If you’ve gone to a service at The Porch, it’s possible that at some point you might have noticed our music can get pretty loud. For some people this seems like a good thing, and for others, not so much. Some might even worry that their hearing could be damaged.
In light of this, we’ll address the safety issue first so you can rest easy, and then we’ll talk through the biblical reasons that we sometimes get loud.
Is it safe?The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards state that the average person can experience hearing loss when subjected to a continuous 85 decibels for eight hours. This is the equivalent of standing next to an idling bulldozer or your kitchen blender. At 95 decibels you can experience hearing loss after four continuous hours. If you mow the lawn with a gas mower, you have about 40 minutes before you can expect hearing loss from the 107 decibels that it produces. If a worship service runs at 95 dBA, you would need to sustain that level for 4 hours straight (which is virtually impossible to do given the dynamics of how music works) in order to sustain any damage. We know these standards, and we are very careful to adhere to these standards.
Here’s a list of eight of the fastest growing and influential churches along with their speaker volumes in A-weighted decibels:
A typical service at thePorch runs a little over 60 minutes, but let’s just round up to two hours to be safe. The audio could be sustained at 100 decibels for that length of time before the chance of hearing loss. But, we never come even close to running consistently at that level. We are consistently checking levels during our services, and we rarely if ever hit 100 decibels, and if we do, it’s only a spike for a second or two. The bottom line is that we care about the safety of the people in our gatherings, and we want to assure you that there is no chance of hearing damage for anyone attending of any age.
If this is so, then why would anyone complain? For one, some people have more sensitive hearing than others, which is why we always have earplugs and even headphones for children available for anyone who might want them. Another issue is that certain frequencies can sound harsher than others. While technically it is the same decibel level and in no way damaging to anyone’s ears.
Is it biblical? Now, why do we mix it loud at all? While we don’t believe that music at church must always be loud, there is scriptural support for the idea that it often should be. Here is why:
It reaches the unchurched. We’re trying to create the kind of church that unchurched people love to attend. A louder style of music can help draw in and engage people who might not otherwise come to church.
It's fun. It instantly creates excitement and a great experience! Much like someone would enjoy the energy of a concert or sporting event. Church doesn't have to be boring.
It fills the room. The reality is that when you run a loud volume during the service, it gives the impression of the room being fuller. There’s something about a full room that encourages engagement. Ultimately, musical worship is about drawing people in and inviting them to be a part of an experience, and when it runs louder, that full room encourages people to lean in and engage more.
It encourages more singing. Trust me, you don’t want to hear me sing. If the volume of the music is so low that you can hear me sing, it may discourage you from singing, not necessarily because I’m such a terrible singer, but because you are worried about what I think of your singing. Louder volumes actually encourage people to participate.
It helps celebration. A significant reason for keeping the music louder is that most churches are trying to project a celebratory tone rather than somber one. This celebratory tone communicates that Jesus is alive and making a difference in people’s lives today
“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”Psalm 33:3
“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:3–6,
“David also commanded the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their brothers as the singers who should play loudly on musical instruments, on harps and lyres and cymbals, to raise sounds of joy.”1 Chron. 15:16
Now, while we might have added a few instruments to the list, the general vibe remains the same. We have a big God, and to praise him appropriately, we might just need to make a big sound.
The idea that worship music should only be quiet and contemplative is simply not biblical. We have a lot of freedom to worship God in a variety of ways through music, and we see this expressed in scripture, from an impromptu tambourine jam on the shore of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:19–21), to a huge dance party in the streets of Jerusalem (1 Chron. 15:16–28), and a couple of saints singing midnight hymns in prison (Acts 16:25). When we get to heaven, the multitudes of angels and all the redeemed will raise their voice and cry out together to praise the Lamb who was slain. This will not be a quiet sound (Rev. 19:1–3).
Until then, we worship in less stellar circumstances, often with broken equipment, new volunteers, guitars that go out of tune, and a million other distractions. But in the midst of all of that, I pray we can take joy with the Psalmists in praising our God with loud shouts of joy, and quiet times as well.
The main reason that the music can get loud on Sundays is that we are gathered together to celebrate and proclaim our salvation through the work of Jesus. When people want to celebrate, they throw a party. And when people throw a party, they play loud music and dance.