For me, it was sometime around 1998 that I began to use lyrics projected on a screen for worship. And back then, it only would happen at youth conferences or special occasions. The churches I served until then did not have the capability to project lyrics nor the desire to put – as one church member called it – words on the walls.
Now, churches of all kinds everywhere use projection as a worship tool. Almost everywhere I go, I see the use of visuals in worship. Lyric projection has been expanded to include video and elaborate backgrounds. Rightly used, these tools are wonderful ways to connect with the congregation.
But recently, I’ve done some thinking around the things we seem to have lost since “words on the walls” have become the typical way congregations sing. Here are three observations (in no particular order):
- People don’t know songs from memory. This is a personal testimony, for sure. When I know I will have a lyric monitor, I am increasingly dependent on the slides of lyric. I suspect I’m not the only one – the next time you have a mistake in the lyrics, you will know for sure just how dependent your whole church is on the right index finger of your lyric operator. We don’t remember the words anymore because we don’t have to do so. I wonder – when this generation is on their death-beds, will they have to ask for power point to be brought in so they can sing our songs of faith?
- Our people don’t know how to “follow music.” I learned how to follow music growing up in a singing church where everyone had a hymnal in hand. I had a long way to go learning music theory, but I learned the basics of how to follow music as I looked at notes in the hymnal and sang. That was true for many of our people. Our people never see the notes now.
- Part-singing is becoming a lost art. In many of our churches, our people no longer sing all four parts because they can’t see them and don’t know them. Now, for sure, many newer songs don’t lend themselves to 4-part singing. Most people don’t have the confidence to make up a harmony part when all they can see are the lyrics. The other sad part of this is that many of our men won’t sing at all because there is no longer a meandering “bass note” where they can cut loose.
So, what should we do?
I’m not sure we should do anything. But, I am reminded of one service in particular that gave me some pause about how I led worship each week. One Sunday morning, about 5 minutes before the start of the service, a sweet lady drove her car through the intersection next to our church and right into the power pole. She was a little shaken up but fine. But, the electricity was out for our whole campus. Well, I quickly decided to walk out with my guitar and our piano player and do church. We picked up our hymnals and raised the roof. It was glorious.
I came away reminded that the most important element in congregational worship is the worshipper’s voice – and that we could live without anything else. I suppose our focus should be on engaging the worshipper – and maybe, just maybe – we should lose a little of our technology often enough to remind ourselves what that sounds like.
I’d like to know – what do you think we should do to recapture some of what we have lost?