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Posts Tagged ‘church growth’

Passive versus Active Worship. Is there a difference?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2021

Introduction

Within the Church community, when someone speaks of worship styles, they will often refer to one of these terms, Traditional, Contemporary, Blended, Liturgical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic.  These terms are not exclusive, but they are an accurate description of how worship is conducted.  When studying congregational singing, all churches fall into one of two groups: Active Worship or Passive Worship.  Active worship is defined as congregations that always have more than 50% of the people singing.  Passive worship is when less than 50% of the people are singing all the time.  In most churches, less than 30% of the congregation is singing all the songs.  This single observation is the most common link that is driving many churches to turn to an entertainment style of worship.  Let us look at why many churches are going in this direction.

Traditional Passive Worship

Under the Traditional, Contemporary, Blended, and Liturgical styles, there has always been a commitment to an active style of worship – meaning – where the congregation is expected and encouraged to sing.  In some houses of worship, they sing acapella, while other churches will have a person conducting with the traditional piano and organ.  Some will add a guitar and bass.  While the focus is on the people actively singing, even if only 20% of the congregation is singing, it is accepted.  For these churches, the musical instruments are downplayed, even though they unintentionally perform louder than the congregation.  For these churches, the focus is on the Gospel message within most hymns and songs they sing.  This leaves some people with the idea that worship is boring or lame.  Some think that this style of worship is old, outdated, and needs to be modernized.  For the churches that have tried to modernize, the level of active congregational singing has not changed, and the impact of attendance decline continues.

Contemporary Passive Worship

Under the Evangelical, Pentecostal, and Charismatic worship styles, we should include churches that also use the word “contemporary” in defining their worship.  For these churches, it doesn’t seem to matter if the congregation is singing or not. The service, being conducted by a music team or band, will have the sound levels of their performance dominating everything.  The worship leader will choreograph songs and some Bible verses to get more people in the mood to sing.  Words are projected onto a screen where some people just mouth the lyrics.  Others attempt to sing loud enough to try to hear themselves and hope they are making a joyful noise.  Regardless of how much effort is made to get the congregation singing, less than 30% of the people are actively singing.

Some Evangelical and Pentecostal churches fall under a conservative style of worship.  What makes these churches conservative is because everything is focused on the coming sermon.  For these churches, it can take up to 45 minutes to get to the sermon.  Between prayers, announcements, scripture reading, someone making a presentation in song or words, and 3 to 5 songs that take up 20 minutes for their worship, the emphasis is on Jesus, the Gospel, or a lesson the congregation needs to learn.  Attendance in these churches is often directly linked to the preaching skill of the pastor, regardless of if they are conservative in their messages or not. 

The New Age of Passive Worship

Churches that have heavily invested in technology and worship teams, come under two groups.  They are either part of the conservatively lead churches, where the sermon is the main event of the worship experience, or they are the hyper evangelicals where the music portion of the worship service is 30-90 minutes long. Often the music is as long as or longer than the sermon. 

For a growing number of churches, there has been a dynamic shift in worship styles.  The transition is a style of worship where the visual experience is synchronized to music. Where lighting, video, and moving images are synchronized to amplified music.  Churches are adding motorized lights that can change colors and video walls to create an atmosphere ripe to deliberately stimulate the senses.  In this environment, the song leading is crafted to guide people into a manufactured energetic form of worship.  Even if people are not singing, at least some are swaying to the music, and others are raising their hands.  For such churches, the music has become the event, not the teaching of the Gospel.  Furthermore, in such churches, the Gospel is hardly part of the message. 

Rather, it is a message that is mostly about what God can do for me and a strong focus on how I can become a better person.  These messages promote programs and steps, when followed, the members are promised a better life.  The teaching is, tithing, serving at a food bank, and helping people more, and the reward is a better self.  Just praying to God, the sinners prayer with a promise to do better is a ministry of works, not salvation.  James 1:19-27 clearly explains how people are to Love God first.  After learning to love God and becoming dead to self, then a person is properly motivated to follow His laws (notice that it doesn’t say to obey them).  Christians are to be doers of the word.  Because we love God, we do what the Bible teaches.  Sadly, many ministers teach it the other way around.  Their message is, do the work for a spiritual experience to feel better.  Feeling better, means being saved!  Right?  No!

There is nothing more deadly than a carefully crafted message of false hope and a message for a better life by doing things that include something holy, sacred, spiritual, and secret, and never knowing what true salvation is.  These are people who have never experienced being transformed by the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised everyone who accepts Him as Lord, who is our sin sacrifice, and begin a new life as a born-again Christian.  When a person accepts Jesus as Lord, what changed?  The change was going from hating or being indifferent about God to loving God.  This is it.  A person who is Born again will have the Holy Spirit helping them to stay on the narrow path.  A person who thinks they are Born Again and continues a life of sinning without a second thought may not be saved at all.  This is the trap of false teaching and teachers.  The addictive entertainment style of feel-good music and messages is crafted to create a manufactured artificial spiritual experience found nowhere in the Bible.  Anyone promising a better life by following a recipe outside of the teaching of the scriptures is a wolf.  That includes teaching where scriptures are taken out of context to say whatever message the composer wants.

Passive Worship is turning into Secular Style Entertainment

How are so many ministers getting away with preaching such a distorted message?  Mostly through entertainment.  Going to a healing service is like being at the circus?  It often begins with a short pep talk and then music for thirty to ninety minutes long.  During that time, promises are being made and testimonies from people who are caught up in the hype, raising false hope to a feverish pitch.  They shout out repeatedly, “Your faith will set you free!” followed by, “You pray, and God will give you whatever you want!” Where in the Bible does it say that God is a servant to man?  Rather, true Christian disciples choose to serve God as an act of reciprocating love.  When people get stimulated enough, the focus on true Biblical teaching gets diverted with shrewd speech.  The message is focused on the “new golden calf,” on the promise of miraculous healing on demand.  Here is when the blinded follower will do almost anything to get what the fake healers are promising or selling.  It is common that during such an event, the collection plate is passed around more than once, and the first time is before the healing service begins. The second or third time is during the healings and then at the end of the service/show.  They talk the devoted followers into continuous tithing for a miracle.  The hidden message is that healings and miracles can be bought.  That money is the replacement image of God, but what they are really doing diminishing faith down to nothing more than a “faith healers’ lottery game.”  Faith and salvation is not a game that can be bargained with.

The Elephant in The Room

This carnival-like atmosphere over time has moved from healing services into an entire worship program that gets people engaged into the most important person in their lives – self.  This artificial entertainment style of worship has progressed into an alternative to confronting the elephant in the room, “room acoustics.” Room acoustics controls how many people will actively sing during congregational singing.  Who wants to sing in a room where hearing one own voice isn’t possible, nor the person nearby, no matter how much effort is made?  The unmanaged room creates the feeling of loneliness.  Sure, there are many times in almost every church where more than 50% of a congregation will sing a very familiar song, especially to celebrate an event. Such singing happens only a few times a year and, in most rooms, it sounds dull and forced.  There is no return on anyone’s effort to sing with other people.  For most churches out there, regardless of size or attendance, only 15% to 35% of the people sing 95% of the time.  With such low participation, no matter how good the song leader or worship teams are, getting people to engage in the worship singing becomes an effort of futility.  Out of desperation, people will do whatever will work. 

The church is not built on Programs

Many churches have chosen an entertainment style of worship to draw more people into the flock.  With enough technology, anyone with modest musical talent can create an energetic rock concert-like atmosphere to get people to be passively engaged, if not actively engaged.  The difference is people can be stimulated with sight and sound to trigger the senses to release those feel-good drugs the body naturally creates called dopamine and endorphins.  Music can move people to started tapping a foot or finger when hearing a familiar feel-good song.  Music stirs feelings when several songs are played back-to-back.  When the music changes or stops, it often leaves people wanting more. 

Music is often used to trigger the body to crave more.  When the high energy and emotional music stops, there must be an equally good emotional message to follow up to keep the dopamine and endorphins flowing.  What better attention-grabbing message than a message on self?  And what comes before the sermon and after the music?  Most churches pass the collection plate—what better time to get people to give than when they are all pumped up and engaged into a well-crafted program.  There are church leaders and pastors who have been trained in the art of knowing how to carefully manipulate people with music and feel-good messages. Those churches will hire professional musicians who have had some success in the concert music world to shape the beginning of a church service to hyper-stimulate people to get them addicted to participating in passive worship.  If this sounds like a seductive form of brain washing, rest assured, it is.

People are so pumped up, not realizing that even though they are surrounded by many people and enjoying this passive form of worshiping, deep down, many have this subtle and distressing feeling that they are still all alone.  The common thread in all these churches is acoustics.  The room physically cannot support congregational singing.  Everyone wants to sing but they give up because of how the room makes them feel.  Before worship starts in some churches, the young people are encouraged to put their hands up and sway to the music as they scatter throughout the audience.  When people see the youth doing this, it looks so spiritual.  That is when peer pressured sets in and more of the audience joins in to make the appearance, they are actively worshiping.  Watch any YouTube video where people are raising their hands in worship and it will be the youth, spread throughout the audience, raising their hands up first.  How artificial is that! 

Active Christian Worship

However, that is different than being in a worship space where the acoustics are so good; over 50-80% of the congregation sings without being self-conscious.  They are singing effortlessly, with complete freedom to express themselves as a coral of congregational singers expressing themselves, often with four-part harmonies. This is what active worship is like all the time.  When the acoustics of a church is good, it is easy to have enough people engaged in singing to the extent that there is no need for an entertainment style of worship to lead the congregation.  When the worship space properly supports congregational singing, people will also do a slight sway and raise their hands for many of the traditional and modern hymns.  These people do this spontaneously because they are free to comfortably show their love for God.  They don’t do this to make themselves feel good, but it does help to feel a sense of peace to show God love in a respectful way.  This is not about getting rid of worship teams, but where the job of the worship leading is reversed.  Where the worship team follows the congregational singing in a support role rather than leading and overpowering anyone who is singing, even if their joyful sound is just a whisper.  This is different than when music is used to manipulate the audience into hyper stimulation and feeling better about themselves. 

History on the Order of Worship

Another item that will be seen as controversial is the notion that music should follow the reading of scriptures and the teaching rather than before the sermon.  The Gospel message, when properly taught, is never a feel-good message, but rather, it is supposed to be about reinforcing our love for God as a community.  The message is about keeping the believers on the straight and narrow path.  It is about following God because we love Him, as He has always loved us.  It is about following His laws to be safe.  When Jesus ended the Sermon on the Mount, He didn’t end the lesson as a feel-good message.  When Jesus finished preaching from a boat in Matthew 13, that message also ended as a warning.  In preaching the Gospel properly, the end of most sermons will either be a warning or a lesson in how to be a follower of Christ.  There will be teaching on sin, repentance, and change.  There are no feel-good messages in the Gospel. 

And when should the scriptures be read?  Through Jesus’s own example in Luke 4:16 “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” In most cases whenever the Pharisees or scribes confronted Jesus, He would answer with a scripture verse first, then a rebuke or teaching. 

Here is the dilemma, people get emotionally hyped with feel-good music at the beginning of the worship services, only to be brought down to earth by the end of the sermon.  The pastor closes with a 1- or 2-minute prayer.  Then out of consideration or desperation, the closing song is for blessing or to brighten things up.  There is no time for reflection or meditation on the sermon.  If anything, the song is more of a distraction than comfort.  It’s no wonder people hardly remember what the sermon was 10 minutes after worship.  The reality is, it takes several songs to lift people up, but with everyone already investing over an hour into the worship service, most people are not in the mood to be comforted by three to five more hymns or songs again.

As it was the practice until the 1800s, worship service in protestant churches began with the reading of a complete scripture passage of the Bible by an elder or someone who has rehearsed the passage, or a person who is talented at reading out loud to an audience, The passage or passages should reflect what the sermon will be about.  Next is the sermon; after that is a time of prayer to reflect on the sermon, and engage the congregation further, a short Q&A lasting 5 to 10 minutes to secure the understanding the minister taught everyone, then announcements.  Finally, 3 to 5 songs to lift people up as a group where their unison of singing strengthens them in the message they just heard, regardless of how hard or direct the teaching was.  Biblical singing is about celebration with God and His teaching.  The Sheep will flock to a full Gospel message while the goats will run.  In researching about church history, it wasn’t until the 1820s where worship music moved from the end of church service to the beginning.  This was done deliberately to get people excited for the following feel-good message.  Yes, even 200 years ago, getting a congregation to have more that 50% of the audience singing was a struggle and historically, congregational singing has always been an issue dating back to 4th century churches.

Bound in a False Spiritual Trap

Sure, there are some charismatic ministers who can start off with a feel-good message without music to get things started, but the reality is, without the music, people are not going to stay for an hour for a feel-good message unless the pastor is a guru at motivational speaking.  People who participate in extended music programs become hyper-stimulated. They become malleable in teaching and brainwashing the followers into- whatever cult or false teaching they want to bind their followers to.  The hidden message here is to divide and conquer.  Fill the building with goats, call it church and watch the sheep scatter.  Making the sheep feel like they are failures. 

Having people worshiping in a room where the wrong type of acoustics cannot support authentic congregational singing, and by having an entertainment style of worship, people are trapped into being happy and feeling alone at the same time.  The false hope is that in going to the church, the feeling of loneliness during worship is replaced with “works” by helping with random, well-advertised “community” feeding programs, community projects, staging drama and music concerts, small groups programs, volunteering, tithing, and a hope for a taste of a holy or spiritual experience.  The entertainment style of worship draws in people with good hearing, which is mostly younger people.  Older people are excluded, and without elders who are not brainwashed to hold the leader accountable, the person leading such a church can get away with running the church like a business and do whatever they want. There is nothing more contentious than a church full of young people without older people who can demand accountability when the leadership becomes questionable.  

For an entertainment style of worship, where lighting, video walls, online TV video cameras, a huge sound system, paid musicians, and drama performances are as good as shows people would see in Las Vegas, worship quality acoustics doesn’t matter.  The whole program is set up to entrap people, take their money in an artificial religious experience where people come and go like a revolving door.  None of this is from the Bible, but the Bible is hyphenated to create a false message, blinded by the heavy use of technology.  Sadly, those who leave such a church often want nothing to do with Christianity again. This cycle of keeping people from the message of salvation must end.

The Bible is the Source for Meaningful Church Growth

The proper type of room acoustics that supports congregational singing does not need any gimmicks.  It quickly becomes apparent as good worship spaces become distinguished between being drawn into a ministry of salvation and loving God, or an organization of false teaching and false hope.  The Bible is the source of everything we know about God.  The Bible is also the source for knowledge about the right type of church acoustics for modern church buildings.  When canvasing and testing churches, 95% of all existing church buildings in a giving community cannot support active worship?  This is a problem the whole church community is struggling with all over the world.  The churches that are trying their best to stay on the straight and narrow path Jesus taught are losing to churches that are filling buildings void of the message of salvation.  Entertainment is the new gospel, whether it be a seeker sensitive, purpose-driven, or a self-help preaching message.  Church acoustics that cannot support the kind of congregational singing that can unite people is the single common thread all these church buildings share, and it leaves the church vulnerable to false teaching and teachers.

The good news is that the Bible has a universal plan that can transform any existing church from passive worship to the right type of acoustics for active congregational singing and maximize speech clarity at the same time.  In studying the Bible for answers to the right type of worship acoustics, the scriptures say who designed such a system – Jesus – the author and finisher (John 1:3, 1 Chronicles 28:19, Hebrews 12:2).  Unmanaged acoustics is simply a noisy room and entertainment style of acoustics is where the room has no performance qualities for worship whatsoever.  It allows false teaching and teachers to hide in plain sight within the walls of a building where worship service looks more like a talent show to a false god, and the minister is playing the audience like the Pied Piper.

Other clues of false teaching are:  Are the people encouraged to bring a physical Bible to worship services?  Are most of the song’s choruses?  Are some of the choruses repeated more than three times?  Do the verses of the songs have true Biblical teaching or are they about creating warm and fuzzy feelings?  Are the song leaders swaying to the music back and forth with their eyes closed, looking like they are in a trance?  Are all the texts the minister uses conveniently posted on a large screen for a short time, not giving anyone time to look them up?  Does the minister read full passages of what they are teaching, or are they just quoting fragments of the scriptures, hoping no one will read their Bibles?  Does the sermon begin with reading a complete passage of scriptures, and start teaching from what was read, or does the speech begin with a story – often with the minister involved?  (2 Timothy 4:2-4, preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.)  For those who follow such teachers, things don’t end well. 

Seriously, Acoustics can help fix the Church!

A church with good acoustics that can support proper congregational singing, in most cases, can expose the sheep from the goats and those wolves in sheep’s clothing sitting next to the sheep.  There are many people giving up on the church, as attendance seems to be declining. Fixing the acoustics of a church for better congregational singing is one way to fight back dwindling attendance that doesn’t involve innovative outreach programs or turning to an entertainment style of worship.  If anything, it helps the minister to feed the Lord’s sheep and to fulfill the promise; when Jesus said in John 10:25-29,  “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.” 

Church acoustics is a tool, much like hymnals, Bibles, pianos, organs, choirs, and sound systems.  Good acoustics can’t fix the health of a congregation, but a better worship space will expose false teachings and make the preaching of the Gospel easier.  Some churches are not prepared to see the congregation separate as in the sheep from the goats, for once the goats leave, where will the sheep come from?  Have faith that the Gospel message will bring the sheep back, and before long, the flock will grow with new sheep.  That is the true work of the Holy Spirit.

For the Record

From the firsthand experiences of many churches that have already upgraded their acoustics, the change begins with a healthier fellowship through congregational singing.  Active singing during worship can be the difference between following Christ and hearing the preaching of the whole Gospel message and worshiping in a place that divides the church community by not addressing the elephant in the room.  This may sound like a stretch, but after seeing hundreds of church buildings transformed, and observing with following-up visits how acoustics directly contributes to a growing congregation, the impact is unmistakable.   If there is any good news here, it is a fact that in following the Bible for true acoustical change, any church can afford it, regardless of the size of the sanctuary.  The secular community can’t make that claim ever.

For those who have read this far and attend a church building doesn’t support active congregational singing, have some faith.  In Mat 17:19-20, “Then the disciples came to Jesus apart, and said, why could we not cast him (the demon) out?  And Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief. For truly I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Move from here to there. And it shall move. And nothing shall be impossible to you.”” Making a difference is possible by letting those in leadership know that there is a Biblical way to bring real Christian worship back into the Church and start by attracting those distracted and wandering sheep who know His Voice back into the flock.  Then, have faith that Gospel message will do the rest.  What happens after that is all about leadership and who is the head of the church.

Copyright © Joseph De Buglio 2021

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Does sound quality in a Worship Space –

Posted by jdbsound on June 22, 2021

  • Affect church attendance?
  • Affects church finances?
  • Affects church health?
  • Affects a church’s reputation within a local community?
  • Affects how people respond to the Gospel message?
  • Affects what a minister preaches the Gospel?
  • Affects how a minister preaches?
  • Affects people emotionally?

Myths vs Facts: 

According to various hearing organizations such as the American or Canadian Hearing Societies and other health organizations, 8 to 25% of people will have hearing loss or impairment within any community. For some people, the hearing loss is in one ear or both ears. For other people, using a hearing aid does make up the difference so those people can interact socially with others without needing to use sign language. The bottom line is, if a person can have a normal conversation in a living room but has trouble hearing and being engaged in conversations in larger rooms, these people are less likely to attend a church with less-than-ideal acoustics and amplified sound. Hearing loss, the invisible disability, does make social gatherings awkward for many. Numerous people with hearing loss resort to the practice of self-isolation from social events, including weekly worship services. Sound does have an impact on church attendance for those who have any kind of loss or impairment.

Good acoustics and sound system design in a church make the worship space much more accessible and appealing for those with hearing loss within any community. That is why churches that follow the Bible, when it comes to worship space acoustics, experienced a consistent and sustained 10% attendance increase on average 6 to 18 months after upgrading, while churches that just upgrade their sound system and not the acoustics realize a short-term increase of 5% and 2% over long-term follow-ups. Churches that upgraded both the acoustics and sound system saw no significant attendance changes when compared to churches that just upgraded the acoustics. (However, some churches did reinstalling the existing speaker system to take advantage of the better acoustical conditions and expand the performance of the sound system.)

These facts have been consistent with churches where the pastor, church leadership, and local economies had not changed from 3 years before to 5 years after upgrading the acoustics. The conclusion is, no matter how good or popular your pastor is as a preacher and leader, if the acoustics and sound system are not up to Biblical standards, there are many people who are being excluded. Depending on your point of view, some people see this as a denial of service.

Another thing to consider is that an attendance change of 10% also adds up to a 10 – 15% annual increase in tithes and offerings. For a typical 400 seat church, that could represent an income difference of $208,000.00 over ten years or enough money to replace a church roof.

(Fact: Most churches will sell parts of their property, including their parking lot, to pay for building repairs such as roof replacement.)

Church Size400 seating
Before average weekly church attendance230 people
People returning to attending because of hearing improvements10% or 23 people
Average giving per person (Health Research Funding Org. May 2020)$17.00
Weekly giving increases$390.00
Monthly increases$1,564.00
Annual increases$20,280.00
Over 10 years$208,200.00
Stats are provided from client follow-ups of 5, 10, and 20 years which followed the Biblical method of managing church sound.  The sample size is from 130 of the 400 churches that upgraded their acoustics between 1994-2019.


Not knowing if the acoustics of your church are up to Biblical standards could mean that your church is denying people from attending your church more frequently or from ever returning.

While there are many personal and spiritual reasons for people not attending a particular church, our records show that good acoustics combined with a quality designed and adjusted amplifying sound system constantly translates into higher attendance and tithing. For some churches, the better-quality sound translated into higher giving from people who did not have a hearing issue which was unexpected in our research. These were people who responded to a questionnaire where one of the questions asked, if they noticed the higher quality of sound and whether it affected their tithing. The most consistent response was that when the church board invested in its members by making the worship experience better with quality acoustics, then they felt it was worth investing in a church that took care of its own first, and out of the excess, they could better support others including missions. Church sound is not just an emotional experience; it is a physical experience that directly impacts church attendance and finances.

The Biblical standard for church sound comes from the Bible and specifically in the Story of Solomon’s Temple. In following the story literally, we find that what God designed through the hand of King David is a house of worship that makes it possible for modern sound systems to perform at their highest levels. This makes the room compatible for people with all ranges of hearing loss, and it provides ideal sightlines for people who start to learn lip-reading as their hearing declines with age. Solomon’s Temple is also compatible with ADA (access for Disabilities Act) and other similar laws around the world as the Temple had no steps in the sanctuary, making the worship space wheelchair friendly, even before wheelchairs were invented. Solomon’s Temple doesn’t just set the standard for church sound; it sets the standard for all aspects of church worship and building planning.

You should get your worship space assessed and know it’s acoustical score. If there is room for improvement, have a plan in place when your church can afford to upgrade. On the other hand, some churches have upgraded their acoustics as a last-ditch effort to remain relevant in a local community. All of the churches that made such a desperate move are still open, healthy and have expanded their status in their local community. The knowledge we now know about Solomon’s Temple can benefit your church today.

Then there is the issue of quality versus quantity or loudness. Do people want their sound louder or of better quality? Research suggests that most people choose quality over quantity, hands down. This is especially true for people with hearing problems. While those with hearing loss and using aids to help them hear, a loud sound with distortion renders their hearing aid less capable of help than a clean sound at a lower volume.

Sound systems that have too much distortion at any level are a turn-off because distortion can become painful as the sound levels increase at certain frequencies. Many expensive high-end sound systems are distorting long before reaching their maximum loudness levels. Young people who hear distortion tolerate it better than people over 25 years of age. They often have the mindset that if you turn up the sound system loud enough, the distortion goes away. What they are really doing is desensitizing their ears while damaging their equipment at the same time. Ears have a limited natural way to protect themselves by tightening muscles around the ear canal and drum for short-term excessive noises. For older people, these muscles are not as effective, and distortion becomes intolerable, assaulting the ears at lower volume levels as people age. On the other hand, when the sound quality is high and free of distortion, people of all ages enjoy the louder amplified music, considering that an unamplified congregation can sing over 100dB in a good room without complaints.

The quality of the acoustics, combined with a professionally designed sound system, does impact a church in many ways other than just attendance, tithes and offerings. That impact of sound quality can affect church attendance as little as 8% and some churches up to 18%, and that is just by attending to the physical needs of people. Unfortunately, we have no way of measuring how sound affects people emotionally and spiritually and whether that influences attendance. On the other hand, many movie theatres have upgraded their seating, installed higher-quality speaker systems, add substantial amounts of sound-deadening materials, and other details to enhance the movie viewing experience. Judging from the higher ticket prices people are willing to pay, there is little doubt of an emotional experience tied directly to sound quality.

The secular community has tested how sound affects people numerous times. By simply changing the quality of the sound, it affected how people judge the quality of the picture they saw on the screen. In one well-known test, two identical theaters were made to look the same in every detail. The projectors were the same as well as the popcorn and other items people do when watching a movie. While both theaters had carpeted floors and padded seating, one theatre had very visible acoustical panels and hardware on the walls and ceiling, the other theatre had fake panels that had no acoustical properties but looked identical. After having two groups of people listened to the same three movies over three days in both theatres, the majority of the listeners judged the theatre with the proper acoustical treatment to have a better picture and they remember much more details of the movies. Additionally, some thought the seating was more comfortable, the popcorn and drinks tasted better. Some also asked to see some of the movies again in the theatre where they found the seating more comfortable. As a caveat, the sound in the theatre without the acoustical treatment could not perform as loud, even though both sound systems were properly equalized, so the sound levels were set to a lower volume. The acoustically treated room with bass traps was able to perform to lower frequencies without any distortion which augmented the sound quality. This is a clear example of how sound quality affects people emotionally in a big way.

Finally, can the number of people responding to altar calls, faith healings, being slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, and experiencing holy laughter be attributed to sound quality? For churches seating less than 400 people, that depends. Churches this size or smaller should have good enough acoustics without a sound system if the worship space meets the Bible’s acoustical standard. When the room cannot support quality sound acoustically, the church will resort to using sound systems to make up for the room’s failure to perform. At best, a typical professionally designed and installed sound system can raise the performance by a mere 10 to 15% of the room’s potential performance. When the room is acoustically upgraded, the room performance often improves 50 to 60%. In a bad room, at best, 1 or 2% of the people will respond to a worship service event. In a good room, you can add another 2 to 3% response to such church activities. Sound quality, along with uniformed sound coverage, will impact more people. Whether this translates into adding more people to the church, that is up to the church leadership and how supportive they are in helping people in understanding what just happened.

For larger churches, the sound system is very much part of the worship service all the time, and without the sound system, large churches cannot have worship, let alone get the responses that they may have. The larger the room, the more critical the acoustical management of the space becomes. In larger churches, sound quality has a larger impact on people responding to church events. The responses double between good and bad rooms.

When people like Billy Graham evangelized in outdoor stadiums, the sound was often fairly good everywhere because there were no surrounding room surfaces creating interfering reflections. Nothing was getting in the way of the spoken words. Even the echoes heard were not a problem because those effects were often 15 to 20dB lower in volume than the direct sounds from the sound system speakers. Seeing thousands of people responding at outdoor events is rarely duplicated percentagewise indoors, where the acoustics do not meet Bible standards. That also explains the higher response levels to outdoor events when no tent is used versus using a tent. When Jesus spoke to the multitudes, it was always outdoors. Except for when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees, priests, and scribes in the Temple and Synagogues, almost all of the teachings to the crowds were done outside. Teaching the disciples and close followers was whenever Jesus knew they were ready to listen and save that knowledge for later when the Holy Spirit gave them understanding.

Church sound does have a huge, long-term impact on churches affecting their growth, health, unity, and support by members and the local community. What a church does after they have upgraded their sanctuary, is up to the leadership whether to promote the improvements or fall back and take sound for granted. From our experience, there has been no downside to making existing, and new worship spaces meet the Bible’s standard. True, no acoustics or sound system can save a person’s soul, but the quality of church sound can make a difference in reaching that soul.

In the end, upgrading the acoustics that will automatically get the best performance possible from the sound equipment of a church to help people with hearing issues alone. This should be enough reason for making such improvements. Upgrading to solve the congregational singing issue is another good reason. That solution is in the Bible too. The number one reason to upgrade is to have a church where no matter who walks through the doors in your worship space, when the person hears the Gospel message, there will be no doubts in what they have heard and no excuses in saying I didn’t understand the message. That said, no sound system or acoustics can remove the veil over someone’s eyes. That is the work of the Holy Spirit and whether the person’s heart has been opened to understanding and receiving the truth.
When Jesus taught, people either fled away or were changed by His teaching. Those who were being changed stayed and kept following Him to learn more. Those who fled, Jesus knew that they would never change because they loved or believed in something they thought was better, believed in other false gods or a lie. When that Gospel message competes with unmanaged reflections of sound in a worship space, those bad reflections will interfere with the person’s ability to understand the Gospel message. That is something that no one can measure. The idea here is to remove any possibility of bad acoustics and sound from keeping someone from understanding the message as no one knows the battle that is going through a person’s heart and mind when they are hearing a sermon at church.

Many times, ministers had shared with me how their ministry changed before and after the acoustics were upgraded. Some ministers have said, knowing a certain person who was at a point in their lives that they needed a push to understand salvation, the minister would prepare a sermon to reach that person. Before the upgrade, such efforts often lead to some people going to other churches, where they became born again. Perhaps the sound was better over there, or the minister was better at preaching. Who knows? After the acoustics were upgraded, most of those efforts in tailoring the sermons not only reached the person the minister was praying and preaching for, but sometimes other people responded to the same message. Sound quality can impact the confidence in efforts of the minister and everything else that happens at the front of any church. Who would have ever thought that sound quality in a church could affect the confidence of a minister’s ability to teach?

Sound quality does impact every part of church worship more than what people realize. It affects people physically, emotionally and it impacts how they respond to the Gospel. It is time for churches to get their houses in order and follow what the Bible teaches in something that we should not take for granted. If your church is dedicated as houses of worship to God, shouldn’t it SOUND like it is dedicated to God?

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When to Equalize the sound system of a new church

Posted by jdbsound on April 6, 2021

Whether a new church, after a church renovation or when converting a commercial building into a new church, the sound system is susceptible to humidity changes. The speed of sound changes as humidity changes. Learn about how humidity affects the performance of a church sound system and what you can do to keep your system in peak performance.

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What are your Church Priorities about sound when it comes to preaching the Gospel?

Posted by jdbsound on February 25, 2020

Is the performance of your worship space a priority?  Is the message always crystal clear in every seating position, and over 60% of the congregation is singing all the time?  If you say no to either or both questions, and you want your church to sound right for speech and music, the biggest obstacle is often the acoustics.  The second is money.  The third is aesthetics.

Fix the room!  How?  Follow what the Bible says, and you will not be disappointed.  After all, it is God’s plan, not man’s idea.  Do you think that the results will be less than perfect if you follow His plan completely? Isn’t the Bible the Living Bible?  Since when did the Bible stop teaching us new things about science?  Check out Solomon’s Temple, and the answers are there.  They always have been. It’s just taken a while to join the dots.

But it costs too much!  Oh, you mean the cost of a few floor monitors or a couple of wireless microphones considered too much?  That is often the cost of the Bible’s way of fixing the acoustics or about $3.50USD per seat for a 300 seat church. (Not including the price for the knowledge of knowing what to do.)  Replacing a mixer costs about $15.00-21.00 per seat.  Replacing pews for chairs cost about $75.00 per seat.  Buying 10 Shure SM58 mics with cables and mic stands – costs about $1,500.00.  Fixing the acoustics of a church is cheaper than you think.

If the look of any acoustical treatment is a concern, ask yourself this.  Are you there to worship God or the building?  Fixing the acoustics is like saying you are more interested in hearing what God has to say through your minister.  Putting up with acoustical problems, poor quality congregational singing, and accepting a sound system with limited performance is like saying the building is more important than the message and having fellowship with other believers.

It all comes down to priorities.  The primary purpose of any building that is a dedicated House of God is the preaching of the Gospel.  A place where the Gospel message can be spoken without distortion or interface.  That includes making the room behave as God would want us to have it.  The second priority is the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in remembrance of what Jesus did for all of us.  The worship space has to support this event as often as each church chooses to remember.  The next priority is congregational singing.  There isn’t any other experience that can replace the joy and excitement of a room where more than 75% of the audience is singing.  Songs that tell stories of Jesus, his atonement of our sins, and of people who follow Jesus are powerful in bringing people together.  It takes the same quality of acoustics to hear clear speech as well as great congregational singing.  These are the things that matter when you are a part of the Kingdom of God.

While I do have a business about church acoustics and sound, there is no possible way for one person or one company to fix all of the churches out there that need help.  By making this public, it means that no one can patent it and force churches to pay a license fee. It means that no one can control it and inflate the cost of fixing existing and new churches.  Churches should use the Bible’s methods with confidence, to apply in faith what God teaches, even without expert help.  When churches take such a leap of faith, in most cases, the results are outstanding.

This information is being shared because I care more about winning people for Christ through better sound than creating a business empire.  By revealing what the Bible teaches, by showing that science backs it up, that it is affordable for every church to have excellent acoustics, this is all part of the Great Commission.  If more people with a passion and skills like mine, were to apply what the Bible teaches about sound, we could make a difference.  Mat-7:15.  Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. (KJV)  If you have the chance, read the rest of what Jesus said in Mathews 7:15-20. Don’t trust me.  Trust the Bible.

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Is your minister preaching a distorted message unintentionally?

Posted by jdbsound on February 17, 2020

When sharing the Gospel, so many times, someone has said that they didn’t like what the minister said during a worship service, so they left the church.  They thought the minister was preaching a false message.  Some people have told me that they walked out of a worship service upon hearing the distorted message.  I would ask them if other people left the service at the same time.  In every case, they said no.  That is when I try to retrieve the audio record of that specific service.   As it turned out, on the recording, the minister said the right things, but why was it heard in the sanctuary as something else? 

The next step was to play the recording over the sound system and sit in the same spot the person complained about what he heard.  Sure enough, the same gibberish that got the person upset was heard in that spot.  When you moved several feet over in any direction, the sound was clearer, yet in other places, different words were being twisted.  With the recording on a loop, we found dozens of other places where the minister’s words were warped into something else.  Doing this exercise did get one person to try church again, but in most cases, when something like this happens, most people will not return to a church where the Gospel is preached.

Sound quality matters.  What good is excellent speech intelligibility in one spot and a failure in another?  Sound quality can save people and their souls.  I have never met a person who was saved by a song, but I had met many people who were saved when they heard the clear and undistorted message of Jesus Christ and become followers of the Messiah because the message was clearly understood. 

I often wonder how many other people have experienced hearing something different than what the minister said in a sanctuary. For many ministers and church leaders, it would never occur to them that the sound system was the cause of some people not returning to church.  The unfortunate truth is, many churches have questionable acoustics, and when a person sits in a spot where words, syllables, or the sound volume is too low, what was said and what is heard were not the same.

Sound systems cannot fix the acoustical problems of a church.  Adding more speakers or applying the latest state of the art technology tricks are no match to Architectural failures in room design and unmanaged sound sequencing around a room.  Absorptive panels are often the first weapon used to tame a room.  Cutting down on the noise and reflections with absorption cannot fix deadspots or hotspots.  Absorptive panels cannot change the path of sound reflections that causes uneven sound distribution. Absorptive panels have been known to make the sound harder to understand in those poor locations throughout the room, not better.  What is needed is a different weapon to defeat poor sound.

To eliminate hotspots and deadspots, you need to be able to distribute sound more evenly.  Scattering the sound is the most effective way to create a unified sound field throughout the whole sanctuary.  When sound is managed in this way, not only does it eliminate deadspots and hotspots of any speech problems, but it makes congregational singing, praise and worship bands clearer, the stage sound is corrected, and for many churches, they bring back choral music because it sounds better than what a worship team could do before the room was fixed.  In most cases, scattering the sound costs less to do than absorbing sound. 

Acoustical solutions for churches that work should be common knowledge as these concepts have been around for years. Fixing a church can often be restricted by how a solution may look. It is high time that the aesthetic police take a back seat from preventing the Gospel message to be preached clearly.  If aesthetics are a big deal, alternatives are always possible.  In the end, it is all about priorities. You have to choose between hearing the Gospel or have a Church that looks good.  What will your church do?

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Does Your Church Need help with Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on August 1, 2019

Here is a collection of 445 photos of 46 churches that completed most or all of their sound system and acoustical plan.  My job is to design a solution that will solve all or almost all sound problems in one step.  For most churches, this means getting the most accomplished in one step as most churches can’t afford to keep chasing sound problems without truthful help.  The road back to great sound in the church is in the Bible, and that is what these churches did. 

All of the installations of the acoustical systems and the sound systems were completed by church members or local contractors when those churches were able to afford professional installers.  The final appearances are what those churches selected.  I work closely with all churches for alternative aesthetics regardless of any budget limitations.  When a church has to choose between aesthetics vs. performance of the 400 plus churches that have just simple painted cardboard tubes on the walls, those churches spoke with what they installed. 

These churches demonstrated that they care more about hearing the Gospel than having a sanctuary that looks good.  There is a high spiritual cost for poor acoustics and sound system designs.  Poor sound does get in the way of people hearing the Word, and for some, it can deny people from understanding the Gospel message of salvation, and that is a cost no church can afford.

For professional, no compromise help, we can provide the highest level of expert assistance that will fulfill the Great Commission as Jesus taught. Having the skills of the world helps but God’s plan for churches demands His way of doing Church Sound. Without that knowledge, the worlds way of doing church sound always comes up short in meeting the standard that God demands of us.

Click the photo above or the link below to see what other churches have done to have great sound for speech, congregational singing and total worship in general.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdbsound/collections/72157627021000982/

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The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Church Sound?

Posted by jdbsound on July 26, 2019

Here is a fresh look at Solomon’s Temple and how it relates to Modern Churches today. Here is link to a 13 page article about church acoustics from the Bible’s point of view.
The Scientific Foreknowledge the Bible Teaches about Sound and Acoustics?

Introduction

The quality of church worship is critical to the health of a church.  The better the excellence of worship is, the stronger the church will be.  Quality of worship is not about packing the church full of people for the sake of filling a worship space so much that it becomes necessary to keep building bigger buildings.  We worship God, not buildings or pastors or knowledge.  It is the Gospel, the Bible that leads us to God.  It is God’s words that keep us in a relationship with Him.  The strength of a church is not measured in numbers in the seats or money.  Jesus taught us to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and shelter the homeless.  The Bible teaches over and over again that we are to live by example (Psalms 1:1-6), to be a light in the world (Matt 5:16), when they see that we are different (James 2:14-26), it will be that difference that will attract people to God.

The strength of a church is measured by how people support each other, and by how much a congregation supports each other as a family first, as brothers and sisters, and then the local community.  Is the church feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, and sheltering the homeless?  The modern version of Jesus teaching for us in countries with a democracy and wealth should look like this.  Is the church cutting lawns, clearing driveways, cleaning people’s homes, fixing up members and non-members homes?  How often are church members spending time with the widows, the singles who have never had a partner, or the elderly?  Are these not the things included in what Jesus told us to do?  Are not these the same teachings in the Old Testament?  This is just a small sample of how Christianity should look like to the secular world.

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After reading the full article, please comment on it. We want to get this right as the church community needs this knowledge. If you have any questions, want to learn more or see a presentation about Solomon’s Temple and the Modern Church, contact me here – jdb@jdbsound.com

You church may be one of those that has great sound for all parts of the worship service. If it is, you should let everyone know as it will help to bring more people in. You should let us know so we can tell others. If you find this article helpful, please pass it on. Pass it on to your pastor, your friends and family. Give them the chance to learn what God can do for them today!

Thank you.

All modern churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics
All older churches can benefit from Biblical Acoustics

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Churches are Tools

Posted by jdbsound on February 18, 2019

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Church Ceiling Height Chart

Posted by jdbsound on December 26, 2018

There are three key parts to what happens in church worship.  There is the spoken word, there is collaborative/congregational singing, and there is performance singing.  For a worship space to support these three events where speech is first, then congregational singing and performance singing, you need a specific design and dimensions to support these functions well.  High-quality speech should not come at the expense of the music.  Music should not come at the cost of speech.  There is a balance, and part of that balance is to have enough ceiling height to support both speech and music in a contained space.

Unfortunately, churches these days are building lower and lower ceilings in their worship spaces.  A person can assume that when so many churches have experienced only poor quality acoustics, many wonder what is the point of building a taller worship space.

When a church builds a low ceiling, it limits congregational singing and it makes you more dependent on technology, but guess what!  The same things that limit congregational singing are what also limits the performance of the technology we affectionately call the sound systems.  So, instead of getting 100% out of your high quality, expensive sound system, you’re getting only 40 to 60% of the sound systems’ true performance abilities.  It is actually cheaper to build higher than the added cost of un-needed audio technology to make up the difference.   The chart below should clear the air as to the minimum height your next church should be. If you can afford to build higher, do it.  Also, a taller worship space does not mean being stuck with longer reverb times. A higher ceiling means natural room reverberation can be adjustable and is tune-able.  With a taller ceiling, you can change the frequency response of the whole room without needing a sound system or equalizer.

Minimum Church Ceiling height Chart.JPG

Church height is important for a worship space.  One of the biggest parts of worship is singing.  Congregational singing to be specific.  When singing as a group, several elements are required for a good and healthy worship experience.  There is chorusing, harmony, sound volume,or loudness of the singing and being able to hear yourself as well as the people around you.  When all of these elements are in balance, the worship experience is like no other.  The majority of people get a lot of satisfaction from the singing experience during worshiping in rooms that have ceiling heights that match the size of the seating capacity of the worship space. The above chart is the minimum of interior ceiling heights.  If you want to build higher, you can as the singing experience gets even better.

High ceilings allow for better sound system performance with less expensive sound equipment. (A lot of pro audio contractors, installers and equipment manufacturers don’t like hearing this.)  Higher ceiling permits better gain before feedback and it becomes easier to isolate drums and floor monitors. The performance of the sound system is much better too when that is coupled with a good quality acoustical management system.

There are economic advantages too.  The higher the ceiling, the cheaper it is to heat and cool when using a vertical displacement HVAC type system which is specifically designed for large gathering spaces for people.  Such systems cost less to install, they use smaller HVAC components and cost about 30 to 40% less to operate annually.  In addition, the cooling systems last 2 to 3 times longer before needing to be replaced. In a way, building higher cost less both in cost and in operation over time.

Another thing to consider. If building new, don’t build a flat ceiling that is parallel to the floor. (and it doesn’t count of you put in a sloping floor.)  Many churches that are moving into commercial buildings are learning the hard way that flat ceilings limit the quality of live musical performances and congregational singing.  Sure, there are acoustical panels that can slightly improve the room for amplified sound, but the cost doesn’t justify the returns.  There is little that can help congregational singing even if you have the height. Vertical standing waves are harder to manage than a horizontal standing wave. If you know what you are doing, horizontal standing waves can be controlled to create an outstanding room.  It is part of the formula for that perfect worship space.  Funny though, most concert musicians that perform in a church that I have fixed, they often make comments like, “I wish our concert hall sounded and performed as well.”  That is almost like saying, “concert halls make for lousy worship space but worship spaces can perform better than a concert hall.”

Finally, there is the Biblical standard for church sound.  For a 160 seat church as detailed in the Bible, the Biblical standard is the width of the room is to be 50% of the length and the height of the room should be 75% of the length.  However, we now know that anything over 45 feet high and less than 2000 seating, the extra height is not needed.  It is the length to width ratio of 2:1 is key and a constant height of 45 feet or 13.7 meters.  For those who don’t want long rooms, because of sound systems, we can use a length of width ratio of 2:1.7 or a room that is 100 x 70, and you must always use the room lengthways or you destroy congregational singing and speech.

God gave us the laws of physics for a reason.  When we obey God, we reap the benefits.  When we ignore God’s teaching, you will have your reward here on earth.  The sanctuary of a church is a battlefield where the hearts, minds, and souls of people can be adding or subtracting people from the Kingdom of God.  The acoustics of a church plays an important part in either adding or subtracting people.  The change is slow and often not noticed, but when you visit hundreds of churches that have their worship spaces upgraded to the standards of the Bible as best as possible, there have always been an increase years later, ( unless there have been leadership or church split issues.)

If you can, to get a better picture of planning a new church, read this article on Gods Authority in Church Design.

*Note* In most countries that have freedom of religion laws, the worship space portion of a church building has no roof heights limits regardless of local city building height restrictions. 

**Note** The data is based on 1200 churches from around the world. 

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Where are the Carboard Tubes

Posted by jdbsound on August 28, 2017

Churches use a lot of Cardboard Tubes in acoustical room fixes because they are very effective in getting the room performance they want and need.  Cardboard Tube not only outperform all other acoustical products in churches but they are also the most affordable.  There is nothing that can do what half-round tubes can do, even at 40 times the cost.

Ok then, what if you don’t like the look of cardboard tubes around your worship space.  Here is an option some churches have been willing to spend a little extra for.

image10

These look like standard 5 inch deep absorbing panels.  They are not.  These are Sono Tubes mounted in a wooden frame and covered with cloth.

image9

The cloth was an added expense and it was worth it.  The fire rated cloth is expensive and before covering the panels, you want to make sure the acoustical system is going to work and work it did.  The church is very happy with the results and they are enjoying the room.

image8

This is what the installation looked like before it was covered.  The wooden frame has no effect on the performance of the half round tubes.  The cloth only affects frequencies above 10,000 Hertz which means they have no effect on speech or music.  In this installation, three sizes of tubes were used.

image7

At the bottom is a huge video wall screen.  On the wall are the Sono Tubes.  Yes, the tubes will work behind a vinyl screen.  If you notice the pattern of the diffusers on the wall. that pattern was needed to control lower mids and bass sound energy.  This pattern was pretested in our test room.

northside church video wall

Here is the finished installation of the video system.  It takes three projectors for each screen.  The center screen is a video wall.

Photos courtesy of Frederic Lachance of Northside Church in Coquitlam BC, 2017.

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Are Churches growing or shrinking?

Posted by jdbsound on March 23, 2015

Being in the church sound and acoustics business for over 33 years, you get around enough to see firsthand if the church community is growing or shrinking.  After all, when all of your income comes from providing a service exclusive to the church community, you would want to know if your services will become obsolete or not.

The question stands, is the church community growing or shrinking?  The short answer is – – – – the church community is growing and church attendance is growing.  Churches for the last 100 years have been growing on average about 10 to 14% every year.  That is the good news.  Unfortunately, that 10% growth annually is not the same as 10% of the population.

It seems that sometime around the mid 1970s the population started to grow in North America (and the rest of the world for that matter,) at a fast rate than what the church was growing.  In order for the church to grow at the same rate as the rest of the world, the church would have had to grow up to 25% annually.  So while the number of Christians in relationship to the total population is declining, the church continues to keep growing.

What also makes it harder to keep track of church growth is the number of breakaway churches that leave the umbrella of the denominations where church growth is not often recorded to any national data base.  In my work, I get to see both denominational churches and independent churches.  At the end of the day, it seems that there isn’t much differences between them.

Many people who were part of denominational churches often leave to get away from the institutional, the bureaucracy, the rules, the regulations and static growth burdened by years of complacency.  The problems I am hearing from people who have been going to these larger “growing independent churches” is that after a while, they complain about the same institutional, bureaucracy, rules, regulations and push for more growth burdened by years of complacency.  The difference is that they are inside the same bureaucracy that they left years ago and often don’t realize that they are now the cause of why people are leaving the independent churches are starting unsupported breakaway churches.  Who is keeping track of those numbers?

Then there are the non-registered home churches that are out there. There are thousands of them that average about 12 people each.  Who knows how many of these groups are there but, at the end of the day, overall statistics pegs church growth at 10 to 14%.  That is good news.  Will the “church” ever be more that 10% of the population again?  Most likely not.

By Joseph De Buglio

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