Faith Today: The MP3 God

By Vern Tompke – Vineyard Community Church

Are you one of those audio snobs that feels cheated by MP3s? According to these “discriminating” listeners, the digital MP3 was a great loss to us all because while it made music easy to copy, store and download, the compression system it uses also results in the loss of all the dynamic range of the sound necessary for a truly enjoyable audio experience.  Witness the re-birth of analog vinyl and even Neil Young’s PONO device and you have a pendulum swing back to people who don’t want to clip out the full dynamic range of what music SHOULD be.

The term “lossless” has come to refer to any the idea of faithfully reproducing the full range of the original. So my vinyl friends would tell me that their quest is to return to “lossless” recordings doesn’t actually include the scratches. Good to know.

Ever wonder if you need to carefully edit or “clip” your thoughts and prayers when approaching God? Are certain emotions and feelings acceptable to God while others are not? If one was to enter into most of our churches today (ours included), the message in our words and music would be that only happy/clappy emotions are acceptable in approaching God. The underlying (but probably unintended) message to our people is that the only attitude you can bring to God is one that is upbeat, happy and victorious—anything other emotions are to be carefully hidden away. The unintended message is “Who wants a “downer” at the party? Certainly not us and certainly not God!”

Unfortunately, none of us can keep up the act and when we fall off the “happy wagon”, it feels like we need to wait to get our act together again before we can re-enter community.  It shouldn’t be this way.

The book of Psalms is the greatest collections of songs ever written and they represent a truly “analog” experience in the way they express an incredibly diverse range of emotions, feelings and approaches to God.

Yes there are upbeat, thankful and worshipful songs, yet a good 40 per cent of the Psalms could be classified as laments. Laments are songs that express sorrow or even questioning at God’s apparent inaction despite his promises. Ever cry out to God ‘How long?” or “Where are you God?” If so, you will find good company in the Psalms. Did you even know that some of the songs have been called “curse” songs—songs that express the white- hot anger of the songwriter towards their enemies. How’s that for dynamic range?

I can’t say that I am a careful music listener. When my friends say, “Can’t you hear the difference?” I mostly shrug and go back to my MP3 player.  I do know the difference, however,  when it comes to lossless worship and a lossless relationship with Him.  God is fully interested in me—not just the sanitized version.  I find it too exhausting to have to perfectly package who I am to God and others.  Too many people tell me that God will only answer the prayers that I make just the right way or express with just the right spiritual nuance. Too many people tell me God is just waiting for me to get it right then he will act on my behalf.

The book of Psalms reminds me that there is no programmed or acceptable way to approach God when it comes to our emotions. Approaching God shouldn’t require a press agent and a publicist. The God of Psalms is interested in responding to us just where we are at.  So here’s to lossless worship.  While we’re at it—here’s to lossless community. Go ahead and listen to your MP3s—just don’t have an MP3 God!

• Vern Tompke is the pastor of the Vineyard Community Church and welcomes comments/questions at

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