Loud music and bad lyrics.
I think that is how John Stackhouse would describe today’s worship music being played in churches.
I recently came across an article he wrote for Christianity Today about the problem with loud music in churches. You can read that article HERE.
I’ve done my best to try and be even handed in writing this because my first reaction was straight up negative. Let me also say that I greatly respect John’s opinion. He is a well educated and even handed man, and works at a well respected school.
In his article about loud music he has 5 points for why loud music in churches is bad.
- It is a cheap trick for forcing energy into a room.
- It covers up bad musicianship.
- Most church sound systems can’t handle it.
- It turns older generations against you.
- The music being written today is too simplistic and repetitive.
The key thesis of his article is this:
“But when you are leading us in singing, then lead us in singing. And turn it down so we are not listening to you—or, even worse, merely enduring you. I know that is not what you want to happen. But I am telling you that’s what is happening.”
Here are some of my thoughts:
- I would say that his first 4 points are generally very true.
- As far as I know you can’t get any ear damage unless your ears are around levels of 110db or above (which is really loud) for a long time. My church usually runs around 95db for our loudest service. I still think it isn’t loud enough.
- I prefer the music to be loud enough for me to hear myself singing and not hear my neighbor when a song is in full gear. It invites a sense of God and worshiping him being all around me and no other noise distractions (my neighbor) in the way. I think that level is probably about 100 db, which isn’t damaging your ears.
- When older people talk about music hurting their ears, it is actually true. Ear drums break down with age and louder music hurts. So what one person calls loud, is probably not loud to someone else.
- His last point makes no sense to me. Throughout the rest of the article he argues for music being enjoyable to sing with, but point number 5 makes it sound like he wants complicated music and wordings. That is a contradiction in my book. Oh and I don’t think I would describe today’s music as simplistic. He should talk to some of the musicians I play with. They practice a lot just to be able to pull off some of the songs.
- It is common knowledge that many hymns were written to bar tunes and were written in the language of the culture at that time. So when we write songs today it isn’t a bad thing if they reflect today’s musical sound and language.
- I have yet to be to a church that is as loud or louder than most concerts I’ve been to (including worship concerts). Maybe churches aren’t loud enough to be relevant to culture.
(Tomorrow: Bad Lyrics)