Friday, 2 June 2017

Worship Restored: Turn the Volume down!

Jennifer was in her 70s. A strong, intelligent, lively personality who loved the Lord, loved worshipping, loved being with God's people and loved sharing her faith with anyone who would listen. She had served the Lord for most of her life. She welcomed anyone who visited her small house, shared many an anecdote of God's faithfulness in her own experience, prayed and gave faithfully to God's work. She had an extensive knowledge and appreciation of worship music, both modern and traditional.

Her church was the Town Mission, a small elder-run fellowship containing four main families, several students and single people and some children from the local estate. For years they used Mission Praise and a selection of modern(ish) worship songs on overhead slides accompanied by Jean, one of the church mums who played the electric keyboard. But this was all going to change.

There were four teenagers at the Mission, all of them musical and they decided to form a worship band. Keen to keep them integrated in the church, it was decided that they should lead the worship at the church on a regular basis. And anyway, it would hopefully attract other youngsters to church.

Out came the drum kit. Up went the volume on the amplifier. Away went the traditional hymns. In came the trendy songs..... and off went Jennifer. Never to enter the doors of the church again.

Was she being intolerant? Inflexible perhaps? Or simply an unfortunate casualty of the trend of churches obsessed with being trendy and loud to attract the kids? One thing is for sure. She was certainly a sensitive, genuine worshipper who loved good music. And she felt that the kids were not truly leading worship, simply being loud and self-indulgent. Is the Lord truly pleased when one of His faithful servants is driven from fellowship in this way? Does the worship truly bless His Holy Name?

Never mind. She went across town to Carmel Fellowship instead. She loved the people there. The music was certainly of good quality here, but.... LOUD again! Especially when Craig was on the sound board. She had to wear earplugs. Which meant that she couldn't really hear herself sing. And she felt disconnected from the people she was with. Shouldn't worship be a corporate, together thing? Well, it wasn't here for Jennifer. Driven from fellowship by loud music again.

There was a time when buildings were shook by the Holy Presence of the Lord (see Acts 4:31, Acts 16:25-26). The only things that are shaking our buildings now are those deafening amps. Let me quote a couple of scriptures.

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to him; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5: 23-24

The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honourable we treat with special honour. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honour to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honoured, every part rejoices with it.
1Corinthians 12:21-26

Isn't worship supposed to be a family, corporate event for old and young, rich and poor, men and women? Why does the church follow the world like this? The world segregates people by age, so does the church. The world marginalises the elderly, so does the church.

I want to ask you again, is the Lord truly pleased when one of His faithful servants is driven from fellowship in this way? Does the worship truly bless His Holy Name?

No! Surely not!! The above (true, but with details altered) story breaks my heart. I venture to say also that I believe the Lord is deeply grieved when a church uncompromisingly pursues the youth by using exclusively loud, trendy music and in doing so drives other saints away, such as older people, those who cannot stand noise and get frequent headaches, those who weren't brought up going to rock concerts and so on.

When we plan and practise our worship, our primary question should not be:

'Do the kids like it?' or even 'Do the people like it?'. But 'Does the Lord like it?' That in no way means that the music will be unpleasant! It's simply getting things in the right order. And if the Lord is honoured, we will be blessed.

Another few suggested rules of thumb:

  • Can I hear myself sing? If not, the music is too loud!
  • Does my singing add to the overall sound? If not, the music is too loud!
  • Can I bring my mum and dad to the service, or will they think the guitar is too loud? If they think it is, it is!
  • Is the worship noisy because people are singing enthusiastically or because the guy on the sound board is too enthusiastic? Make sure it's the former!
I'm not saying that the music shouldn't be contemporary in style or that we don't amplify or use drums. I'm not saying that youngsters shouldn't be involved in the music. I am simply saying that worship that costs us nothing is worship that is worth nothing. And if our singing only gives us a buzz and we are not blessing the Lord, it is not worth anything.

That is why the Lord did not accept Cain's sacrifice (Genesis 4:3-5). That is why David insisted on paying Araunah for his threshing floor (2Samuel 24:24). Being casual and careless, insensitive to others in our worship, I put it to you, grieves the Lord and does not bring glory to Him.

We need to repent and turn down the Amplifiers!

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