Please be nice.
This blog has several million viewers every year, and many of them are not believers. They are watching your interaction with one another.
I know I am touching on several sensitive subjects in one post: the loudness of music; lighting in the worship center; music preferences; and performance versus participatory singing.
But here is the clear reality in many congregations: congregational singing is waning in many churches. In some churches it seems to have disappeared altogether.
I will try to discuss this reality from a dispassionate perspective, at least for the most part. And I don’t consider myself the expert in this area, so I asked the guru of church worship, Mike Harland, to help me understand some of the technical decisions we make.
Ultimately, though, this blog is my own, and I take full responsibility for its content. What then are the primary reasons fewer people are singing in church? Why has that act of worship before God become nominal in so many contexts? Here are six reasons:
- Some church members do not prepare themselves for worship. We come to judge, to check off an obligation, or to go through the motions of a habit. We have not prayed for God to do a work in us through the worship. If we do not have a song in our heart, we will not have a song in our mouths.
- We don’t know the songs. We sing the songs we know. That is obvious. But if we are introduced to a steady influx of new songs without sufficient time to learn them, we don’t participate. The best congregational singing includes both the familiar and the new, but the worship leaders teach the new songs until we know them and love them.
- The songs are not sung in a range where we can participate. Many trained musicians have a wider range in which they can sing. Most of the rest of us don’t. If we are expected to sing in a range that is beyond our ability, we won’t try. Worship leaders make the decision, intentionally or not, if they want to lead the congregation or perform for the audience.
- The lighting communicates performance rather than participation. We participate in singing when we can hear each other and see each other. If the lighting for the congregation is low, but it is bright for the platform, we are communicating that a performance is taking place. We thus fail to communicate that the worship by singing should include everyone present.
- The music is too loud to hear others in the congregation. There have been quite a few comments at this blog about the right decibel levels for music in a worship service. The greater issue, however, is whether we can hear others. If we hear the voices of others, we are encouraged to join in. If the music is so loud that we only can hear ourselves, most of us will freak out. And we will then be silent.
- The worship leaders are not listening to the congregation. If worship leaders truly desire to lead the congregation in singing, they must be able to hear the congregation. Some can only hear the instrumentation and platform voices from the monitors. And some have ear monitors where they are truly blocking the voices of the congregation. Congregational singing becomes powerful when it is well led. And it can only be well led if the worship leaders can hear those they are leading.
Your own perspective about this issue may be one where you really don’t care if the congregation can be heard singing. But if the desire is truly to lift all the voices before God, some things will need to change.
Now it’s your turn to comment. Be kind. Be gentle. Be Christlike.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on October 24, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of Lifeway Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.