The Church of Radio Shack

Radio Shack Last Day

I’m standing in a post-apocalyptic scene.  Disheveled shelves.  A barren store.  No sign of life.  It’s the last day of Radio Shack’s existence, and it is sad.

For the man behind the counter, “mad” might better describe his attitude.  He greeted me with a snarky, “Welcome to what’s left of Radio Shack,” as well as many other much saltier comments I won’t repeat here.  Apparently, they had given him virtually no notice he would be out of a job, and they had even closed the store earlier than planned.

Today wasn’t supposed to be the last day, and yet here I was, sifting through antiquated computer accessories for 95% off.  It wasn’t always this way.  Radio Shack actually had a mission back in the day.  Electronics hobbyists loved this place.  They sold things like pagers and VHS tape rewinders back when people actually needed pagers and VHS tape rewinders.

The problem with Radio Shack is they didn’t evolve as the market evolved.  They were a tech company that didn’t stay on top of technology.  They were selling home answering machines when no one had a home phone anymore.  In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Radio Shack’s empire crumbled, but it’s also obvious they either didn’t see it coming or weren’t brave enough to make changes.  They decided to stay comfortable instead of press on.

I think there’s a lesson here for churches:  Churches that act like Radio Shacks will end up like Radio Shacks.  I know firsthand how hard it is to bring change to a church.  It feels like steering a cruise ship.  It takes time, energy, investment, visioncasting and a lot of love.  It’s not easy, but it can be done.  I remember fighting to get lyrics projected in a church decades ago.  There were some who viewed video projection as a violation of the second commandment.  I remember fighting to allow the guitar to have a place alongside the piano on a church stage.  Recently, I successfully navigated the process of adding haze and moving lights.  Progress is an uphill battle, and we shouldn’t expect it to be any different.

It gets intensely practical for me when I receive negative feedback.  I thought our church did an “A+” job on Easter of presenting ourselves to the community, and most people agreed.  But there’s always that one guy, that one email.  He began the email by complimenting how the church had doubled in size in the past few years.  Then he went on to list the things he would like changed — for example the length of the songs (which are 4 minutes on average, by the way).  It failed to dawn on him that the changes he opposed were precisely the reasons why we had grown.

Progress isn’t supposed to be easy.  If ministry is easy, you’re probably coasting.  You’re probably resting.  You’re probably comfortable.  Just remember, Radio Shack was comfortable too.

Let Radio Shack be a warning to us all.  Everyday, we must fight against fossilization in our churches.  The last thing we want to do is to look back in a few years on a post-apocalyptic scenes — empty parking lots, empty pews and abandoned buildings — and wonder what happened.

The Sound Booth – Church AV Design

Sound Booth 2014

About five months ago, my church, Sunlight Community Church, opened a 730-seat sanctuary in South Florida.  As the Associate Pastor of Worship and Media, it was my privilege to help design this space.  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to share some things we learned along the way, with the goal of helping out other churches who are considering doing the same.

I’m starting with the sound booth, in response to questions I received on the Church Technical Leaders forum at The City.  Here’s a little pictorial tour of why we did what we did:

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The first decision you will have to make is where to place the sound booth in the room.  It is not ideal to place your sound person in the corner or against a wall (definitely not in another room or behind glass).  Why?  You want your sound person to hear and experience exactly what the crowd is hearing so that he can accurately mix.  That’s why we placed the sound booth where we did.

Imagine placing your sound person in an area where there is less bass.  He mixes the kick drum and bass guitar loud enough to make it sound right where he is but, in the process, blows everyone else’s eardrums out.  See what I’m getting at?  Location is important because the laws of physics are immutable.  Sound waves are sound waves, and there is no amount of processing that will alter how they behave in a physical space.  Don’t fight it.  Embrace it.

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Given how prominent the sound booth was to be, we had to make it look nice.  We are pretty proud of how finished it looks.

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One of our sound booth’s unique features is its slanted top.  I think I got this idea from the great Mike Sessler.  Do you have people who like to place drinks on the ledge right next to your super-expensive soundboard?  How do you stop that from happening?  I, for one, do not believe in signs.  You can print “DO NOT SET DRINKS HERE” on hot pink paper in 100 pt. Comic Papyrus, but people will still ignore it.  It would be much more effective to design a system that prevents behaviors you do not want.  Our system was to put a slanted ledge on our booth that makes it physically impossible for this area to get cluttered up.

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To prevent unsightly cords from covering the walls, we designed a way to run them through the walls.  From inside the walls, they go under the raised floor and then come back up where they need to go.

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If you peel back the carpet, you can see the we have a “computer flooring system.”  It’s designed for use in computer labs.  You can pull up sections of it and run wires anywhere.

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Pulling up the squares is insanely easy, and look at all those wires we’re hiding!

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We chose iMacs because, as they are all-in-ones, there are less wires.  They’re also powerful enough to run all our systems easily.  One, for instance, is running 64 channels of Waves Soundgrid Multirack and 64 channels of Logic for virtual soundcheck. Another is running four discreet HD video outputs from ProPresenter without missing a beat.  But that’s another post for another day.

Sound Booth 2014

Of course, it should go without saying that you need to take careful measurements before building.  We needed enough space for 4-5 people to easily move around without hitting each other.  We wanted all media volunteers to be in the same tech booth so that they could help each other (i.e., no separate booth for lyrics or lighting).  The depth of the Midas console determined the depth of the desk.  The combined width of all the components determined the width.  The height was determined by what our operators were comfortable running while standing.

All in all, we are very happy with the way our sound booth turned out, and it is helping us provide a top-notch experience for our guests each week, which is our highest priority.  If you have any questions, comment below, and I’ll try to answer them!


Just Do It!


Our youth group’s Instagram account proves that you can create good designs today with just an iPhone and a few free or inexpensive apps.

I recently read a quote that really resonated with me:

The world is changing so fast that there are days when the person who says it can’t be done is interrupted by the person who is doing it.

Increasingly, the impossible is becoming possible, and this is great news for churches.  Case in point:  Our youth director and his team are churning out engaging videos at a really high rate.  They’re growing a nice following on social media.  And here’s the kicker:  They’re doing it all with only an iPhone and a few free or inexpensive apps.  In fact, they’re able to create in a few minutes what I could not create in few hours with a $3,000 computer and $1,000 of Adobe software.

This is really exciting!  It means that many churches don’t really need expensive cameras or software anymore*, and they don’t need to do a nationwide search for someone who knows how to use them*.  They just need to tap into the potential of their youth and young adults.  Instead of being threatened, why not enable and empower those people.  Mentor them with the experience you have and set them free to use their talents!

Watch out if you’re busy complaining about how something is not possible because you’re about to be interrupted by the person who’s not only doing it, but making it look easy!  People like me who love planning, budgeting, spreadsheets and perfectionism sometimes need to realize we’re going to get lapped if we keep overcomplicating things.  Sometimes you need to stop thinking so much and just do it!

P.S.  Check out our youth group’s new Website, and their Instagram account.

  • I do believe that medium- to large-sized churches (350+ attendance) still need a trained media director who knows how to white balance a video camera, use aperture-priority mode on a still camera, set mic levels properly, etc.  This is a different post for a different day, though.

Worship with a Side of “Oops!”

This video is simply titled “Eddy Falls Leading Worship,” but I think that’s something of an understatement! I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a long time.

We’re all human, and we all make mistakes, even worship leaders! I’ve started a song with a capo in the position. Least week, I accidentally said, “twerk,” while talking to our daughter church’s tech team.  I once accidentally said “gay” in a prayer on stage, and then I couldn’t stop saying it, again and again and again in the same prayer. But at least I haven’t fallen though a cardboard Christmas set… yet.

What’s your funniest worship leading blooper?

Meet the Parents

Meet Roger and Zela. A civil engineer. A secretary. A deacon. A church volunteer. A photographer. A high school valedictorian. An audio enthusiast. My parents.

They say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and after looking at the list I just typed, I guess they’re right. I may not be a civil engineer, but other than that, I’m pretty much a carbon copy of these two, and it goes deeper than the fact that my dad and I both love cameras and audio equipment.

For better or worse (mainly better), I am what I am because of these two. All the hobbies I enjoy today and all the skills I use to make a living can be traced back to investments they made in me. Things like piano lessons, tennis lessons, video cameras, PTA meetings, class trips — one sacrifice after another.

They say they’re proud of the man I’ve become, but what would I have become without them… and so many others? What if I hadn’t gone to a school with teachers who loved me, saw a spark in me and fanned it to flame? What if I hadn’t had great mentors over the years who took me under their wings? Where would I be?

All this makes me think a few things: First, don’t delay saying, “Thank you.” Dad is turning 90 this year. Every time they come to Florida, they say it may be their last, as chronic illness and arthritis take their toll on him. As they left this time and headed back to snow-covered West Virginia, I made sure to thank them for all that they did for me. I told them I loved them, even though that doesn’t come natural for us introverted Whitts.

Second, investment in others pays the best dividends. Looking at my own life, I see a powerful direct correlation between what my parents sewed and what I’m reaping now. They got me started on a good trajectory, and I want to do the same for others. What if we all had that mindset?

Third, we need to have compassion on those who did not have the blessing of a good upbringing. It’s not their fault they went to a school with incompetent teachers who didn’t care about them. It’s not their fault their parents were strung out on drugs. It’s not their fault no one modeled responsibility for them or gave them the skills and tools they would need to be able to get a good job. Maybe we should stop judging them and instead offer a helping hand.

Who do you need to thank today? Who can you invest in today? Who needs compassion today?

In Memoriam


The first thing you notice is the stillness, the quiet that gently wraps around you, even in a place of death. I’m standing in a mausoleum just outside town, having just guided a man named Dario though the most difficult day of his life. He has said a final goodbye to his wife, kissed her on the cheek and watched through tears as workers took her casket away.

He and the others who loved Mary Lou so much have begun walking to their cars, but I stay behind. I find myself surrounded by walls of numbers and letters, names and dates, each one with a silent story to tell.

Mary Lou’s story was one of finding hope in a hopeless situation. She had been living under a medical death sentence handed down in 2004 when she learned she had a chronic, untreatable condition that would take her life — and yet she had joy.

She was confident her life would not end when she stopped breathing. Everyone who spoke at her memorial service commented on the peace she found in Christ. Every last person. Even people who didn’t believe what she believed!

She loved to tell the Good News, and even in her death, she was spreading the Gospel. She knew that Jesus paid the penalty for all the wrong she had done, bringing her into God’s family. There was a place for her in heaven! That was her story.

In the quiet of this mausoleum, I’m surrounded by thousands more names, each engraved into stone, each with a narrative to tell. And I can’t help but wonder what mine will be. Will every single person at my memorial service say just how much the Gospel impacted my life? Will even those who don’t believe in God remark on what peace I found in my faith? Or will it be a hodgepodge of, “He was a good guy,” and, “He did a lot of good things.”

I, for one, hope no one talks about how good I was. I wasn’t good. I was a sinner from my first day to my last, and if I was less sinful than I could have been, it was only by the grace of God. Let’s not pretend otherwise. Let’s not turn me into a caricature of myself to make people feel more comfortable at my memorial service. There’s no comfort in pretending the deceased were perfect. But there’s tremendous comfort in proclaiming that imperfect people who make a ton of mistakes can still be forgiven and go to heaven.

This is my story. This is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long.

What will your story be?

P.S. The Gospel seeds Mary Lou was sewing in her sickness and death are already germinating and growing. Her husband now attends our church, and her daughter in New York has begun reading the Bible and attending church as well. Thank you, God, for the privilege of being a part of her story. Rest in peace, Mary Lou.


The Gospel is for Everyone!

Sometimes we pastors tend to forget that the Good News is not just for those outside the walls of our church. It’s still good news for us too, and we desperately need it everyday. This quote from Paul Tripp explains why:

If you are in ministry and you are not reminding yourself again and again of the now-ism of the gospel, that is, the right-here, right-now benefits of the grace of Christ, you will be looking elsewhere to get what can be found only in Jesus. If you are not feeding your soul on the realities of the presence, promises, and provisions of Christ, you will ask the people, situations, and things around you to be the messiah that they can never be. If you are not attaching your identity to the unshakable love of your Savior, you will ask the things in your life to be your Savior, and it will never happen. If you are not requiring yourself to get your deepest sense of well-being vertically, you will shop for it horizontally, and you will always come up empty. If you are not resting in the one true gospel, preaching it to yourself over and over again, you will look to another gospel to meet the needs of your unsettled heart.


Listening is Hard

Blue Spring

Three-dimensional art floats above my head. Drops of paint flung into the air, frozen in time, hanging by the hand of their Creator.

I’m all by myself at Blue Spring State Park today, and if I’m honest with myself I’m seeking more than just escape from construction and Christmas craziness. I’m chasing after a hard reboot. Like one of those pesky Windows XP machines that just won’t work until you hold the power button down for what feels like forever. That’s how I feel. And it feels like forever that I’ve been sitting out here under this tree, waiting on God to show up.

It’s beautiful. But I’m impatient. My feet twitch. My cell phone vibrates. My mind wanders. Everything in 2014 came with urgency and break-neck pace. Was I wrong to expect that my devotional time alone with God would be the same way? I need refreshing, but I also need to get back to life.

Except this is life. Breathing in and out and waiting on God. Coming with no agenda. Leaving with no measure of productivity. Sitting and thinking and writing words that no one else will ever read or appreciate. This matters too.

Blue SpringI open to Galatians. I know the Gospel. But do I know the Gospel? Do I understand that, at the center of the universe is a being who cares deeply for me, not because I’m a good student or a good singer or a good worker, but simply because He loves Jesus, and I’m in Jesus?

Speak, God. I’m listening. Pen in hand. Chasing daylight. Finally ready to hear. Remind me of who I really am… and who You really are. Words fill the page. Slow drips of revelation at first, then a flood. “Called by grace. Sent from God, not from man or by a man.” A pause, then more. “Recipient of grace, steward of it. Recipient of truth, steward of it.” Wave after wave, crashing in. “Starting and finishing by the Spirit. Not finishing by my own efforts.”

Such freeing truth, but the knockout punch was still to come:

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

My Achilles’ heel aches as God begins surgery on open wounds. “You can try to win the approval of human beings, but you can never do it.” But I need approval, God. “Whose servant are you, anyway?”

The chains of followers, friends, likes and favorites — the stats of your worth in the 21st century — they keep me from being a servant of Christ. It’s dark now, but I see clearly — I’m a slave to people. To public opinion. To the need to be noticed. Thick, heavy chains.

Surrounded by such beauty, the contrast of my own heart is even easier to see. It’s a mess. I’m a mess. But I’m God’s mess. I belong to Him, and He took all my messes — past, present and future — and put them on Christ, who paid their price in full. So I’m free. I’m not a slave to anyone or anything but God.

Time to head home. Long, quiet drive ahead. Thank you, God, for a beautiful, painful lesson in who I am and who You are. And thanks for the fuel to take the next few steps with You by my side.

What Really Matters


Sunlight ended 2014 with a bang. Having endured a year of construction growing pains, we are finally in our new sanctuary, which has more than triple the number of seats and cutting edge technology.

I feel like I’m literally living the dream.  For years, I’ve dreamed about programming intelligent lights to create an artful worship experience. For years, I’ve longed for the ability to use audio plugins live so that Sunday morning sound as polished as a professionally mixed and mastered CD. All those dreams and more came true this year!

New StageWhat’s interesting, though, is that some things never change.  Whether it’s an auditorium of 50 people, 250 people, or 750 people, what matters most is that God is at the center of our hearts and minds. Technology can facilitate worship, yes, but what really fuels worship is the Word and the Spirit. Specifically, God’s truth is the fuel, and the Spirit is the fire.

We still do the same thing as always, just in a bigger room, with more bells and whistles, involving more friends and guests. We still aim to facilitate a conversation between God and His people by presenting His message in a memorable, impactful way and by assisting His sons and daughters to raise their voices and live their lives in grateful response.

I can’t wait to use this new blog to tell you all about how we’ve done what we’ve done — from the house lights that change color to the triple-wide screen on stage to the recessed, backlit crosses in the walls. But wherever you are, whether your church is smaller or bigger than ours, know that success isn’t measured in number of lights or in sound pressure levels. It’s simply these two things: Are you helping your people see God and understand His Good News? And are you helping them respond to Him?

As we dive into specifics later on this blog, let’s never forget the foundation!

Losing Weight And Feeling Great, Part 3

Recently, I bought a 26-pound kettle bell from Sports Authority, and I had an epiphany. As I struggled to lug that thing around the store, I realized I had been carrying around that much extra weight for years. No wonder I feel so much better now. As I posted about in Part 1 and Part 2, getting to a healthy weight did require some hard work, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. In fact, with just a few good tips and tricks, it is almost easy.

DumbbellsLast week, I shared about nutrition, and this week, I want to share about exercise. For me to lose 10 pounds per month, it took both a change in diet and a change in activity level. If I had only reduced the number of calories I took in, my body would have went into starvation mode and ramped down my metabolism. I needed just the opposite! I needed to regain the metabolism of my teenage self.

Do you remember when you were young, and it seemed like you could eat anything you wanted without gaining weight? As kids, we ran, we jumped, we played basketball. We weren’t stuck behind a computer screen all day. I found that, even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, getting more physical activity can really help your metabolism a lot!

Again, I made use of the My Fitness Pal smartphone app, which I mentioned in my last post. It not only estimates how many calories you take in when you eat food, but it also estimates how many calories you burn when you exercise. I found that jogging a mile could burn about 100 calories and that 10 minutes of aerobics or swimming could burn a similar number of calories. Even better, I found that playing tennis for an hour could burn over 600 calories!

I made it my goal to find one or two activities per day to keep my heart rate elevated for at least 20-30 minutes.  On days when I was very busy, I would run a mile and then use a 7 Minute Workout  app for some light cardio. On other days when I was tired of jogging, I would swim laps instead. Twice a week, I would visit the gym to do weights, knowing that increased muscle mass would also contribute to better metabolism. The time investment was minimal, but the payoff was huge!

Daily BurnOn days when I had more time, I used, and it kicked my butt (in a good way). It’s like Beachbody (P90X) but “in the cloud.” You don’t buy DVD’s. You stream workouts on the Internet as you need them. It was great. I put in my current weight, desired weight and other goals, and it suggested that I start in the Tactical Bodyweight Training program.

Daily Burn’s 45-minute workouts are INTENSE, but they are fun and can burn 500+ calories at a time! The typical workout starts with mobility warmups, which is a great way to increase range of motion and ensure good joint health as you age. Then, there is a 20-minute period of HIGH intensity interval workouts. Lastly is static stretching to cool down, increase flexibility and prevent soreness.

There’s a workout for everyone! Having finished Daily Burn’s Tactical Bodyweight Training series twice, I moved on to a series on kettle bells and then one with dumbbells, while my wife is trying out something that’s more cardio-focused. I also continue to do interval training through running, swimming, tabata training, etc. Because I have so many options available to me, there’s almost always some type of exercise I am eager to do! Even within the broad concept of running, I mix things up by doing either a 5K at a slow and steady pace or one mile in intervals approaching 5 minutes-per-mile speed. I also like to go exploring when I run, so I’ll drive somewhere with interesting architecture to mix things up even more.

The most important thing is just to do something. Make it your goal to engage in strenuous cardio for 20 minutes everyday. It’s easy to rationalize that you don’t have time for it or that you’re too tired. The truth is, you will feel better after you do it. The energy and positivity it gives you is amazing. The health benefits are easy to see. So start big or start small, but get going! If I can do it, you can do it too!