Marching to the Beat of the Wrong Drummer: Rethinking Loudness in Worship

0718101523a What is the purpose of loud music in church?

Over the past several years, the loudness of music in churches has increased. This loudness can create a feeling of excitement. It can set the tone for the worship service. However, the loudness in many churches is above the threshold that is safe for the ear, this loudness requires ear plugs to prevent hearing loss. Because of the threshold of the music, churches should provide ear plugs for their parishioners and guests. In fact, our churches may be sued for hearing loss of the attendees if we are negligent in protecting our parishioners against physical damage.

When the Lord appeared to Elijah, there was a great wind, an earthquake, and a fire. Certainly there was an abundance of loudness during these events.  But God did not speak from them, in fact God spoke in a “gentle whisper”! 1 Kings 19:12(NIV) In other words, God may not be in the exciting situations we are involved in, but he is in the quietness we experience.

Dr. Barry Blesser (blesser.net) has done a great deal of research regarding loudness. Here are some things he says about loudness that I have applied to church worship. Loudness has three major functions: social reward, biological stimulation, and selective aural focus.

Social Reward

Loud music tends to cause strong group cohesion and a loss of individuality. For example, when we go to an athletic event, the fans are all encouraged to create a lot of loudness. This loudness draws the fans into a coherent group. It also causes a greater flow of adrenaline in the fans and the players.

This sounds like loudness is a great idea, it is good for the congregation to have a united sense of worship. However, what happens if the loudness that is caused by a group that is not there to worship God? What happens if the loudness is created for some other reason? What happens if the loudness is produced to get biological stimulation? What if that loudness is for selfish reasons?

Biological Stimulation

Music changes our emotion state. Soft music can provide relaxation or tranquility but loud music causes arousal. Soft music and loud music produce opposite changes to the emotional state of the individual.

Loud music stimulates the same regions of the brain as euphoria drugs such as cocaine. In other words, loud music functions as a self-medicating drug. Just as drugs tend to overpower cognitive judgment, so loud music also overpowers cognitive judgment.

Like the euphoria drugs, loud music helps us escape the guilt of our sin. It helps us escape the reality of our actions prior to worship. Turning a deaf ear to our sin and it’s guilt, does not prepare us for the presence of the Lord. But perhaps we go to church for the sole purpose of avoiding the guilty feelings we have about not attending or perhaps we didn’t especially want to be in the Lord’s presence anyway.  Like Adam and Eve, we are putting on leaves rather than seeking God’s forgiveness.

Loud music with a strong beat activates the sacculus – the inner part of the ear that controls balance. The sacculus is connected to the part of the brain responsible for all forms of pleasure. However, when the maximum threshold is reached by the ear, the small hairs in the ear that cause us to hear, will permanently break off damaging the inner ear. The maximum threshold varies from person to person. The threshold of the music in many churches is now well above the safe threshold of the human ear.

Selective aural focus

In a quiet environment, one can hear a pin drop or hear people breathing. Loud music makes one deaf to the sounds that we hear in a quiet environment. In other words, loud music tends to dominate our aural focus.

Loudness tends to transport us to another world. It takes us into an environment where we are totally controlled by the loudness. You do not have the ability to block out the music you do not what to hear. We do not have ‘ear lids’ that can close and open to protect us from damage to our hearing. You cannot escape loudness.

Loudness overpowers the inner space of self-generated sounds or pictures. It overpowers our individual ability. It wants to control our entire being.  Loud music overpowers our ability to worship God.

Conclusion

Loud music causes us to lose our individual identity, causing our actions to follow what the crowd wants us to follow. Our Christian walk is individual.  God did not give everyone identical plans for their lives. Psalm 139:14 says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made”. God did not use a cookie cutter to make our lives. God wants us to live our lives in unity not uniformly.

Loud music in our church service results in blocking other sounds. In fact, it may even block the very words that God wants us to hear.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians says:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, 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. Ephesians 5:15-20(NIV)

As Christians, our social reward, biological stimulation, and aural focus should be determined by the Holy Spirit, not by the effects of loud music. Paul says we should be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, not loudness. And it is to come from the heart, not from an man made instrument.

Perhaps it is time for us to rethink the use of loud music in worship?

We live in a society where the number of suicides, alcohol abuse, drug abuse, and illicit sexual activity is at an all-time high. People are searching for hope. They are unable to find it, while the Christian faith is built upon the hope that we have in Christ Jesus, we are ashamed to tell others about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Is our worship music bringing hope to the world or is it covering it up with loudness so the world cannot find it?

 

NOTES:

  1. All Scripture used in this article is downloaded from biblegateway.com
  2. The loudness research in this article was done by Dr. Barry Blesser and others.
  3. The application of the research to worship is that of the author.

Cohabitation or Marriage?

What does the Bible say about co-habitation?

The Bible does not directly talk about cohabitation of couples. It does however, talk about marriage. Here is what it says about marriage:

Genesis 2:24(NIV) That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Matthew 19:4-6(NIV) “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

Mark 10:7-9(NIV) ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife,  and the two will become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

1 Corinthians 6:16 (NIV) Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?

Ephesians 5:31(NIV)  “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”

As I read the Bible, it is apparent that marriage does not require paperwork! It only requires that the eligible couple consensually ‘sleeps together’, in other words “become one flesh.” The only exceptions to this are the cases we consider as rape or “for profit” sexual activity.  And in those cases, it is usually referred to as adultery or prostitution.

I should also point out that having a marriage license is a civil requirement, not specifically a Biblical requirement.

The Bible does teach however,  that if a married couple gets divorced, they need to have it done in writing.

If a couple has consensual intercourse and later separate, they should have the divorce in writing. If it is not done in writing, and they later get married, they are practicing ‘polygamy’.

Cohabitation is a civil term that means the married couple is living together without meeting a civil requirement or having the civil protection of a civil marriage. People who cohabitate, experience the same, or similar feelings of divorce that a non-cohabitating, married couple experience when they divorce.

What are the advantages if cohabitation?

According to some of the research findings, these are some of the ‘advantages’ (If you want to call them that) that you can expect to experience when cohabitating:

  • Slide into a relationship (89%) (Only 23% plan on marrying)
  • Lower level of commitment to the relationship
  • Don’t pool resources (16% pool resources)
  • Joint checking accounts (16.1%)
  • Higher sexual infidelity (Twice as high as for married couples)
  • Lower “levels of closeness, love and satisfaction in intimacy dimensions”
  • Physical violence (12% if engaged to be married,15% if not engaged to be married.)
  • Less satisfaction even if they eventually marry
  • Have more marital problems when they do marry.

What are the advantages of marriage?

According to the research findings I have read, these would be some of the advantages of marriage over cohabitation:

  • High rate of intentional relationships
  • Higher level of commitment to the relationship
  • Tend to pool resources (80% pool resources)
  • Joint checking accounts (70%)
  • Higher sexual fidelity
  • Higher “levels of closeness, love and satisfaction in intimacy dimensions”
  • Physical violations of less than 4% if married without cohabitation first
  • More marital satisfaction without cohabitation prior to marriage
  • Fewer marital problems without cohabitating prior to marriage

Conclusion:

The real question here is “would you rather have a marriage the way the Bible teaches or have cohabitate based on the definition and practice of civil government?”

God has a plan for marriage. His plan is not in opposition to the civil practices regarding marital relationships. However, even if you didn’t believe the Bible or God’s plan for marriage, the results appear to be the same. Do you want the real thing, or do you want the temporary satisfaction of having your immediate, sexual gratification satisfied?

(This information comes from my reading some of the research results pertaining to the subject. The statistical information in this article comes from  an article by James E. Sheridan written for  The News-Sentinel, Wednesday, January 14, 2015 as downloaded January 23, 2015 from http://www.news-sentinel.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20150114/LIVING/150119967/1008

All Scripture used in this article were downloaded from http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Hebrews%2011&version=NIV

Got Living Water?

In Jesus time on earth there was a great disconnect between the Jews and the Samaritans. They were so opposed to each other, that they would not talk to each other. They would even walk down different paths so they would not meet each other on the path.

The response to people who believe differently than we, is the same today as it was in Jesus’ day. Christians cringe when they see someone who is homosexual, poor, drunk, abusive, are in a different political party, member of a different church, someone who is different from us.

In John 4, it tells about Jesus talking to a Samaritan woman at the well. The disciples were gone to buy supplies and Jesus was alone at the well asking for a drink of water from a woman who the daily custom indicated he should have nothing to do with this woman because she was “not one of them”.

What did the disciples do when Jesus was talking to a Samaritan woman?  They were afraid to ask Jesus what he was doing. They assumed that he was so hungry that he was not thinking straight. They wanted Jesus to eat something so he would leave the Samaritan woman alone.

Interestingly enough, many churches today, provide opportunities to have coffee and doughnuts prior to the church services so we can indoctrinate them to the way we believe. We want them to become members of our church. We want to get them out of the world that we are supposed to be reaching for Christ. We want them to become like us.

Jesus was not concerned about the outward appearance or experience of the Samaritan woman, nor was he concerned about increasing church membership. However, He was concerned about her spiritual wellbeing. Jesus wanted her to have the everlasting water that was only available through Jesus. He wanted her to have the water that would “become in them (her) a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus was not interested in making the woman a Jew. He wasn’t even interested in asking her to be a disciple. He wasn’t interested in making her a Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Methodist, etc. nor was he interested in making her a Democrat or a Republican. He was not interested in making her wealthy. He was not interested in making her feel better about her past behavior. He was not even there to condemn the woman because of her past. He was there to give her eternal life; to give her freedom from her past sins. He wanted to fill the void in her life that had cause her to seek many different men. He wanted her to experience the love of Jesus. Jesus wanted her to have the living water flowing from her so that others would see the love of Jesus in her life. Jesus wanted to restore a relationship between the woman and  God, the Heavenly Father.

When our lives have a spring of living water flowing from them, we demonstrate the fruit of the spirit; we demonstrate the love of God.  We do not judge people because they are different, but we love them because Jesus loved them. Jesus wanted the woman to know the peace and joy that God provides for His children. He wanted her to have a restored relationship with God.

When we have the spring of living water within us, sexual behavior, wealth and fortune, education and position of the other person are not even considered. When we have the spring of living water within us, our primary desire is to demonstrate Jesus love to them. We are not to be concerned about church membership, but we are to be concerned about the restoration of their relationship with God, the Heavenly Father.

The Samaritan woman knew about Jesus. She knew about the Messiah, but now she believed the good news that Jesus had shared with her.  Her spiritual being came to life within her causing her to go back to the city immediately and tell her people about Jesus, the living water, the Messiah. She was so anxious to tell them that she left the jug of water at the well. She wanted them to experience the living water that Jesus had offered her.

When we have the spring of living water within us, we become so excited that we go tell other people about the living water,  the Messiah.  Our daily concerns should be put behind us as we go to share God’s love with other people. Sharing God’s love should become our primary purpose in life, it should flow from us like water from a spring.