Music without ceasing?

Series: Observations about the conduct of meetings in the so-called ‘new churches’, from an older person’s perspective—1.

Hearing deteriorates as folk get older—as I know from experience: my hearing aids are very powerful ones. One feature of this deterioration is losing the capacity to ‘filter out’ one sound from other, competing sounds, and focus on it .

This means that, if someone is speaking in church—praying, perhaps, or making some connecting comment—and a guitar or keyboard is playing at the same time, it is virtually impossible for many of us to make out what the speaker is saying, as the frequency of the music almost always overrides that of the speaker’s voice.

Worship-teamThat’s why it is immensely off-putting to older folk when music is played in the background all the time during the open time of worship. This has, sadly, become the norm in some churches, but I regard it as an undesirable practice. Not only does it prevent some of us from hearing any simultaneous oral contributions. It also inhibits such contributions from the congregation. Few people are confident enough to chip in while music is being played, especially when they feel they will have to raise their voice higher than is natural for them if they are to be heard above the music. So they keep quiet—and we are the poorer for it.

Music and song do not equal ‘worship’; they are simply one of many expressions of it. When we gather as a church family, our corporate worship consists in, not just the singing, but the prayers, testimonies, prophecies, tongues and interpretation, relevant Scripture passages etc.

Musicians and stage-singers have an unfair advantage here, in that they are in position at the front, with microphones, and can thus inhibit or face down contributions from the floor. For this reason, they need to be mega-sensitive to the presence of the congregation and ideally should stop playing immediately if someone in the congregation begins to pray out loud or whatever.

Some would discourage ‘from the floor’ contributions anyway, favouring the ‘front-led’ approach to meetings. The congregation then become, not participants, but observers. It’s a negative trend, I believe, possibly reflecting an unhealthy desire for control on the part of the leaders. Certainly, it’s hardly ‘family’ anymore; it’s a performance. And, to be honest, I often find it boring—though I always try to keep a positive attitude. You never get bored when there are contributions from the floor. Some of them may be a bit messy but, to me, that’s part of what ‘family’ is all about. It’s real, and I think the Lord loves it!

I know from experience that it’s possible to welcome contributions from the floor with congregations up to about 150 in number, provided the musicians are sensitive and know when to keep quiet. After that, the dynamics change. But I’d argue that, once numbers reach 150, it’s time to split the congregation into two of 75 each anyway, to keep the ‘family’ atmosphere that the New Testament presents as central to the church’s very nature. Small is beautiful!

What do you think?

[For other blogs on this theme, click Music and Worship under CATEGORIES at the top-right of this post]

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5 Responses to Music without ceasing?

  1. Ian Deakin says:

    I believe that there is a lack of sensitivity to the spirit that is the key. If that was there an appropriate response by musicians and leaders would be applied that would permit His moving through His people. In some instances there has been a shut down on the Holy Spirit moving as there has been a wacky element and even a fabrication of a Holy Spirit leading. Rather than deal with that in a loving instructional way and still continue to make room for the Holy Spirit to operate, there has been a shut down on the Holy Spirit to ensure there are no demonstrations that are likely to cause offence or be out of order. A close relationship with Jesus, and a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit would I believe make room for His presence and movement.

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  2. Hannah Brough says:

    I whole hearted agree. If being heard of hearing isn’t isolating enough it makes me feel that I have nothing worthwhile to contribute. Also there is no quiet to listen in. I think the deeper issue is why we have gathered at all if it does not include the opportunity of communicating with the Lord and building up each other.
    And quite frankly the world does performance so much better, with much the same meaingless content. The scripture that comes to mind is ” they honour me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”
    I look forward to a realisation that people ‘out there’ are not looking for a worldly experience but intimacy truth and love.

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  3. Jonny Matthew says:

    Completely agree with small church congregations being the ideal, for all sorts of reasons, not least the ones you cite here. Write more on this please! 😎

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  4. Jim & Valerie Brock says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the comments of David and Ian. It seems there is a desire to recreate Hillsongs or Bethel at every meeting and very little opportunity to actually listen to what the Holy Spirit wants. His sweet presence seems to be lost in a pop music culture. Again, when people come forward for prayer you can’t hear your self speak because of the noise from the musicians.(Jim).

    I so identify with the reference to hearing aids! The listed chapel where our church meets was designed to carry the voice of the preacher, pre-microphones. it seems now that the microphone is obligatory, however small the gathering. My other concern relates to the moving scenic pictures behind the words on the big screen. A nightmare for the folks with visual disturbances, apart from spelling mistakes! Easy to see how our generation of 70 somethings, opt out.(Val)

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