I will try to do this without being critical, I just want to point out how that we need to think about the reason we do things. The point I will be making is totally centered on a church service I attended yesterday, but the principles I point out and conclusions I draw should be helpful to anyone in any type of leadership role.
Last night our family visited a church that I had been to once before. But when I was there before it was a special service and the pastor did not preach. Firstly, I must praise the church in that it was refreshing and comfortable to be in a church that is similar to churches I grew up in. The focus of the pastor was very much in line with my heart and ministry.
One of the frustrations we have had in churches here is that their music has one of two problems, or most of the time both. The first has to do with the volume. Mexicans must love having their ear drums hurt after listening to music. I cannot stand the sheer volume at which music is played here. The second problem is the style of music that is sung in churches. I am very conservative with my music, but I don’t necessarily have a problem with newer songs. Where my problem comes is that so many songs are shallow and say nothing. They really fulfill no purpose other than making the listener feel good for having been there. When you sing the same 16 words for 4 minutes, there is something non-profound in that.
Put the two problems of pointless music with ear splitting volume and you get an idea of what many churches that we have visited are using for their services.
On the other extreme, which you see in the US often, is music that is lifeless. There is no reason that you cannot sing a good, meaningful song in an upbeat, joyful manner.
The church we were in last night struck a great balance in its music. They sang hymns with meaning. They sang them at a tempo that kept you awake. They did not destroy our hearing with the volume of the music. I could actually hear my own voice when I sang.
But, when it came to the preaching the volume was amped up quite a bit. The pastor had to have the microphone right in his mouth. He often overdrove the mic element by shouting into it. The church building is approximately 14′ X 25′ and we were about 50 people. The speakers were stacked in 2 columns of 2 speakers totaling about 8′ high per column. I have no idea how much power you could run through them, but they were loud.
My ears physically hurt much of the time during the preaching. I even resorted to sticking my fingers in my ears to get a bit of relief. I know people had to have seen me, but I almost did not care. We were sitting on the 3rd row and it would have been hard to miss me doing this.
What is the thinking behind having to yell so loudly during the preaching? Does a preacher think that his authority comes from screaming? Is it so that the neighbors will hear the preaching too?
If it is to add authority to the preaching, then the pastor has a mis-understanding of where his authority comes from. People who follow you and like your preaching because it sounds authoritative when you are screaming will eventually mature and realize that they don’t want to be yelled at every time they want to learn something from the Bible.
I am all for passionate preaching, but how can you tell passion from anger if you have the volume turned up so loud that it sounds the same when you are screaming as when you are chatting?
If the purpose is so that people in the neighborhood can hear God’s Word, I am all for that. But why not install speakers outside the building which will project better to those outside the church?
Remember, this is a building about 14′ wide and 25′ long. I will grant that there are fans which make a good deal of noise in the building. But really, who cannot make themselves heard in a room that small? Especially if your style of preaching is yelling at the top of your lungs anyway.
I was sitting on the 3rd row and could not have been more than 10′ from the pastor. The speakers were so loud that I could not even hear his natural voice. I only heard his voice amplified through the speakers.
I value my hearing and the hearing of my children too much to put them through that week after week.
The other issue is something that the pastor said. It bothered me on two levels.
First he was using the phrase “are you following me?”, in Spanish of course (¿me estás siguiendo?). I don’t know how true this is, but I was told in language school that to ask a question like that can be considered offensive. You, as the speaker are placing the burden of responsibility on the listener to follow or not. In Spanish, we were told that the speaker should take the responsibility to make himself clear and therefore should say something like “am I explaining myself clearly?”
While I am sure that is not a hard and fast rule, what the pastor was saying (knowing more background about him) was picked up from an American missionary. The fact that the pastor is simply repeating what he has heard without giving much thought to the accuracy of the words is the main thing that bothered me.
The second thing about this phrase is that he used it literally every 60 seconds. I did not start counting until he had been preaching for 30 minutes, but the final 20 minutes he said “¿Me estás siguiendo?” 21 times. In other words, he was just saying it because it is a catch phrase that he has heard someone else repeat over and over.
I could talk about how that he said he was “almost finished” several times in the last 20 minutes of his sermon. Or about how he referred to “my pastor” when making decisions on how to do things (you should do things because it is the right way to do it, not just because someone you respect does it that way.) Or I could mention how that he said “just one more verse and we will be done” at least 3 times before he finished (each time making himself a liar.)
But, none of that bothered me as much as his mis-use of his own language to conform to the way another man says things or to the thinking that volume somehow makes your preaching more powerful.
There should be a reason you do the things you do. You should question yourself to make sure that you are leading the people under you in the right way. No one needs to see this as self-doubt. They should see you as a strong leader in your field and as someone who has authority. However, realize that your authority is strengthened when you do things for a right and logical reason.