Tabernacle of Praise International in McDonough, Ga., just outside Atlanta, began in a living room in 2005. In 2013, the church moved into its own building—an existing church structure it has spent the past three years working to renovate and transform.
Editor's Note: Article was revised July 29. In the revision, Atlanta Soundworks was credited with installing the new audio system in 2014, not dB Audio and Video.Like many churches, Tabernacle of Praise Church International (T.O.P.) began in a living room. In 2005, Pastors TJ and Shunnae McBride, a husband-and-wife team, invited six people into their home to worship. A year later, their living room could no longer accommodate the new church’s following, and so for the next several years it leased space in a strip mall in McDonough, Ga., before moving into its first official home. But attendance continued to grow, mandating the need for a new facility. In 2013, T.O.P. celebrated its first service in its new building, a large, existing facility that was acquired from a church that was in decline located on a main throughfare, also in McDonough. Learn more about the Church Production LIVE! Showcase event coming to Greater-Atlanta's Tabernacle of Praise Tuesday, August 2, 2016 (visit link)One could attribute this rapid growth to the presence T.O.P. has established in its community: the church is heavily focused on outreach, and runs a number of programs that feed and clothe those in need, counsel those requiring guidance on everything from managing finances to transitioning out of prison life, and assist those suffering from abuse, or drug and alcohol addiction. It also partners with local non-profit organizations and sponsors missionaries abroad. In conjunction with this outreach, T.O.P. has programs for children, youth, and teenagers, “because I feel like a church that has something for the kids unites the family,” says TJ McBride.While outreach and youth are top priorities for Tabernacle of Praise, these efforts are rooted in worship, and TJ McBride emphasizes the importance of what happens on Sunday morning—everything from how attendees are greeted when they arrive, to the music, the production and, of course, the preaching. “I believe we offer a great worship experience for people that are looking for a place where they can worship God, and also have an exciting and great time experiencing God’s presence,” he says.Over the past three years, the church has been working to renovate and transition the existing structure to meet the needs of T.O.P.’s ministry. Audio was addressed in 2014 when a Bose RoomMatch loudspeaker system and Allen & Heath GLD80 FOH console were installed by Atlanta Soundworks.Streaming AND Broadcast MovesMore recently T.O.P. began streaming its Sunday services and now enjoys a large and growing internet audience that spans more than 20 states, in addition to an international viewership. The church is also gearing up for the launch of its television broadcast on local, Atlanta-area TV. To support the growing broadcast ministry, recently, T.O.P. underwent a considerable lighting upgrade, which involved the replacement of its incandescent par fixtures with a new lighting rig designed by Brad Lyons, systems advisor at dB Audio & Video, an audio, video, and lighting systems design/build firm based in Gainesville, Ga. Lyons also serves as T.O.P.’s on-staff lighting director and AV systems advisor. Fourteen Chauvet Ovation E-190WW ellipsoidal fixtures now light the stage, and a combination of Rogue R2 spots and Q-Wash 560Z LED moving washes provide focus on worship musicians at various points during a service. The four corners of the stage are outfitted with Chauvet DJ Intimidator Spot 355Z IRC moving LED fixtures, which enable the creation of concert-like looks, especially at the beginning of services. In addition, five Chauvet Ovation F-165WW Fresnels serve as rear key lights on stage. Five Ovation E-190WWs illuminate the choir loft, and a SlimPAR Quad 12 IRC provides a soft rear wash on the choir when its members are not singing. “I think lighting, sound and technology, enhance the worship experience in any ministry,” TJ McBride says. “If you take a look at secularconcerts, you understand that the lighting and the sound and the technology play a part in making that concert experience more real, more emotional—it creates another type of environment, it creates another type of feeling. We want that same feeling in the church.”Church, he says, shouldn’t be stale: “I feel like we serve a God that is awesome; we serve a God that is exciting, thrilling. He wants us to experience the fullness of who He is, and if we can implement keyboards, and we can implement guitars and drums into the worship experience, why can’t we implement lighting and sound and video and technology? I think this is part of God’s plan for us to use everything that is afforded to us to be able to enhance the experience that people need when they come on a Sunday morning.”Lyons is currently working on a new stage design and video system design to accommodate the growing ministry. He says that acoustical treatments also need to be revisited.While TJ McBride emphasizes the role that technology can play in transforming worship, he concedes that technologically, T.O.P. has its limits. “The number No. 1 issue is finances—just trying to finance everything that needs to be done, and that we want to do.” After all, a community-minded church has many commitments, and sometimes that means that AV spending has to wait. “We have to do things as our finances will allow them to happen.”In his dual role as systems advisor at dB Audio & Video as well as technology advisor at the church, Lyons is assisting T.O.P. in this phased approach and is developing a plan to implement new systems as the budget allows. “[It helps to partner] with someone who can help develop a strategy and [a] plan, and then say, ‘Okay, this year we need to do lighting. Audio needs to be done, too, but it’s got to be next year.’ You have to have a plan,” Lyons says. “If you don’t have a plan, at some point it’s going to come back and bite you, and it’s going to cost you a lot more money later.” Planning Takes PrecedenceBut while sometimes AV spending may have to be delayed, TJ McBride doesn’t believe that technology is something that can permanently reside on the back burner. “It’s one of the greatest investments you can make,” he says. “What pastors need to understand—and what spiritual leaders need to understand—is that investing in the worship experience, and expanding the worship experience on Sunday morning, is vital to church growth. People don’t necessarily see all the things that go on behind the scenes with church, so when they come on Sunday morning, you’ve got about a 90-minute window to really share with them how powerful your church is and how powerful Jesus Christ is. And you need to throw everything you can out there to make sure that they’re just overwhelmed by your presentation.” And these days, he says, technology allows for churches to deliver compelling presentations. “When Jesus came to the earth, He was telling the Pharisees and the Sadducees, ‘you guys have got a good message, but your presentation is bad. I come to present to them a way of serving God through grace and mercy, and you’re trying to beat them over the head.’ So I think if Jesus came to change the presentation of what God wanted to present to His people, then I think spiritual leaders need to be open to changing their presentation to win more souls for Christ.”
Organizations in this storyAllen & Heath
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