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28 November 2007

Headroom in the Church

Headroom. The first (and probably most obvious) meaning of this word would be something like "the space from the top of one's head to a ceiling or door facing," or something similar. Or possibly "the amount of space between the top of a truck and a tunnel or a bridge's overhead girders."

But I tend to think in terms of audio when I hear this word. Let me explain as simply as I can.

Headroom, in the world of audio, is the loudest signal (music, for instance) that someone will be actually playing through a sound system vs. the loudest signal that the sound system could produce before beginning to distort (which typically sounds pretty nasty).

So, for example, on a given day I might be playing a Nat King Cole CD on my boom box at a relaxing volume of, say, 60 decibels (the typical volume of a normal conversation), but if I really wanted to, I could crank it up to an ear-splitting, rock-concert volume of 120 decibels before my boom box started going all buzzy and crackly, blowing speakers and what-not. (Doing the math, that's 60dB of headroom.)

However, if my CD player is capable of playing at only 70 decibels and I run it at 60 decibels, that gives me only 10dB of headroom, constantly pushing the limits of the boom box and delivering sound that is not as "clean" as one capable of spitting out loud volumes.

Bored yet? Stay with me -- by now you surely see the analogy I'm making.

Thinking in practical terms, does the "volume" at which we typically live life leave us enough headroom for emergencies, when we need that extra boost? Or are we running mostly full-blast all the time? This situation applies not only to the life of a church fellowship, but to any individual person's or family's life -- finances and schedules being the first areas that come to my mind.

But when I consider church work, do we pour so much into what we're doing that when a situation comes along where we need to "go the extra mile" for someone -- to be the body of Christ in an extraordinary way -- that doing so would cause "distortion," either spiritual, mental, financial, or physical?

Since each person and each church fellowship has a different amount of this kind headroom, some fellowships and some people may find that they work better at a "louder volume." Many, though, may find that they're either giving themselves too little headroom, or possibly even 0dB.

I encourage you to daily and continually seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit in knowing where your headroom lies and how to wisely use your volume control.

(Fellow techno-nerds, no need to point out the differences between volume, level, and loudness.)


Jan Owen said...

Interesting concept on a topic I am currently really thinking through in the totality of my life. Busyness does not equal success (See my blog for today) and just like with our money, if we have no reserves in not just time but emotions as well as physical strength, we cannot rise to the occasion. Or we can, then we crash. I'd never thought about it too deeply in the life of the church. Good points.

Tony M said...

Hmm... I wonder, do we sometimes "crank up the volume" in order to deliberately reach that distortion level to hide the offkey parts (and I'm not talking about my song)? That is, if we have the level way up there, maybe someone will be distracted from some of the stuff that we're not doing, or doing wrong, or something. Sort of, "if you can't play it right, play it loud so people won't notice."

Maybe I'm speaking personally here. Maybe I'm revealing too much of myself - maybe I'm discovering too much of myself. Maybe this is a good thing. Or maybe I'm just sleepy. Good post; have to think about it some more.

Jan Owen said...

Okay, here's a thought....there is such a thing as "Emotional debt" - when you serve out of your depleted self, and just like with money you end up in debt. You can pay for the emergency car repair (or life emergency as we are really talking about) but you'll owe money on it AND pay interest. In other words, you will pay later......I'm speaking from experience here. And as for Tony's comment, I think we do hide behind busyness sometimes. I don't know about hiding, but I think we just buy into a consumeristic western mindset and apply it to church too perhaps. We're busy doing and not being and so when we are really needed, we either may not be able to do anything well or - and this is sad - we may not sense the need because we're all running around busy doing our million and one things.

Tony M said...

Don't recall if he made the statement here on a comment on a previous post, but Preston made an interesting observation about church programs over on one of Jan's recent blog posts. Just thought I'd point your attention in that direction; sorry, Dean, for sending readers away from your blog, but I'm sure they'll be back! :)

Preston N said...

I was thinking about all this earlier today and a verse came to mind that just sort of said it all for me. Jesus said, "Take my yoke for my burden is light".

Something to think about here - Jesus said this during a time when the Jews had over 615 different ceremonial laws by which to keep them busy. God had originally only given them a fraction of these laws during the time of the tabernacle. In order for someone to keep all these ceremonial laws they would be constantly busy trying to keep them all. Along comes Jesus and says - know me, love me and commit yourself completely to me and my yoke will be light. Maybe we need to just spend more time getting to "know", "love" and "committing" ourselves to Jesus rather than trying to be busy.

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