Freshly Pressed

What We Ask About Worship

One of my favorite features of the WordPress statistics page (web hits & clicks, etc.) is the “Search Engine Terms.” This means that if you Google a phrase that leads you to my blog, I’m told what the phrase is. For instance, I once wrote a blog about getting my butt stuck in the passenger seat of my car due to a bubble gum accident. Now, I’m privy to a good amount (more than you would think) of butt-gum internet searches: butt stuck in window, butt in gum, left butt stuck, my butt is stuck, and so forth.

By far, the most common search terms that bring people to my blog have to deal with worship. Last year, I was Freshly Pressed due to my blog Confessions of a Former Worship Leader. In short, my thesis was twofold: the church encourages musicianship without calling it music, or concerts, fostering a milieu of anxiety ridden (red-headed, guitar playing) church musicians; and the church, or us, has gone overboard, or obsessed, in presenting a program-over-people approach of worship.

I don’t mean to revisit the post fully; I have no intention of that. Personally, I’m very much beyond it (admittedly, because, I don’t attend Sunday service anymore). However, since the worship blog brings droves of readers to my site—with a bevy of search terms along with it—it seems wise to share what I have learned from the people who frequent my site. (more…)

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The ‘Freshly Pressed’ Fallout

Most WordPress writers hope to be Freshly Pressed someday. Back in June, when my post “Confessions of a Former Worship Leader” was chosen and featured, I danced a jig and nearly sprained my ankle. It was great, and now I bear the mark.

But don’t let those pesky WordPress editors fool you. It isn’t all daisies and sunshine. There’s fallout, baby. Aftermath. Radiation with no radioactive suit. I grew an extra eyeball on my elbow. True story.

Here’s what happened to me:

The Freshly Pressed Post-Press-Process 

Euphoria (I’m the best blogger ever!)

Addiction (It just feels so good…)

Depression (My stats are going down… )

Desperation (Just give me one more hit…)

Replication (I must recapture my former glory!)

While enduring this terrible Post-Press-Process, I trapped myself in a rabbit cage called Christian Today and labeled my name tag as the “Go-to church-criticism guy.”

(Just one more hit…)

See, there’s this inherent blogosphere rule that says the better you focus your blog towards capturing one audience, the faster your readership grows. After having a taste of sweet, sweet mass readership, I was hooked. Crystal Blue Persuasion had me, and I was damn well sure I’d corner the Christian blogger market any day with my product.

History is so Passé 

Before FP (because initials are cool), I was an average blogger, and I wrote whatever I wanted. Sure, I didn’t have a solid focus or steady readership but that was alright. I just wanted to write and get better at it. Sometimes, I wrote about being a Christian; other times, I wrote about Mexican food or getting my butt stuck in a car seat.

“Confessions…” was different. It was the most honest thing I’d ever written; my heart was entirely in it. I spent a year formulating drafts in my head, searching for the right words, finding ways to elucidate my complicated and awkward spiritual journey. It meant a lot to me to get it right. After a week or two of editing the actual draft, it finally worked. I clicked “Publish” (the button was heavier than normal that day).

What I’m getting at is that “Confessions” wasn’t normal nor was it ever meant to be a flagship. It was just a process that gave me healing, what I needed at the time. I hoped for it to resonate with one or two others.

But when “Confessions..” hit, everything changed. I was no longer just another average, over-churched burn-out. I was a Freshly Pressed over-churched burn-out! (Big difference okay).

I was given an audience who redefined my writing identity. I became one of those dumb cool-young-hip Christian bloggers.

First World-Blogger Problems

After the traffic died down and I was left with my wonderfully old (and new) subscribers, I noticed interesting stat patterns. The blogs I wrote about life, travel, and every-day-faith earned me decent traffic (better than before but not the consistency I was hoping for). The blogs I wrote about church-criticism nearly always doubled my traffic.

So as any red-blooded blogger would, I (fracked for crack) wrote more and more about the church even when it didn’t feel natural. Oddly enough, when the impulse was sincere, I usually talked myself out of it in favor of trying to “Grow.”

It’s like being stuck in some sort of.. Post-Pressed-Pressure…

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The awkward “Post-Pressed-Pressure-Pose”

My first thought: “Hey, maybe I should focus all my energies on church reform. People obviously want to hear what I have to say. And I do have more to say!”

My second thought: “Didn’t I leave the church?”

Then, after a root beer, my third thought: “Does this mean I have to join a church to stay current for my audience?”

Then, after a slice of pizza and an hour of Netflix, my fourth thought: “If I don’t write about the church then am I shooting my writing career in the foot?”

My fifth thought: Who do I write for, my audience or me?

Kevin’s Final Thought on Friday Show: Is this how one-hit wonders feel? “I want to play the new stuff.” But they like the old stuff. Give ‘em the old stuff. Old stuff or die. 

Old stuff or die.

Old stuff and die.

Epilogue/Backsliding

Christian-blogger is a stupid term. I think so, any way. C.S. Lewis wrote in an essay about how people shouldn’t look for labels to promote their faith, or book, or ideology, that what people cling to are the natural outputs. I’ve always felt that there’s nothing sincere about labels and agendas. It’s why American evangelism sucks. Instead of reaching out to serve and be sincere, we seek others only when philosophy conversion is possible or at least part of the conversation (as if people aren’t worth our time otherwise).

This is where I find myself today, with a reminder for you (but mostly for me): Be sincere, good people. Be sincere.

Freshly Pressed: My Favorite Comments

Last week, I found myself struggling with writer’s block. Yesterday, I was Freshly Pressed on WordPress. That kind of took care of it. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, basically, Freshly Pressed is their sort of… front page.

Alternate blog title: Freshly Pressed: How Keva Got His Groove Back

Just last week, I was telling my wife about some of my goals. Freshly Pressed was numero uno. So that’s cool. Now, I can move on to goal numero dos: hand model. Well no…

What a huge honor. The Freshly Pressed came at just the right time, too. My writer’s block has since been smashed, chopped, and blended… and digested.

Confessions of a Former Worship Leader was featured. I wrote the post straight from the heart, so it was nice to get such a wide array of feedback and responses. “Confessions…” seems to have struck a chord, no pun intended.

The internet is a strange place, and it gets a lot of flack these days (Facebook rants, mean-spirited debates and criticisms, message boards), but I’m continually impressed by the genuineness and civility of WordPress bloggers. It’s quite a special place.

Comments are still coming in (slightly overwhelming)! In truth, everyone’s comment has touched my heart. Some responses have been encouraging, some have disagreed; all have contributed towards my healing in some way. The best part is the overall, much-needed conversation of corporate worship has begun. It’s been an honor to have lead this discussion.

Here’s a few comments (from yesterday) that have, so far, stood out to me. A lot of these are just excerpts. I might add one or two more as I continue to read.

Comments, Comments, Comments,

Melissaraptor

During the few Christian services I’ve attended in my life, I’ve felt so confused and taken aback by the focus on modern music. The services were not what I imagined at all and frankly I felt more uncomfortable in those which relied heavily on the performance. Thank you for sharing the thoughts of someone behind the scenes, so to speak. It’s comforting to know that someone so involved with religion shares or at least reflects some similar input on a few of the topics I’ve been so confused by. Thank you so much.

Constance V. Walden

When people get up on a stage or stand up before the congregation and sing, with or without music, it it becomes a concert or entertainment. It becomes about them, really. Yes, they may be singing about the Lord, but, it’s really about them. When the church comes together to worship, they should sing together as one to the Lord on the same level. No one up front, no one on stage, and not drowned out by musical instruments. It’s OUR voices together in praise to the Lord. Thanks for sharing.

measureofagift

My heart broke last week when a dear friend told me she chose a church for the “worship experience” she told me it was “very spiritual” and that what she loved was that she could go there, feel blessed, talk to no one, and then return home, untethered to anyone in the congregation, or anything she needed to carry around with her all week. She could “just leave it there til next week.” We’ve turned worship into a gratifying experience, so much so that in “trying to serve God” in worship, we end up hurting those who come to our churches.

sandydog44

Hello, I quit the church for many reasons ….and the hypnotizing of the congregation by emotional music and all that goes into producing a good concert to move your feelings….it was called being moved by the Holy Spirit, but exactly the same feelings are produced at a “secular” concert. People are fooling themselves.

Carpenter’s Quill

Worship is: Dance, art, a prayer, thanking God by using our talents, helping people around us, or even singing in the shower. I agree that ‘worship’ isn’t just one singular act of service/praise. I also like your response about being ‘hurt by the church’. Too many people forget that the church is full of humans. We are individuals incapable of perfection. I’m glad it didn’t squash your faith, and that you’re uncovering hidden feelings. I think the mega church culture (as a whole) needs to get back to authentic ‘worship’

Kris

I appreciate your honesty with where you are at and think it was wise for you to pull back as you did. It seems to me, our spiritual life and our interactions with others and service ebbs and flows, inevitably produces flaws, retracts in disgust and renews itself in purity through the Spirit. It is not just this way in worship of course, but in any aspect we participate in communally. Anytime our faith goes public in service we drag along our personal spiritual fights and encounter those of others and sometimes we just need to pull back and regroup.

kevindeisher

I sang and led worship at my church for several years and like you suffered burn out. I left the church in search of something better and more genuine for me to believe in. I can so relate to your post and agree with it all. I am attending a micro church now where the worship music is by most standards poor, but it is genuine and heartfelt and I enjoy it more than the concerts of the past.

Thanks again, WordPress! What an honor to have been considered and chosen.