Only as good as the source
Earlier this week, I helped one of our students with a school project to put on a talent show to raise fund for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. She put together a talent show featuring fellow students. All told, it was a good idea.
The show, however, didn't come off quite perfectly. It was organized decently, but we had some sound system issues. You see, many of the students who were singing didn't have the right kind of music track to sing from. Rather than an instrumental track, they were singing along with the actual album track. Also, one of the students had put every track on a data CD that he wanted to play from a MacBook computer.
Except that the sound system, for some reason, would not pick up the incoming from the Mac. I think it had somewhat to do with the cord that took a 1/8 inch stereo headphone out, split it into L/R, and then converted it back into a 1/4 inch stereo input. It would be better to split it into 2 single channels, 1 left and 1 right. Anytime you stereo input a sound board like that, you can get bizarre results. Anyway, because of the setup, we didn't get the best sound. The students did the best they could, but you can only do so much without your music. And no matter what I did with the actual sound board, there wasn't much else I could do with the sound quality.
You see, with a sound system, your output will never be any better than your source. You can adjust what the system does with the source, you can change what it's sensitive to in the source, you can amplify the source, but you cannot exceed the quality of the input. There's also a limit to how far you can amplify that source.
This isn't just a sound system problem. This is a life problem. We are trying to strive through life, and often we are unsuccessful in our attempts to walk worthy of the calling of Christ not because of lack of effort, but because we build off the wrong source. We try to take as source our worldly culture, apply some church related filters, and turn that into a Christ-centered life.
It doesn't work. You cannot exceed the quality of your source in life. If your source is the world, you can dress it up some, you can filter out some of it, but you, ultimately, cannot exceed it. You cannot create a holy version of carnality, no matter how you try.
Nor can you over-amplify a distant voice without losing it. It's the same reason you need to hold a microphone close to your mouth when you sing. If you hold it far away, if the sound system gets turned up enough to pick up your voice, it will pick up all the background noise you can handle.
It's time that we as Christians began to do a few things in our lives:
1. Make sure the most prominent voice in our lives is the voice of God. I've taken a few shots at various social organizations and cultural phenomena that aren't bad, but simply because they have grown to have more impact on how we do church than the Bible does. Churches survived 1950 years without copying Survivor or Starbucks. We can probably survive on the Word alone. At the very least, the Word has to be the primary source of what we do.
2. We have to make sure we are listening to the Word as clearly as possible. There are many who strive to interact with God's Word to apply it for their own purposes. Anyone who is primarily out for political power or financial gain is going to be a quick corruption of the source that is God's Word.
3. Consider whether we're asking too much of the tools when it's the source we're interested in. Just as a normal sound board cannot, on the fly, pull the vocals off your favorite CD to make it a karaoke track, no amount of structured Bible Study can make bad theology good. If you're trying to cram The Shack or some other inaccurate picture of God through your Sunday School class to make it good, it won't work. Your source is bad. The tools can't fix it.
All told, we've got to make sure we're on the right source. It's not just about good preachers or easy books, nice buildings or trusted friends, it's about whether or not we're truly looking to the Word of God first. Everything else must come from there.