The importance of turning it up

M83 speaker stack by Matt Biddulph, Creative Commons

WARNING: This is a shoot-from-the-hip rant about instrument volume during worship time, inspired by a conversation in Vineyard Worship Leaders’ Facebook Group. Any attempts to make this a constructive dialog will be ignored. Just kidding.

This week, a friend and fellow worship leader had a discussion with his pastor and other church leadership about stage volume. I pass no judgment on this situation. The pastor is also a friend I’ve known since childhood. It turns out, though, that I have very strong feelings about volume during worship sets. I strongly believe in the freedom of loudness and noise. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t believe every worship time should be loud, but I do think that should be a decision the worship ┬áleader is allowed to make. Honestly, if you trust them to be on stage, representing your church at all, why spend energy reining them in? Why not let them have the freedom to lead? I hear often enough that “people have a hard time with it being so loud”, or “you’re really there to serve the body, so you should turn it down because people are having a hard time worshiping.” Why not ask the church body to open up and appreciate something beyond their precious, calm, non-threatening, non-offensive worship time? It doesn’t have to be every week and there still be some variety, but really: why not? Everybody seems to know that God speaks in a still small voice, but he also came down in fire and smoke on Mt. Sinai. He was loud and scary at times, but also loved a good celebration. Think of all the instruments described by the Psalms. The fact is, the instrument names chosen by those men who translated the Bible into English were their best guesses really. Where they picked lyre, harp and tambourine, I believe what God really meant was Telecaster w/Overdrive & Fuzz pedal, Bass and Drums. The Hebrew is a little imprecise though.

I spent my first post on this site talking about how the intimacy of worship at the Vineyard first drew me in, and that’s most of the story, but I did leave one part out. I was about 12 years old when I first came to that church. I also happened to love guitar driven rock music. Since my parents limited me to Christian music, it was mainly Petra for me at the time (btw, I can’t believe they’re still making music!!!!). Vineyard was also the first place I ever saw someone use an electric guitar in worship. It’s hard to explain how close God felt to me because of that one simple thing. It’s not just the fact that the guitar was there, but that you could actually HEAR it. It was a dominant part of the music! In short, it was loud. I had a similar experience a couple years later at a Vineyard youth retreat in Indiana, only more prominent. I would’ve called the music heavy metal back then, but grunge would be more accurate. Again, Jesus really showed up for me there, and I was able to meet with him in ways that were very deep for me. Years later, when I first heard Faith and Devotions of a Satellite Heart by The Violet Burning, I cried because it felt like a love letter from Jesus to me. It was like him saying all over again that he really does care about my heart. It was also around the time Matt Redman released The Father’s Song, which is about the idea that worship is our response to the song the Father sings over us first. I believe when it comes down to it, this preference is more than just my taste. It’s about what speaks to my heart – the heart that Jesus gave me through his death and resurrection, and it’s truly a response to him anyway.

When it comes down to it, I have no more defense for my conviction than my experience, so you can take it or leave it. The fact is, God, my Father, put a love for loud, noisy music in my heart and used uninhibited worship times at Vineyard to help wake me up, and as a result, I’m in a position to pass that gift on, about one Sunday a month. I know for a fact there are people at my church – young and old – who really need to know that they’re welcome too, that worship is meant for them to connect too, whose souls connect with the same music I do.

For that reason alone, I’ll keep fighting hard to keep the volume loud.




  • Just playing devil’s advocate here. In the last couple years, I’ve been having some problems with my left ear. It was finally diagnosed, and actually wasn’t anything to do with my ear, but thru the whole struggle of trying to fix it, I had a tube put in. It didn’t help, and while its been in, I have felt like I have a megaphone in my ear. Loud music and loud rooms are physically painful. Literally. For that reason, I have not made much of an effort to attend many contemporary worship settings. When I’m fighting the urge to plug my ears, I’m not feeling very worshipful.

    I agree that we are to make a joyful noise and sometimes that requires noise. But is that noise damaging our hearing? I’ve worked with seniors for years, and I don’t want to end up like one of those who can’t hear anything.

    Just my personal thoughts.

    • Hi Jamie, I appreciate the feedback, and I feel for cases like yours as well. I do want to be sensitive to all cases, and yours is definitely a different case than where I’m coming from, unless I’m just completely unaware of it in my church. Do you feel like the hearing problems were a direct result of constantly being around loud noise, like in a church service setting?

      To clarify where I’m coming from, I’m not advocating that every service should be loud. The fact is, I’m one of four worship leaders in my church and I’m by far the loudest. I enjoy quieter settings too, just not 100% of the time, and I push back when someone tries to make a case that the quieter service is really what God prefers. I recall those same arguments being used against modern-style worship in general, whether you’re talking about something gentle, acoustic, and folksy, or loud and driving. I’ve been around people who would lump it all under the heading of “trying to imitate the world.” I find that tactic to be demagoguery, plain and simple, and to see it being used in a setting like Vineyard, which bore more than its fair share of that treatment as a denomination over the years, makes me feel a little uneasy.

      Anyway, I definitely appreciate the discussion. Keep your thoughts coming!

      • My ear problem actually had nothing to do with hearing loss. It’s this weird, constant feeling of pressure. The tube was put in to try to relieve the pressure an for whatever reason it made me incredibly sensitive to noise. I’ve been to my fair share of rock concerts and loves

        • Ugh. Dumb phone.

          Been to my fair share of loud concerts and worship and loved them. I guess I’m getting a little more cautious in my old age and more concerned about hearing loss. ­čÖé I just make sure I have ear plugs.