Turn It Down

I want to turn some attention to men and worship culture, writing from the perspective of one who is in the arena and not carping from the sidelines.

I do have things to say but all my comments and thoughts come from a passion to see blokes not only become full on followers of Jesus but to see them integrated into healthy, vibrant, life giving, radical, dangerous churches that are good for everyone involved.  These blog posts are about evangelism … not about the Christian ghetto.

So here we go.  Time to put a head above the parapet!  And boy is this dangerous territory.  If worship is our highest calling then it is no wonder that it’s the area in most churches that causes the most debate, ungodly aggression and immature reaction.

Important: when you start engaging with this, please don’t think from your personal perspective. Remember, these posts are about missional thinking (i.e. doing stuff that isn’t about what we like) so, think for the rest of this article about your bog standard average bloke who walks into church; try to think from his perspective.  It might be useful as well to think about what God likes.  There’s a radical thought!  (More on that point later.)

Here are some subjects I will be commenting on:

  • Volume
  • The Sexualisation of worship
  • Recasting the language of intimacy
  • Worship styles
  • Alternatives to singing
  • The working class and worship
  • Who should lead worship
  • Small groups and worship

We begin by looking at “volume” a seemingly harmless issue but the cause of so much tension and ungodly reaction in congregational churches.

Volume

I was once invited to go to a classical music event called “Prom Praise” at Christmas with a contingent from my church.  Some of the party were people who were being quite forthright in their complaint that the worship in church was too loud. However, that evening I saw the light! It was so loud in the Royal Albert Hall that I couldn’t hear myself sing!  Man, the hall was rocking! So why weren’t the complainers complaining?  Why were they glowing after?  Why wasn’t the volume in this context offensive?

Of course, the whole time they hadn’t really found the volume in church worship offensive.  They couldn’t have!  After all, I had the evidence in front of me.  What they were finding offensive in church was the style! Drums, bass, lead guitars, jeans etc.  But where there was an orchestra causing the noise by people who were classically trained, that was ok!   It’s amazing how often we aren’t aware of what is really upsetting us and blame something else.

So what about blokes and volume? (Be aware that I write as someone who isn’t always into high volume.  I appreciate peace and quiet! For example I appreciate the subtle tones at the start of Barber’s Adagio for Strings, although I like the volume cranked up later!).  Here are some brief thoughts:

High volume levels are bloke friendly because I suspect that most men don’t like to hear themselves sing. This is because most men can’t sing very well.  When the volume is up it feels safer and better for all concerned!

We will talk about style later but for now I also want to make the point that men like songs that have objective truth in them that speak about who God is and what he is about.  We don’t like stuff that tries to tell us how we feel! The sort of songs that men like to sing need to have a bit of welly! It’s no good singing the praises of the living God who made something as outrageously huge and spectacular as the Eagle Nebula at reduced volume.  What’s that all about!?

When William Booth of Salvation Army fame wanted to use music to reach poor, white, working class blokes he used brass bands.  Loud, distinctive and from the street with many colliery bands already in existence, it was the sort of sound that the working class loved.  The rich weren’t the biggest fans but that didn’t matter to Booth.  He wanted to go to those who the church had passed by.  If we were to employ the same tactic today we would have very loud drum and bass music or progressive rap on the streets and in church.  We need to get that kind of missionary perspective back.

Is there a time for quiet?  Yes of course.  Is there a time for reflective worship?  Yep!  Do we need to crank the volume up more and adopt styles that allow for it?  Absolutely.