Thursday, January 14, 2010

WHY SO LOUD??? Struggling To Understand The Pentecostal Experience


I am a born-again Christian.

I received Christ in a fellowship of believers commonly categorized as “Charismatic”. This was also where I received The Holy Spirit and was introduced to speaking in tongues. For this reason, I’ve always considered myself (and my first church) to be “Pentecostal”.

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines it this way:



..ˌpen-ti-ˈkäs-təl, -ˈkȯs-..




circa 1663

1 : of, relating to, or suggesting Pentecost

2 : of, relating to, or constituting any of various Christian religious bodies that emphasize individual experiences of grace, spiritual gifts (as glossolalia and faith healing), expressive worship, and evangelism.

I considered this description to be fairly consistent with what I’ve been taught, and consistent with my belief system.

So I was in for a serious shock when I began visiting fellowships of the ‘Church Of God In Christ’ denomination, where I was exposed to an altogether different Pentecostal experience.

The worship music is wonderful, and I appreciate the sermons which focus on God’s Word.

What I don’t yet understand is the delivery.

For some reason, there seems to be a perceived connection between high energy, holiness, and high volume. Please understand: I appreciate high energy. But the kind of high volume I’m talking about is piercing, painfully overdriven sound. The kind of sound that leaves your ears ringing 45 minutes after you’ve left the church. This is not an exaggeration; This is absolute fact.

So, my question is quite simple: “Why so loud”?

Would worship be less robust at a lower volume? Would God’s Word be any less powerful?

I’ve given this issue a lot of thought.

In all honesty, I find the extreme high volume and shouting to be a huge distraction. As I try to focus on worshipping, singing, listening to the message, and seeking the spiritual connection that I need, my connection is suddenly shattered, as if someone just fired a shotgun in a library. Like a jolt to my system, the over-the-top intensity rips my attention away from where I know it should be. By the time church service is over, my hearing is noticeably compromised, and I'm homeward bound with a splitting headache.

Why so loud?

I recognize the fact that we as humans need some type of outlet.

Perhaps this is similar to ‘primal scream therapy’? I don’t know.

( psychotherapy in which the patient recalls and reenacts a particularly disturbing past experience usually occurring early in life and expresses normally repressed anger or frustration especially through spontaneous and unrestrained screams, hysteria, or violence —called also primal therapy )

Is this what people feel they need after a hard week? Could there be a better way?

I’ve often heard the argument that, “We partied loud and hard when we were in the world, so we should be just as enthusiastic when we’re praising The Lord.” I love worshipping The Lord just as much as anyone, but I was never much of a partier, so it’s difficult for me to relate to this analogy.

I suppose I’m just naturally a low-key person. And as such, I don’t understand why a sermon should be screamed at believers. I can “get it” just as easily if someone speaks to me in a normal tone of voice. Why do you have to yell at me to get your point across?

Why so loud?

(It may be my personal internal defense mechanism, but I find that I can only tolerate a screaming pastor for a short amount of time. After that, I automatically tune out what he’s saying.)

Likewise, pastors encourage members of the congregation to shout in order to get their breakthrough.

Is this scriptural? Is it genuine? Is it merely emotionalism? Please understand: I have neither the right, nor the intention to judge one way or another. I simply want to understand.

Lately, when I’m on my way to church, I find myself praying for greater discernment. I pray for God to open my eyes and help me to see what He wants me to see. I ask Him to help me to ‘rightly divide’ it all; to receive what He wants me to receive, and to leave the rest (in case I encounter anything that is not of Him). I ask Him to help me to stay focused, and not allow anything to remove me from His presence, even for a moment. This is my spiritual quest.

My physical dilemma, however, is at least as great a challenge as the spiritual.

I happen to be a sound man. I make my living adjusting audio levels; sensing, discerning, and adjusting sound. Perception is key.

I am also a musician. My abilities to distinguish one tone from another and to identify the individual notes in a chord are critical.

So I’m not quite sure what to do with the physical, irreversible damage I’m causing to my ears each time I attend a service. Should I assume that God won’t allow my hearing to be harmed? Should I wear earplugs and risk offending every member of the congregation? Should I dismiss this entire denomination as “simply not my cup of tea”?

I recognize that there is a cultural dynamic in operation here, which is much, much bigger than I am.

It was here before I was born. It’ll be here when I’m gone. The truth of the matter is: there are great multitudes of people who have absolutely no problem with churches whose sound levels rival any major airport.

But I am hoping that someone, somewhere can please help me understand….why so loud?

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