Book Review: Debtcibel...

Debtcibel book coverWhen it comes to Lord’s Day worship, who do you think is the most underappreciated? Is it the elders or deacons serving Communion and collecting offerings during the worship service or even staying late to minister to the poor and pray for sinners? Possibly.

Is it the pastor who preaches week after week and puts in long days caring for the needs of the flock? Yes, we need to love and appreciate our pastors more.

Or is it the band that gets there early for rehearsal? Being one of the musicians, I don’t feel underappreciated, so likely not. But perhaps musicians are underappreciated in your congregation.

What about the childcare ministry? Yes, those who serve our children could use more appreciation. Or what about the people who arrive early to make coffee for 300 people? You do enjoy the fellowship around tea and coffee, don’t you? So you can agree that the people who provide those refreshments are underappreciated.

But I bet there is someone you haven’t thought of yet...

The soundmen! Now my point is not to say that one is more valuable than the other, since in Christ we are one body with many parts and they are all necessary (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). But my point is to show you this often overlooked ministry that sometimes suffers because we have failed to think carefully about it.
In our congregation the soundmen arrive 15 minutes before the worship band to make sure everything is turned on and ready to go when the musicians arrive. This means they arrive at 6:45am. They do much work to go unnoticed and when they are noticed, they get glaring looks because something has gone wrong (i.e. feedback, strange noises in the sound system, congregants unable to hear the sermon well, mics not turned on, etc.). But if you aren’t noticing them, they are probably doing something right. So their job is to go unnoticed.
Throughout the week they serve various ministries by having the sound ready to go (rehearsals, mid-week activities, men’s and women’s groups, etc.). They also record the sermons and make them available for you to hear throughout the week. Of course, the techies edit the audio and manage the websites. (You probably didn’t think of them, either, did you?) In our congregation, none of the sound engineers or techies are paid to do this work and so there is much to be thankful for them for. 

Jody and DariusAlong similar lines, today, our friend Darius Fong (Grammy Award winner and producer of the Good Shepherd Band’s EP Wake Up Sleeper) released his new book on church sound called Debtcibelwhich is endorsed by Bob Kauflin. The subtitle of Debtcibel calls the book “a non-technical sound book that teaches the church how to spend, when to spend and who to spend it on” and it is exactly that kind of a tool.
Darius was kind enough to give me a preview copy and having just read the book, I was very pleased with the simplicity and non-technicality of the book. As the author states in the book, “Debtcibel is not intended to provide a solution to every audio situation but to help establish right thinking about sound ministry at your church.” 
In Debtcibel, Darius warns against the dangers of overspending on sound production in a church, hence the title. He asserts that most churches go about purchasing equipment and seek to improve their sound completely the wrong way. This is why this book is a must read for any church sound engineer, any worship pastor, or any church building committee that is planning on installing a new sound system in the near or distant future. It will save your church thousands of dollars. 
Darius has been very helpful to our work over the last several years by providing wisdom on how to achieve our goals even with the limited finances that we have. The very fact that we have this online songbook is in part due to Darius’s encouragement and advice in purchasing equipment. You can see the fruit of his work with us by the recordings we have to offer here and here, which were created on almost no budget and none of which were recorded in a recording studio.
One of the ways Darius has helped us achieve this is by teaching us to see short term investments as part of the big picture. In other words, with each piece of equipment we purchased, we had the longterm usefulness of that piece of equipment in view. No purchase need be money wasted.
This is not to say that we haven’t made mistakes, because we have. In fact, I am convinced that if we would have read this book years ago, we would have been spared some of the problems we have today with sound in our own worship. This is why if you are a soundman, a worship pastor, someone considering making sound improvements on your church building, or planning future projects, please purchase and read this book. There is much wisdom in it and you’ll be spared many of the headaches that other churches have encountered.
There is one point that I would like to expand that wasn’t fully addressed in the book. In the early pages of the book, Darius discussed the “epidemic” of overspending on sound in churches. I have been to a few churches that have had close to a million dollars (or more?) invested in their sound system. I have not been impressed by the sound, especially in terms of how good you would expect it to sound knowing how much money was put into the system. And though the equipment was impressive, I was actually sad for them.
It does no good to have nearly a million dollars worth of equipment in a church, especially if there is no engineer who is worth that amount of money in his profession to manage it. So why do these churches think spending that much money is a good idea for their church? The reason is because that is what the vendors tell them they need to do.
Vendors push churches to overspend because they can. After all, we don’t know better. So the industry is part of the “epidemic.” We trust the insight of the vendors and purchase what they tell us to buy without trimming down the bells and whistles to better suit our needs. We think, “Boy, it would be sweet to have this (fill in the blank) or that (other thing)” not knowing what knowledge or experience it would take to operate it.
This is why (as Darius repeats throughout the book) we need to be good stewards of what God has given to us. Be pastoral about your purchases and don’t always try to have the latest, best thing. Stop coveting what is not yours. Discipline yourselves and your desires and seek the Lord’s will as you spend His money. 
Read Debtcibel and be good stewards of the many blessings God has given you.

Philip Moyer is a pastor serving Clearnote Fellowship where his responsibilities include training men to be pastors in Clearnote Pastors College and helping churches and church plants with worship resources. He is a worship leader at Clearnote Church, Bloomington and also heads up the choir program. As a recording engineer, he has recorded and produced albums for Clearnote Records including the Good Shepherd Band and the Songbook albums. 


Thanks, Philip. I'll have to read that over my winter break. Sounds like something that would be very helpful for someone aspiring to the work of church-planting. 

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