I heard recently that there is a church near us which passes out earplugs when worshippers enter because their praise music is so loud. I suppose I am an old fuddy-duddy but I found this a bit shocking. At one point my husband and I (though he wasn’t my husband then) left a church because the praise portion was just getting so noisy that we couldn’t hear ourselves think, or pray for that matter. One wonders if we can’t hear ourselves, how we might be expected to hear Anyone Else who might want to communicate with us as well.
Apart from the style of music one prefers in one’s church (we only sing Psalms and that a capella in ours, btw), there is the issue of who we aim the worship service towards. When the pastor gives the sermon, who is he talking to? Churches in America today seem to be very seeker-sensitive. They are aimed at drawing in new people and this is reflected in the format and style of the service and in the teaching.
In a book I have read recently, The Golden Milestone by Frank Boreham (see my review of it here), the author discusses what the purpose of Christian worship should be. Here is what he has to say:
“If you had described a motor-car, a submarine, a biplane, or a wireless telegram to a Christian of the second century, he would have smiled incredulously. But if you had told him that, in the age that should look upon these marvels of ingenuity, the Church would be able to reach the world by means of services held within her own buildings, he would have thrown up his hands in blank amazement. Her services were held in secret. Her sanctuaries were places of peril. The only persons present, therefore were devout believers . . . An evangelistic address would have been strangely out of place . . .But, having recovered from the first shock of his surprise, he would have warned us in earnest tones and grave. ‘See to it,’ he would have entreated, ‘oh, see to it that you regard your later opportunity of public evangelism as a supplement to and not a substitute for, our early method of private evangelism!'”
And what of the need to reach others and to spread the gospel? Let us not think that our predecessors neglected this duty — if they had we wouldn’t be here! Here is what Boreham has to say:
“The Church had conquered the world, not through the attendance of the world at her services, not even by her public witness outside of her Church walls, but by the private influence of her members over those with whom, during the week, they came in contact.”
There is a time for public addresses too. Think of Paul at the Areopagus. But I think Boreham is right that the most powerful witness comes through personal contact and relationships we have outside of church. And we must remember too, returning to the why of weekly worship, that the body of Christ needs to praise Him, and, I would like to add, that we need to make sure we hear Him more than that He hears us. As the prophet Elijah showed, the true God does not need loud dancing and wailing to attract His attention to His people.