Jim Bossler, Worship Director at Christ Community Chapel, pauses to reflect on how loud or quiet to keep worship music during service.
Nothing brings out opinions of people like music can. When it comes to worship music in a church gathering, if there are 100 people in the room, that means there are 100 different kinds of music people want to hear. Some love the old hymns, some love the new hit Christian song that seems like the Lord had it made just for themselves. Some love the use of lighting to help connect our other senses, more than just our voices, to the music sung at church while others just want to sing theologically rich lyrics. Scripture does not give too many rules for a worship service so, there remains a freedom from God to worship him in ways that can maximize the impact of the church gathering.
Crank it up… and turn it down. So, get loud or stay quiet?
Some people have strong opinions about how loud or quiet the volume should be for music in worship. Fortunately for us, the Lord does give us commands and examples on this subject. Here are a few:
Psalm 47:1 – Clap your hands, all peoples! Shout to God with LOUD songs of joy.
Psalm 33:3 – Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with LOUD shouts.
Psalm 150:5 – Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with LOUD clashing cymbals.
Isaiah 6:4 – …the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Let’s stop right there for a moment. By the way, if we did stop and end right there, I bet some of the folks at CCC would want nothing more than to place a “For Sale” sign in front of my home.
But according to these passages, worship ought to be loud. There should be drums (alright, at least cymbals), apparently! And the passage in Isaiah actually says that the Lord’s voice is so overbearing (I translate that as SUPER LOUD) that it shakes the foundations of the structure… now THAT’S loud, and it is actually God who makes that uncomfortable noise.
Seriously, those of you who are about to explode in utter rage, I promise there’s more to the story. But there’s truth in these passages. Worship is supposed to be loud. C’mon say it with me: “The Bible says that worship needs to be loud.” And yes, sometimes really loud.
As much as Scripture commands us to worship loudly, there are also commands to not be loud. Here are a few:
Psalm 37:7 – BE STILL before the Lord and wait patiently for him
Psalm 46:10 – BE STILL and know that I am God.
Psalm 62:1,5 – For God alone, my soul waits in SILENCE.
Nehemiah 8:11 – So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be QUIET, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.”
Let’s pause again. Here again, Scripture commands that we have postures of quiet in our worship. Those of you who love the loud music in your church service because you can’t bear the thought of other people hearing your “joyful noise” repeat after me: “The Bible says that worship needs to be quiet.” And yes sometimes really quiet.
What does this mean? HINT: It is both.
If Scripture commands both to worship loudly and to worship quietly, what does that mean for us? I think it is pretty simple… We need to have both expressions in our worship services.
We need to lift up our own shouts, we need to celebrate loudly our God who has redeemed our souls from the pit of hell. And sometimes it is even okay that the volume unsettles us as it did for Isaiah. It helps us to remember our frailty and dependence like that overbearing voice did for him in the vision he had in Isaiah 6.
And we also need to create space in our worship services to posture ourselves quietly before him, to be reverent to his holiness, to confess to him, to lament what makes us weary sojourners in our earthly lives. And sometimes even silence is okay. It helps us to remember to wait on the Lord and to listen for him.
So the next time the urge to complain that it is too loud comes over you, remember a command to be loud from Scripture or the fact that God is really loud in his temple. And the next time you are uncomfortable with the silence or quiet moments of confession, remember that stillness and quietness are meant to help you wait for God.
Because he is still speaking… loudly and quietly.