small groups and large congregations. This is a feature that Baloche finds especially attractive, and one that he recommends to other worship leaders. “I find it very easy to play along with because of all the options available,” he says. “I can play along with the track myself or have my band play along with the click track. This is truly a new idea that is here to stay.”

The iWorship series is also extremely user-friendly. An interactive tutorial is featured on each DVD, and takes away all of the guesswork involved in the experience. Everyone—from the novice to the most advanced audiophile—will be able to fully experience the potential of the series. Focusing further on the needs of the church and those involved in music ministry, Integrity also expanded the line to include a series of CD accompaniment tracks to complement the iWorship audio CDs. Each CD track features one song with three different key options. Another component of the series is a companion songbook for each double CD set.

Chris Thomason, Integrity’s vice president of creative, points out that the same production team that developed the popular Songs 4 Worship and WoW Worship CDs developed the iWorship line. “We worked with the goal of offering something unique to the praise and worship genre,” comments Thomason.

When asked about the unique name of the iWorship series, Thomason explains, “We focused on developing a name that reflects two major points. First, the small ‘i’ reminds worshipers that they must decrease as God increases. Secondly, “iWorship” is a personal, declarative statement, as in ‘no matter what happens, I choose to worship God!’”

Often, visual images speak truths that words cannot. Perhaps it’s no accident that throughout history there have been more works of art devoted to the Gospel of Christ than to any other subject. The Church has long been looked to as a source of artistic creativity, and you only have to reflect on the various stained glass windows, paintings, tapestries and sculptures that adorn many older churches as examples. Visual worship is also made up of symbols that can transcend language and cultural barriers. Regardless of their language and background, people can understand that these things bring glory to God. Even before the time of Christ, when God instructed Moses in building His Tabernacle, He was very specific about how it was to be done. In effect, the majesty of God was conveyed to His people in the symbols that He gave them, and many of those symbols are still used today. They can never replace God, but they constantly remind us of him.

Daniel McGuffey, Integrity’s chief marketing officer, believes the iWorship series is going to fill a deep need in the worshiping church. “I think our creative teams have done an outstanding job of listening to what the church wants in their worship experience and providing something entirely fresh that will set new standards in the future,” says McGuffey.

Jesus was a brilliant communicator. He used parables, word pictures, and stories to reach His audience and hold their attention. He spoke of their lives and related to them at their level, and on terms that they could understand. Again, effective visual media can be used to communicate in ways words or music cannot. There’s no doubt that iWorship is the wave of the future, but it’s also worship music that goes far beyond the song list, and it stands to become a totally new worship experience perfect for people who are hungry for something new. It can speak to us—and all for whom the message of the Gospel was intended—on a level that we can understand.

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