Lately, I’ve read a number of articles dealing with the “problem” of singing in the church. It seems the “problem” is that people simply aren’t singing in worship. However, I’m not sure that’s really a problem. Isn’t worship more than singing? Can’t one be fully engaged in even the musical aspects of worship without singing?
I don’t always sing in worship settings. In fact, if I’m not leading worship, I generally don’t sing.
For me, worship is about my heart connecting with God. It’s about offering God my best in all I say and do. It really isn’t about singing. And, if we are reducing worship to the musical aspects of a worship gathering, I’d rather play the drums, guitar or banjo than sing! If we are reducing worship to singing, then that is a bigger problem!
However, that’s what all these articles have focused on…if people aren’t singing, they aren’t truly worshiping. Now, I’ll admit that the Scripture is full of references to singing. One can make a strong case for the importance of singing. There are great benefits to singing. Sometimes my best singing happens when my mouth is shut!
But, I guess singing in the church is a “problem”. So, a number of articles have been written to offer suggestions on how to “fix” the “problem.”
The articles have addressed the “problem” in different ways.
One author suggested that people aren’t singing because they aren’t familiar with the songs. He went on to suggest that we should sing old, familiar tunes. Of course, that presents a problem. Fewer and fewer people are familiar with what we refer to as the “old, familiar tunes.” New folks coming into our churches are generally no more familiar with “And Can It Be” than they are with the latest Crowder, Tomlin, or Rend Collective tune. If familiarity is the issue, maybe we should consider using more “secular” songs?
One author suggested that praise choruses are more difficult to sing than hymns. The author suggested that praise songs are written in keys/ranges that are hard for the typical church goer to be comfortable singing. I don’t disagree. Some of my favorite praise songs are not written with the average persons vocal range in mind. However, I can grab a hymnal and quickly pull out 100+ hymns that have the same issues. Maybe what we need are worship leaders who can identify this problem and rearrange songs into more comfortable ranges?
One article indicated that we’ve moved away from hymnals and people simply aren’t comfortable singing songs without written music. Now, my background is in music education. I believe all people should know how to read music. However, let’s be honest, the average person in the pews is not going to sing any better with written music than without. So, unless churches are teaching basic music theory, I’m not sure this argument holds up. Maybe we need more repetition? How many times do we need to hear our favorite songs on the radio before we’re belting them out? Maybe we need the same thing with hymns and choruses?
One author suggested that we need to dim the lights and up the volume. Another author suggested that we need to dim the volume and up the lights. So, which is it? I’ve seen both work in different contexts. Maybe what we need are worship leaders and a/v engineers who understand their particular contexts?
One article spoke about how we are creating concert environments in worship and that discourages participation. I’m not sure when the author last went to a concert, but my experience is that folks at concerts are fully engaged…singing, dancing, clapping, shouting, etc.
For me, the bottom-line is this, there is no one way to worship. We have to take our context into consideration. What works in one setting may not work in another. What works for one individual may not work for another.
Whether one sings or not shouldn’t be viewed as a problem. Sing or don’t sing. Sit or stand. Raise your hands or fold your arms. Be still or dance.
We should be more concerned with whether or not people are connecting with God. Maybe that’s the real issue? Maybe the problem isn’t with the music at all? Are people experiencing the presence of God when they gather together for corporate worship? That’s a bigger issue than whether or not people are singing.