Originally published May 24, 2015
First off, this is SATIRE. Let’s be clear. I would never actually say any of these things to a church member whom has come to complain that the music was too loud. But I’ll be completely honest: I’ve thought every one of these things in my head and kept them to myself... and I suspect a great many pastors, worship leaders, musicians, and sound techs have also had these thoughts.
What we might say if we had no filter and paid no attention the books of James or Proverbs in how we responded to worship complaints...
1) You should be thankful for the music we have every week. If you ever come to me and complain about the theological depth of modern music, without asking first how we vet the songs we choose, I will make you read a Southern Baptist hymnal, because there is some weird stuff in there.
2) You might as well cancel your reservation to heaven if you think the worship service went too long, or if you think the songs are too repetitive. The elders bowing at the Throne singing, “Holy Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come,” 24 hours a day without ceasing... Yeah... better get used to worship going longer than you prefer.
3) Heaven will be SO LOUD!! Try to imagine innumerable hosts of angels, plus all the redeemed from every tribe, clan, nation, making a joyful noise with the clashing of cymbals, blowing of trumpets, and the playing of stringed instruments (ahem – electric guitar is a stringed instrument). People – you had better start getting used to it or you are in for a terribly rude awakening at the eternal reality.
Some folks are going to be surprised when we get to heaven and the heavenly chorus along with all who have been saved break out in joyous song on the sea of glass. I'm pretty certain that too is going to be pretty darned loud. There’s no biblical mention of a full drum enclosure, electronic drums, quiet cymbals, in ear monitors, decibel meters in accordance with OSHA regulations, or sound abatement material above that hard surface, after all.
4) Even some of the most reserved, traditional churches in existence can be very loud, and the volume does not seem to be off-putting to the saints participating in worship there. John MacArthur’s very traditional Grace Community Church runs sound at 105dB with just a piano and choir singing. (I measured it myself) Let’s be honest here: it’s really not the volume you have an issue with, it’s the style. Maybe if I wore a suit and tie and my pulpit popped up out of the ground, you’d be okay with the volume being 95dB. OR maybe if I had a 70 member orchestra playing the Hallelujah Chorus behind a choir of 110 singers, you might be okay with the volume being 100dB. So be intellectually honest, and don’t hide your real issue behind one that is really not an issue. I can say that with full integrity – it’s not “too loud.” We measure the volume scientifically with objective metrics, and it’s just not. It’s barely above average natural singing voice level, at the 85dB we run our maximum sound pressure level.
5) I don’t come into your office and tell you how to do your job in front of others. Please don’t do that to me, or our sound team staff members who work tirelessly out of the love in their hearts and the desire to serve the church. It would be very offensive if I were to come into your place of business and in front of your colleagues, tell you how what you are doing is bothering me, and how you should fix it, or I’ll try to get you fired or that I’ll leave in an angry huff. It’s incredibly offensive that you think you deserve to speak down to the persons who have collectively invested in possibly thousands of hours of education and experience over many years and have been working hard just this week to, do what? oh yeah – serve you.
6) You didn’t get anything out of the worship? To quote a pastor I once heard addressing this exact complaint, “Oh, I’m sorry – there’s been a huge misunderstanding. Last time I checked, we weren’t here to worship YOU.”
If others are worshiping and having no trouble raising their hands in praise and adoration of the King of Kings in the midst of the mighty throng amongst the sound of clashing cymbals and stringed instruments, then guess what? Most likely the main impediment to your worship is none other than you. Perhaps thy attitude stinketh.
Learn all the “one another’s” from the epistles, take them to heart, put them into practice. Learn to love in action, not words, preferring others above yourself... and then I would wager a healthy guess that suddenly the music will cease to be something you perceive as an obstacle but something you recognize as a vehicle to express worship in song to the One whom it is due. THE One who deserves to get something out of this corporate singing. Which, reality check, is not in fact you.
If you do get something out of worship, that’s a blessing. Don’t take it for granted.
Worship musicians are not magicians. We cannot conjure up the Spirit of the Living God, nor can we make Him to show up in power, nor can we force His presence to fall on the place we meet.
We’re doorkeepers in the house of the Lord, having spent time in His presence earlier in the week, knowing His heart, holding open the door to invite you in so that you can taste and see that the Lord is good. Inviting you to lay down your burdens and bad attitudes and hurts and struggles and preferences and all your baggage and sit at the foot of Jesus, simply be in His presence, and take the spotlight off yourself for once this week. If you’re coming in with all this bitterness, I’m betting it’s been a long week at that. So why not try something different this week, stop acting like a 4 year old child not getting its way and having a tantrum, and instead try surrender, humility, and God’s way instead of insisting on your way?
It’s better in here. Come in. We’re holding the door open for you.