A year or so ago I was on my way back from an event and decided to drop into my sister’s church and surprise her with a visit.  The name of the church is irrelevant (as it turns out I ended up at the wrong church and so ended up missing my sister entirely… something for another blog) but the experience left a lasting impression.  As I entered the facility I was warmly welcomed with smiles, handshakes and two repeated comments:

“Feel free to grab a coffee at our café! It’s free for first-timers.” And

“You’re gonna love the music here!”

Since the auditorium doors were kept sealed and guarded until the “appointed” time I took a comfy seat in the lounge, heard how amazing the music was going to be a couple more times and waited.  Once the auditorium doors opened, folks from all over the foyer, café, lounge area made their way through the doors and to their selected seats.

The first thing I noticed was that the large windowless auditorium was dimly lit. It’s not that there weren’t enough lights… it’s just that most of them were off or were dimly powered. A large central screen counted down the minutes to the service start time and when only seconds remained a group of twenty-somethings fronted by a David Crowder lookalike[1] took to the stage and selected their instruments.  Once the countdown reached zero the leader shouted a few unintelligible words and the team launched into their first number.  When I say, “It was quite loud.” I’m being polite.  I couldn’t understand a single word through the distortion, the instruments and voices were indistinguishable from each other, my ears were set a-ringing and the music slamming into my body did its best to alter the rhythm of my heart.

I get it… Some people prefer their music louder, and others prefer it softer…

I don’t want to talk about people’s personal decibel-meterpreference.  For some folks volume is not a matter of preference.

For years churches have sought to respond with grace to the hearing impaired.  At our church this has meant, if you struggle to hear what is said or sung we will provide a set of headphones with a personalized volume control.  But what if the opposite is true, what if it’s not the lack of signal but excessive volume that causes significant discomfort or pain?

For whatever reason God has brought to us a number of folks for whom this is the case.  I don’t know if this is a cultural trend, a local anomaly or just our specific context, but several folks are experiencing significant discomfort at certain volume levels.

This isn’t a sermon so I’m not going to quote scripture, but as your pastor I ask for your forgiveness, and for your gracious help as we move forward.  We follow one who willingly gave His life for others… people did not deserve grace.  Surely as those committed to following in His steps we can come up with a solution that reflects His likeness.  Could we journey together towards a solution in humility and grace?

Of course my plan is to chat directly with those involved but can I suggest some early guidelines?

Sound Technicians: Make clarity the goal.  Rather than pushing the volume up, up, up find the sweet spot that provides the clearest, cleanest amplification.  Don’t just go for volume.  Listen for fidelity, intelligibility and mix.

In order for this to happen we need some help from our music teams.  If you could keep the stage volume as low as possible that would give the sound technicians acoustical room to find the volume sweet spot.

There is more at stake here…

WorshipPageBut more than all of that – more importantly…  In fact I would say the very reason God has allowed us this challenge is this: We need to learn how to talk to and  about each other.

Can we spend the next several months learning how to talk to each other? – If we make grace-filled encouragement the norm it makes it so much easier when there is a need for grace-filled correction.

What if instead of waiting to respond out of hurt we were to lean into encouraging what has blessed. What if we went out of way to thank the music leader every week?  What if we said thanks to the sound person as a habit… Might we find it easier to show grace when they have an off week, when a video starts too loud or when an instrument needs to be turned down?

I believe God is calling us to learn the discipline of dialogue and conversation.  Wanting us to grow in the ministry of grace-filled covenant community.

I’ll have more to say on Sunday, but would you be willing to take this journey together?

…simply askin’








[1] I’m not trying to be facetious he was actually wearing an outfit very similar to the one Crowder is sporting in his “My Beloved” video.