In the February 2009 issue of Christianity Today, John Stackhouse has a penetrating piece on the trend toward louder worship bands in the church. (You can read the text on his blog by going here.) The core premise of his essay is that we have lost the intent of the musicians in the church. They are to accompany the praise of the congregation, supporting our voices with rhythm, melody, and key as we lift our hearts in song to our Father who we came to worship. The trend has gone in the other direction however. The praise band have become performers in many cases who feel that they must then project their music onto us as though we were attending a concert.
Though no worship band has yet to reach Motorhead-at-the-Warfield sound pressures, the volume in some cases has become annoyingly loud. Besides the physical discomfort of poorly mixed loudness, the volume has an effect that many worship leaders have failed to note. When you cannot hear your voice or those near you, the tendency is to not sing or to sing quietly. Look around you this week if your church uses a high volume praise band and make note of the number of people not singing but instead, simply watching the ‘performers.’ An important part of singing in worship is not often discussed; you are often singing for the benefit of others around you. When a person is unable to raise their own voice in praise due to their pain, suffering, depression, etc. many times it is the sound of your voice that lifts them up and gives them hope. When drowned out by the sound of crash cymbals, an opportunity for love can be lost.
Has your praise group become performers? Has the worship service become so choreographed and scheduled to the second that there is no room for the Spirit to work? When I think back to churches I have visited in which there was a lone pianist who played the melody and God was serenaded by the majority of people in the room and contrast it with some of the production oriented services I have been too, I come to conclusion that the pendulum has swung too far to one side and perhaps it is time for the arc to begin to come back in the other direction. Worship leaders, can you hear us?