DJ Led Worship—Re:Fresh

Alright, so some of you know that I used to DJ at these strange Christian raves and that I also hope to do so in the future. While I was browsing around the interweb, I came across an event we did at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois written by my DJing mentor, DJ Race, AKA John Rhaesa. If you’re curious about how awesome DJ led worship can get, check out the article below or see the real page here.

Written by John Rhaesa

Re:fresh ambient/chillout worship night took place in the Dance Barn at Cornerstone Music Festival in Bushnell, Illinois at 1:00 to 3:00 am on July 2, 2005. It was intended to reenergize and renew people’s passion for Jesus Christ. It all got started when Cindy Tucker from the Underground in Cincinnati, had a conversation with my friend DJ Davo (Dave Copeland) about hosting an interactive worship experience at Cornerstone. Davo explained to Cindy what I have been experimenting with at my church and Cindy asked if it would be possible to submit a demo and the rest is history.

As far as my background is concerned, I have been DJing for many years hosting Christian events called House Party. In the last year and half, I have been given the opportunity to DJ in my local church (Relevant Church). One of the pastors there invited me to DJ the worship service shortly after we began attending. Since that time, we have incorporated DJ led worship by using music from the decks before, after, during worship, prayer and communion times.

Elements of Worship

If Re:fresh was to become a two-hour multi-sensory DJ led worship experience, creating an atmosphere where people could relax and come close to God was essential. To that effect, the stage was covered in candles. This was just part one element that help to build an atmosphere of worship. Some of the other elements included chill out / ambient music, video elements, an actual artist painting during the event, creative use of lighting (other than candles) and so on. Here are more detailed descriptions of each element:

Chill out/Ambient music
Spinning some of the latest and classic tracks to create an atmosphere of worship, led by DJ Race (John Rhaesa)

Vjing ambient visuals and scripture references to add another dimension to the worship experience, led DJ Jamin (Jamin Bradley)

Air Brush Artist
Clint Dunning from Haylo Clothing expressed his love for God by airbrushing a large mural. He also provided t-shirts for the DJ’s to wear during the event.

Lighting help to created an atmosphere for worship throughout the evening with various lighting elements, led by DJ 9

Worship Guide
Guided and directed people through the worship stations for the evening, led by Hypostatic (Victor Minetola)

Interactive stations
The following six interactive stations/events made up the remaining elements of worship.

The Cross
This was the first station of the night. People were asked to write on index cards using there finger and red tempera paint what was holding them back in there relationship with God. These cards were then nailed to the cross and left behind.

This station used scripture to form the shape of an eye. The font was extremely small and you had to use a rock that magnified the type to read the scripture. This was designed to help you refocus on what you see. From a distance you could see an eye, but as you looked closer you could read God’s word. God is everywhere in our lives if we just take the time to focus our attention towards him. Some examples of the scripture used included:

O magnify the LORD with me, And let us exalt His name together.
– Psalm 34:3
I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.
– Psalm 69:30

Noise Video
At one point, we simply stopped all of the music and had complete silence for about 7 minutes as people read the text on the video screen. Teaching us that we need to intentionally take time and be still and spend time with God.

There were 12 loaves of bread in different shapes and sizes. Twelve different people from the dance community brought the loaves one at a time to Victor at the altar in the center of the dance barn. The bread was then formed into the shape of a man, whose body was then broken to serve communion.

Candlelight Worship
Everyone was given a candle as we closed the service with Your Love is Extravagant (Nate Manners – Unorthodox), The Sky (Cloud2Ground) and the I Love you Lord/Open My Eyes medley from (Nitro Praise 7).

The Worship Experience
So, what happened during the worship experience? Well, God showed up! In the beginning of the night I was a little concerned as some of the people who came expected a thumping dance event. That was a bummer but understandable since nothing like this had been attempted at the festival before. I just stayed on track with mission of the night. Halfway through the event the noise video began and complete silence fell over the entire crowd. It was an incredible experience. Think about it, you are at a festival of about 28,000 people and it was so quiet that you could hear a pin drop in the dance barn. It was at that point I knew people were getting it.

Taking part in Communion was beautiful. It was great spending time with God and breaking bread with our brothers and sisters in the dance community. As I reflected on the journey that led me to this place, I found myself caught up in the moment. I had to hold back the tears as I new I was in the presence of the Lord.

I remember Jamin prophetically singing Lord Your Beautiful seconds before I dropped in the next track that said, “beautiful, everyone is beautiful.” He had no idea what was coming next. God was truly in control of the evening. It was at this point that I started to pray for the DJ’s and Live PA’s and the dance community.

We closed the evening around 3:00 AM while worshiping in the presence of God by candlelight. This was amazing. When the music stopped people just sat in silence and stillness because they knew they had been in the presence of the Lord.

What the Crowd Experienced

The evening really seemed to have deeply affected many of the people in attendance. Because of this, I thought sharing some of the comments from others in the dance community on their experiences from the evening would be a good idea.

“I was a little confused at first when I came to the chill out experience. When many of the people showing up who were expecting banging dance music and swiftly departed it made me wonder should I even stay.

WOW! I was in for a BIG surprise. I didn’t know that God would use that event to target me. When I approached the first station I realized that I had a big barrier – DOUBT!

That evening opened my eyes to a reality I hadn’t seen. I seem to not trust God as much as I thought I did. I held back my tears as I saw others post what was holding them back in their life – the sin and missing the mark. I viewed people posting everything from fear to lust.” — DJ Pat D

“I found the silence portion very convicting. Being a parent of three and seemingly always needing music on to accomplish tasks around the house.  I find myself not listening for God’s voice in the midst of all that is hectic. What God spoke through Race with was so dead on about our situation in the body of believers in Christian Dance. Race did not even say a lot but it was exactly what I (as I am sure many) needed to hear that night.

The Worship night was very well done and the Holy Spirit was certainly there!

Our community of believers and the Body of Christ at large is hugely gifted and it is great to see our colorful expression through worship, art, and music.

I was very impressed!   He gave us his best and we should try to do our best to return the favor!” — Brian Scroggins

“The silence time was the highlight for me. It was like being at an Electronic Jason Upton worship event.” — DJ Davo

“One thing that was cool from a Tastyfresh point of view was how we were trying to get the Tastyfresh people who were spinning or were involved with the dance community in some way to each bring a loaf out to build the bread man for [Communion].  The point was that we are each different; that we each bring different things to the table – but together we form the body of Christ… I started putting the body together.  That’s when I think the meaning of it really began to hit this group of ragamuffins.  We may bicker about silly things online, but we all saw how united we really are that night.  It was quite awesome, and I sensed God moving big-time – not just for Tastyfresh, but for everyone in the room. “ — Hypostatic (Victor Minetola)

“As the night grew I began to fall back behind more of the visual equipment, attempting to play images that corresponded with the song that was playing at the moment. John asked me to cue up one of the more moving moments of the night on DVD: The Silence Video. Not expecting to really be hit by it myself, I read the words that appeared on the screen in close to absolute silence. Being a very impatient person with silence, I began to realize how much God can speak through it. When it was over another personal miracle happened. Our band had been playing just before Cornerstone for a Vacation Bible School and on the day that I left, I lost my singing voice. And it remained that way until I grabbed the mic and broke out into spontaneous worship to God. God also amazed John and me when at the end of one of the songs I began singing about God’s beauty and the next song unexpectedly was about being beautiful.”— DJ Jamin (Jamin Bradley)

Making It Happen
Lots of preparation had to be done to pull off an event as unique as this one. I spent about two months getting ready in various ways. I had led a Re:fresh Worship night at Relevant Church with Jamin and some other leaders in my church where we tried out some of the elements that were used in the worship night at Cornerstone.

Half of the night was spent testing out video, music and creative worship elements on the congregation. For me personally, compiling music and designing accompanying slides was the most time consuming portion of my preparation. Many hours were spent choosing music that would set the right tone for the evening. By the time all the music was transferred onto CD, there was approximately four hours of music. Backed with a few hours of music, I was equipped to spin in any direction I felt the spirit leading me.

Searching, purchasing and compiling essential video elements took an enormous amount of time and energy. Bringing all these clips together and putting them on DVD made a huge difference. Mixing video and music live is a precise art. It can be very difficult and nearly impossible to pull off if you are not prepared. Props are key element in developing a mindset for the direction you wish to draw your audience into. A metal cross on a spinning turntable was chosen as such an element. The cross was backlit by a white radial pin spot. Candlelight was another element I incorporated into the event. The stage was draped floor to ceiling in thick black cloth and flickering tea lights lined the stage. Just entering the sanctuary you knew something special was about to take place.

I would have to say that spending time in prayer and have time alone with God is the most important step in preparing for such an event. Having that time alone with God can really put into perspective the purpose and the need for this type of worship.

Overcoming Challenges
One of the biggest challenges was finding the last minute items we needed and the making of the cross for the station. Much of this had to be done at the event site rather than in advance for a variety of reasons. The people involved with the night worked together as a team coming together to make it work. The tasks were more than one person could do on their own due to the time frame. We just persevered until everything was done. Even though some people didn’t understanding what was going on, I prayed and persevered. I had to continue on the path I felt the Lord was leading me on.

What made it a success?
Four things made this a success:

The Holy Spirit
When God shows up it can be nothing but a success.

The Communion Time
I felt God lay on my heart that this was important in the life of the community. Seeing the body of Christ come together and then break bread together was beautiful. It was an experience I will never forget. I felt a since of unity in Christ that night.

People worked together to help get the final details done.

Seeing people experience God for themselves.

In closing I would like to thank Chris Human, Cindy Tucker and Cornerstone for the opportunity to have a service like this. I could since God’s presence throughout the process. I was great to be part of God’s work. We must continue as a community to seek God and spend time with him.


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