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Turn It Down To Turn It Up

February 3, 2014

The church building is a battleground. Oh, didn’t you know that? It isn’t necessarily supposed to be, but it ends up that way. This past Sunday morning, the church I serve made a switch in the morning worship experience in the hopes we would be able to better connect with each other. It was a special worship time as well, so we did some things differently and used different technology. We sang more songs, the Lead Minister’s sermon was done in two separate pieces, and certain elements weren’t where they normally go. The audio in the room was a bit louder as well, and the songs were geared a little more progressively than what one might find on a regular basis. All of these things may have caused consternation among some within the congregation. Some may have kept it to themselves. Others may have expressed it by writing on a comment card, bending the ear of a member of leadership, or simply leaving, never to return until “they do it the right way.”  Instead of a place of worship, the church building becomes the staging area for “worship wars” where those who are for and those who are against lob verbal shells at each other. However, if I remember correctly, the book of James states “my brothers, this should not be so.”

Lead Pastor for Redeemer Church in Tomball, Texas,  Jeff Medders has some experience dealing with this issue head-on. Read on to see what he has to say on the matter.

On Worship: Turn It Up

One says, “I love loud electric guitars in our worship music! It adds a lot. I love it.” The other says, “Well, I love when I can just hear the voices raised!” Now what?

Is one better than the other? Of course not.

One of the great things about attempting to be a biblical Christian is remembering that our opinions and preferences aren’t better than anyones. Ever. Far too often, we can pull muscles in our brains by thinking so highly of our thoughts. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom. 12:3). Sober thinking—as oppose to a sloshing and opinion oppressing tomfoolery.

No matter what your opinion is concerning music volume, we are all in danger of cult-like behavior when we raise our dictates over other Christians. We can become church bullies. Our thoughts are not supreme. Our own personal view of how corporate singing should be done isn’t a force to be reckoned with. Feel free to have an opinion. And keep it as an opinion, expressed with humility, kindness, and grace. “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6).

WORSHIP STYLE ISN’T SUPREME

God’s word, God himself, reigns supreme over our thoughts, mouths, words, emotions, and opinions. Realistically, the Bible says very little about how New Testament church gatherings are to function. Everything else is up to each local church and the elders that lead her.

Our own styles, our “what we like,” isn’t the style of our brothers and sisters all around the world. Bible-beltians are fond of making a mold for the rest of Christianity all around the world—and for others in the same room. Our brothers and sisters in Iran mouth the words of many worship songs, so they don’t get killed. Are they wrong for not hearing each other sing or for not cranking the bass? Our family in Zimbabwe that dances, beats drums, and echoes through the town—are they wrong? When we elevate style over substance we are in serious danger. When we think our way is the supreme way, we are more like the Father of Lies than we realize.

Now, this isn’t to say that there aren’t some style elements to consider. Style, to a degree, does matter for church singing. Singability is the big one. And twin-jet-engine-in-face-space-loud would be nuts. Too quiet would be annoying. There is a balance. And there are safe decibel levels that music should fall into. And sometimes a mix with too much bass or way too many highs is “harsh.” It’s not loud—it’s more painful to your soul. But the long and short of it is: to pit one style against the other is prideful non-sense.

LOUD IS THE FLAVOR OF THE BIBLE

It’s hard to ignore the language of the Bible when it comes to the environment and volume of worship. It is characteristically loud. Loud singing. Loud instruments. And loud shouts (for emphasis sake).

“David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.” (1 Chronicles 15:16 ESV)

“So all Israel brought up the ark of the covenant of the LORD with shouting, to the sound of the horn, trumpets, and cymbals, and made loud music on harps and lyres.” (1 Chronicles 15:28 ESV)

“Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with loud songs of joy!” (Psalms 47:1 ESV)

“Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!” (Psalms 150:5 ESV)

The “clashing” sound in Hebrew is meant to conjure up the sound of a battle cry. A loud, blaring, trumpet, calling the troops to charge. I think worship music is meant to do the same thing, which I’ve written about here.

And the harmony of voices in Revelation is so loud it sounds like a thunder storm. It’s still loud.

“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, ’Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.’” (Revelation 19:6–8 ESV)

The music at Redeemer Church is crazy good. We are blessed with very talented musicians and sound engineers. Our Worship Leader is a beast. I feel like we strike the great balance of great, tastefully loud music, hymns, and some of the best songs of today. I always sit on the front row. And I can hear everyone singing because their voices are rushing over my head. I love it.

BUT TURN THAT DOWN TO TURN IT UP

Here’s what we all need to turn down—our flesh. Let’s remember that worship is never about us. You may not like a particular song, but if it is solid lyrically, and the church can worship God together, just zip it. Shut it. Crucify your flesh. Worship is not about you. Put your brothers and sisters above your self-interests, unless you want a time of God-centered worship to be about little ol’ you. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3–4). Turn down all complaining, and crank up your worship (Phil. 2:14).

At the end of the service, if Christ is honored and proclaimed, whether it’s just a piano or those electric guitars, “in that you should rejoice” (Phil. 1:18).

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