Worship Service Design Concepts

The following are a few thoughts on designing a worship service. Though I strongly hold to the “free worship” philosophy, I have adopted a few ideas from my Presbyterian (PCA) friends, which include the section headings Call to Worship, Confession and Assurance of Pardon, and a Benediction, etc. These are present to serve as guidelines, making sure that worship is as complete an experience as possible. The section headings do not need to be announced, however, but are there to ensure that the overall content is comprehensive and robust. I refer below to Isaiah 6:1-11 as a very helpful template for designing a service. This is only one method, but what a fantastic strategy to use—try it yourself!

Please check out the series I started last week—”Living and Worshiping with Purpose.” Thanks for reading!


John MacArthur gave an apt description for effective worship service design when he said, “Worship is deliberate, purposeful, and active. It involves not just the thought process, and not merely the emotions, but the whole being as well. The life of a true worshiper is a joyous, vibrant life—a life of actively seeking worship to glorify God in practical ways.”[1] Borrowing MacArthur’s hypothesis, I design services of worship with three goals in mind: to be orderly, focused, and dynamic.

“The main function of a worship service: to facilitate a congregational encounter between God and His people, resulting in awe and worship 
of God (Is. 6:1-11).”

 Orderly Worship

Orderly worship is constructed with thoughtful, conscious effort. So many modern worship plans are mistakenly assembled with mostly musical considerations as the highest priority. Dr. Bruce Leafblad proposed the example of Isaiah 6 as an ideal pattern for corporate worship, offering that, “[it is] the kind of encounter our hearts long for when we come to worship Him.”[2] The Isaiah 6 pattern is founded upon the prophet’s personal encounter with God, presented in verses 1-11. Leafblad divides the particular encounter into two parts: God’s actions and Isaiah’s (the worshiper’s) response.[3] Music should—as with other aspects of a service such as prayer, Scripture reading, and the sermon—serve to support the main function of a worship service: to facilitate a congregational encounter between God and His people, resulting in awe and worship for God (Is. 6:1-4), through confession of sin and assurance of pardon (vv. 5-7), and commission (v. 8), utilizing revelation and response as the general format.

The Dialogue of Worship—Isaiah 6: 1-11 (Dr. Bruce Leafblad)

 Isaiah 6:1-11—A Template for Worship

In this meeting with Isaiah, as in every encounter, God led the exchange. Therefore, with Isaiah 6, the modern church has a thoughtful form with which to follow. I embrace the normative principle of worship, which, as Daniel Block describes, “…allows Christians to incorporate in their worship forms and practices not forbidden by Scripture, provided they promote order in worship and do not contradict scriptural principles.”[4]  Even as believers are free to assimilate effective biblical worship expressions to benefit various cultures, it is prudent to establish a revelation/ response pattern, which is a dialogue between God and the worshiper throughout the service. This allows a leader to measure whether they have satisfied a robust discourse between God and the worshiper.

Focused Worship

Focused worship planning makes every effort musically and technically, along with a Spirit-led ministry mindset, to “remove distractions in worship services to secure an unobstructed view to the glory of God [Isa. 62: 10; 57:14].”[5] This allows scrutiny concerning transitions in the service that require special attention, creating pleasing continuity between music and segment changes, along with entrances and exits by participants to and from the pulpit/ stage area, etc. Simple forethought will allow a smooth, free-flowing and unbroken focus by the congregation during the worship service.

Dynamic Worship

Dynamic worship is greatly dependent on congregational participation and a flowing God/ worshiper dialogue. A destructive blunder the Roman Catholic Church made in the early centuries of the church—which was somewhat corrected by the Reformation—was to limit or completely eliminate congregational worship in place of professional priests, who worshiped on behalf of believers. Unfortunately, even today—for a similar need to control quality and content—some free churches in the Evangelical tradition still limit congregational participation.

Many churches have a stage/ audience concept informing their worship service strategy, usually due to a facility’s performance-oriented physical layout. The tendency, then, is to plan mostly for activity on the stage with little regard for the average congregant, inadvertently considered ‘the audience.’ Philosophically, when God is understood as the true audience—the receiver of praise—then worship may be planned biblically, even in a theater environment. This will enhance the interaction between ‘real people’ with God in the doxology. This must include choosing effective, easy-to-sing, and easily understood songs, with scripturally centered lyrics. Because congregational singing and participation is biblical (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), it is crucial for songs to be accessible—arranged in congregationally friendly keys.[6]

Practical Suggestions

As a practical consideration, a prudent leader would do well to incorporate new songs along with older ones that have a historical and emotional context within the congregation, including hymns, classic choruses, and songs that have become community favorites over the years. A sensible strategy would be to apply a holistic approach in designing worship among multiple generations, even various cultures within a congregation.

The Five “Ss”

An overall helpful planning technique I have developed is to incorporate the “Five Ss”: 1) Determine the Spiritual Statement of the service [‘Big Idea,’ theme, takeaway]; 2) Determine the Song Selection (theme, spiritual intent, tempo, key, etc.]; 3) Determine the song Sequence [most effective order of the songs and spoken segments]; 4) Consider Segues [musical or spoken strategies which tie each piece together in the service]; and 5) Be Sensitive [to people, but more importantly, to the Holy Spirit—be willing to change course mid-service].[7]

—Sample of a ‘blended’ worship service using Is. 6:1-11 as a template—

This attention to detail in designing worship supports MacArthur’s point: “[to be] actively seeking worship [that glorifies] God in practical ways.”[8]

[1] John MacArthur, Worship: The Ultimate Priority (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 175.
[2] Dr. Bruce Leafblad, “Presentation: The Dialogue of Worship,” Liberty University Online, WRSP 835 lecture, https://download.liberty.edu/courses/o3t4f.mp4 (accessed April 20, 2017).
[3] Ibid.

[4] Daniel I. Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), Kindle Edition locations 320-323.
[5] Jamie Harvill, “Personal Ministry Evaluation,” a paper submitted to Dr. Donald Ellsworth for Liberty University Online, WRSP 835, April 16, 2017.

[6] Congregational Singing Range: for the lowest note, do not go lower that B below Middle C or above D—an octave and a step above Middle C—unless it is to reach a quick passing note that is no more than a whole-step away.

[7] Jamie Harvill, Worship Foundry: Shaping a New Generation of Worship Leaders (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 2013), Kindle Edition locations 1784-1787.
[8] MacArthur, 175.

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Living and Worshiping with Purpose—Part 1: Worship and Scripture

Humans operate on a fundamental system of belief (usually an unconscious process) to manage living and survival. This informs priorities, which generate particular behaviors. One’s system of fundamental belief helps determine the net outcome of their lives—good, bad or indifferent. As a Christian, one makes a conscious choice to give God glory, recognizing the Bible as the roadmap for life (theology), leading to Christ-centered priorities (philosophy), Spirit-led actions (methodology), which create God-honoring outcomes—the sum is a life of worship. 

Desiring to be an effective minister, I have established a theology, philosophy, and methodology for worship ministry. This theology of worship is based on Scripture—it will never change; a philosophy of worship bridges belief and behavior through conviction—it rarely, if ever changes; and one’s methodology of worship is the practical application of purposeful action—it is subject to change often. Submitting to the scrutiny of predetermined standards helps to pilot each area of the worship ministry. This process of examination helps to define the associations between the following individual components: worship and scripture; worship and preaching; worship and singing; worship and giving; worship and praying; worship and brokenness; worship and holiness; worship and revival; and worship and doxology.

The goal of the next several posts (excerpts from a doctoral paper for Dr. Donald Ellsworth, Liberty University) is to interconnect scriptural fundamentals from the above components that affect the way I operate in the worship ministry. 

Worship and Scripture

If a believer desires to be a ‘true worshiper,’ then the legitimacy of their worship is based on what is directed through God’s Word. Therefore, the study and proper understanding of Scripture (theology) must take the highest position of authority in worship.[1]  Allen Ross said, “The greater our appreciation and apprehension of the majestic God whom we say we worship, the greater will be our reverence, adoration, and service.”[2]

True worship is based on Scripture. God’s Word testifies that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah (Matt. 16:16) and Savior of the world (1 John 4:14), the resurrection and the life (John 8:23; 10:30)—and access to the Father comes only through Him (John 14:6)—then New Covenant worship must be in, through and to Christ (Phil. 2:9-11).[3]

Scripture also reveals Trinitarian worship: adoration emerging through the Spirit, partaking in the Son’s communion with the Father.[4] The Bible says: “I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:16); “What we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

Scripture calls for gospel-oriented worship (Rom.1:16). “Life is liturgical, just like worship,” says Robbie Fox Castleman, so, “it is no wonder that liturgies, the patterns of corporate worship, contribute more to the shape of one’s faith than worshipers might ever realize.”[5] Ken Boer suggests, “Part of our job as worship leaders is to help people make connections between the gospel and their lives.”[6] 

Gospel-oriented worship supports the practice of revelation and response—dialog between God (Word) and the worshiper (praise, awe, reverence, living sacrificially, obedience, etc).[7] Jesus said, “I will proclaim your Name to my brethren. And in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise” (Heb. 2:12). Therefore, as J. I. Packer once said, “[Believers must] turn each truth that we learn about God into matter for meditation before God, leading to prayer and praise to God.”[8] Bob Kauflin wrote of the importance of Scripture in worship: “Magnifying God’s greatness begins with the proclamation of objective, biblical truths about God, but it ends with the expression of deep and holy affection toward God.”[9]

Next time we’ll be discussing worship and preaching. Thanks for reading!!


[1] Daniel I. Block, For the Glory of God: Recovering a Biblical Theology of Worship (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2014), Kindle Edition locations 3673-3676.
[2] Allen Ross, Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation (Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic and Professional, 2006), Kindle Edition location 284.
[3] Ibid., locations 4000-4002.
[4] James B. Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove. IL: IVP, 1996), 15.
[5] Robbie F. Castleman, Story-Shaped Worship: Following Patterns from the Bible and History (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2013), Kindle Edition locations 843-844.
[6] Matt Boswell, Doxology and Theology: How the Gospel Forms the Worship Leader (Nashville: B&H, 2013), 214.
[7] Ron Man, “The Importance of Worship for Theology,” Volume 11, No. 9 (September 2016), Worship Notes, https://wornotes.wordpress.com/category/revelation-and-response/ (accessed April 12, 2017).
[8] J. I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011), 23.
[9] Bob Kauflin, Worship Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 65. 

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A Journalist Looks at Worship

Jesus not only modeled to whom and why one must worship, but also how, where, when, and what to worship. In Luke 4:8, Jesus simply said, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.” God is to be worshiped exclusively, and that requires forsaking all others. Jesus honored God alone during the forty days of temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13). In response to Satan’s taunting, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:13, saying: “Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name” (NIV).


Our Lord demonstrated why one must worship. Deuteronomy 30:20 states that God gives life and controls the length of a person’s days. Jesus said in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (NIV), and in John 6:63, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life” (NIV). Revelation 4:11 states, ”You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being” (NIV). Since God is the maker and sustainer of life, it is wise to heed the call to honor Him in Christ. Why worship? Because God is worthy! The English word worship comes from the older word “worthship,” which means to acknowledge the supreme worth of God. Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens zero-in on the appropriate response to God’s greatness:

“Because the Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of the old covenant of the law, new-covenant believers obey God’s command to worship by worshiping through Christ, in Christ and for Christ. Worship is now a response to the nature of God and His self-revelation through His Son. New Testament worship is a response to who God is in Christ.”[1]


Jesus also commented about how to worship: in spirit and truth (John 4:24)—be spirited yet biblical. How does one put feet to worship? It can be by way of artistic expression; thanksgiving; through confession, prayer, reading God’s Word, sharing the gospel, remembering Christ’s sacrifice through Communion, and encouraging others. An essential “how” of worship is responding to God’s love through service; to find and fulfill opportunities to obey, honor and serve the Lord.[2]


Jesus came to announce where worship was be offered. In John 2:19 Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (NIV). In this way He was proclaiming that the Old Testament temple would be replaced. He asserted about Himself, “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here,” (Matt. 12:6). Now, if Christ’s body is the real temple, Paul took it one more step and wrote, “For we are the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16, NIV). Dr. Vernon Whaley has said: “How does He do this? By residing in us. God no longer dwells in a cloud, a fire, in tents, or in a temple. God the Holy Spirit now chooses to dwell in the hearts of those who love Him.”[3]


Jesus gave witness to when worship must be practiced. He regularly went to the synagogue, but that was not His primary setting for worship. Luke 4:16 says, “He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom” (NIV). It can be said that worship is not something a person should fit into their life; it is something one should fit their life into.[4] Jesus made worship His life-priority. He got away from the crowds to pray and spend time with His Father (Matt. 14:13; Mark 1:35, 3:7; Luke 5:16; John 7:10). Therefore, per His example, Christians are called to worship twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Congregational worship is limited to a restricted amount of time during the week, but worshiping God is to be recurrent.

“Worship is not something a person should fit into their life; it is something one should fit their life into.”

Brother Lawrence was a humble 17thcentury monk and kitchen helper in a French monastery. The world learned of Brother Lawrence through the writing of Abbe de Beaufort. In the classic book The Practice of the Presence of God, Lawrence provided his philosophy of continual worship: “In order to form a habit of conversing with GOD continually, and referring all we do to Him, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little care we should find His love inwardly excite us to it without any difficulty.”[5] Like Brother Lawrence’s nonstop practice of worship, Hebrews 13:15 states, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise–the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (NLT).

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 informs believers, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (ESV). With the example of Jesus, one sees that worship is all of life (Rom. 12:1-2).

“God is actively looking for authentic worshipers (John 4:23).”

It is true that God is actively looking for authentic worshipers (John 4:23), and likewise Satan is searching to destroy worship by eliminating potential worshipers (1 Peter 5:8). Those who dedicate themselves to being active worshipers are employing what they were designed and created to be, in spite of the spiritual resistance that may abound (Neh. 4:1-23; Rom. 6:6-7). The incredible thing is that God is cheering the saints on toward victory. Max Lucado wrote:

“God is for you. Turn to the sidelines; that’s God cheering your run. Look past the finish line; that’s God applauding your steps. Listen for him in the bleachers, shouting your name. Too tired to continue? He’ll carry you. Too discouraged to fight? He’s picking you up. God is for you. God is for you. Had he a calendar, your birthday would be circled. If he drove a car, your name would be on his bumper. If there’s a tree in heaven, he’s carved your name in the bark. We know he has a tattoo, and we know what it says. ‘I have written your name on my hand,’ he declares (Isa. 49:16).”[6]

            A synopsis of worship from the point of view of a journalist may be summarized through the following:

§  Whom shall we worship?Fear the Lord your God and serve Him only (Deut. 6:13)

§  Whymust we worship? He is worthy (Rev. 4:11)

§  Howought we worship? In spirit and truth—spirited yet biblical (John 4:24)

§  Where are we required to worship?We are the temples of the living God (2 Cor. 6:16)

§  Whenis the best time to worship? Continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise (Heb. 13:15)

A suitable addition to the list above would include a ‘what’ of biblical worship. God designed humanity to worship (Rev. 4:9-11), and He gave the life of His Son to make that possible (1 John 4:14). My own definition  of worship—and all that God designed me to become—is certainly incomplete. But nevertheless, the following is my personal attempt at the nearly impossible task of describing worship in two sentences:

“Worship is man’s response to the gracious God-initiated revelation of His glory and power, for which eternal gratitude and thanks is expressed through testimony, faith, devotion and obedience. Authentic worship springs from the totality of a believer’s life and extends to the faith community where, as a holy nation, its citizens shine as beacons of God’s faithfulness in the world and in the heavens.”

It is truly a blessing to study worship, and as I do there are more glorious facets that keep popping up. A journalist would spend eternity interviewing God about worship and that still wouldn’t be enough time to barely scratch the surface! 

[1] Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens. Worship: Believers Experiencing God (Collierville,TN: Innovo Publishing, 2016), 29.
[2]Marshall Shelley, “The Right Way to Worship?” (n.d.), Ignite Your Faith website, http://www.christianitytoday.com/iyf/advice/faithqa/right-way-to-worship.html (accessed March 8, 2017).
[3] Vernon M. Whaley, Called to Worship: From the Dawn of Creation to the Final Amen(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 276.
[4]“When Should We Worship?” Family Study, episode 13C, Truth Quest Ministries, 2008.
[5]Lawrence, Brother, The Brother Lawrence Collection: Practice and Presence of God: (Floyd, VA: Wilder Publications, Inc., n.d.), Kindle Edition locations 104-106.

[6]Max Lucado, Let the Journey Begin: Finding God’s Best for Your Life (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009), 131.

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A Dynamic Duo for Jesus: Moody and Sankey—Pt. 2

Thanks for reading part one about these intriguing 19th century evangelists whose innovative techniques of preaching and singing the gospel influenced many generations for Christ, even into the 21st century. In Part 2 we pick up on the music man of the duo first and later join with D. L. Moody, the team leader. Thanks again for reading this research effort. It is an honor and joy to present it to you here.

The Ira D. Sankey Story

Ira David Sankey was born on August 28, 1840 to a wealthy Western Pennsylvanian family in the village of Edinburg, on the Mahoning River. Ira’s parents, David and Mary Sankey, moved from Edinburg when Ira was six-years-old to engage in a shipping business, near the headwaters of the Shenango River. Later, his father was elected to the State Legislature, holding that office for thirteen years. Although he was raised in a pious Christian home, it was not until Sankey was sixteen-years-old that he was converted, in his own words, “while attending revival meetings at a church known as The King’s Chapel, about three miles from my home.” [1]

The fortuitous meeting of D. L. Moody would come in 1870, at Indianapolis, Indiana, during a denominational convention where Sankey was a representative. Moody was to be leading a seven o’clock prayer meeting in the morning, and fellow delegate Robert McMillan told Sankey, “… the singing here has been abominable; I wish you would start up something when that man stops praying, if he ever does.”[2]Ira chose to lead the hymn, “There Is a Fountain.” Afterward, McMillan introduced Sankey to Moody. Ira would later write of this significant event, “…and thus I met for the first time the man with whom, in the providence of God, I was to be associated for the remainder of his life, or nearly thirty years.”[3]

At first the duo worked together among Moody’s Chicago congregation in early 1871. They visited the poor, prayed with the sick, and conducted daily noon-time prayer meetings.

Everything changed on Sunday evening, October 8, 1871, when while conducting a crowded service in Farwell Hall, and after Moody’s sermon, Sankey began to sing a solo. He later recalled:

…standing by the great organ at the rear of the platform I began the old, familiar hymn,

‘To-day the Saviour calls.’ By the time I had reached the third verse, ‘To-day the Saviour calls: For refuge fly; The storm of justice falls, And death is nigh,’ my voice was drowned by the loud noise of the fire engines rushing past the hall and the tolling of bells, among which we could hear, ever and anon, the deep, sullen tones of the great city bell, in the steeple of the old court-house close at hand, ringing out a general alarm.[4]

The start of the great Chicago Fire had produced a ruckus in the streets and the congregation grew restless. Moody promptly closed the meeting, out of which he and Sankey rushed away separately to assure the safety of the congregation and to care for their own families. The duo would not meet again for more than two months. They would eventually take a trip to Britain where everything seemed to change in size and scope of ministry for the evangelists.

Britain and Beyond

After their trip to Britain, the pair’s first large campaign in America began on October 31, 1875 in Brooklyn, with a choir of 250 voices, accompanied by a large organ. In Philadelphia, the choir numbered 500 people. The New York crusade accommodated a choir of 600 voices led by Sankey, and the audience became the duo’s largest to date. Cities across America, Canada and Mexico invited the team to minister. They traveled back to the British Isles between 1881-84, where they discovered many dedicated Christ-followers from the preceding crusades.

The team was quite known for its social consciousness and attention to the poor, perhaps an overflow from their days before international notoriety, while ministering together in Chicago. Their concern for the downtrodden was evident throughout, but was illustrated in one particular crusade in Tennessee, held January 29-31, 1886.[5]Sankey recalled in his memoir:

At Chattanooga the colored people boycotted our meetings, the colored ministers taking offense because they were not invited to take seats on the platform. We arranged a special meeting for the colored people, and were surprised to find the church nearly empty when we arrived. But Moody was not to be defeated in this way. He went out into the street and gave personal invitation to hundreds of colored people, and no further difficulty was experienced.[6]

Moody, ever aware of the plight of the poor, was convinced that salvation would lead to cleaner and better living in the inner cities of places like Chicago, although he did not always address the social implications that led to the slum conditions. Nevertheless, his impassioned preaching style was often emulated, and the revival became a fixture in the American urban setting.[7]

Publicity was an important component of the Moody crusades. One aspect that distinguished Moody from his predecessor, evangelist Charles Finney, was Moody’s ability to permeate both the religious and secular press; Finney rarely received attention from secular newspapers of his day.[8]Throughout his career, Moody utilized the press to his advantage. Although the New York Times scathed the duo while in Britain on their first campaign—calling them vulgar, course and ignorant fanatics[9]—the sentiment reversed upon their return to America. The timing of their arrival coincided with a domestic financial crisis and an onslaught of secularism, to which their Christian message offered a welcomed prescription of needed hopefulness and assurance.[10]

Music was an essential part of the Moody/ Sankey crusades. Even though Moody himself was tone-deaf, his son William remembered his father’s belief that singing had a “great and at times overpowering religious value.” [11]Moody felt that before the evangelist arose, people were oftentimes already moved and persuaded—that many decisions for Christ were actually made during the singing.[12]The music portion of a typical meeting would begin with a solid half-hour of congregational singing, intermingled with Sankey’s own free-flowing, somewhere-between-singing-and-speaking vocal style, in order to maintain a focus for the congregation—to keep their minds from wandering.[13]

An innovative concept of the Moody/ Sankey evangelistic presentations originated from the philosophy that to improve the quality of a meeting was to make it interesting.[14]This included arranging the music, preaching, Scripture readings, solos, etc., in a thoroughly appealing and disarming manor.[15]As another technique to make the services interesting, the duo was also at the forefront of approving the visibility of musical instruments in the services, as opposed to placing them out of sight. There is a caricature of Sankey in the Ira D. Sankey Collection at The Lawrence County (New Castle, PA) Historical Society, which shows the song leader playing his portable cabinet organ at the front of the platform during a crusade.[16]

Sankey helped influence change in music and worship of late-19th century churches, many of which were hostile toward “worldly” song. He helped gain the approval of many to use gospel hymns in order to reach the hearts of Christians. Much of the spread of gospel hymns came from Sankey’s own vast collection, many of which he himself co-wrote and assembled in the 1,200-plus collection called Sacred Songs and Solos. “The American Gospel Hymn,” observes a British contemporary, J. S. Curwen, “is nothing if it is not emotional. It takes a simple phrase and repeats it over and over again.”[17]

James Findlay wrote in a Moody biography that the “taproot of the evangelical experience and practice…is found in the conversion of the individual sinner.”[18]This reality prompted Moody to focus on providing several innovations in order to effectively reach the single sinner within the multitude. This included making use of neutral public spaces rather than church buildings in which to hold meetings, constructing special areas called “inquiry rooms” within the venues where the penitent could be facilitated. He also instituted house-to-house canvassing of residents prior to crusades and recruited charitable funding by the business community.[19]These efforts facilitated large crowds to allow the duo to deliver an engaging presentation, leading thousands to Christ over the years.

The Moody/ Sankey Legacy in the 21st Century

One of the greatest legacies the duo left future generations was their love of family. On extended travels they were known to take their loved ones along. Moody’s son William spoke lovingly of his father, saying:

No work was so important as to make him neglect his family duties and privileges. He took keen interest in the experiences of his sons at school and college, and shared their joys and entered into the excitement of their sports with the zest of a fellow-student. The slightest matter that caused sorrow or pain to any member of his family, even the youngest, engaged at once his personal concern, and no drudgery of house or farm was beneath his notice or sympathetic interest. He had learned the secret of being a confidant of all, sharing others’ burdens, weeping with the sorrowing and rejoicing with those glad of heart.[20]


Together Moody and Sankey would develop innovative evangelistic techniques, including aggressive salesmanship, using the press to advertise the meetings, and utilizing the power of song to bring about great successes in the campaigns. They also harnessed support for their projects through Christian businessmen; they many times preferred large buildings with increased functionality to church buildings in which to hold meetings. They understood the potent significance of reaching young people, and opened an “inquiry room” in the venues for those who wanted to repent.

Taking into consideration all of the evangelistic innovations that were developed in the 19th century, which were utilized throughout the 20thcentury from Billy Sunday to Billy Graham, evangelical Christians the 21stcentury owe much to the “dynamic duo.” Moody and Sankey’s pioneer spirit prompted the increase of advanced techniques to reach people around the world with the love of Jesus Christ.


[1] Ira David Sankey, Sankey’s Story of the Gospel Hymns and of Sacred Songs and Solos  (London: The Sunday School Times Company, 1906), 3.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 7.

[4] Ibid., 9.

[5] “Moody and Sankey’s Dates,” The New York Times, January 25, 1886.

[6] Ira Sankey, Sankey’s Story of the Gospel Hymns, 80.

[7] Gonzalez, 254.

[8] William G. McLoughlin, Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 219.

[9] The New York Times, July 5, 1875, p. 1.

[10] Ibid., February 12, 1876.

[11] William Moody, 529.

[12] Ibid.

[13] James F. Findlay, Dwight L. Moody: American Evangelist, 1837-1899 (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007), 207.

[14] Ibid., 210.

[15] Hustad, 235.

[16] Caricature of Sankey in the Ira D. Sankey Collection at The Lawrence County Historical Society, http://www.lawrencechs.com/museum/collections/ira-d-sankey-collection/ (accessed November 18, 2016).

[17] John S. Curwen, Studies in Worship Muisc, Second Series (London: J. Curwen & Sons, 1885), 40.

[18] Findlay, 81.

[19] Dr. David Maas, “The Life and Times of D. L. Moody,” Christian History Institute, Issue 25, 1990, https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/life-and-times-of-moody/ (accessed November 18, 2016).

[20] William Moody, 535.

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Lasers, Alan Parsons, and Facing Your Fears

This installment is a bit of a departure from 19th century evangelist D. L. Moody, who I’ve been writing about, but I believe he would say a big, fat “AMEN!” to the message here….The “Dynamic Duo for Jesus, Part 2—Ira Sankey” will continue next time! Thanks again for reading…
Brenda and I took a walk in our neighborhood Sunday afternoon. While in the rest of the country it was chilly and grey, here in Mobile, Alabama it was a perfect moisture-free, seventy-five-degree day. During the walk I was listening, via my new over-the-ear wireless Sony headphones, to a collection of Alan Parsons Project tunes, ones that became a favorite for me in the late-70s. The songs instantly brought me back to my high school days.
I acquired my first car on my sixteenth birthday in 1976—a land yacht-sized ’65 Dodge Polara—which allowed me to venture into the wild, beyond the safe confines of my Orange County, California upbringing. This meant that, aside from commuting back and forth to school and work, I could occasionally venture into Los Angeles, under an hour away, for concerts and cool date spots in and around Hollywood.

One favorite date-destination for me was the Griffith Park Observatory, which sits on Mt. Hollywood, above serpentine Sunset Boulevard that winds its way to the Pacific Ocean. In the observatory itself, where scientists could look into the stars at night through a mega telescope, the public was also given access for special events. These included laser light shows that were projected within the building’s inside dome, accompanied by trippy music like that of the Alan Parsons Project.

Leaning our heads upward against plainly constructed wooden head rests, Parson’s music—along with other quadraphonically mixed selections like David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon—would transport dreamers like me through a 3-D light show into faraway galaxies. Ivan Dryer premiered the 45-minute “Laserium” show at Griffith Park in November 1973, but sadly it closed in 2002 (see a video from an actual 1977 presentation below).
A song that stuck with me through the years from those Griffith days is one from Parson’s 1977 I Robot album called “Day After Day (The Show Must Go On).” Listening to this song on my walk Sunday transported me again, albeit from the viewpoint of a 56-year-old, with much of life visible only from the “rearview mirror.”

The lyrics speak of a young dreamer much like me who gazed into the stars, looking to do great things in the future, with a life of hope and promise laid out before him. Ultimately, the song speaks of regret for not taking chances as time continues its unsympathetic journey onward.

I can say that I have followed most of my dreams and have realized many. But I can also say that as I got older, fear became an ever-growing companion, making it increasingly difficult to stretch out into the “wild” and unknown territory. After all, I was (and still am) happily married with kids. As a grown-up, though, one’s mind tends to dictate that it would be unwise to venture out into an unknown wilderness filled with lions, tigers and bears, where risk can lead to failure. Many times it was wise to obey the warning signs, and I’m glad I did.

I have taken many risks in my day, and I don’t regret the failures one bit. Even as I have fallen flat on my face at times, I learned great life-lessons. If it were not for those crazy risks, I wouldn’t have been blessed with a great songwriting career and the chance to travel the world playing music. Heck, if it were not for faith in the face of risk, I would have been too intimidated to ask Brenda to be my bride-for-life back in 1985. Boy, am I blessed that I did!

Those dreamy times at Griffith Observatory helped me to define what I wanted to do with life, which was to create music that stirred dreams in others. I have learned that a good song has great power in provoking the soul.  I also came to realize that the Lord placed a vision for the future in me, one that through music would (and still does) help the church worship and connect to God in a way that only music can. This calling still remains as I continue up the path toward a doctorate in worship—a huge risk, by the way!

The lyrics for the Parsons song are below. I pray that anyone reading this doesn’t miss an opportunity due to the fear of risk…please don’t let a huge blessing pass you by. Apprehension may be the only thing that stands in the way of acquiring those “castles in Spain” that you’ve been dreaming about…
Day After Day (The Show Must Go On)
Gaze at the sky

And picture a memory

Of days in your life.

You knew what it meant to be happy and free

With time on your side…

Remember your daddy

When no one was wiser.

Your ma used to say

That you would go farther than he ever could

With time on your side…

Think of a boy with the stars in his eyes,

Longing to reach them but frightened to try.

Sadly you’d say someday, someday…

But day after day

The show must go on,

And time slipped away

Before you could build any castles in Spain…

The chance had gone by.

With nothing to say

And no one to say it to,

Nothing has changed.

You still got it all to do,

Surely you know.

The chance has gone by…

Think of a boy with the stars in his eyes,

Longing to reach them but frightened to try.

Sadly you’d say someday, someday…

But day after day

The show must go on,

And you gaze at the sky

And picture a memory of days in your life

With time on your side…

With time on your side…

(Day after day the show must go on…)

With time on your side…

(Day after day the show must go on…)

With time on your side…


Writer(s): Eric Woolfson, Alan Parsons

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