A Closer Look at Corporate Worship

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As sound systems improve, I have seen (and heard) the music get louder and louder. I have also seen drums and guitars incorporated into church worship.   The style of church music keeps evolving as the years go by. And we do need to change with the culture. But I could never understand why I wasn't able to enjoy the worship bands in church.  I tried enjoy it, and sometimes got caught up in the music, feeling very close God through the words that were being sung. But then I started getting tired of it. I could not even hear myself sing, so why sing?

I prayed about it and felt like God was telling me this: Turn off all the microphones and silence the instruments. They are what matters and I want to hear their imperfect voices raised in praise to me. Why do you drown them out when they are the most important sound to me?

Then I began searching scripture and praying to make sure it was really God talking to me. Scripture says nothing about our worship being drowned out by the professionals. But I started to notice how isolated  a person becomes when the music is turned up. It is just you and the music, or just you and God. It may be beautiful, but there is absolutely no connection between you and those around you. A person can worship this way in the car or in their house.  Somehow church needs to be…more connected.

I went to a Resonate Youth Rally.  The music was loud, everyone sang, and then everyone walked out of the sanctuary with the music still playing.  There was no ability to talk or interact with each other. Everyone just walked out of the loudness all alone.

At a church event—a concert for our special needs members—I was so surprised that they did not dance. They always dance! But then I realized that they could not connect with each other or sense each other’s enthusiasm because the loud music separated them. They all knew the songs but felt too alone to participate.

One time in church, there were three women standing in front of me. I knew these women were from Life Recovery and were praising God. They stood and sang and swayed with the music. But they could not hear themselves so they started to clap. They had to make some sort of joyful sound that could be heard.  

At a women’s retreat last weekend, it all started to make sense to me.  We sat in a circle singing worship songs, with one person playing the piano and another playing some sort of percussion instrument. There was no microphone or sound system. I could hear myself sing. As we sang old and new songs, I really felt like this was my personal offering to God. 

As I lifted my voice in song, I heard the piano, drums, and voices of the other women around me, making my offering even more beautiful. The other women were my back-up singers! And my voice was the back-up singer of my neighbor! We were all lead singers, and we were all back-up singers for each other. This was true corporate worship. Each of us was leading in worship, and each of us was supporting the worship of those around us. We need worship leaders and music, but it should complement the gift of worship that each of us give to God. Even if we feel we cannot sing well, our voices blend together making a pleasing gift to God.

Can we go back to this in our churches? Can we have loud, medium, and soft worship? Can we have worship leaders that encourage our offerings of song? Can we allow the instruments to complement the voices of his people rather than drown them out?

There are all sorts of opinions and arguments about worship and what style is best. But can we please find out why we worship the way we do? Why do we expect our worship teams to perform? Why the voices of God’s people are mostly drowned out? Why sound systems have become such a priority? Can we look at this more closely?

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Let us also ask this important question: what does God want?  Let us look beyond our own wants and needs. 

Thankfully, we don't have to wonder what God wants. Regarding the audience of worship, it's both God and His people:
Colossians 3:16 says "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."

Ephesians 5:18-20 says "be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

The article explains it well. 

I so agree with you! Why do we feel that we must have drums, guitars, mics that break the sound barrier? If I cannot hear myself, or more importantly the people praising God around me, it feels as if our voices are inconsequential. My church has, by God's grace, not fallen into the louder-than-tolerable worship. Once in a while we have someone on drums or guitars, but these stay within the accompaniment ranges. Thanks for posting!

I would think the instruments where you worship are turned up way too loud.
We use a variety of instruments in our church and when we sing I do hear my voice, I do feel connected to the people around me and to God.
My husband is a sound tech. The musicians need to trust him that he is moderating the sounds in a good way.
The musicians cannot tell what it sounds like to the congregation because they are in the middle of it all. 
When music is too loud it puts people on edge.
We have been places where we thought that a decibel meter was needed to show how much too loud and ear damaging the sound was.
Thanks for this article.