It’s a fair question.
With the onset of rhythm-driven worship in many of our churches, many call the use of the organ into question these days. Often the renovation of worship space includes this question.
Some might say, “We don’t use it anymore. Why don’t we just take it out and put the drum cage over there?”
Wait just a second! You might want to rethink the role of the organ.
The organ is one of the oldest instruments ever invented… dating back to 250 BC. It found it’s way into the worship services of Christians in the 1400’s. And for centuries, it was the dominant instrument of the composers of sacred music. In the Baptist tradition, organists and the organ helped develop the rich tradition of hymn singing and defined the splendor of the congregational song.
In the modern era, some would say the organ has been replaced in many churches by a band or even an orchestra. But, personally, I don’t think those instruments have replaced the organ. I think the small vocal team enhancing the choir or congregation has replaced the organ.
How many articles have you read bemoaning the fact that church congregations don’t sing like they used to sing? I’ve read quite a few and written a couple myself. Most would blame it on the newness of the songs or the decline of church choirs. I agree those points are valid, but I would add, for this discussion, that the reduced role of the organ has also contributed to this reality.
Historically, the organ underscored congregational singing back when congregations really sang. I always thought of it as the “voice” of the people, giving the average congregant a place where their voice could “hide” in the awesome sound of resounding hymns. The organ sound is a safe place to put your voice no matter how you sing.
So try this… instead of shutting the organ down in your worship, use a few less singers on microphones and allow the organ to undergird the congregational song – no matter what style of music you sing. You might just rediscover the power of this instrument.
And every once in a while, let your organist lead your congregation is a transcendent worship experience using an instrument that has the range of power unmatched by any other instrument.
The 500th anniversary of the Reformation is coming soon. You could mark it early with an awesome organ version of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
Somehow, the guitar can’t touch that one.
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.