church singer

Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don’t question, don’t contribute (except to the offering plate), and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

Professionalism. It seems it’s paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshippers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It’s better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

Blare. The musicians’ volume is cranked up so high that congregants can’t hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don’t sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.

Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing, or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day’s sermon topic, but it’s unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.

I admit. I’ve joined the majority. I’ve stopped singing. I’m not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

(See Thom’s follow-up post here: Confessions of a Worship Wars Mercenary.)

(Thom Schultz is the co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore, and the director of the film When God Left the Building.)

662 Responses to “Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore”

  1. There’s another factor to include, Thom, and that’s the lack of choral singing in the school systems except for the few that choose to take part in chorus. And that’s IF their school hasn’t drastically cut the music programs.

    It’s surprising how many people will sing karaoke, but don’t feel comfortable singing WITH other people.

    • YES I completely agree with you. As a music teacher, this is something I’m so passionate about! It is such a shame that churches actually can’t use hymnals anymore – not because people don’t like hymns (because many in my younger generation DO love hymns), but because they don’t understand how to read music! It’s so very disappointing!

      • Sorry but as a music minister I have to strongly disagree with your statement. It would be encouraging to have young people reading music, but in Church you don’t have to read music to sing along just like you don’t have to read music a karaoke. You just need the words. Young people do not like the old traditional hymns. If you want your church to die out, keep catering to the older people and sing the hymns. I’ve seen it over and over. You never see Hillsong or Crowder without hundreds or thousands to worship there because they are singing old hymns. Young people want to sing contemporary songs with distortion, drums and other songs. The Lord said make a joyful noise, he said nothing about singing hymns over and over until you beat them to death!

      • Way to stoke the fires of “us vs. them”, JD.

        First of all, who cares about the style of music, as long as it is scripturally sound, AND glorifies GOD.

        We have a mix of traditional and contemporary music in our services. It is chosen because it fits the theme of the service, not because of the genre. We have a pretty even mix of older and younger congregants, and sure each person has their own preference as to style, but I look, and listen around, and see and hear a fairly high percentage of participation,

        We need to get past the mindset of one genre being better than the other and listen to the message rather than the beat. Sure it feels great to be all pumped up during and after a song, but we need to ask ourselves if it really spoke to our spirit or rather to our emotions. We are supposed to “walk by faith, not by sight (emotions)” 2Cor 5:7

        These days too much emphasis is placed on the experience WE get from the music, instead of realizing that worship is for GOD. And, if it is truly worship, it will bring us into His presence, regardless of the style of music.

        Too say that churches are dying because their congregations are aging and they sing hymns, is an oversimplification of the problem, and has more to do with a church’s teaching than the music program. If the two are not sound, and don’t complement each other then the message of Christ is lost, and it becomes a social gathering, with no positive spiritual value whatsoever.

      • I am 62 years old. I sang hymns all my life but I don’t read music. I listen the first time and then I’ve got it. Not being able to read music is not a reason, to choose NOT to sing praises to the Lord.

      • Right, Joy. Thank you.

      • Bruce Dougall May 27, 2014 at 10:32 pm

        I FULLY AGREE! I play trumpet at a professional level and involved in 4 groups in my city. The worship music neither worship or music. The melody is lacking in interest, the words are too often vague and about as inspirational as singing to one’s cat. I sit there in the Lord’s House with a bad attitude and I am troubled in my heart about this. Therefore, I stay away. There are countless thousands like me nationwide I am sure. I miss true worship music. Miss it so much. And yes….just look around…nobody is singing. Hello?

      • Bruce, I don’t share your experience at all as a musician in a large P&W oriented church. And I am beginning to think (I am going to regret this) that it is largely because I go to a church where whites (me ) are a minority. We are loud and use anything we can to be used in every service to help set an atmosphere of worship and an experience that will not so much satisfy the saints…. that is their own job….but even more to consider the ones who come in Sunday morning with last nights alcohol on their breath, with glazed eyes from yesterday’s drugs, having struck their spouse in the recent days … or just spiritual exhaustion from some attack by the enemy. I am not exposed to much of the all white CCM. We do just a little. But the music from black Christian musicians does seem to be much more melodic, much more harmonic, much deeper lyrics and very moving spiritually. I see tears, singers, clappers every service. I see people come forward to the alter and fall to their knees. I play keyboards… frankly sick of doing horn parts. Not saying my church is any better than anyone’s. But when you have a very diverse cultural make up, you probably find a very diverse music program. It is a church I stumbled into. Check out Clint Brown on YouTube . It is his church. Not the old hymns… but not 3 chord guitar songs with repetitious and shallow lyrics. I am by no means making this a racial debate. But I think there is a major difference between various styles of contemporary music in churches with different cultural mixes. Please people… Don’t attack me for this comment… Just and observation that I though Bruce might identify with.

      • JD’s ‘shove-it-down-their-throats’ methodology is more of why there is a conflict. If he is a music minister, he should be very careful. The enemy hates competition. If JD feels fine with what he’s doing, he should worry for perhaps the enemy is also fine with it! ~ I pretty much agree with ‘kevinSings’ and the paucity of music education enabled by abandoning the hymnals, as Julie laments, is a huge problem as well. In my prison ministry, many of the inmates come from churches where they may even have served as worship team members. Almost none of them know the least about singing or anything about harmony! No matter, though, as most of the new songs can be sung in a monotone and have such vapid lyrics that they could be secular songs! If the church is failing, I’d say it was from boredom; no challenge. JD claims the young people do not like old hymns, but it seems to me that we tell them they should not like them. After all, JD claims the answer is karaoke!

      • Victor Colaianni May 28, 2014 at 12:27 pm

        JD – Although you make valid points, distortion, drums, Crowder & Hillsong don’t amount to a hill of beans (no pun intended) unless people approach worship in the right way. As Ravi Zacharias out it doing a workshop on worship, ….”Unless you worship Him individually, you cannot worship Him corporately.” Zacharias further said, “Worship is the submission of all of our nature (ourselves) to God.”

        You can have the best songs, hymns, lighting, etc etc – but unless people approach it in the right manner making our Lord the focus, then I don’t care where you go to church…. it will be meaningless!

      • JD, Its not about catering to one specific generation. God didn’t make exceptions nor will he ever. I do understand that there are churches that do cater to a specific ‘kind’ of people, but i don’t think this is the case. Singing is an act of worship that depends on our relationship to God. Modernizing a church is a great move, but changing the cornerstone of worship is another. i support greatly the argument of set up and carryout.

      • JD have you ever read the actual words to some of those “old hymns”? Those words are powerful and full of scripture then most of the christian “worship” songs today. A lot of them were born out of hard-time, heart felt worship to the Lord. There are also a lot of young people who only enjoy the moment and do not understand what worship is…it is the beat that draws them. When you talk about catering to the “older” people, remember what the scripture teaches in Proverbs 16:31 “A gray head is a crown of glory; It is found in the way of righteousness” and Proverbs 20:29 “The glory of young men is their strength, gray hair the splendor of the old”…many of those “older” people have fought fierce battles in the trenches of this worlds wickedness (and I am speaking spiritually) for you to be able to even stand in a church today. I love Hillsong and David Crowder and churches play their songs to death and repeating the same chorus lines over and over and over and over and over again for 20 minutes. My suggestion is to honor all those called saints, remembering the glory of the young is their strength, and the glory of the old is the battles they fought on their knees and honor them with something that touches their hearts also.

      • Joy, I agree. Andrea Bocelli can’t “read” music either.

      • I don’t know if I am considered young by others or not (I am 36) but I love hymns. I can’t sing them well and I have only been in the church for 13 years but I do so love when they are sang at church. I even attend hymn sings at other churches with my husband when I can. The voices stand out so strongly as opposed to when newer songs are played. It seems like everyone gets pulled into them and you can’t help but sing along. That being said I love the new music as well but mainly only sing them loud when I am home. My kids tell me how out of tune I am every time :)

      • People at my church sing. People at the 2 other churches I’ve visited in recent years sang. Maybe it’s that I’m so involved in worship that I don’t notice that people far from me are not singing, but I hear the people around me singing. I see the people in front of me involved in worship, including teens. The one church I’ve been to in my life where it was conspicuously obvious that no one was singing was a Methodist church in the early 1990’s where everyone was standing and holding their hymnals but I did not hear one voice around me. Being a self-conscious teen, I did not sing either. That was a strange experience.

    • I agree with you Mitch Trigger! I teach music and am a vocal coach – specializing in training worship leaders.. Young people are not being taught basic vocal skills in school choirs, etc. to simply jump right in and ,may leave them shying away for practical reasons. That should also be a worship leader’s role…to teach the importance from Scripture of WHY we sing, and that we should lift our voice in Song to the Lord. This should be a starting point for the Church in getting people to respond like they should in worship. let’s start turining this around!!

      • Well, I attend a very culturally diverse church.. There is no lack of enthusiasm shown in our sanctuary… And yes its loud.. But if your thinking were right, the issue would be universal. So if the congregation is growing lame… Maybe its just a lame congregation.

      • KEITH CHARLES EDWARDS May 26, 2014 at 3:46 pm

        There are many nice new hymns for every Sun. Many do not have good speaking skills from home, school, even Sunday School. I do not teach anymore because kids even adults are not verbally engaged. The bosses do not like me for it, anyway, I force people to speak publicly. We are pandering to the lowest…

    • Get everyone in the church drunk and I’m sure they will be willing to do karaoke.

      • Here’s the problem…..ignorance of the Word. Eph. 5:18 -19 states,
        “Do not be drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” We’re reaping what we’re sowing. Teach the full cousel of God and don’t scrimp on what He tells us and the body of Christ will be a healthier body and not sickly and dysfunctional.

      • That is actually, funny but in a way there is some truth in the sense that in Eph. 5 it tells us to “Be not drunk with wine but be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing songs, hymns and spiritual song, making melody in our hearts to the LORD…” This verse includes all styles, What we need in the church is to get this part right where Jesus said, God is searching for those who will worship in spirit and in truth… That comes from a deeper level.

    • As for the lack of chorus in singing, when everyone demands cuts in taxes the first things that will go in schools are music and chorus.

      • when I retired as choral director at my highschool…they didn’t replace me, just dropped chorus, much to my dismay.

    • Every excuse in the book is on this thread. Truth is, if you are really in love with God and His presence is the focal point of your gathering, you will worship. The real root is within, anything else is just self delusion. Yes, there are some modern worship songs that stink, and for many reasons, but old does not equal good, and many hymns are poorly written and deficient in theology as well.

      • I have to agree with Madyar! If you truly love the Lord and are in church FOR Him and to WORSHIP Him, then it won’t matter what songs they are singing or how loud the band is, etc…you will truly worship the Lord regardless! It’s so easy to make excuses and justify these things, but I believe that maybe we should search our own hearts first! (I go to a church where the worship is very contemporary and we have both older and younger people who attend…most everyone worships out loud, but there are always a few who don’t…just like at every other church!).

      • i agree 100%. The article and responses point to every excuse but within. It’s almost written to make him feel better about himself and to give others excuses.

      • Well said madyar. There are a thousand excuses that can pop into anyone’s head on a Sunday morning on why one shouldn’t put in the effort to worship…. let’s be honest, it’s an effort! You have other things competing for your focus. I find that I have to just close my eyes and maybe even raise my hand (which is bold in my conservative Baptist church) and forget about everyone else and remind myself to whom I’m singing these praises.

        So much of what this article talks about boils down to PERSONAL PREFERENCE. I do not agree that these are the reasons why people don’t sing, I’ve been to Hillsong and Chris Tomlin concerts where the music was LOUD, CONTEMPORARY, very much a SPECTATOR set-up and obviously very PROFESSIONAL…. and they have been some of the most meaningful worship experiences I’ve had because people are not only SINGING but WORSHIPING. When I looked around I saw many with their faces turned to heaven, singing for all they’re worth. Singing does not equal worshiping!

        The problem (IMO) is that our hearts are not in the right place and we are too chicken and/or lazy to get it there. And I say this knowing that on many Sunday’s, that’s me too… it takes practice and an ability to forget about appearances.

      • Amen.

      • Please people lets not forget the corporate aspect of worship as well as the personal. If/how your brother or sister in Christ is worshiping in the music and and other aspect of a service where the believers gather, it affects you whether you like it or not. This small article has some strong points. Musical worship in the context of a gathering of believers is NOT just about closing your eyes and trying to imagine yourself in a room alone with God. We desperately need to drop this North American thinking that a relationship with God is an individual matter alone. It is for sure, but there is a HUGE aspect of interdependence and interaction with other Christians that we can’t ignore, and which affects us greatly.

      • Yes, I agree totally–deficient in theology–especially anything a real Christian young person can relate to, like all that blood washing–that’s the religion of Mithra, not Jesus, the Christ that came before Jesus. How about all that stupid stuff all these old songs have in their lyrics that no one in their right mind would ever preach about today, and then there are all those songs in the key of high C that no one can sing along with because their voice ain’t that high pitch
        I have a problem with songs that are not in the right pitch to sing along with and that is most of them.

      • Disagree. I’ve been there. While I love the Lord and love to sing, I can not sing or get into today’s “worldly accepted” singing. The people are not singing because their is no TRUE spirit of worship in many songs of today. While we may have the instruments and the words sound good, to many, they are not good heart felt songs sung to the Lord but to the church itself. We have allowed the world to control our true spirit of worship and due to this, many while not being able to put a finger on what’s wrong, can’t enter in. We are hungry for a mighty move of God in our whole service which includes singing. I’ve recently started going to a smaller church who is not interested in bringing the world in but has a true heart of worship. Even the teens sing at this church.

    • Every excuse in the book on this thread. Truth is, if you are really in love with God and His presence is the focal point of your gathering, you will worship. The real root is within, anything else is just self delusion.

      • Thank you! I was wondering if ANYBODY was going to mention this! I’m so tired of the “way we worship” being blamed for the attitudes of those who DON’T worship!!

      • The problem is, that if you rearrange worship to give the impression that it is about something OTHER than what it should be about, how can you blame people for picking up on that?

        You also have churches that give lists of all the things we ought to do but almost never placard the beauty of Christ and his work for us. No wonder people aren’t in love with him. The pastors keep him hidden in a back closet somewhere and sometimes he gets an honorable mention.

    • I disagree. I grew up in an era where choral music was taught to everyone from second grade through junior high. I also grew up in a fellowship that practiced a capella singing. I learned to sing well before I got to school. I learned to sing with a group of people where the voice was heard. I learned to harmonize sitting next to sisters who sang alto and tenor. I learned to director a chorus before I realized that it was even happening.

      As a side note, by the time I reached high school, I had several teachers say that they would rather have children who had grown up in an a capella environment than those who could sight read because they had developed an ear for vocal music early on.

      As a music/art major in college, I too deplore the lack of music and art training in our public schools. I just don’t think that it has an affect on congregational singing.

    • But that’s the point. Worship isn’t about professionalism. We’ve created a self consciousness that shouldn’t really matter in church. I know an old guy (now passed on to be with Jesus) who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. He didn’t care. He sang as loud as anyone. These days, that kind of thing garners a lot of criticism and shuts the majority of ‘joyful noises’ down because no one has a flawless voice and the service is all about what we do for God instead of him coming to us to minister to us with his gifts of word and sacrament.

    • YES! YES! AND YES! There is most definitely a correlation between lack of school music programs and general loss of interest in singing in general – let alone in churches.

    • At Christmas, Easter, funerals, etc, how does your congregation sing the songs they’re familar with …. loudly, comfortably, with feeling? Listen to your people worship with song. And yes, introduce the new songs that have a melody and they will be more willing to sing out loud! Some of these new songs are impossible to sing or even hum because there’s no melody! God bless us all! Thank you.

    • Just one thing, I sometimes don’t sing because I cannot see the words on the board, I have a visual problem. It’s not just a case of stand at the front then, it’s sometimes down to quite a few factors, the font used and many other factors. I know I’m not the only one who suffers with this many of the elderly in our churches do for example do. I usually have to wait until I have fully learnt the song before I can join in, this is either by listening to the song by other means cd or radio (UCB) or otherwise by the leader singing it for a few weeks, thus the words become ingrown in my memory. I don’t really know what the answer is but just wanted to point out in some extreme situations there is reason for not singing and just listening.

    • The worship team do the worshipping for you in many churches ….. …kick back and let it roll ….I think there is too much emphasis on music as worship …its not the only way to worship Him ….

    • I think like the song–The Love of God, so rich and pure
      It shall forever more endure
      the saints and angels song.
      The love of God is strong enough to endure our attempt at song.
      That is true love.

    • I attend a Harvest Bible Chapel, I have never seen a more active worship in a church before.

    • Wow! Astute observation about Karaoke! So ironic that people are less shy singing SOLO, than in a group.

  2. I haven’t given up singing, and thankfully am in a church where the point of corporate participative worship has not been lost, but I do agree this a huge issue in the worldwide church today. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I would like your opinions on what a caring church can do to change this. I know by experience in leading worship that it is not just song choice or volume because we have experimented with both of these,

    • Pastor Don, a few suggestions:

      Optics. Be careful and intentional about what people see when they sing. Consider putting the musicians out of sight.

      Invite people from the pews to come forward and sing, unamplified.

      Looking at the backs of people’s heads discourages participation. Re-arrange seating to create an in-the-round arrangement so the congregation sees and senses one another. It’s the singing-around-the-campfire effect.

      Even in contemporary services, use more grand old hymns that are well-known and singable.

      Explain to your people that you’re transitioning from a passive concert setting to congregational participation. Challenge them to fill the room with their praises.

      Don’t refer to the singalong time as the defined “worship time.” Worship is so much more than tunes.

      • I’d add this – sing those grand hymns Acapella!!!! Without instruments! There’s nothing like the sound of a congregation singing without the aid of instruments. I have no problems with instruments in service – just musicians that believe the control the service ;). You may have to bring back the hymnals – because so few people know the words now.

      • Mr. Shultz, I think you’ve really captured this. In my opinion, anytime the “production” focuses on the performers in a worship setting, there is a grave danger of “worshipping the created instead of the Creator”…the more people can take THEMSELVES out of an offering of song, the more it is a TRUE offering. I’ve grown VERY distasteful of what some call, and I view as, “contemporary” praise songs as a result of seeing with my own eyes the created either glorifying themselves, or being glorified, to the detriment of glorifying the Creator. I know that the following is likely mostly a matter of my personal tastes, but it seems to me that “simpler is better” for the purposes of glorifying the Creator.

      • Careful with the seating arrangement – while you improve things visually you may shoot yourself in the foot acoustically. We occasionally alter the seating arrangement at my church, and I’ve found that the in-the-round arrangement – as much as it benefits us in other ways – kills the singing, as people can’t hear others as well.

        We do have atrocious acoustics, though (heavily padded chairs – purchased even as I complained loudly about the consequences); better acoustics would likely make this less of a problem.

      • Personally, I love the newer songs, but still enjoy some of the old hymns. I don’t think I’d enjoy the music as much if it were all hymns since a lot of the older ones don’t really speak to me with the old language. “Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all. Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall” What? l need a translator.

      • Hi sir, you have certainly good suggestions. we have actually placed our worship leaders on the side so people only see the lyrics of the songs. however, i don’t think singing old hymns is the only solution so people could be familiar w/ the songs. since we have monthly themes, we have a month to learn new songs… new songs: aren’t we suppose to sing new songs too?

      • These are great suggestions. May I add that one of the most important things that helped us was the transforming of the Word of God. Teaching people (leaders and congregation) about the true meaning of worship helps people break away from rockstar and the starers mentalities. We can change the environment, the look and feel, the music choices, etc… but if God doesn’t change people’s heart and mind about what worship truly is then it doesn’t matter what we do. If the traditional worship worked then there wouldn’t be a reason for people feeling a need to go a more contemporary. Though there was that “need” it did not really resolve the worship issue in the first place. We need to get people to understand about the creator of worship, why we worship, how we worship, and what should we expect in worship. If there’s no transformation that’s taking place in worship then we might have been worshipping for the wrong reason. Of course the goal is not transformation – it’s to worship God – but transformation is a by-product of people truly seeing and seeking God in worship.

      • A technique with which we’ve had success is to make the songs “our own.” Let the worship team put their own spin on the songs instead of trying to sound like the original artist’s recording. I believe that God blesses every congregation with their own “voice” that speaks to that congregation. Encourage the worship team to seek God’s direction and let the Spirit flow during rehearsals. See what happens. I’ve seen congregations respond in amazing ways when they hear a known song done in a unique way by their worship team.

        If your team already does songs their own way, still mix up the arrangements. I’ve been to churches where the pianist starts every song and the songs all sound pretty much the same (same feel, timing, transitions). Another well-known church used to have the same musician play every solo or meditative section on the same instrument (Kenny G style) for nearly every song–week after week. It got to the point where the congregation tuned him out. Mix it up.

        One more suggestion–If possible, don’t let the senior pastor be the worship leader. He should be focused on his main job. If he tries to be the lead pastor and the worship leader, one or the other will suffer.

      • Outstanding. And the hymnals also help folks learn to note read in some fashion — certainly helped me as a boy. There are just many practical realities here that get ignored wholesale because of the dominant trend and, no doubt, some folks like me who have struggled with keeping a good spirit about it. And for the record I am a long time church musician.

      • Thom – I believe these are great suggestions! I wish you had put them in the article that is going viral.

      • As a sound man for churches for over 30 years, I have seen it all when it comes to “Worship Music”. The performers who feel that their style will be the best thing ever seen on the church stage. The songwriters who know that this will lead to a national tour of worship evangelism. The scholar who wants to create a mood to lead people into the message.

        All of these have their place. However, it’s not always a good idea to have that place be the pulpit of a church.

        I have always tried to teach the musicians I’ve worked with, that it’s the words that need to be heard, not the screaming guitar solo or the 2 minute intro.

        Worship is meant to be just that. Worship. Let’s open our hearts, open our mouths and sing praises to our Lord and not be consumed by the performance of it all. Most churches have ditched the Hymnal in favor of projected words on the screen. Those hymnals have some the most incredible stories in them that offer up a congregational outpouring of emotion.

        So let’s throw back our heads and not worry about what the person next to us thinks. We’re showing love for our Lord, and we want Him to hear it!

      • Another suggestion, turn the lights back on and quit making it a Rock Concert…pastors start teaching Biblical corporate worship and quit letting a multi-million dollar worship industry market to us what we shoul be doing…musicians step up and start being servants instead of stars…worship leaders start assessing wheather or not your congregations are worshiping…you keep giving them food (music) they can’t eat and water they can’t drink…that is not pastoring, it is performing…we are no longer celebrating The Lord… We are celebrating a method…worship leaders aren’t writing songs to honor God anymore, they are writing songs to further their career.

        We have the most innovative, high tech, cutting edge, contemporary, music in the history of the Church…and our congregations have stopped worshipping…maybe, just maybe we are missing something? Our worship doesn’t need throw out our culture and creative expression…our hearts need to turn back to God…

      • I’m a little concerned about Dianne’s comment about “enjoying” the music, which I think is the reason for the decline in the more traditional congregations. Worship is not there for enjoyment or entertainment. It’s to give glory and praise to God and to receive the Word and sacraments. That said, if one is spiritually uplifted and happens to enjoy the music too, great! But that is not the reason we sing in church. Hymns and songs supplement the spoken word, as should the choir anthems. They shouldn’t just be random choices with empty irrelevant phrases. Our church is more traditional, with the organ being the primary instrument for worship. We have a choir. The congregation enthusiastically sings. As the organist and music director, my choices for music highlight and support the theme and readings of the day. And yes, we put in contemporary songs that fit just like the hymns do. But we worship in a church, not a theatre. Our new building will not represent a concert hall. And the worship will continue to be authentic and with good quality.

      • Paul Herberger May 25, 2014 at 10:28 am

        I feel sorry for most of your respondents. In response, maybe they should think about why they are supposed to worship. One definition is Worth-ship (He is worthy). First, it is for an audience of one, God. This is not entertainment time, no matter what the worship leader is doing we can still focus our heart on Jesus and worship. Second, if true worship is not part of your service, maybe you should find a place where it is. Word and worship go hand in hand. If the worship is not real maybe the whole service isn’t truly focused on God. Maybe it is time to find a place that is truly pursuing God and His presence. Finally, we are responsible for our relationship with God. If we are blaming others for our lack, we have no one to blame but ourselves. When we stand before God will we be able point the finger at others and blame them for our lack of worship? I think it will ring hollow, daddy will not let us get away with it.

      • Michael J. I don’t understand how a worship team doing their own thing or making a song ‘their own’ would encourage anyone to sing along. Seems that would be right the opposite. If you make it your own then absolutely nobody will be able to sing along except the privileged few that have practiced for hours at being professional while standing up on the stage, wearing coordinating outfits and ‘performing’ for the silent, confused crowd. The words performance and worship are not even on the same page in the dictionary much less anywhere else. A performance brings glory to man. True worship brings glory to God.
        An old preacher said it best not too long ago while filling the pulpit at our church. He said, “Contemporary music likes to talk about what I can do or what I am doing for God (I will worship. I will praise Him. I will sing….I, I, I ) but the hymns tell what a great, merciful God did and is still doing for a poor excuse of a human being like me.”

      • Kevin McCurry May 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm

        I completely agree. Another tool that worked, which is an alternate to not having the choir/singers visible, is to bring them off the stage and physically on the same level with the congregation. It’s more inclusive and direct eye contact can encourage some who aren’t as comfortable singing to really feel invited and included.

        we have the lyrics on a projector behind the musicians so that those who know the melody don’t have to stare at the hymnals for words. It helps people sing out instead of down which gives the effect of more voices, which in turn, makes others want to join in.

        Thank you so much for posting this. This is great information and hopefully worship leaders can use this to improve music service.

      • Really? You must be getting to some boring services. Scriptures tell us to praise loud… with instruments… to clap to dance… Where does it say to hide the worship team?? Seriously?? If you have a good P&W team and program, they will LEAD the congregation into the music… And it will bring out the enthusiasm. Best advice is to get some screens with the lyrics so people can easily participate. And… read what the Bible says about how to lift hands, lift voices… loudly with praise and worship. I find this last post to be cross ways with scripture. Of course… I guess I would be called a wannabe rock star… at 60. Wow… Just wow. I am not there for entertainment… It is a ministry.. Very offensive… and simple minded.

      • I couldn’t disagree with this blog more as it seems very much biased against what some refer to as ‘contemporary worship’. I grew up in a very ‘traditional’ church where 95% of the songs we sang were hymns. People did not sing back then either for the exact opposite reasons this blog cites. The music was too soft, half the congregation couldn’t understand the lyrics (written in old english!), it was the same old songs over and over again, it was very unprofessional. I could’ve just as easily written a very similar blog biased towards the other viewpoint. The real reason people don’t sing has less to do with reasons pointed to in this blog and more to do with the lack of thankfulness, the disposition of the heart and willingness to worship.

      • Hide the musicians??!! Try that with the preacher and see how well it works. Isn’t everything we do worship? So this should apply to all, right?

        Truth is people choose NOT to worship regardless of their setting. Stop blaming their attitudes on the artists! Everyone is responsible for their own actions!

      • I completely disagree with this. I attend a church with over 5000 members and EVERY Sunday the majority sings along and actively participates. I’ve also visited several area churches and have found the same thing. Putting the musicians out of sight is a terrible idea! Psalms 150:4 clearly says to “praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe.” Why would you hide people who are doing just that. And there is NOTHING wrong with having professionalism in your preparation for worship service. It ensures that we are offering our best praise and not just some after thought. As for music choice, if you want to stay in the past and never reach new souls, which is the great commission and our job as Christians, then by all means stay in the dark ages and only sing hymns. However if you’d like to engage your youth, young families, AND older congregants then you definitely need a diverse mix of music. And it takes talent and knowledge in music to lead a team to achieve that. So while you may take issue with the so called “rockstar” worship leaders, but they are doing their best to usher a myriad of people into the presence of God. And if there are people who don’t want to participate or will only engage in worship if it’s just the right song then they need to develop their own spiritual maturity. We should worship in good times and bad, as well as when you like the song list or not.

      • Thom,

        I appreciate your concern, and I’m sure that many of the things you mention are valid points, including the reality that some worship leaders & bands appear far more concerned about giving a “Christian” performance than leading people into the presence of God. But as a 50 year old pastor/son of a Southern Baptist minister of music, I wonder: if the “grand ol’ hymns” are the answer, wouldn’t they be the answer for everyone?

        Much of the shortcomings in the early days of the modern missionary movement was rooted in the attempt to conform other cultures to western civilization’s culture as part of “doing church” or even “being Christian”. When we contextualize the Gospel (without changing it, of course), we follow the example of Jesus and Paul, and find people far less “put off” by the “traditions of men”.

        Since we now live in a “post-Christian” America, to suggest that our worrship issues are based on forsaking the old hymns is like saying that the reason residents of an unreached people group on an island somewhere in Oceania do not freely worship is because of the lack of the grand ol’ hymns. Neither one of them has ever heard of them, so there’s no “long lost” songs to which to return, and while the “singability” factor is subjective and could vary from song to song, I have found over the years that the hardest songs to play are hymns, which means they are more poorly played, potentially causing distractions that could keep even more people from just singing their hearts out.

        People need songs that speak to their “cultural ears” just as we translate Scripture into many languages because people need to hear it in their “heart language”. While in some places that may mean the grand ol’ hymns, for many they might as well be sung in Aramaic. Not necessarily because the lyrics are bad, but because the verbage and stylre are unknown.

        All that being said, our church tries to sing at least one hymn each weekend, but they’re often played in a more culturally relevant style so that the valuable, doctrinal truths are not lost in a music style that is indecipherable to many post-modern ears. But that’s us… and lest I seem to be too negative, let me echo the comments of others here in saying: it’s a heart issue. Worship leaders: teach your people to enter into the presence of God with THEIR singing. People: Give praise & thanksgiving to the only One Who is worthy, whatever style of music may be used in your congregation.

        Won’t it be great when we arrive in the presence of The Lord and sing the music of heaven? Then we’ll ALL be singing together! ;)

    • Some simple things that can be done relatively cheaply.

      1. Commit to one Sunday a month with no stage lights, no amplification, no massive band. Just basic slides displayed with lyrics only (no background animations, just white text on a black background). The worship leader is the only one with a mic and that is turned up just loud enough so people can hear him/her and get the congregation started.

      2. On that Sunday, sing the regular songs and if you’re out of the habit, throw in a couple hymns. Worship time should be different from the playlist of your average contemporary Christian radio station and in far too many churches it isn’t. Those of us who *gasp* don’t listen to wall to wall contemporary Christian music (largely because it has become the same bland soulless stuff pop music is) don’t necessarily like coming to church and having to learn new songs every week.

      3. Seek to reinstate a congregational choir. Nothing bugs me more than the trend toward professional singers/musicians (my church actually hired a recording artist as the worship pastor). Doesn’t matter if they’re not any good. Doesn’t matter if they sing off key. Doesn’t matter if they stand there like singing statues. What matters is that they are the same people that rub shoulders with the rest of the congregation. What matters is that they’re genuine about their worship (which, incidentally, is all God cares about).

      4. Ultimately remember, that worship isn’t about creating an experience, that is what concerts are for. Worship is about pouring your heart out to God for all the amazing things He has done. It isn’t about song selection, volume, quality, or anything else. The most genuine worship I’ve ever heard in my life was from a new believer who couldn’t carry a tune in a bushel basket. Seek to instill in the congregation a sense of what worship time is really for. Hint: it isn’t entertainment.

      • thank you for putting my ideas on “paper”

      • Judith Hirsch May 25, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        If you use slides., the tune should be there as well. Lyrics alone are worthless, if you have no idea what the melody is. Even “non-readers” of music, do follow music. As a choir director, organist/pianist and instrumentalist (violin, viola) I have ample experience with people who think that they do not read music. They read more than you might think.

        There are at least 500 years of written music devoted to God. We don’t have to hit every one of those years, but there is such a wealth of hymns of praise and worship that have lasted to the present day, because they are of quality, that it is an absolute shame NOT to use them in worship. People sing out more when they have something familiar. Even if they do not know the hymn, if it sounds familiar stylistically, that puts them at ease, and they will sing more confidently.

        Adding contemporary songs to the mix is a good thing. Just remember to add that which is of quality (and you and your congregation will know which those are). Turn down (or off) the amplifiers. You do not need to amplify an acoustic instrument in a church. Use the organ as well as the piano for some variety. Add some orchestral instruments to the mix on occasion. Many of your young people play in school bands/orchestras. Some of the adults might like to dust off their horns to play Christmas carols or rousing gospel tunes during the summer.

        If you want to explore some “new” music. Try doing it during the offertory, or even as a “special”. Form a choir, even if they only sing once or twice a month at first. There are plenty of good two-part arrangements for small beginning choirs. Encourage the congregation to make a joyful noise! God will hear what is behind that noise in the hearts of his people.

      • I agree with you completely!

      • Sharon camilli May 27, 2014 at 3:50 pm

        Very well said!!!

    • Has anyone noticed that all of the “contemporary praise songs” sound like someone put several hundred notes in a hat and drew them out one after another to go with some words and therefore there is absolutely no tune or melody or whatever you want to call it to follow. There is no music on the screen to read to try to follow along, so that is impossible. I grew up singing in the adult choir as a teenager and find myself totally unable to follow the music. The words are wonderful, which is the most important part, but there is no tune to learn. Every song sounds just alike so you would think I could catch on, but I can’t. Therefore, I don’t even try to sing. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels this way, so I think that is a large part of why no one is singing along. I feel deeply that there should be variety of music in every service because of all who worship having a closeness to God from different songs.

      • About 90% of these “contemporary” songs are repulsive to me. OF course, I am very prejudiced on the side of “Southern Gospel” having sung it for nearly all my life of 73 years. The “modern” ones just do not have the same inspiration as the “Grand Old Gospel” melodies. That’s my position on this and I stand firm on it. GOD BLESS.

      • I have always said there is just no rhyme or reason to the way most contemporary songs are written. Thanks for saying that here.

      • I am glad for both of you to have your own personal opinion…

      • I agree with Patricia, Jerry and Katrina on the views of your musical problems coming up in the congregations. As a trained singer, the words pasted on the screen don’t help me at all and a lot of these songs do not have a solid tune OR repeat themselves so many times, you’re really wondering if you can keep it up.

        It’s sad that in my most comfortable way to worship (reading and singing music) I find myself feeling left out or sad that I can’t “READ” the tune right away OR harmonize with it once I do learn it. I feel that in this day and age, a good mixture of music will be the best way to go in a service but also, perhaps a mixture of services could help.

        You could have a more Traditional service in the morning (with our beloved Hymns) and a Contemporary service at night. The old tradition of “teaching” music within the Church should also come back for those who have the time to study.

        My Father grew up in the ’30’s and they had Music Camp in the summers, Singin’ Saturdays and the occasional Pot Luck Lunches where they spent 2 hours after the meal just calling out hymns, singing and worshiping. Hearing them talk about those times were not only amazing but educational as well. They took the study of Music as serious as their Bible Study so they both would combine to make the most inspirational service.

        One can tell, just by reading this blog that Music is a very large part of our worship time and it’s a passionate subject for all to discuss.

    • A lot of times the song is sung so high that not many people can participate. Bring it down to a level that most people are comfortable with, and more people will participate. Sing songs that people are on the radio and are current instead of the old, boring stuff. Of course the classics are good every now and again, but the old school, high-octave stuff just isn’t what people are comfortable with.

      • Judith Hirsch May 25, 2014 at 12:13 pm

        Most of the newer hymnals have lowered the pitch of the hymns for a medium rather than high voice. I am an alto (God made me that way) so I sing the harmony (alto line). Try it even if you don’t read, use your ears and remember that you are only a half step from the right note at any time so just keep moving (Told to me by a jazz pianist friend of mine who was teaching me how to improvise). Angie, try to listen to some of the “old” southern gospel hymns as well as the “classics” and you may find that they are not boring at all. I like both the new rock groups and the “pop” singers that have contributed to the literature. I enjoy some of the newer contemporary Christian music as well, but a lot of it is emphemeral and will disappear after a year or two. The stuff that persists after five years is probably the “good” stuff.

    • I believe chosen vocal range of the pieces has so so much to do with the problem. For example, many praise and worship tunes were initially ‘performed’ by professional musicians whose ranges are too high for men and too low for women. . To sing with them means worshippers have to jump octaves vocally. It’s difficult and disengaging, and so congregants stop trying.
      My solution? Change keys so that men can sing in their own range and women can also. Two octaves is almost always a richer experience for a congregation.
      Any response to this?

      • I think you just nailed it!

      • There’s no ‘right’ key. Altos often say, and not unfairly so, that nothing is in the right key for them to sing melody, but let me tell you: songs aren’t often in the right key for me as a soprano either. I usually make up harmonies, but I realize that this is a skill that is being lost (partially due to the lack of harmony singing in schools/churches). I would suggest a good mix: each vocal range has some songs pitched well for them.
        My church does well at this: songs are never just pitched for one range. Some are easy for me, some aren’t. For those of us who understand worship, it’s not that big of a deal. For those who don’t, well, any aspect of the music can be a big deal.

  4. I think something else is at play too and that’s the lack of teaching people get re: worship. I was raised in the Church and my mother taught me about worship and reverence for God. I came along during the time of congregational singing of mostly hymns and gospel songs and I didn’t stop singing when I started attending churches with praise bands, worship teams, worship leaders, near-professional sounding choirs, etc. To this day, I sing out and if the choir is singing a song that’s familiar to me, I sing along. And I’m usual the odd ball since I’m one of the few singing. All people really need to do is open their mouths and sing and set aside the thinking that they’re not as good as those on stage or that they’ll drown them out or whatever else people are thinking. To me, worship is participatory; I’m not there just to watch and listen, although that is a part of worship. But to never sing? What’s the point in standing then? Just to look at other people? You might as well sit down and file your nails ’til they’re through.

    • I’ll agree with this. I once belonged to a church where the music minister wasn’t just skilled (he had been playing piano since he was 3), he had learned something about letting the Holy Spirit lead in leading worship. Since I’ve moved, I’ve rarely found an equivalent. So, what am I supposed to do, sit there with my armed crossed, grousing that it’s not what I’m used to? No. it’s an opportunity to pour yourself into worship even when the environment isn’t what you consider to be ‘conducive’ to worship, to acknowledge that God is worthy of worship whether the surroundings or the music are to your taste or not.

      • This ^
        Recognizing worship as a response. A response to God anywhere, anytime and anyplace. Worship on Sundays should be a result of our worship during the week. It’s an overflow of our life in Christ, not where we come to ‘worship’ once a week.

        Some of my best moments of worship have been walking to work, being in a mosh pit in a metal concert, listening to my favorite non-christian bands just to name a few.

        It’s sad that the blame for people not singing in church is being pointed at (for most people) the 20 minutes of singing ONCE a week. The root is much deeper. Only in America do you have so many churches with so many different stylized options. It’s great but at the same time people don’t come across teaching that shows them what worship from the heart really is. That’s where the change happens.

      • Agreed! I often find that the ones complaining about the current reality are the very ones guilty of not participating.
        Be the change!even if it is not your favorite song, lead the way and sing it. If it’s not the instrumentation you prefer, still participate. Through many generations this has been a divisive tool for the church. It’s time to wake up, grow up, and reach a dying generation. You have also got to be relevant. There is a reason why more and more churches are closing their doors. Let’s be the change!

    • Right you are. Make a Joyful Noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Enter his courts with praise. Didn’t say it had to be perfect.

  5. I wish it wasn’t true but you nailed it! All of these apply to my church! Some do sing but most do not. Is it because we do not fear the LORD and in turn worship him? Many times I think this is a heart issue exasperated by your well thought out list. Thom, have you visited, seen or heard of any good solutions?

  6. Think for a moment about other public venues where people join together in singing. Can you name any? Around here (mid-Michigan) the only other community space where people are compelled to sing is the local meeting of the Rotary Club or Kiwanis. Both of these are organizations whose membership decline can be illustrated using an inverted L-shaped curve. Whether the style is traditional or contemporary, our worship design is a hold-over from an era when communal singing was a form of entertainment. People didn’t just sing in churches in ages past, but in many communal settings. Clubs and service organizations all had songbooks, schools had fight songs and alma maters that people knew all the words to, people would sing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at the beginning of ballgames and rise to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. Communal singing of hymns, gospel music and spiritual songs in worship tapped into mainstream tastes and affinities. These days we are far removed from the time when public singing was a shared experience people looked forward to participating in enough to set aside time to do it. Public singing does not spill over into many venues beyond church sanctuaries and worship centers, and is seen as something at best anachronistic and more often weird by the general populace. Since present-day unchurched and de-churched people don’t seem to value public singing, it causes me to wonder whether religious people are missing the mark by putting so many very expensive eggs in the worship basket and whether winning worship wars over musical style is a victory that will have very little impact for the Kingdom of God.

    • I agree. Public singing is weird by todays standards. To ask people to stand up and “worship” is jibberish. Which brings me to the second part of this. Worship leaders don’t lead. They are not instructing what the congregation is to do. Leading implies that you would take a group of people and move them through an act of worship. If people don’t know what to do, tell them to “listen to this verse and meditate on this” or “lets all sing the chorus in unison and this is why”. Maybe shape more than just music and encourage people to kneel or to lift their hands or close their eyes. If people aren’t doing anything perhaps it is because they have no idea what they should be doing. Tell them. Teach them.

      • Jonny McGeown May 24, 2014 at 9:10 am

        Thank you for this sensible comment. In the role of ‘worship leader’, I pray to be a channel of the Holy Spirit, asking that my part will enable others in the room to engage more intimately with the Father through the Spirit. So, I do instruct/invite/guide the family at times, seeking to draw us all into a shared meeting with God

    • Dwayne, the answer is very simple: God’s people sing because God has commanded them to sing. Why would you compare the church – a group of believers, redeemed by the blood of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit – to a Rotary Club? It’s apples and oranges.

      The bottom line is that our singing is an act of obedience to God’s Word (Col 3:16, Eph 5:17-19).

      Isaac Watts: “Let those refuse to sing who never knew our God / But children of the heavenly King must speak their joys abroad.”

      • Yea, I can see God up in heaven now, “You will sing to Me because I command you to, because I am the greatest and I deserve your praise.” And then it’s, “Oh, ok… I really don’t feel like it today but only because God commands me to.” Do you recall the, “They worship Me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.”? Those people were following all Gods commands but I don’t think that is what God is focused on. I think people will be more apt to want to sing to their loving Heavenly Father than to some commanding, demanding heavenly dictator. Be careful of the picture you paint of God. When people preach this strict obedience, they are making God out to be selfish and self centered which is opposite of who God is.

      • Straw man, Ryan. Why would you think that God’s commands are a burden, or joyless? Perhaps you’ve never experienced the joy of grateful obedience? Or do you believe it impossible that someone can obey a command with a joyful heart?

        Read the Psalms. ALL OF THEM. You’ll find times when David certainly didn’t *feel* like worshiping God. But he did anyways, and that act of obedience turned his heart back to the Lord again and again. Believe right, do right, and you will feel right. Don’t get those out of order.

        God isn’t selfish and self-centered, but only because those aren’t descriptions that fit God. But He certainly is completely consumed with His own glory. “I am the Lord, that is my name… my glory I will give to no other.”

    • You are exactly right, Dwayne. I am a professor of music, who teaches the history of music, and I am also a church musician. After surviving the worship wars, I thought all of this lack of participation was about taste and preference. But then reading blogs like this and other articles about non participation in churches with contemporary services, I realized it had to go deeper than this. In the past year, I have read several books about the broader collapse of singing in society, well beyond the walls of the church. While there may be things we can do in terms of education or explanation or managing amplification and people’s manner of presentation on the platform, there are much bigger forces at work, as there always are on the church. We live in a society in which most people experience music through recorded means, not through active participation. If we went back in time to the 1910s, before radio (and everything since), we would be amazed by the world. If you wanted music then, you had to make it or have someone else make it. Living in a world where music is mediated primarily through mechanical or electronic means, and this is regardless of style, classical music, too, is now mostly experienced via recordings, is going to profoundly change how the individual relates to the act of music making, even in the church.

    • I agree. Many people probably don’t sing in church because it is not our culture anymore to sing in public. There is a widening gap between those who feel qualified to sing and those who don’t. We are embarrassed if someone were to catch us singing. In other cultures singing is a part of life done by everyone. I read of a man visiting Africa who said “I don’t sing.” The villagers, incredulous, said “Can you talk? Then you can sing!”

  7. So, would you be willing to describe what that environment looks, sounds, feels like? I’m a worship pastor of a “contemporary” styled church who totally agrees with your observation that congregational singing is experiencing a decresendo. Lifting our hands in the air and waving them like we just don’t care is all well and good, but if we are listening only and not singing we forfeit the sweetest part of music in the church. What other moment in a worship service can everyone vocalize and at the same time everyone completely understood?

  8. Great post! I think these are all true, and perhaps a few other factors as well. The good news is that these factors can be tweaked, if desired. Some people do prefer to worship in a concert-like setting. But we should also give them a chance to sing accapella occasionally and hear themselves as the body. I lead a praise team and pick music. This post was a good reminder for me and illustrates the challenge to pick songs with good content that are singable, and there are many songs out there that fit both of these criteria.

  9. It may be outdated, but our church still uses hymnals. We are planning a new building to seat even more and we will still use hymnals.

    When you can see the words easily, it’s easier to sing along. And we only have about 40 songs that we choose from, so it’s easy to memorize the words.

    The only real problem is that since everyone has the words memorized and they are all singing, are they really singing from their heart (in worship) or from their head (from memory)?

    • I think you have it backwards in your last paragraph. When you know the words and the rhythm you can focus your attention on the meaning of the words and the glory of God. When you don’t know the words or the flow of the song, your attention is on the screen and trying to get the song right.

      • Exactly. We do a contemporary service, and we have found that when we stopped learning so many new songs, following the radio charts, and started repeating songs more regularly, we got much more participation. The lyrics absolutely have to be on screens.

        We also don’t do anything resembling showmanship, we don’t do “specials” or solos, but as a drummer, and also one of the sound techs, you can be sure I make sure there is some energy in the room.

  10. They do at South Main Baptist in Houston. We do all We can to foster participation and to encourage them to sing. (Col 3:16)
    Check out the YouTube link and listen to ‘old hundredth’ from a couple of weeks ago. It was an unexpected a cappella rendering and they soared!

  11. This is such an interesting conversation! So many things to think about.
    I have witnessed the tremendous power of the “singing-around-the-campfire” effect when I stumbled on to it accidentally teaching VBS songs to a group of children. Group Publishing VBS songs are so memorable and easy to teach (the children can learn the words and actions from DVD’s) that we use them to prepare for and present children’s music in worship. To get the songs “into their heads and hearts” I alternate presenting them to the children in several different ways:
    Watching the DVD as a group (the children are facing the TV),
    Watching me present the melody, words and actions (the children are facing me),
    Watching each other singing and standing in a circle (the children are facing each other)
    Singing and dancing together as a group (the children are scattered around the room)
    By far, the most powerful, loving, connecting, heart-felt emotion happens when the children and adult leaders are in a circle facing each other. The loving connections bounce back and forth and I can see and feel the joy in everyone’s faces.
    It would be fun to try this in a worship setting. Thanks for the great idea.

  12. Curious though, what is the difference between church and a concert in terms of audience participation? Because although a concert contains the professional quality, loud volume, spectator set-up, and sometimes unsingable songs, those in attendance do seem to sing along.

    • One difference, Ali, could be that at some of those concerts, the singers create and cultivate a community environment so that the audience feels like they’re just singing along with an old friend and remembering all the nostalgic feelings that come with that music. While some worship leaders do try to encourage the congregation to sing, there seems to be, in some churches, an environment ethos that “we don’t do that here”. It’s as if sitting in respectful silence is more appropriate. So, it’s probably needful for pastors to address this and try to encourage a different environment–one in which singing is welcomed and encouraged.

      • Bravo, Pat. Very insightful.

      • Tina Matteson May 26, 2014 at 7:36 am

        As a music director in a Methodist church I totally agree, Pat… I have watched my people at events like Women of Faith and Christian concerts ‘whoop it up,’ yet in church they are quiet and almost timid in their singing. They feel church is different.

  13. I have a “holy hunch” there could be another factor at work here as well Thom. Is it possible that the words of the pre-selected worship songs do not connect with the hearts of those who are being asked to sing them? Anyone who is big on authenticity finds it difficult to mouth words that do not reflect their current reality. Or, mouth words that they do not understand. The more I think about this makes me think a case could be made for how this kind of worship sets people up to become hypocrites. Isaiah 29:13 says The Lord said, “These people claim to worship me, but their words are meaningless, and their hearts are somewhere else. Their religion is nothing but human rules and traditions, which they have simply memorized.” GNT

  14. Dwayne hits it on the head, especially if a church has been effective in reaching those who were not raised in church. While seating, familiar songs and encouraging people to sing are helpful (and I would add to that list – the skill of a worship leader to drop back the volume and instruments at points in order to fill the room with mostly voice, making sure songs are in a singalong key for men and women and picking songs that are quickly learned) But mostly we need to understand that we are the last outpost of community singing and this will be a strange and uncomfortable experience for many new folks stumbling through our doors…and they will be much more at home with minimal participation for quite awhile but may be getting a lot out of the experience all the same.

  15. Some great thoughts, Thom. Worship is not a certain hour of the week and only with singing. Worship is our whole life. As a worship leader during our cooperate worship times, it is my responsibility to try to engage the congregation in whatever we do. If I don’t, I have failed. On the flipside, the congregation also has the responsibility to come prepared to engage in worship. You only get out of worship what you are willing to put in.

  16. Okay a comment about your “blare” point…

    You are making a good point and I don’t contend with it. People will stop singing if its too loud.

    But “turning it down” isn’t always the best answer because there is such a thing as too soft. A “too soft” mix was the greatest reason people weren’t singing out at my church. Once we started pushing the overall volume to 85dB or 90dB, expressive worship exploded. It was predictable and consistent. Try it on your own – the best volume for listening is quieter than the best volume to accompany your own SINGING OUT. If you feel like the whole congregation will hear you if you start singing because the music is so soft, you’ll likely NOT sing. (Which was the case for my church).

    This blog rocks – I don’t want to detract from that – but I think the more accurate problem in your list isn’t “Blare” but “Bad Volume” or “Bad Mixing.”

    I wrote about that awhile ago in detail here, if anyone is interested: http://www.cmiworship.com/2011/07/how-loud-should-a-worship-service-be/

    • Adam, as someone who previously earned my living as a professional audio engineer, both at a church as well as in the marketplace, and as someone formally trained as a musician and as someone who since then has worked in various aspects of media for thirty-four years, I can tell you that my experience is that if you want a congregation or secular audience to sing louder, the music should generally be turned up, not down. There are exceptions … however in general, people will sing (if they so desire) at the volume they hear. If they hear softly, they sing softly. If they hear loudly with intensity, they sing loudly with intensity.

  17. I honestly think part pf the problem is that too many churches have started something…anything…to step into the “contemporary” world (and I loathe that term). While I do understand the folks that want to hear the old standards in worship, even to a praise band beat, many new, young, and millennial worshipers are turned off by that. So I think the bigger issue at hand is, who are you trying to reach with your worship style, or are you taking a shotgun approach when a laser beam should be used?

    There are a lot of churches that put on the what I call Shine Jesus Shine shows and expect to draw young crowds while appeasing older crowds. Is that bad? Only if you expect young people to show.

    Why not bring in some secular and even embrace it? Heck, our praise team did Happy buy Pharrell Williams and we didn’t need to put up lyrics and saw a munch of our congregation not only singing, but dancing…no we’re not Baptist.

    And when we enter a series, we are very pointed about teaching a new song that usually ties into the series…then we stick with it. In this manner we teach new songs in great ways and have gotten great feedback. But one thing that happens is, we get different (usually older) folks that come because they want to get in and out of church early and they almost always lodge complaints about songs too fast, no notes to sing with the leader, don’t like the way the leader dresses, music is too loud, too much video. To the complaints we just shake it off and continue forward because God has called us in the direction we are moving.

    Therein-lies the true question. Is your church “called” to have a differing worship style? Are you called out into the wilderness to be confronted by the temptation to turn back and introduce the fruits of traditional church back into what you are doing?

    My suggestion would be that if you’re doing non-Traditional worship, listen to your local Christian rock radio station. What are they playing? I’m far from the age that should go for that style, but if we want he church to go and grow as God commands, we need to sound more like a cross between Tomlin and Skillet rather than Crowder and the Gaithers. Bleh. And if you like the Gaithers once in awhile, look to the traditional folks who flock to that style, but don’t ask non-Traditional folks to do the standards any more than you’d ask the Traditional folks to do Tell The World by Hillsong United…which is incredibly AWESOME!

    • Let the proverbial beating begin…..

    • Thank you , Jay

    • I think you skimmed over something very important in this. People are more reactionary toward the pop culture centered than Christ centered. Worship is an outflow of the heart. While we in the church have been conditioned to fake it for certain events, the reality of our heart focus comes out in our corporate singing.

  18. Thom, We (Wife & I) met you in Rochester, NY. I look with interest at this fact in the church because of what I have witness and because I soon will be at a new pastorate. I attempt to blend contemporary and traditional hymns. Our choir takes off during the summer and I hear a difference. Those voices, although still singing, don’t have the same affect as when they are looking at the congregation singing. Plus, when they up front they are not considered “show persons” but simply song leaders. During Lent we had a special service bringing a number of congregations together for worship. We put four men in front of the congregation to lead praise time before worship with only piano for music. The participation was great. Sometimes simple is better.

  19. Come to calvary chapel old towne!

  20. Back in my parents church where my dad was the song leader, everyone sung loud but that was in part that my dad had a good loud singing voice. When I got married and moved, the next church, people sang quiet in the evening service because the song leaders at the time didn’t sing all that loudly. With the praise team in the morning service, I would say people sang averagely but when familiar old hymns were sung, people sung louder.

    I did visit a large church with an excessively loud praise band and I literally could not hear myself singing. I could have shouted profanity and nobody would have heard. I quit going to that one because I didn’t want to ruin my hearing any more than was already started.

    Yea, some of those newer praise songs are more meant for a solo artist who can actually hit those high notes than a congregation. I certainly cannot sing them. Some of the more emotional love songs would make me feel uncomfortable as they are more fit for a woman singing to her lover. As anyone, I have my preferences.

  21. We’re a very traditional New England church and we started a contemporary worship service a couple of years ago. We found that the high school youth who attended did not sing, even though the songs were the ones they loved to belt out at their workcamps. We asked for their feedback and they said that the music seemed too polished — like it was a show. They also said it was too loud, so all they could hear were the voices in the praise band. They wanted to hear the congregation sing along, and they wanted to have their voices needed. I think the music was also too shmaltzy for younger generations, with beautiful harmonies. We made those changes and got a teenaged praise band leader — now they sing their hearts out and are much more engaged in worship. The adults like it better, too.

  22. Worship is a response. If people are encouraged to respond in worship, people usually worship and sing in that that’s what they’re there to do. Worship Leaders could certainly consider more and more of what it means to help people enter into worship. Whenever I have taken the time to speak or teach about a little something in scripture or a spiritual thought (not a long time – the pastor doesn’t want another sermon preached), I have found that people are much more responsive in a worship setting to express their hearts to God. I don’t think it has anything to do with the music style. I think the lack of singing has to do with the lack of leadership. People in my church sing their hearts out and it’s a contemporary worship service. I’m not patting myself on the back, but I’m just trying to make the point that I don’t think Thom has hit the nail on the head here. There’s nothing wrong with awesome rock music, cool lighting/haze/fog and the decibel level being high. However, when those things are magnified (because they are big) over Christ being magnified in an authentic manner, that’s when people see things like this as a show or a performance. I think we should perform in church. For God. We should perform our guts out for Him and thank Him for all He’s done with the very best of our abilities, too. When I hear something beautiful or excellent, it helps me see the beauty and the excellent character of God more. Although, I may be a rare person who likes Gregorian chant, a mega loud rock band and everything in between. I see God in all of those experiences in church. Thom said it well in his closing. He longs for an environment that evokes his real heartfelt vocal participation. I think a worship leader helps with that along with the programming and the moments we allow ourselves to experience God in worship.

    • Billy I think you hit the nail on the head :) People are not stupid – They can sense when a worship service is more of a concert than a heartfelt praise to God. When worship leaders sing with all of their heart to God, are obedient and attentive to the holy spirit, it is contagious across the congregation. As a side note, in all this discussion, let’s not emphasize methods over the work of the holy spirit. I believe all of these styles and methods are neither here compared to the importance of what the holy spirit can do in hearts when we turn the reigns over to him.

    • Excellent analysis. I like all 500 years of written music! I will play plainchants, southern gospel, contemporary “pop”, jazz, rhythm and blues, Fanny Crosby (her husband wrote the tunes), Handel, Bach, Mozart and Mendelssohn. And no matter what I play, someone in my congregation will remark that it touched them. I pray about what I choose, work hard to make sure I am playing it well, and listen to the spirit. Our songleader does the same with the hymns. We contact each other about the choices. We have a small praise and worship band, as well as a traditional choir, and sometimes we all work together (usually a southern gospel tune). We sometimes teach new choruses/praise&worship songs to the congregation but we do it over a few weeks: I play it as an offertory, choir sings it as an anthem. Then we do it as congregational singing. This appears to work with our group. We just need to remember that we are performing for God’s pleasure, and not our own (though if we perform well, God may give us some satisfaction and happiness with the result!).

  23. In my many years of touring and leading worship in a wide variety of churches, what I’ve observed is this: if the songs are well chosen, familiar and in a singable key, people will sing. If the environment is welcoming and discourages self-consciousness, people will sing. If the leadership is strong and confident and skillful, people will be drawn into participation.

    It’s important to remember that we’re asking our people to do something that is culturally anomalous; we live in a spectator culture; there’s almost nowhere in our normal lives (besides church) wherein we sing together.

    Second, many worship leaders will choose songs that showcase their own vocal ability w/o considering what most people are capable of singing. The congregation quickly discerns that that they can’t sing along (i.e. the range is too high, etc.) and they just stop participating.

    Third, we often fail to give them something familiar to sing. Just about the time a congregation is starting to warm up to a song, we worship leaders are sick of it. A strong leader will have the maturity to choose songs that are useful even when he or she would prefer to do something new and personally satisfying.

    Fourth, the volume is either too high (concert level) which suggests “shut up and listen!” Or, conversely, the music is too quiet, which results in self-consciousness (they don’t wanna sing out because “people can hear me!”). Often the real problem is not the actual volume, it’s a poor mix (and people usually express their displeasure at a bad mix as “it’s too loud!”). The same goes for lighting in the room; if it’s dark, it can seem like a spectator/concert experience, but if it’s too bright people get self-conscious. Finding the sweet spot is tough.

  24. I love being caught up in the Spirit when I sing. It takes over my whole being. Imagine singing one song for an hour. We did that once. it was amazing as the Spirit flooded into our meeting. and the presence of God was tangible.

    Sadly I don’t go that church anymore because I have moved country. I recently came close to that in a small fellowship that met in a shed in the back yard and since then all I can do is play and sing “Worship the Lamb” with words like “Thankyou for the cross Lord, Thankyou for the nail pierced hands…” I play it over and over again on my MP3 player.

    I love it because it beings me back to the one thing I should never forget…the cross.

  25. David Duncan II Reply May 21, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    There are even more factors than the ones given. When you go to Amish and Mennonite communities, you find that their congregations are VERY musical…and if you sat through one of their meetings, you would hear full 4-part harmony sung by 95% of the group. …So why is this?… They are very “family-oriented.” ….they sing together as families outside of church, and they (for the most part) listen to only a capella music. On the flip side, most “Christians” are NOT family-oriented (each member is usually endeavering to be independent of the others, whether by cell phones, TV, work, or school….). This pulls everyone apart, and even in church the farmily unit is rarely together. So good, 3-part harmony is seldom heard in church. Add into this the fact that what is listened to OUTSIDE of church is rarely good 3-part harmony. …In the end, you wind up with an entire generation that don’t know HOW to sing…(NOT THAT THEY CANT,…JUST THAT THEY DONT KNOW HOW!). you might compare this generation to one that doesn’t know how to ride bicycles …. 95+ people out of 100 could ride, bit until they’ve been taught,…(or shall I say have enough self-discipline to teach themselves)…until this happens, the majority will pass it off and say, “I CANT.” The ability is there, but this entire generation has not been given the chance to learn.

    (just another factor to stew on)

  26. David Duncan II Reply May 21, 2014 at 9:24 pm

    …By the way, I taught music in a college setting for two years, and in this time, was disheartened by 90% of students that had BEAUTIFUL voices,…and yet no “know-how” when it came to vocal parts. …They just hadn’t heard it enough to learn it….

  27. Your solution, Thom, sounds a whole lot more like “house church” than the theater style setting of our churches today. Church buildings have always been stage focused, but even more so today with special lighting and screens. The whole atmosphere promotes watching rather than participating.

    Now that I no longer am preaching, I am shocked how things look from the other side. Not only do I see just a handful singing, but I see a lot of bored looking men who look like they would leave in a heartbeat if it wasn’t for that sweet wife standing beside them. I’m not sure how long they can hold on! What really scares me is I might be headed out the back door myself!!!

  28. I’m surprised nobody else has proposed my current hypothesis: people sing less because *they don’t have the notes*. The transition from hymnals to projected lyrics means no more written music. You know, a staff, with notes on it. Even non-music readers can sometimes pick up enough “up and down” of written music enough to aid their singing.

    • David Duncan II Reply May 21, 2014 at 9:48 pm

      ABSOLUTELY CORRECT!!!!!

      • I’m not sure how many people even know how to read music nowadays, Alan. Unless people grew up playing in a school band or took private lessons, none of that would probably mean much to them. I can tell by the way people around me sing or don’t sing when we use the hynmals. They don’t know which notes are supposed to be held long and which ones aren’t, etc. I’ve often thought it would be nice to project the notes on the screen along with the words, but aesthetically it would probably be too cluttered on the screen coupled with the fact that many don’t know how to read music.

        One thing that some worship leaders will do, is tell the congregation to listen to them sing a song through once when it’s a new one and then join in.

    • I wholeheartedly agree! I want written music with harmonies also!!!

    • Right you are! Even “non-readers” of music read more than you think they do! After all, reading music really is not rocket science.

  29. David Duncan II Reply May 21, 2014 at 9:37 pm

    Six weeks before Easter, I went to my pastor of the new church my wife and I recently joined. They had NO choir or praise team at all. They sang to “canned” piano music. Was this wrong? ….ABSOLUTELY NOT! …My wife and I LOVED the spirit of worship. …But I discretely asked my pastor if he minded having some special music for Easter Sunday. He said, “Shoot for it!”….So they announced that anyone in the congregation interested in a small choir, to meet after the main service. The church’s average attendance is approx. 30. …..out of this, 15 gathered up front!!!! I gave them all sheet music (which some of them had NO idea WHAT to do with), a CD of JUST their specific part to listen to at home, and every Sunday we delved into each part. Many of them threatened to back out with the excuse that they didn’t know what they were doing. I even had a few ask, “What if we don’t know how to sing!?!?”

    4 weeks went by.

    After much patience with each other, one day I told them all to stand up and follow me to a spare room with a very echo-y atmosphere. We quietly filed in, then stood in a circle facing each other. I gave each of the 3 groups their first notes one by one. Then I started them off on the song. As each person began to sing what they had learned, things began to click. At first, everyone was upset by hearing other notes besides the one they had practiced thru the preceding weeks, then, slowly, it clicked.

    Rarely will you ever witness something so beautiful as this: A group of non-professionals, volunteering to sing without knowing how, stand in a circle, and hear (for the first time EVER for them) three-part harmony coming out of THEIR own voices and hearts! ….I tell you I cried! The looks on their faces- to witness the unlocking of unknown talent…..just phenomenal!

    Our churches may have many issues….ranging from “over-production” to a plain-old lack of spiritual fire,….but when you take 15-17 WILLING souls who just want to be a blessing, show them what real singing is, when they suddenly realize that pure, Godly music without the “fluff” is actually enjoyable, …(believe me- I’ve seen it happen). ……they will take off and FLY!!!!!

    • David, you’ve hit on a fundamental aspect of any type of corporate vocal music – it is an intimate endeavor; especially singing to praise God. I’ve been fortunate to be able to sing in good church choirs for most of my life, until I joined the Church of Christ. Now, everyone KNOWS the CofC doesn’t do music. But everyone is wrong – we don’t include instruments. The vocal strength of our congregation on Sundays is 300 people singing in beautiful four part harmony – always a capella. We have accomplished this by helping the young people to learn to not only read music, but to harmonize in parts. It works for us – it can work anywhere. It’s all a matter of effort.

  30. Agreed. The church at-large has adopted the “Seeker” model, which can best be described as the dumbing down of the worship service. The attitude is, you can’t be disciples on your own. We’re the professionals. Don’t try this at home.

    If you think about it, Martin Luther’s Reformation was a reaction to much the same thing. Parishioners were not allowed to read the Bible on their own. Let the priest or the pastor do it for you. The church paid the professional musicians to perform their worship so the congregation could be the audience. Luther brought corporate worship back to the masses so the person in the pew could enter in.

    The truth is, in worship, there are no spectators, only participants. God is the audience, not us.

    The modern “professional” church (Jesus, Inc.) has reverted back 500 years to pre-Reformation thinking.

    “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  31. I think that hymns the church have for many years, decades and century keep the congregation participate in singing…the last few decades, contemporary songs are mass produce (and not necessary a bad thing) but the church just not able to keep up with “new songs” all the time. The other day, I asked my 20-somthing worship team member about “Jesus Freak” by DC talk, and they don’t know who they are or the song. I ask them more about Audio Adrenaline and he doesn’t know either. The church today have many great worship songs but the turn over are too fast for the church…my thought.

    • That makes a lot of sense. The old hymns I grew up with were sung by my parents and probably grandparents. The hymn books had the dates the songs were written and some of them back to the 1800’s so everyone grew up with them and had no problem singing those over and over our whole lives.

      The contemporary songs are like the secular top 40. They are in and out and maybe one or two stick with churches but after 4 years now being out of church, if I were to go back to a large contemporary worship. I doubt I will know any of the songs.

  32. Funny to think from different perspectives. My 16 year old daughter, who is a musician, says that she feels people in our church don’t sing because the music is NOT loud enough, so they are self-consious about singing out loud.

    • And that’s how many treat the worship, Ryan, like it’s part of the top 40. I know someone who was a lay leader who would complain the worship and compare it to his brother’s church and how we weren’t singing the most current songs. And this is who you have leading some churches–people who think we need to keep up with the current trends, whether it works or not. I can’t imagine not singing a song because it’s not “current”. Does the song fit the theme of the service? Is it what is needed to minister to someone’s soul? Not, “we stopped singing that a couple of years ago”.

  33. I prefer the traditional songs, I do not care much for the praise songs. I like to sing from the hymnal. If I found myself In trouble I would rely on the “old Hymns” not the praise songs. And if you look around the men are not singing regardless! How are the young crowd going to learn the traditional songs?

    • Why does the young crowd need to learn the traditional songs any more than the old crowd needs to learn the new praise songs?

      • Because Hymns edify, teach place Jesus Christ firmly in the center of worship, that’s why. The first words printed in our hymnals say: “Next to the Bible is the hymnal.” By making a statement that the youth culture do not need to learn hymns you are stating the opposite case. Hymns are precisely what they need. Our mid-sized church has gone through the contemporary craziness and come out the other side. We kept the best of what the contemporary trend offered: though hymn book are still in the pews, we do use an overhead video, some of the more meaningful P&W song have survived. We no long use piano and organ only; we have both plus a guitarist who is equally adept at hymns and contemoprary songs, and a drummer. The organ was restored — but it is played not like your grandmother’s organ. We found that the congregation sings a whole lot better with the support of the organ. This has become a trend in our area. You can fill the pews with youth who will stand like zombies and occasionally raise a hand. But youth don’t tithe, volunteer unless coerced. Families make up the church family. That means moms and dads in their 20’s 30′ & 40’s with kids of all ages, and yes grandmothers and grandfathers. A church filled with rockin’ out teenagers and long suffering mute adults is AN UNHEALTHY CHURCH. It is a dysfuntional family because corporate worship has pandered to one element of the mix. My $.02 worth.

    • As a music professional with a master’s degree in church music and having attend both traditional and contemporary I prefer the traditional. The old hymns Patricia as one of my professor taught me are like reading a book. The first stanza gets your attention the stanzas in between are filler in the story and the last is the grand finale. Most contemporary just keep repeating themselves. As far as singing you need a strong leader. At to the point about the words being outdated that were being a profession comes in. It is up to the leader to explain what the words mean,

    • I can address this because as a 66 year old, you’re not going to draw the younger generation with songs you prefer just because you don’t care for a particular style of song. Our generation is beginning to die off and we need to be mentoring the younger generation to step in and take over. Which is why so many once prominent churches are dying everywhere I look is a sea of grayhaired congregants because of refusal to change with the times. We had a slogan where I attended years ago “Geared to the times but anchored to the rock”

  34. I think the issue is that people are expecting an “environment” that fits their needs. I place money on it that each row of 10 people has at least 3 different “Environments for Worship” they are “looking” for. Just worship…

  35. In business, if you are a leader and you turn around and nobody’s following – then your just out for a walk. If you are a ‘worship leader’ and nobody’s worshiping – what does that mean?

    There have been several great observations in this thread but I think the big picture is this: it ain’t about the style or what’s comfortable to the worship team or what’s on the local radio station. In fact, two verses with the chorus repeated 25 times is very sad (and boring). It may work for rock music but God’s message is far too rich and far too powerful to dumb it down.

    If you are called to lead, then lead them into the presence of the living God, not the top 40 list on the local CCM station. But that means you need to know them. Where they are spiritually. A good teacher knows his students. In the Group acronym R.E.A.L., the L stands for ‘learner based’. It’s not what’s easy for the teacher but instead what the student needs. Is leading worship any different?

    • Oh Terry, I so agree with your comment about the repetitiveness of some songs. After a line is repeated many times my brain and heart just tune out and I beginning to plan my grocery list.

  36. Once again, Thom has hit the nail on the head. When people can hear themselves, and others sing, there is a sweet harmony that happens. Out of this, the Holy Spirit can touch people’s spirits and take the congregants into a heavenly realm. God wants to inhabit the praises of ALL of His people, not just the worship team’s.

  37. Singing reinforces the message within the singers’ hearts as it spreads the message of the lyrics to others. Congregational participation in singing is vital for these reasons despite supposed societal trends. Early second century pagans thought that Christians were “weird” because they ate the “body” and drank the “blood” of Christ in Communion. Thankfully, the Lord’s Supper survived.

  38. I’ve noticed when we have just a piano and a few of the senior citizens from our alternate venue visit and lead worship, the whole congregation is loud and participating. But, when the lights are dimmed and focused on the regular crew with the bassist bobbing his head up and down like a hair band throwback, and the drummer biting his bottom lip while he plays, it all quiets back down in the now transformed audience. Even in a small group we were talking and one of the guys referred to it as an audience rather than a congregation.

  39. I don’t think you nailed it. People sing at concerts and the music is loud the singers professionals and there is a different element. You don’t have to worry about others hearing your awful singing voice or care. I hate hearing awful voices on the microphone and that’s when I don’t walk through the doors. You have to have singers that can sing to make it meaningful. Don’t put someone that can’t sing on the microphone!!! Ugh!

    If the music is not easy to sing, too “high” for most people, then they won’t sing it. It’s too Hard! I love to sing and still do but if the tempo is slower than I would like I stop singing. If I can hear myself sing because the volume is down and no one else is singing, forget it!

    Ask the 20 year olds. That’s the generation we are losing and fast!

    • Absolutely agree with you! People at concerts, even NFL games, are almost 100% participatory. They’re dancing, singing, swinging arms, leaning on each other–meanwhile the church remains the frozen chosen and we didn’t have to pay to get in. I mean really? The world is exuberant in their faith–why aren’t we? To me, there is only ONE factor at play here–a prideful, dead heart.

      As to professionalism–read the book of Leviticus where it talks about professional temple singers. God’s people should be gifted and called to lead others. Bad singing by choirs sound like a mockery to me.

    • That’s what I think too. I rarely sing but I focus on the words of the song. I often wonder what people think when I’m singing because I’m aware that I’m awful at it. I rarely sand even when it was hymns as a kid growing up. I’d wait for them to bring out the praise and worship songs because those meant the most to me. They weren’t as slow and boring. There were only several hymns I liked.

      I like it when its loud and you cannot hear each other singing

  40. This string is perhaps THE most fascinating I have yet to read here.

    Churches of Christ have always been non-instrumental, note I did not say non-musical, as we have accapella singing at every single worship. Is it “beautiful” music each and every time? Of course not, but it is heartfelt and meaningful. Young and old alike participate and isn’t that one of the purposes of worship? And yes………we even sing in three part harmony!

    Churches of Christ have taken a lot of flack over the years for being “traditional” so I find it interesting that so many churches with worship bands are now rethinking their effectiveness.

    Churches of Christ have ALWAYS believed we (as a body) are not in church to be entertained. We are there to praise and worship our Heavenly Father much like the Amish and Mennonite denominations mentioned above.

    When believers are taught that singing is not optional and is expected by God i.e.: Ephesians 5:19 New International Version (NIV)

    19 “speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,”

    then the value and importance of worshipful singing won’t be an issue in churches anymore.

    I understand this scripture to say “sing and make music from your heart”, period and not “if you feel like it”, or “if it’s convenient” or “If the spirit moves you” it simply says “sing”. I believe this to be a commandment regarding our worship.

    God knew exactly what he was doing when he commanded singing. He created our brains to be stimulated by the endorphins that circulate in them when we sing and that causes us to feel happy, uplifted and hopeful. That is just one benefit of singing, but to be doing it in praise and adoration of our Heavenly Father raises our emotions to yet another level.

    Sadly not every church of Christ has dynamic, musically inclined song leaders but we value singing so much we have someone in our family who teaches whole churches how to praise and worship more effectively using congregational accapella singing.

    If interested please check this website:
    http://keithlancaster.com/2013/12/what-to-expect-with-praise-and-harmony-workshops

    • Judy, I’m not Church of Christ, and do believe that having musical instruments in worship is mentioned in the Bible. However, I have visited Church of Christ services and must agree with you that the acapella music can be absolutely beautiful. I never heard any singing there that I didn’t consider outstanding… though I’m sure you are right about not all of the music being good all the time. I also found the harmony to be very uplifting to my soul. We all need to learn from each other.

    • Even though our Christ Church (Church of Christ) has traditional Capella singing at the 8:30 am service and instrumental at 11:00 am, we still sing and worship at 11:00 am. And at the end of many songs the instruments will stop and the congregation continues to sing a verse or two in Capella.

    • This is why I left the church I was raised in and went to Church of Christ. The music became less Christ centered and for the glory of God and more entertainment and for the glory of the person performing. There comes to a point in which you cross the line from worship into entertainment. We are not at church to be entertained but to worship. I think many churches have forgotten this. There are no perfect churches; however, we can strive to be more reverent in the methods we choose to worship.

  41. Another point that hasn’t been talked about….Culture. If you have ever visited thriving churches that have a majority African American attendance – I guarantee you the choir will be able to compete with anything and anyone you see on “The Voice” or with most pros! I’m almost 50 and it’s always been that way. Now in these churches, the worship is vibrant, with clapping and when the song has been sung enough – you can get the entire church to turn into a big choir. However, I miss the hymns of the church, I love to sing them myself ( people are shocked when I know the second line to a hymn as well as the 4th – its that third one that tends to escape me :) ).

    I visited a church and made the mistake of saying Amen and Hallelujah (this church was majority Caucasian and SB at that) – but you know what was strange…the Pastor saw me after church and said – I wish the rest of the congregation was more like you! Culturally African Americans sing – we just do it! Not to say that professionalism hasn’t infected our culture also…because it has – and to the point that the whole worship experience will be either praised, or condemned on the worship team and the pastor……but I thought we were there to worship Christ? Hmmmmmm ?

    • And prerich, in our African-American churches, if someone gets up and does a solo and is not the most skilled, we give glory to God because we often know the back-story to that person’s testimony and they’re making a joyful noise from the heart based on what the Lord has brought them through. I think we’ve confused joyful with skilled. I agree, skill has its place, but we’re missing something when we make the focus.

    • Prerich, you are absolutely right! By the way, I am in a NAB (Baptist) congregation, and though we are mosly Caucasian, we say amen and occasionally Hallelujah! We sing loudly, too, even the kids.

  42. This is why my husband doesn’t like going to churches where he feels like they’re putting on a show. It doesn’t feel honest or intimate. It truly feels like you should just be watching.

  43. The assumption is if you are not singing you are not worshipping- a very flawed assumption.

    • Agreed also. I believe singing is not worship but an expression of worship. Worship is truly your life that you live (including its flaws, not that we sin so grace can abound – but when we do sin we have somewhere to go – Christ, showing our dependency on him and our reason to worship in expression and action (life) all the more).

    • You’re right, Alan, and I do try to keep that in mind when I observe people not singing. I think what you’re seeing here is a lot of us who grew up with just about everyone participating more, even if they were just going through the motions, to people who stand still and just appear to be passive observers. If it weren’t that we saw so many people doing it, we probably wouldn’t even raise it as an issue, but it does appear that “something” is going on.

  44. Less of that mostly banal worship music more classic hymnal music.

  45. Thom,

    I hope the worship pastor at your church hasn’t read this… if he/she has, please apologize to them… It might be my last day in ministry if this was written as a slam to me…

    • Taylor, no worries. My church doesn’t have someone called a “worship pastor.” Besides, this description isn’t about my particular congregation, but churches in general. And my comments are not intended as a “slam” to any individual–except myself, for whom I said I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord. My comments are directed toward all of us in the church. We all share responsibility in how we have designed “church as we know it.”

  46. I agree with so many of the comments and would respectfully add these.
    1. Accapella singing is alive and vibrant. Where? College campuses all over the nation…..just not on church of Christ campuses. My son was part of a Christian accapella group, X.ado, at Dartmouth College. The Christian group was one of about 20 groups on campus, the vast majority of which are secular. They annually went to Boston for a northeast conference of college Christian accappella groups including those from Harvard, Boston Univeristy, and MIT . My second son goes to Princeton where the accapella groups are a huge part of what goes on around campus. Go on youtube and put in college a accapella and you will be amazed. Churches are missing a huge opportunity to reach college aged students through this music, and no one does it better than the churches of Christ! Be aware, it’s not your father’s accapella, but it is good music.
    2. Screens are killing worship. Hymnals and prayer books are implied invitations to participate. Everyone is hold one. It makes you feel welcome….like a drink when you enter a party. It makes the worship service make sense….especially to new comers. Screens allow/encourage detachment. If you must use screens, please put the music and the lyrics up….putting only the lyrics up says, “This is a closed club. We don’t care enough about you to even give you a way to participate.”

    • I don’t know, Jane. I’ve seen people open up the hymnals and either just stare at the page (ok, maybe they’re just reading along) or they just hold it while others sing. I’ve even seen some people not seem to be engaged as they absentmindedly pick up the hymnal when they realize that now the congregation is singing (or open up the bulletin to the responsive reading when they realize we’re reciting it, etc.). Maybe we just live in a distracted age in which people are just having a hard time engaging with church as we know it.

  47. Agree we are forgetting how to
    worship together through music
    that is not 7/11

  48. I think part of the problem is that we have made singing worship. We act as if the only thing that is worship is singing. Someone will preach their heart out and then someone will stand up and say, “OK, now let’s all worship.”
    Singing is not worship, it’s part of worship. I am afraid we worship singing.

  49. I’ve been mixing, recording and broadcasting major Christian conferences and church services since 1982 for a well known Christian radio network. I can honestly say I’ve been grieving over this (well defined) distruction of corporate worship in song for a long time. I am an objective, not subjective, witness to the withering participation by church goers. When I talk about it to the young, hip “worship” (they mean “music”) leaders they gloss over and say this is what the “schools” teach them. I could clarify more why some of these problems have come about but I’m trying to type on my phone. :(

  50. May I add another reason? Today’s worship leaders all sing so high, people find it impossible to find a key to sing along with. Chris Tomlin is amazing, but very few have his range.

    • That’s a problem I saw addressed somewhere, and Iwhat I recalled was that if the music’s melody was written or played in a key the men (think Baritone mostly) can sing, theoretically everyone should have no problem ranging it.

  51. You sure hit that on the head. I feel the same way. I am disabled and can’t stand so seeing the overhead to learn the songs. I miss the Hymnals and the songs.

    • If we focus on song style, lighting, sound, etc then our focus is on the wrong thing. Worship is a privilege and and an act of obedience. As Christians, we are to worship God. God is worthy of our worship and I’ve never heard a song that made him any less worthy of worship. God is worthy of worship when we sing a hymn, new praise song, loud music, soft music, bright lights, no lights. God is worthy. So maybe the reason we don’t worship us because we’ve made worship about us and what we like and have forgotten that worship is about God, the One worthy of our worship.

      • Nathan Gifford May 24, 2014 at 3:56 pm

        Bingo Jason! Nicely put.

      • Jason, the book of Exodus contains many chapters of minute detail regarding the worship of God and the tabernacle. First and second Chronicles dedicates many similar chapters to details regarding the worship of God in the Temple. I do not recall any specific text regarding sound systems, lighting or musical styles, but I do know that God commanded his people to focus on all of artistic elements of these spaces including tapestry, the priestly garments, utensils, sculpture, bas relief, precious stone work, cast statuary, etc., In fact, he called out and specified who the exact artisans would be to work on these places of worship. Of these artisans, we see the first use in the Bible of the phrases, “I have called by name,” and then “… filled him with the Spirit of God.” So, I would think that focusing on the tools of worship is important to God. It is not an “either, or” equation, but an “and” equation. We must worship God and God alone, but the implements of our worship is important and noticed by God. This, of course assumes that we are not worshipping the implements. When that occurs the implements must get cast down (2 Kings 18:4), not because implements themselves are sinful … but because people can be.

  52. I grew up in the Church of Christ so a capella singing has always been a part of my heritage in corporate worship. I’m not one who frowns on other styles of worship (contemporary or otherwise) and I’ve even visited a variety of other denominations. After nearly every visit I come away with a similar feeling regarding the praise time (singing)….the longing to feel needed or necessary. With a capella (or even toned down instrumental singing) there’s a interdependence between the gathered that if I don’t don’t do my part, there is diminishment.
    As I lead singing now this is my tacit message to my gathered family…that for this to work we must all lift our God given voices in praise.

    Great thoughts, Thom!

  53. I somewhat disagree…

    I believe the reason people have stopped singing is because they have forgotten they are a Royal Priesthood…and as a Royal Priesthood our first ministry to God…so sing Him.

    But a majority want to get to the good stuff, communion, sermon, etc…it’s what satisfies them…we have sung enough, I feel good, come on already, let’s get to the good stuff.

    If only people would remember that we minister to Him and for Him…that wether they feel like it or not – it’s time to bring their sacrifice of praise.

    • amen Andrew. This is actually stand for the singing of the Hallelujah Chorus. This was started by Queen Victoria who stood because as she said “There is a King higher than the king or queen of England and that is Christ.”

      • I was not Queen Victoria. She came on the scene long after Handel wrote this music. It was a King (which I can’t remember) who stood because he was overjoyed by the music. However, back then when Kings stood, you stood too. When they sat, then you could too.

      • Judith Hirsch May 25, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        King George III when he heard Handel’s Messiah was so moved by the Hallelujah chorus that he stood up. When the King stood, everyone else did as well. It became a tradition to stand for the Hallelujah Chorus, Often described as the Christian’s “National Anthem”.

  54. There will be no overheads or hymnals in heaven. There will be no stages for worship teams. There will be true worshippers there. All creatures, great and small along with the Angels. Are we experiencing true worship? The angels cry, “Holy”! They WORSHIP Him! And what man are you following? Are you learning His ways or are you trying to please yourselves? The Holy Spirit will teach you how to worship if you spend time alone in His presence. Stay there long enough to hear his voice. Tarry, wait, learn. Allow Him to purify your heart. Forgive and be forgiven. Then experience corporate worship in the houses of worship. Until then you will continue to have a “form of godliness but deny the power. To worship Him, Worship Him in spirit and in truth.

  55. This expresses my sentiment exactly – wish I had written a book before!

  56. Is are goal for the followers of Jesus to sing or to worship Christ? Can people not worshiping Christ be blamed on the sound system? The leader? The stage? Could it be, possibly, the hearts of the followers are not desirous of His presence, to worship, to express their love for Jesus and gratefulness for their salvation? The answer to why Jesus’ people are not worshiping Jesus corporately with singing of more complicated than throwing the sound man under the bus I think. Just my thoughts.

    • This is the truth. People need to stop the blame game. Just admit your heart is cold instead of blaming it on other factors. Just because someone is singing along doesn’t mean their “worshipping.”

  57. What this person just described happens in many churches. I’ve been on stage many times during worship with the Lord and I’ve seen some of the saddest faces looking out over the congregation. Many people seem so disinterested in praising and glorifying God. Even counsel men standing there not singing with there hands stuffed down in their pockets and looking around to see who’s there and who’s not. It truly must break God’s heart. That’s why I keep my eyes closed when I’m on stage.

    The worst thing a worship leader can do is look at the people during worship because you’ll get discouraged really quick. Is what the people are doing more important to you than what God thinks? Worship leaders aren’t there to cheerlead people…they’re there to worship and glorify God…let other people follow if they want to. Your main focus should be the heart of God.

    I think one of the reasons for this type of behavior in the congregation boils down to their relationship with God. I believe passionate, intimate, fervent communion with God changes everything. It changes how you worship, why you worship and when you worship. If people really understood how much God loves them, if they truly understood Gods true nature towards them, if they grasped his complete forgiveness through his grace, then all the demons in hell couldn’t stop them from glorifying God. When you see a person with their hands raised, singing to God and tears rolling down their face. When you see a person smiling from ear to ear and dancing during worship, not worried about anything else that’s going on in the church, then you’ve found someone who’s touched the heart of God. You’ve found someone who has connected with God at a level that most people are to embarrassed to pursue. They’re too self-conscious, their too carnal, they’re too self-center.

    God loves us infinitely more than most of us will probably ever truly understand. He loves us without restraint, no conditions attached, whether you failed him or not. Whether you have any plans to become better or not…he loves you. God’s love for us is not based on our performance; it’s based on his nature towards us. It’s based on who he is. Our performance will certainly be influenced by his incredible love for us…how could it not.
    There isn’t any area of your life that the love of God will not radically change. How quickly those changes come is based on what you meditate on.

    God’s love will change how, why and when you worship him because knowing who your in love with…will change how, why and when you love him.

    • “The worst thing a worship leader can do is look at the people during worship because you’ll get discouraged really quick. Is what the people are doing more important to you than what God thinks? Worship leaders aren’t there to cheerlead people…they’re there to worship and glorify God…let other people follow if they want to. Your main focus should be the heart of God”

      This direct quote from you, a worship leader, shows me what I already said I believe. The problem is an arrogance on the part of the leader. If you are a leader and look behind you and see not one following, you are just on a walk. Shepherds don’t just close their eyes and let the sheep fend for themselves and then blame the sheep when they leave the pasture.

  58. I’ve read most of the comments and at the end of it all, the problem is us. We have come to believe that if everything isn’t perfect, then participation is optional. I am part of a small worship team in a small church. In any given service, we will hear not enough hymns, why do you do the old stuff, too soft, too loud, I didn’t like that song, etc. But as my leader reminds our people, it’s not about us, it’s about Him! We have a church that does sing and our team works hard to make sure that what we sing and do is our worship, not just a sing-a-long, but at the end of the day, worship, like praying, devotions, and other parts of our Christian walk, is about obedience

  59. When our church moved to their new location back in 1985, congregational singing almost came to an abrupt halt. The old church had high walls, lots of glass and would ring during congregational singing. The new church had a low acoustical drop ceiling, carpeted floors, fully upholstered pews and the shape of the worship center caused the sound to travel sideways! People singing in the pews “thought” they were the only one singing because they could not hear the person sitting next to them singing. The sound system was poorly installed and would blast people away from the first six rows of pews. All these “architectural” problems sucked up the sound or drove the people to the back of worship center.

    We remodeled the worship center back in 2000 by expanding the worship center, putting in a hard surface ceiling, and putting in a distributive sound system (This was actually the fourth sound system that had been installed in the worship center trying to “fix” our problems). This helped tremendously! I direct and lead the traditional worship service and a praise team (consists of two acoustical guitars, keyboard, cajone and 5 singers) leads our contemporary service. They are more folk sounding than heavy metal rock.

    I agree with many of the “reasons” stated above, but it could also be be the worship center has acoustical problems.

    • Acoustically dead churches are the bane of good music and even choir singing, let alone congregational.

  60. It’s very simple…we are making “consumers” rather than “disciples.” Consumers attend a Sunday assembly to receive something…to see what they can get out of it for themselves. Disciples, on the other hand, come to offer something, to give something…especially, as the writer of Hebrews mentions, to “encourage one another” (Heb 10:25). When we all come to “get” something, singing is contrary to that purpose. When we come to “give” then singing makes ALL the sense in the world.

  61. Here’s something – maybe if we got rid of the word corporate and used the word congregational instead ;) just a thought. @Candace ….yes, songs are way to high!!!

  62. Scott@secondb.org Reply May 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

    You admitted you stopped singing, stopped participating in worship. Don’t do it. Find a church where you can sing, where you can join in worship. They are out there. It’s your choice my friend.

  63. Billy Frederick Reply May 23, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Worship through song is our gift to God. When we raise our voices to Him in adoration and praise. The message or preaching is Gods gift to us. His adoration and love for us. I am an old traditionalist, and our church still sing from the good old Baptist hymnal. I love the times we just stop the instruments, raise our voices to the Lord and praise Him. You can hear all the beautiful voices trained and untrained around you. May God receive the glory. And may He be pleased.

  64. Thankfully, this is not true of my church – a multi-site congregation of over 20,000 people. We have dynamic worship teams at each location. We project the words on a screen. The music is loud… However, as the video plays that signals church is about to start, the members stand up with about a minute to go – spontaneously. And start clapping in unison… When the music begins, the majority start worship God with their voices, their hands/arms raised, even whole bodies moving. Living in a state that knows how to celebrate at a football game, our pastor encourages the same level of devotion/worship on Sundays in corporate worship (as well as during private worship). We clap & sing for Jesus, not those on the stage. I am incredibly thankful for the spirit of worship at my church – Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama (and Montgomery, Huntsville, Auburn & Tuscaloosa).

  65. Respectfully, Thom, I disagree and would like to redirect on your points. I think you’re aiming with good intent but have hit a few symptoms and not the real problem. The main issue regarding the lack of congregational singing is leadership. This is why we need trained and passionate worship leaders who understand that congregational singing is important and want to encourage everyone regardless of “singing ability.” Everyone has the ability to sing; they just need to know they have permission and are encouraged.

    The lack of congregational singing in contemporary services has little to do with set-up. Traditional sanctuaries are set up in much the same way. The congregation faces a raised area (the chancel, altar, pulpits, loft, etc.). Now, I’ll proffer that worship in the round is spectacular when done well, but blaming set-up is not anywhere near the problem.

    The lack of congregational singing is also not about “Blare.” Turning up the music, when complemented well with encouragement from the worship leader is actually a benefit to congregational singing. People become less self-conscious about their pitch and tone because they know they can sing at the top of their lungs and get into the movement of the song and the Spirit without thinking they’ll be scaring everyone around them. This also does not defeat congregational voice because worship leaders should work with the congregation for call & response actions or let the congregation sing without leadership so that they can hear themselves. “Turning it up” and “congregational singing” are not mutually exclusive. I’d like to remind everyone that some of the romping traditional worship experiences most of us have been in included an organ that was “blaring” our favorite hymns.

    Finally, music choice and professionalism are both symptoms of bad leadership. If you have a worship leader who doesn’t understand that the congregation needs to learn songs … and takes the time to teach the songs to the congregation … you simply need to train your worship leader better. If the worship leader doesn’t listen, then he/she isn’t a “leader” and needs to be retrained or moved out of that position. Likewise, if your worship leader thinks everything needs to “sound like the CD” (the common argument for what you are calling “professionalism”) then your worship leader doesn’t understand congregational singing. Again, training and some brief theological education is a way to address this. Passion begets passion. I’ll take passionate and imperfect over perfection at the expense of silencing the congregation. On that part of the point, I think we’ll agree. However, “music choice” and “professionalism” are not problems but are symptoms of poor leadership. Instead, you make it seem like the structure or common traits of contemporary services are to blame, and at this I think you need to dig a little deeper to get to the need for worship leaders to better understand the value of congregational singing.

    Thank you for sharing as I think congregational singing does need to be addressed and encouraged.

  66. I don’t agree with all of this, although it CAN be true of some churches… although not entirely because of your named reasons. I’ve been a worship leader for about 18 years, about half of which was full-time, and all has been within the Assemblies of God. Based on my experiences and observations, I’ll make a few points:

    1) I personally do not feel loud music causes people to not sing. I think it helps actually. Most of the people in the congregation are NOT good singers… and most of them tend to NOT sing out in fear that people around them will hear them, being aware of their own lack of singing ability. I’ve often seen that when the music is too soft, it causes people to clam up… especially in smaller congregations. Besides, 9 times out of 10, people complaining about the volume are complaining just because they don’t know enough to know what the REAL problem is… or they are just one of those people that just always finds something to gripe about. Usually the real problem is a poor mix, bad EQ settings, etc… so when it doesn’t sound good and just isn’t “right” to the ear, people complain and usually just default to “it’s too loud”. I’ve often seen situations where this was an issue, then they brought in a professional to really dial things in how they should be, then when it sounded good (and maybe even a touch louder!), the complaints drastically decreased.

    2) Singing songs that are familiar doesn’t mean you have to sing “hymns”. First, what most people refer to as hymns are not what the Bible or even the dictionary establishes as what a hymn really is. I don’t think Jesus and the apostles had a copy of the hymn book you grew up with. :) So bringing back “hymns” is not a cure-all by any means, although I don’t have anything against them. And you want songs that are singable?? Most of the old “hymns” are LESS singable than the majority of popular worship songs these days. They are only singable to those that grew up with them and have sung the same 40 songs over and over for 75 years. Don’t forget that those songs were at one time the new songs that people of that time were complaining about. One of these days, people will be complaining about why their church doesn’t sing the old Tomlin standards anymore instead of the new stuff. :)

    I have a blog post I wrote dealing more in depth on this subject called “Effective Worship”. I’d encourage all worship leaders to read it: http://www.worshipready.com/item/effective-worship.html

    Don’t forget, the Bible in multiple places encourages us to sing a NEW SONG! That doesn’t mean every Sunday… but it certainly rules out those that want to get stuck with only the same set of songs that they’ve always used. There is no Biblical basis for doing that.

    3) Original worship songs can be powerful! They are NOT always a sign that the worship leader’s favorite songwriter is himself/herself. Not by a long shot. If God has gifted them to write music, then it would be WRONG for them to NOT write it! What songwriter can more effectively pen a song that speaks to exactly the place that the local church is in than that church’s own worship leader? None. Yes, I do original worship material. I use mostly songs from other sources, but originals are regularly in the mix. I’m not my favorite songwriter though… and I know that my songs, just like ANY other song (yes, ANY song), is often good for a SEASON. Just because it works this Sunday doesn’t mean it’s going to work next month, next year, etc.

    4) One of the main reasons to explain why a congregation doesn’t participate is not mentioned in this article at all. It all comes from the top. The leadership. Every church should regularly have solid biblical teaching on what true worship is… and giving extra time in those services for people to practice what was preached! I think the lead pastor (yes, main one, more than the worship pastor) should teach at least once a year on this subject. When it comes from the top, it makes a real impact. The people expect the worship pastor to promote corporate worship… so it’s not taken in as much as when the lead pastor brings it forth. You can’t expect people to do what they’re not taught to do and why to do it.

    5) Having people on stage trying to cheerlead the congregation only goes so far. The best way for your team (band and vocals all together) to lead the congregation is BY EXAMPLE. If the people see that you are TRULY worshiping, it will encourage them to come alongside and join you! If they see you are putting on a show, they’ll be put off. Most people know the difference. People know genuine and they know fake. Yes we should all do our best to be professional in the sense that we want to give our very best! We are playing for the King of kings! We work hard to rehearse and to use our gifts to the best of our ability. We come ready. We come to Sunday’s service like it’s game time. But beyond that, we focus throughout the week in personal times of worship and spending time in HIS presence so when we come in on Sunday, we have an experience to lead from! We’re not trying to make something happen… we’re just taking the experience of the week and letting it out in a corporate celebration, giving HIM all of our praise!

    In a nutshell, if your congregation doesn’t participate in worship, there’s a WHOLE LOT more to it than volume, song selection and visuals. Unfortunately, that’s usually as far as people go… because they’re stuck comparing the aspects of the service to their own preferences and opinions. A people that truly knows how to worship… is taught Biblical worship… is lead by example… is in an atmosphere that makes room for and encourages worshiping in spirit and in truth… will engage in worship, whether the current song is their favorite or not.

    Sorry for the book I just wrote, but I’m passionate about this subject and when it gets bashed, especially with the “old standard bashings” that regularly get rehashed over and over, I have to throw in my two cents… or more. :)

    • Don’t forget that those songs were at one time the new songs that people of that time were complaining about.

      I’m old enough (I guess it means something when you start prefixing remarks with that) that I’m in a more modern version of this. I grew up on the 70’s and 80’s “Jesus Music” that preceded what we now call CCM, and I find that I have a decided preference for that music over the CCM of today. If I were of a more grumpy disposition, I’d be tempted to grouse about how much “better” the Christian music I grew up with was than what’s around, and could probably throw out some reasonable-sounding reasons why – e.g. that the music of that time seemed to be more ministry-driven than market-driven compared to what you see now.

      But I suspect that “the old stuff was better than the new stuff” is going to be a constant refrain, in whatever time period you’re in, because in a sense you’re not doing an apples-to-apples comparison. The “old stuff” (whether the old hymns or the old Jesus Music) that you know is the “old stuff” that was good enough to pass the test of time. The bad “old stuff” is forgotten (largely because it was bad). But when you turn to current music, you face a mixture of both. You’re not comparing the old music and songs with the new. You’re comparing the best of the old with the full range, quality-wise, of the new. It’s not surprising that, in whatever time period you’re in, the current stuff seems to fall short.

      There were schlock hymns, and there was schlock Jesus Music, but they’re largely forgotten. What you deal with today is a mixture of good and bad, quality and schlock. Keep that in mind before making absolute pronouncements about the relative merits of the old and the new.

      • Nathan Gifford May 24, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        You are right Ben! I also grew up mostly with 70s / 80s worship music. Most of it is probably the reason why I never had interest in pursuing worship ministry until a later age. :)

        Anyway, as you said, whatever the time period, style, denomination, etc… people will always tend to like older songs compared to the newer ones, mostly because of their own familiarity. Also, people connect songs to experiences, so some of those old songs can be very special to you as it reminds you of when you got saved, or some other special moment in your life.

        Personally, I don’t like the majority of CCM as you’d hear on the radio. I can’t handle 90% of Christian radio. I’ve always been that way. Most of it is pretty shallow. I do love much of the modern worship material though. There’s a LOT of great resources that are cranking out new songs that are very effective congregationally. Not ALL new songs of course… but quite a lot of them.

        The great newer praise & worship songs of today that are good enough to stand the test of time will be the songs that, decades from now, church members will be wanting to hear still in services. The power doesn’t come from the song having been bound into a hymnal at some point in time… it comes from the song itself. There are certainly gems that last over the decades.

        Some of the most effective songs in my experience are ones that actually combine the old and the new. It’s hard to beat a newer rendition of an old “hymn” combined with a newly written chorus or bridge! Songs like Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace / My Chains Are Gone”, Todd Fields’ “It Is Well” or Kristian Stanfill’s “Jesus Paid It All” are incredibly effective in the corporate worship service… bringing in some of the best of the old, combined with some newer lyrics and a fresh musical arrangement.

        Sadly some would never experience anything like that because they look at the older songs are sacred… you can’t change it… like it’s Scripture or something. “We’ve never done it that way before” is the death of many congregations.

  67. There are elements of truth in each of these in particular places and the article may be cause to examine how you worship in your church. It isn’t, however, about a particular style. I’ve watched people stay un-engaged in a more liturgical service where all the music were hymns. I’ve also seen people truly worshiping within the same style. I’ve seen contemporary services (whatever that means today) where people are fully engaged while other services of similar style are more like entertainment. It’s always about our hearts as we worship the Lord and those given to lead us musically in worship. “Set your minds on things above and not on things of earth.”

  68. They bible does tell us to play skillfully unto the Lord and it does leave room for stringed instruments, horns and such. So singing with voices only could be an answer but it isn’t the only answer. I have been to church’s where more emphasis is placed on the worship time and not the Word time so that is not the answer either. My experience as a worship leader has lead me to believe that people don’t worship because they don’t know how important it is to their spiritual growth according to the Word of God. For example not to many Christians know unless they study that the nation Israel worshipped / Sang to God before battle as an invitation for Him to be present with them while they were to go to war. King David while in the wilderness always worshipped the Lord during time of trial and tribulation or just in celebration. But the truth is that people don’t worship because they don’t want to. Worship is a condition of the heart worship does not start on Sundays, Sunday just starts it for the rest of the week. Many of the people that don’t worship inside the sanctuary will jump in a car and turn the radio on and begin to sing every song verse by verse and note for note so as long as it is not Christian music. A true worshipper will worship in spirit and in truth because Christ is inside of them and if Christ is inside of them Christ will come out of them in speech or in song!! Or perhaps people who don’t sing may be to worried about what they sound like or may be ashamed or maybe their hearts just aren’t right with God. In summary worship is a personal matter and it is up to each believer to desire in their hearts to sing to our awesome God. If you measure your worship success through the amount of people singing you risk being disappointed every time they don’t sing. As a worship leader myself I have grown to measure the effectiveness of my leading by the moving of the Holy Spirit! Have a blessed day! Pete

  69. Visit any Church of Christ church. No music, just voices. I don’t know if it’s true for all, but some do not have separate choirs. Everyone sings, the kids know the words! And their are weekly classes for folks to learn. I guarantee that your eyes will become leaky.

    • After reading several posts from people who worship in the Church of Christ, I have to make this mention… and I must preface my comment by saying this is not meant as criticism, but just for information purposes. Apparently there is more than one type of Church of Christ. My grandparents and several aunts, uncles and cousins worshiped/worship in a Church of Christ. When I first met my neighbor some years ago and was invited by her to visit her Church of Christ, I found it strange that they didn’t use instruments in the church. In fact, she patiently explained to me why she believed it was unBiblical to have instruments in the church. I asked one of my aunts if I was remembering wrong that they had a beautiful piano and organ in the church she attended. She was shocked to learn that there was a Church of Christ that believed it was wrong to have instruments in the church too. I certainly don’t judge your churches for making the choice to use only acapella music. I mentioned before that it is beautiful, worshipful music. I love it when our music director sometimes chooses to stop the instruments and have our congregation sing a verse or more acapella. But I wanted you to know that not all Churches of Christ do their music strictly acapella.

    • Nothing against Church of Christ (or any other denomination), but I just can’t get a handle on the belief that using instruments in church is unBiblical. There are NUMEROUS references throughout the Bible to instrumental worship and the power and anointing that can be there. Songs without instrumentation can be powerful also, and have their place, but to throw out instruments completely has no Biblical basis that I’ve ever seen. Please… not trying to be offensive… just stating my thoughts as this particular thing has always boggled my mind.

  70. Maybe it’s that they cannot rejoice because they are not forgiven.

  71. This article should be called, “Why I hardened my heart towards God (you quit singing!) because my church doesn’t worship in the way I believe is proper.”

    Here is my suggestion. Next Sunday, during your musical portion of the service. Close your eyes (so you are not distracted by what people are doing or not doing around you). Picture the multitudes in heaven surrounding the throne of God. See Christ seated at the right hand of God. Look at his feet, then his hands then look him directly in the eyes, open your mouth and sing to him. Imagine the sound that the multitudes are producing and imagine that your voice blends so harmoniously with theirs that there is no “you” to be heard only one singular voice praising God.

    Then let us know how that went.

  72. These are some things that I found to make a difference in evaluating whether your church worship time has become about performance or about guiding people to worship.

    1) Offered worship options: We had a “traditions” service that had a baby grand piano and hymnals, “video cafe” had a coffee house setting and contemporary worship style and I went to the “Edge” where the big loud rock band played, sorry Thom that was my preference for worship and in the Edge people sang and danced. =)

    2) They didn’t allow songs that had too many performance ranges. Normal people don’t try out for the VOICE so songs should be able to be sang by normal people. The young hip worship leaders always complained because they wanted to perform the newest coolest songs and show off their skills- but that isn’t the point of their job is it?

    3) They made sure that songs didn’t get too high or too low in the range; again we aren’t professionals in the crowd.

    4) The worship leader led us. I remember being an early Christian and singing words like Yahweh, Alpha, Omega and having no CLUE what I was even singing. But the worship leader would pause and talk about the meaning of what we were singing and point to scripture to show us the purpose and context behind what we were singing. That was powerful.

    5) The stage was dark, other than a small light so that the worship team could read their music- there was no light on them. Because it wasn’t a show it was about providing a time and place where people could worship the Lord.

    6) Even in the Edge, the music was never louder than the people’s voices.

    I love worship. I am one of those over analyzer thinker types. Worship is a time where I feel emotionally connected to God. But it is often ruined when I see right through the curtain to the performance based motive. I didn’t come to church to hear Mumford and Sons performed by the church band, I came to church because in the hustle and bustle of my week I NEED to connect with my Lord.

  73. I think the reason people dont sing anymore is because people dont come to a church for the right reason anymore! Is that the fault of the music, because someone somewhere can find a reason not to praise God because of a song choice?

  74. I attend a Lutheran church (ELCA), that has remained traditional in our music – with a small choir and a piano, not a “worship team”, and EVERYONE IN THE CONGREGATION sings. Joyfully. We fill the sanctuary together with our voices and worship. I wonder what can be ascertained?

  75. I have also been blessed with attending a church where everyone still sings with full voices! We have began to include bands in our worship services and just use the simple accompaniment of one piano, organ or a clarinet or something to lead the singing. We also use the same Psalm Book every week (the 150 Psalms and about 70 Hymns) so the tunes are all very familiar and meaningful. Singing is such an important part of worshipping God – and the most wonderful thing when we can do it reverently, all together, as believers of Him! For those who do not experience this anymore, try a worship ‘revolution’! Pull out those old hymn books like some have suggested and bring God glory with your voices, rather than worshipping the band! God doesn’t mind crackly, false, voices – He WANTS to hear them!

  76. People don’t sing anymore because they don’t know the songs……when I was growing up, we still used hymn books and people (believe it or not) knew or learned to read music, and sang harmony parts and it was beautiful. Now days, churches just do praise and worship songs that not many know, or care about………………Praise songs are o k, but don’t lead the lost to Christ. KEEP THE HYMNS IN THE WORSHIP SERVICE.

    • Bob, “hymns vs. praise songs” is not the issue. What exactly is a “praise song”? Is it true that old=good and new=bad/shallow? I’m not understanding what you’re trying to say.

      And for the record, hymns don’t “lead the lost to Christ.” Music doesn’t do that, period. The Holy Spirit leads the lost to Christ!! It’s interesting that the pragmatic, seeker-sensitive drive of modern evangelicalism is nothing new. It’s always been a problem, as you just showed.

    • “Praise songs” don’t lead the lost to Christ? Seriously? There are tons of quality, doctrine-filled “praise songs” that lead people towards Christ as much (if not more) than what you refer to as “hymns”. Don’t throw out songs just because YOU are not familiar with them. If you want to learn what psalms, hymns and spiritual songs REALLY are (all of which we should be singing), then check this out: http://www.worshipready.com/item/effective-worship.html

  77. Until recently, I attended a church where the service was blended (part contemporary, part hymns). I could hear the congregation signing most of the time but much was to be desired when it came to the quality of the presentation. Personally I came away from most of those services feeling that I hadn’t experienced much that moved me or helped me spiritually. The mega-church I now attend (and serve in the worship arts area – specifically audio) cranks up the volume, has an awesome band and the worship leader is an award winning singer-songwriter. I am learning new songs and new ways to sing songs i have known for many years. I, and the people around me are singing loudly (even though you can’t always hear them due to the overall volume level), and are really into the worship experience. Not a Sunday goes by but what I am not very moved by the music (and the message). It’s also not just a one time emotional experience. Often throughout the week, I think of a song that stood out and I find myself singing it or I might hear it on the radio and re-connect to what happened that past Sunday. It all comes back to me; the meaning of the songs, the message I heard, etc. I am thankful that my experiences at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, TX do not fit the mold that is presented here by Mr. Shultz.

  78. I am 67 years old and I miss hearing other voices around me singing in worship service. I used to like Christian Radio but now there is little joy in the new music. I find that the lyrics talk more about the person singing than they do about our Savior. Narcissism is not uplifting to the body of Christ. It’s the anointing of the Spirit of God that makes us sing unto The Lord. His Holy presence in a worship service is healing and encouraging. We miss Him if we are spectators and not actively engaged in service to him, which encludes more than music.

  79. I can see where you are coming from on this, but in my opinion, it is a heart matter. David did not care if he looked crazy, he worshipped and danced like a mad man. I would sing to an old hymn or contemporary music. I would sing on an acapella or with a loud music. I would sing if the worship leaders/choir are perfect or not!

  80. Dont look around…
    Fix your eyes to the one you came there to worship.

  81. We attend a church that has, both, contemporary and traditional services. To my surprise, my boys, ages 12 and 15, prefer the traditional service. Why? They love singing the hymns!

  82. I go to a church I love very much but song leaders are young and play only new songs, way too loud. It gives me a headache so I just go to church about an hour late. But apon my suggestion the pastor has been introducing old hymns to sing Acapella. I love the old hymns so much this change is like a drink of cold water to me!

  83. Kathleen J McGee Reply May 23, 2014 at 11:04 pm

    It’s totally true! I love to sing but the music is so loud I don’t feel comfortable trying to sing anymore.

  84. Joshua shepherd Reply May 24, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Thom
    I am on the worship team at a church with contemporary worship and have struggled with this as well. I have yet to come to any conclusion. I do find hope and truth in what you said “I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation”. That is what we as worship leaders should be cultivating. Maybe that is exactly what we should be thinking of when we come up with an arrangement. “Is this arrangement going to evoke heartfelt vocal participation from the congregation”?
    That exact thought hasn’t been on my mind most of the time. I wish I could say it was. A lot of the time I just want the arrangement to… sound relevant? New? or maybe emotional?

    This is good. Thank you for sharing. We need more conversations like this out there. This really was an eye opener for me. A new perspective on this very important subject .

  85. Hugely flawed argument from someone who has perhaps never been to a concert where everyone sings the ‘anthems’. He should go to Glastonbury and see tens of thousands of ‘spectators’ signing along with ‘professionals’ to ‘blaring’ music.

    You may want to ask more questions as to why people aren’t singing.

  86. To have successful worship, one needs:
    1. An anointed worship leader not a song leader
    2. Anointed music
    3. Anointed lyrics
    4. Anointed musicians

    If the Holy Spirit is allowed to move, and this is key, this will give rise to prophetic music and worship in the Spirit which will convict people of sin and cause spontaneous conversions in the congregation. This will also cause the gifts of the Spirit to come into manifestation.

    [Horrors - we don't want this! And then you have pastors who want to control every moment.]

    Apart from these 4 points above you have nothing and that is what you got – a song service. Much of the music I hear especially CCM has no anointing on it. Most vocals have synthesized harmony and pitch correction during performance and mixdown because they can’t sing.Their voice is so unanointed that it needs to be corrected. That is mixing Spirit with flesh. I listened to Joy FM on a trip from New Port Richey in FL to Naples and after one hour of CCM my wife and I had to shut it off off because we did not hear ONE anointed song. All the vocals were pitch corrected and had synthesized harmony. It was so unnatural it was pathetic.

    Years ago, we sang the word of God. The word of God is anointed all by itself. We’ve drifted far away from this. Back in those days there were talented musicians and creative lyricists. Those days are gone.

    • Chet, how does one make this “anointed music” of which you speak?

    • Chet,

      When Abraham went up the mountain to worship (Genesis 22), or when the wise men from the East came to worship baby Jesus (Matthew 2), I don’t recall reading about anointed worship leaders, anointed music, anointed lyrics or anointed musicians.

      Might true worship be much more than that?

  87. Great post….you may enjoy some of my comments here on a related church music topic: http://sevennotesofgrace.com/2014/04/17/why-i-prefer-song-leader-to-worship-leader/

  88. Nothing beats the hymns. I agree that it would help to turn down the volume and bring back songs based on Scriptures–that’s more than one verse sung over and over.

  89. Listen to His heart, sing to the Lord all children of the Most High. It isn’t about the noise we make, but the love we show when we but praise! People get discouraged when the situation isn’t just right for them, and I read through most of these comments and heard a resounding theme…and it is this. We rely on other people to create the best atmosphere, give the best advise, and yet we are still unhappy. We say we can’t or won’t sing anymore, and this breaks my heart for all you dear brothers and sisters who feel this way. There is only one God, there is only one Son, and there is only one Holy Spirit. But the thing that we all seem to miss is this, the three work together as one in perfect harmony with one another. They meld together in one perfect and harmonious song continually. Each one sings to the other a new song eternally, and the chords are never broken, never out of step, and joined in perfect sound. Our singing isn’t about us, or how we sound, or what we think, it’s about giving all the glory to our Father who loves us so very much that He asked His only Son to give everything up, just so we would never be separated from Him. When we sing, we sing to the Lord, not to each other. So lift your voice no matter what it sounds like to you, because when you lift your voice in praise, it is perfection to the Lord!! God bless

  90. I totally agree and am saddened by this trend. Seems churches would rather be popular than relate able.

  91. I’ve only skimmed the comments here, I must save this and come back to it. There are some real gems here. Thank you. The article and the comments are very good. One of the things I picked up is a desire to go back to singing the old hymns, someone said they were familiar but here hardly anyone knows the old hymns so it’s better to learn newer songs with carefully chose words and singable music. Thankfully my church has not had to turn down the volume. It’s actually had to be turned up a tad if anything. Many people seem to be unable to relax and worship God through singing. For some of us it is like breathing for others it’s more like a straight jacket. Please continue this discussion. Worship is about much more than singing but singing is part of it and will be part of it in heaven too. I want to know how to encourage people to join in out of worship not out of a sense of being expected to.

    • Not knowing a hymn does not excuse someone just discarding that old hymn… Like any new song, you learn it, a lot of those hymn are scripturally based

  92. Background – I am an Associate Pastor of a church that uses a “blended” style of worship. And, surprisingly it works. What our church calls hymns are really congregational songs from the past 2 centuries.

    Society, along with the church has changed. The downfall of 4-part harmony singing can be attributed to children’s sports and school activities as much as contemporary church music. Families use to stand around the family piano and sing. They don’t anymore. You can also blame rock and roll. Since the 50s, 2 and 3-part harmony have become the norm.

    “Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event.” – This is unfortunately true in too many churches. In a former church were I served, I was pulled into the Senior Pastor’s office often on Monday mornings and chastised for not putting on a good show. I wish worship could be done in the round. However, most preachers don’t like this arrangement!

    “Professionalism. It seems it’s paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory.” – I partially agree with this point. However, God’s house doesn’t deserve second best. Church musicians should strive to be good so that they don’t distract from worship. Nothing worse than someone singing off-key and loud to distract people from worship. With that being said, the millennial generation may change this viewpoint. Experts say that they desire authenticity more than anything. I have not seen it yet but I’m hoping to see a change.

    “Blare. – The musicians’ volume is cranked up so high that congregants can’t hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don’t sing “ – This is (mostly) a generational issue. When I was in college ministry over ten years ago, I tried to turn down the volume but the college minister would not let me. The philosophy is this…play it loud so you CAN’T HERE YOURSELF SINGING – just like at a concert. They want it that way. And by the way – they do sing even though they can’t hear the person next to them.

    BTW – I once had our sound guy use a decibel meter during a traditional worship service. The organ registered 10 decibels higher than the praise band at the previous service.

    “Music choice. – Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing, or just cheesy.” – You can blame Christian radio for this one. About every other week I have someone come up to me and say, “Hey, have you heard that new song that they are playing on K-Love? I think we need to sing it next week.” Unfortunately, modern worship songs are written for the radio and not congregational singing. I often lower the key of the song to make it singing friendly for the congregation. We NEED MORE MODERN WORSHIP LEADERS TO WRITE SONGS FOR THE CHURCH AND NOT CCM RADIO!

    BTW – those of us who lead traditional worship can be blamed for this faux pas as well. Many times, we pull out obscure hymns that are only known by a few musically educated congregants.

    If you’re point is that “I miss 4 part harmony singing” then I get that viewpoint. However, we have to be careful when judging one worship style over another. A majority of the time (not always), it is more about personal preference than right and wrong.

  93. Kelly Schrecengost Reply May 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

    How about church isn’t about YOU!!!!!????? Your singing should be for the Lord…not because the people leading are louder than you and drowning out your own voice. Get over yourself and sing for God’s ears and no one else.

  94. While some of these things may be true sometimes, I’d say people don’t want to take the time to worship. They are too busy, distracted, and really don’t know how to worship.

    Our “programmed” services and professional music has made worship almost an impossibility since we plan everything to the minute.

    Everyone knows what is going to happen next – 1 song, announcements, 3 more songs, special music or choir, the preacher begins his sermon schedule to last no longer than 45 minutes because people can’t pay attention any longer than that.

    We could also have an article about how people don’t read their bible any more either because they hate to read. Or how about one in which people don’t pray. Oh wait, we’re in the last days aren’t we. Were you expecting a worldwide revival? Don’t hold your breath. Things are getting bad, but it’s not over yet.

  95. I actually disagree with this article; maybe it’s just my preference. When I go to churches that don’t have instruments and are primarily just hymns, I see disengaged, apathetic singing. Half of the time the hymns are not even biblically sound and seem to just lament life on Earth, with the only joy to be found in the thoughts of afterlife. Live worship with “rock star” worshippers, freely worshipping God, hands in the air, singing their hearts out, seem like a better example to the congregation of what worship should be like in contrast to a choir of yawning congregants who sing in a droning, obligatory manner. I know that there are some worship services that seem more performance orientated. The focus should never be on the singers, the musicians, or the performance – the focus should be on God. The worship leaders should be trying to engage the congregation and openly talk to them about participation and the importance of engaging in worship to God. I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with loud worship and singers/musicians out in front. Letting the congregation be lead by their fellow congregants, who are worshipping God, obviously putting in a lot of time to put the service together, seems like a good example to the church of people who love God, want to worship Him, and are willing to put in the time and effort (ministry) to do this.

  96. Ken Hollingsworth Reply May 24, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Our church has many good musicians, but lots of people in the congregation tend just to stand and not sing. Why? 1. Music is too loud and we can’t hear each other. 2. Unfamiliar words/melodies 3. Unsingable melodies, 4. Words are ‘I’ centered and express things I don’t feel/think (that day perhaps) as opposed to being “God” centered, expressing eternal truths about God. 5. Too much repetition of the same song, 6. Music is overwhelmingly loud and we can’t hear each other.

  97. >>”I admit. I’ve joined the majority. I’ve stopped singing. I’m not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.”

    Thom, this is a revealing statement. You’re essentially saying, “I know I should sing (because the Scriptures command it). But I don’t sing because I want the environment to meet my needs, and it doesn’t.”

    This is tragic for someone who presumes to provide leadership to churches. Thom, your singing is your act of worship to the Lord and to the believers standing around you (Rom. 12:1). Just as Jesus came not to BE served but to serve, so also it is with us: we come to church not to be served and pleased and entertained, but to serve others. I’d urge you to relinquish your preferences in this area and obey the Scriptures.

  98. I am a United Methodist pastor and will be preaching about music in worship tomorrow since our choir will be going on vacation for the summer. I am planning a hymn sing with any hymns or praise music the people would like to sing together. BTW I am the guitar player and the choir director and have been singing professionally since I was 16, and love all kinds of music in worship, as long as it is theologically sound and singable.

    As I choose songs for every Sunday, I read the words, and see if the music is singable for all. The lyrics are important to pray and sing because they are an expression of the entire congregation’s prayer and song to God. Liturgical worship is the work of the whole church, not a team, or a pastor, or even the individual in the congregation, but the entire church lifting up their prayer and praise. If the church stops singing, then I will stop the music and find something else that all can sing together.

    I LOVE all the comments above, even the ones I disagree with, because it is important to keep discussing the mission of the Church to make disciples of Jesus Christ, and corporate worship (corpus meaning Body) is one of the major ways to be filled with the grace of God.

    • Glenn good stuff. Most people will remember the songs they sung over the sermon message. So very important to ensure the words are appropriate.
      I also love those who have shared arguments I don’t agree with as it is extremely important for this discussion to continue in growing depth so we can all learn and be encouraged and stop and think about what we do and don’t do. Let us praise God with our new song every day in whatever form we think He wants us to sing it. But above all let us worship Him.

    • Pastor Glenn–I belong to a midsize UMC church in a rural (but growing) area. We have the blessing of 3 services-one on radio, one traditional with choir, and one contemporary. Being part of our praise and worship contemporary has been one of the most amazing ways I feel God. We started in 2009, and have grown by musicians (almost all are teens) our service has grown from young families to some in 70’s+. Some stay from previous traditional to praise the music. While most of our team has discussed the “performance not praise issue” we are still working on that balance at times. We have a set list that our congregation has been singing WITH and TO God. When we introduce new music, (most from k-love) we tend to sing it several times for the following weeks. We try very hard to not be anything but praisers who let the Holy Spirit lead us. We also practice it so it sounds like music heard on radio so most know “how they are used to it.

      Do we have some who don’t sing? Of course. Some weeks are not as powerful as others. For the most part, however, when God is present you can feel it by the rest of the congregation. Our team is focused on raising our hands to God and I know I may glance out at people, but usually just let music move my soul. I do feel uncomfortable when there is clapping between songs (but that is just my Catholic hymns upbringing), but many times it is just Amen. Many times we will transition by our leader saying what is on her heart.

      I must say to the naysayers, go to the musicfest with the teens (creationfest, kingdom bound, winter jam) you will be amazed and awed at this upcoming generation of teens/young adults–they are singing to praise God. They bring friends who I have seen over and over being transformed and giving their lives to Jesus. Contemporary is not for everyone, but we desperately need to keep our next generation coming to church after high school and music praising God is the way into many of their hearts….

  99. I have read most of the comments here and found some gems of wisdom in almost all of them. As I’ve been reading, one song (older contemporary?) has been going through my head. “How great is our God (sing with me) how great is our God. That all may see how great, how great is our God”. Isn’t that pretty much the essence of what our singing in church – and elsewhere as we go about our daily lives – should be? That all the world, including me, can see and be reminded of how great is the God we worship.

    I am also bothered by the way we use the word ‘worship’ as if it only refers to singing in our church services. Worship, I believe, includes anything and everything we do with God as our main object. Therefore we should consider the sermon ‘worship’, the offering is worship, greeting our fellow congregants is worship, and even caring for the children in the nursery or children’s programs should be considered part of our worship as we lead His little ones to know how to worship Him too.

    Hymns, contemporary music, gospel music… whatever the style, all should be given due respect and used in accordance to appropriateness to the service venue. I like to remind the “hymns only” crowd that much of the contemporary music they say they don’t like is actually taken straight out of scripture and set to music. Many of the old hymns of the faith also have strong Biblical references or even phrases taken directly from scripture. How can we complain about that? I have found it a bit humorous to hear someone say they want the old hymns of the faith, then when asked to cite an example of one of their favorite hymns, they come up with something from the Gaither music. I have to agree that the Gaither’s wrote their music so well that it can be mistaken for much older than it is, but I remember when their music was considered quite controversial as a deviation from ‘real worship’, and we thought it wouldn’t last. Oh how wrong we were! As someone else pointed out, there is garbage among all of the gems and it will be sifted out and not last. We won’t be eternally doomed for having sung some of it in the sifting process.

    And.. I think this is my final point… when we look around our congregations and notice people not singing, let’s don’t automatically judge them as non-worshippers. Sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. I know of several in our congregation who would love to sing, but cannot because of a problem with their vocal chords. Several of these have sung in our choir in the past and some have even been great soloists. The same goes for those who choose to sit rather than stand for the music. Sometimes we can visibly see their reasons for not standing, but that isn’t always true. My husband and I used to always stand, but haven’t for over a year now. Both of us have gone through cancer treatments. Even though I am now able to stand, my husband says he can either choose to stand or choose to sing, and given the choice,he prefers to sing. I sit with him so he isn’t sitting alone. I asked another gentleman who always sits and seldom sings – but is intent on the words on the screen and seems to be enjoying the music – why he doesn’t sing. He explained that he has lung problems that are related to his work and can’t sing, but enjoys internalizing the words and music anyway. Others may choose not to sing, because they know they don’t carry a tune well. We can encourage them with the thought that God is not interested in a perfect voice but in the joy of hearing them use the voice He gave them. If they choose to still not sing, we just need to trust that they are worshipping in their own way.

  100. Reblogged this on Artistic Intelligence and commented:
    I found this post through a friend of mine. I have found it very intriguing on many levels. While I can certainly concur with Mr. Schultz’s points, I personally believe a big reason for the lack of singing in Church is due to the decline of music education among the public. Perhaps you have your own theories. If so feel free to share your thoughts:-)

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  101. I’d like to invite you to visit Redeemer Presbyterian’s West Side Congregation in NYC. In both the morning and evening services (morning services use classical music and evening services use jazz/R & B), our congregations sing with gusto and are very engaged.

  102. While visiting a Baptist church last year, my impression was that the music director was an actor attempting to show his expertise; he didn’t seem to care if anyone else sang as long as he got the “proper” attention for himself. I was completely “turned off.”

  103. Helen Rinesmith Reply May 24, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    As a senior citizen, I miss the classical hymns, like Victory in Jesus, Power in the Blood, and In the Garden. These are part of our Christian heritage. Most of the contemporary songs won’t last.

  104. I disagree with much of the blog for reasons others have already stated. But I will add a couple statements. Regarding volume: it is almost never an issue with the audio being too loud. It almost always boils down to a style preference. If the music style is not what you like, then the volume is too loud. However, when the music style is to your preference you do not notice the volume. It is mainly seniors who complain about the loud volume. However, put those same seniors at a Gaither Homecoming concert that can run 100+ db and you will see them singing loudly, clapping and raising their hands. Go to the Crystal Cathedral where the pipe organ can also run over 100db and you will see people who complain about contemporary volume singing along with the blaring pipe organ without concern.

    Loud music does not discourage singing. Go to any rock concert in the country and you will see people singing with passion at the top of their lungs. The songs are also almost always pitched too high for the average singer but that doesn’t matter. The audience sings passionately.

    Let’s get away from the me mentality and just passionately worship our Creator in whatever settings we find ourselves in. There are plenty of churches in the country who offer a variety of music styles. Pick one and worship and let’s not criticize the ones who do it differently.

  105. Jonathan Kyrlach Reply May 24, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    and… Jesus wept.
    Let’s recap all the things we can blame for lack of participation:
    Too much musical quality
    Too many professional musicians
    Projectors — they just ruin it
    Modern sound and lighting systems
    The chairs aren’t arranged correctly
    The worship leaders sing too well
    The worship leaders are too charismatic
    The worship leaders aren’t charismatic enough
    Music is too new
    Volume is too loud

    You are all trying to clean the outside of the cup. What about the inside? A “church” service should be a gathering of equals, of fellow sojourners trying to encourage each other with stories from their journey. The main events should be story telling, prayer, planning community outreach, and worship — preaching should be very infrequent. What should the worship look like? Worship is not something you do with vocal chords or guitars or pipe organs. What was that exchange with the woman at the well? “Please settle this long-standing argument: Should we worship you on Jacob’s mountain, or on Jerusalem?” Sounds just like “Should we use professional musicians or tone-def volunteers” to me. What was Jesus’ reply? “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers” So maybe it’s a guitar solo. or maybe it’s perfect vocal harmony, or maybe it’s just standing SILENTLY in awe of the presence of God.

    People wonder why the young are abandoning the “institutional church” — I’ll tell you. It’s because true journeyman faith got replaced DECADES ago with tradition and pagentry. Going back to pews and hymnals and choral education would do NOTHING to fix real problems that your faith is facing. Nothing! The reason modern worship exists in it’s current form is that it at least gets butts into chairs — but it is as disconnected from the true faith as was the overhead projector before it, and the hymnal before that, and the accapella before it. You see, people have been “going to church” for a long time purely for ENTERTAINMENT. It should not be a surprise to anyone that churches have adopted all modern musical concert conventions in their “worship experience”. But going back to hymnals won’t fix it. The problem — in my not-so-humble opinion — is that people don’t really know what church should be, and in lieu of that, they pick one that’s more entertaining over less entertaining — completely predictable and normal, not really evil.

    “Why aren’t they singing” is completely the wrong question. Where in the Christian mission statement is the goal stated “and make sure that people are singing!” A piano makes a note when you press a key, but doing so doesn’t make it a holy, worshiping piano. Getting people to sing, doesn’t mean the people are any better off. The crux of Christian community is not 15 minutes of corporate singing followed by an offering with 30 minutes of preaching. it’s one person sharing their problems or questions or ideas with another, and having that other reciprocate with encouragement, empathy, compassion, a retelling of an experience that builds the other’s faith. It’s fellow travelers, comparing notes on their journey, investing in each other during the time that they travel together. In the sweetness that ensues from this, people often sing and praise God, as a NATURAL RESPONSE to what they are experiencing. The NATURAL RESPONSE might also be to bask in God’s presence silently, or to grab a guitar and jam. Or sway back and forth. Or to laugh. Or to take a nap. What could be more pleasing to God, our creator, than for us to respond to his presence (“wherever two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of you”) with our own natural response, which supposedly he himself put into us?

    • Teresa Billingslea Reply May 25, 2014 at 9:25 am

      Jonathan, of all the comments I’ve read here none has touched my heart as yours did. You have clearly identified the root of this issue. May God continue to bless you with such insights to share with others.

    • Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! Of all I have read in these comments, yours is one of the few that even came close to reality, at least as best I can tell! They seem more apt to put band-aids on it rather than actually ask the right question. I think I know the right question.
      From many conversations, asking questions, listening to people speak of themselves, I have discovered that there are many women that come to Church, religiously, because their father’s were Pastors and this was expected of them. They, in turn, nagged their husbands into coming.
      The question I think is the “right one”? Are you sure they know why they need to be here? Better yet! Do they even know who they are to worship?
      If we cannot answer these questions or are offended by them, maybe we have the cart before the horse, so to speak. In other words, we were working more on betting people TO the Church, not in a working relationship with Jesus Christ, and now they are standing there wondering why we sing these redundant phrases, about someone they know nothing about.
      We have failed!

  106. I was loathe to comment on this at all since it doesn’t seem to apply to my church in any way. We sing both current praise songs and traditional hymns which makes our worship quite wonderful. We have a bass player, a trumpet player and a “piano” played by our very excellent lead musician. Almost everyone in the congregation sings except my husband and a couple others because they do not like to sing in the first place. As lead pastor I sing with the musicians because they have asked me too and because in the eyes of our congregation I am the worship leader. I lead worship in all its aspects. And maybe thats why I decided to comment.
    I grew up in the church with a father who was a pastor and an accomplished musician. I’ve sung in choirs, ensembles and as a soloist. Music touches my soul like nothing else does. I see and hear music everywhere. However not until the past seven years have I ever considered the music of the church “worship” and the rest of what we do in church, “something else”. As the pastor I lead the worship service: praising, praying, hearing God’s Word, sharing in His holy gift at the Lord’s Table and faithfully offering ourselves to God’s service. I was taught this was all worship. While I appreciate many of the author’s comments and other suggestions in the comments section it truly makes me sad that the church seems to have lost its way somewhere along the way when it comes to the act of worship.
    I’ve been in ministry for over 25 years and spent the entire of my life in the church (which I realize makes me the minority and maybe even a kind of dinosaur) and I think the greatest need in the church is a worship that inspires us to serve God in whatever way God calls. Being comfortable, entertained and enjoying this song or that song seems far less important than working together to feed a world that is starving for God.
    We worship God best by serving him with our best.

  107. Tammy Steinmetz Reply May 24, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    I totally disagree with this article. Our church Epic church Ministries is a vibrant church that is in full swing with the worship team. We are true worshippers that give our all to the Lord. Every one of us is in tune with the music and we have an awesome music ministry as a full spirited congregation.

  108. In our church we use nothing but a hymnal and have absolutely no one leading the songs and no one sings. So what is the answer?

  109. I’ve sung in church since I was a child, and I’m 67 years old, still singing in the choir. I love that my church still has a choir. Many have abandoned choirs along with the organ. That’s a pity. When the choir is eliminated, many people lose an opportunity to use their talents to help lead worship and encourage congregational participation. We also have the ensemble out front who help strengthen the choir. I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, it gives me more confidence to sing out because we never have the music before us, only words on a screen, and if I’m not quite sure of the notes in a particular part of the song, I can follow their lead. But I must confess that some of the praise songs we sing are a mystery to me. I can’t find the melody! I asked a worship leader and songwriter once why I had such a hard time finding a melody that made sense in a lot of the contemporary p/w choruses and why hymn melodies seemed so much easier to hear and follow (aside from the fact that hymns are more familiar.) He said that in most cases the lyrics to hymns were written first and followed a theme, delivering a particular message. Later, someone put those words to music and the melody was the focal point to convey the message. Harmonies were added last. However, many of the new p/w songs begin instrumentally. Someone comes up with a beautiful chord progression that he/she wants to use and he/she puts words to it, which could account for the repetitiveness and difficulty in hearing and following melodies. The songs make more sense instrumentally than chorally. Though I sing and play the piano, I sometimes give up on trying to sing certain p/w songs because the melodies are so evasive, and excessive repetition becomes tiresome. (However, even if the p/w chorus is new, I can learn and sing it quickly if it has a singable melody.) So, love to sing as I do, I find myself (when in a congregational setting…not the choir) one of those standing there mute waiting for a song I can actually sing. I never REFUSE to sing just because I don’t like a particular style of song…it all has to do with whether I actually CAN sing it. I believe there are many like I am out there who are in the same boat.

  110. Worship is a natural love response to the God who loves us. It comes from the heart. I worship God sometimes when I am overwhelmed by a glimpse of who God is. Often that happens in church and often while I’m singing. In my most profound worship moments, I have been unable to speak, broken, my spirit sending gratitude to the Father. I have worshipped in a lot of churches, but I can’t speak authoritatively about what was in the hearts of those around me. At times it has seemed that they–and I–were just mouthing the words, old hymns and contemporary worship. Sometimes we sounded like we were singing ourselves to sleep, especially with those hymns in which we are singing sermons, or doctrine, to ourselves. I’m not much into those. My concern is not whether we are singing but whether we are worshiping in spirit and in truth. There is no formula, no tradition or innovation that automatically produces “better” worship. People who like different styles can be critical of other styles. David knew how to worship, and it started in his gut, and at least once, he danced before the Lord with all his might. It’s good to think about these things and seek to go deeper because I think we have only scratched the surface and only have a vague understanding of what is happening in Revelation when angels and saints worship God day and night.

  111. I come from a musical family, many of whom attend a “mega-church”. I was shocked to learn that if the singer/guitarist/vocalist can’t come, they let “a ringer” PRETEND they are playing and singing. They play a “track”, everyone lip syncs and plays air guitar. A brother who is also a fine guitarist, was dismayed to be part of this illusion. I too remember the Bible verse “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord”, and I don’t think it meant canned.

  112. I think the “problem” is that worship leaders introduce too many songs at a time. The issue is not whether we SHOULD be singing certain songs. Rather, it’s that people aren’t given enough time to learn the new songs, because a new one is introduced so frequently. We are admonished to sing a new song to the Lord, and quite frankly, there are some incredible new songs these days. I want my children to know the new as well as the old “quality hymns” that teach doctrine. But to say that it’s because of all the factors listed might be pushing it a bit. I honestly think it’s because people aren’t given the chance to become familiar with the songs. And, if people really want to learn the songs….most of them have a computer on which you can google the song in question, and practice it. Many churchgoers are lazy and don’t want to put any more effort than they “have to” on Sunday morning. That is a generalization, of course…

  113. I kept saying, YES, as I read this. Excellent article and so true to this era. I absolutely loved a local church. The Pastor does such a great job. But I found their praise and worship difficult to sit through. They would dim the lights and I felt like I was at a rock concert. It is almost impossible to sing along because the “performers” ad lib so much while singing. I found myself wanting to leave and then return when he started preaching. I don’t blame the church, it is my own hang up.

    • I’m sorry but I don’t think we have any validaty to speak against tjis type of worship because what you were introduced to some years ago growing up seems to be what you want now. The future of the church is the youth in the church and what reaches them is also teaching them a passionate and intimate worship with our savior. The Holy Spirit is having his way in this type of worship which tells me it is like a sweet fragrance to God. Grow up be a mentor for the younger generations be available to Jesus so Jesus is available to them. This is not your service it’s God’s service. If you think people are not singing who are you looking at?

  114. Joselido Arendain Reply May 25, 2014 at 1:15 am

    I agree 100% in this timely article.

  115. I think Mr. Schultz is on target with his ideas as to why congregations do not participate in the singing as much as they used to. But others have hit on what I think might be as big of a reason for the lack of enhusiasm shown by most congregations these days, which is the practically total abandonment of the good old hymns. Once in a blue moon, our music leaders will insert an old hymn in the program and all of a sudden, despite the fact that the rythm will be adapted to the prevalent rock related style now required by the guitar/drums-centered worship bands, the entire congregation will suddenly come to life and join the singing with newfound vigor and enthusiasm. It is inspiring to see and hear this reaction by the congregation however, it seems not to be seen or heard by the worship leaders since it does not affect the frequency of hymns used during the praise and worship period at all.

  116. I personally don’t care for the performance style at my church; I long to return to someone LEADING us in worship, not a band performing for us.

    Someone earlier suggested lowering the volume, but I am more likely to sing loudly if I think others cannot hear me (and if I cannot hear myself).

    And lastly, most (not all) songs sung at church seem to be in a key that I’m not able to sing. I try to sing with the harmony singers, but many times I can’t hear them.

    • I suggested lowering or eliminating the amplifiers, not necessarily the volume. With a hymn, I like to start at a medium volume to encourage the shy singers. Get a bit louder in the second verse, and when everyone is comfortable, lower the volume for the third first so that they can hear each other singing (By this time, they keep going!) Fourth verse pull out all the stops (or just add fuller chords and more volume on the piano) and the roof rings! This can be done with just me playing a piano, controlling the volume as needed. Or we can do this with acoustic instruments and moderately amplified electrical instruments. We have one electric bass, electric guitar and two acoustic guitars. flute, violin, organ piano, keyboard, but they only play some services. The main technical goal is to control the volume as needed to encourage the congregation to sing in praise of God. The harmony parts are loud enough to hear from several of our choir singers who will lead. We have a bass and tenor, I sing alto, and a songleader that sings the melody. The hymns/songs are selected with the message in mind.

  117. Maybe it’s because they’re not attending church to begin with. It’s all a show.

  118. The good thing is you can sing for God anytime. I usually sing in the car. But, it is too bad that churches feel they have to compete with “entertainment”. Aren’t they supposed to be teaching Gods word?

  119. I admit I can’t carry a tune but love to sing, but refuse to sing in church any more after a choir member said, in church, “Boy, I’m sure glad you’re not in the choir!” That after “make a joyful noise” was preached but only if you are a professional singer.

  120. Matthew Spradling Reply May 25, 2014 at 7:55 am

    Hello all,
    As a young person in the church I have a different opinion to offer as to why many people do not sign in worship. While the factors listed above are probably true to some extent especially with not knowing the words I don’t believe that they are the main issue here. I believe that it is a fear of judgement from fellow church goers. Having been in a tight-knit youth group in and open door church I heard friends tell me that they don’t feel comfortable singing in the service. When I ask why, I am told it’s because they just feel like their voice would ruin it for those around them. What the interesting thing is though, they will sing in our youth-group worship sessions.

    I believe the reason most will not sign anymore is because of how judgemental many people in the church have become, and also the fact the many of us just do not know the members in our church.

    I don’t know if this made any sense to you, but I hope it offers a different opinion.

    Thank you

    • Matthew, I believe that you have an excellent point. Sadly, we are still a judgmental society (even when we strive not to be)

      I have enjoyed reading all the comments here about the why’s and why not’s of singing in church. I enjoy all the music as we worship. I love the traditional hymns, but I also love the “new” contemporary hymns. I sing not because it’s required or preferred but because I praise Him. Some songs move me more than others, but still I sing. Do I care that my seat mate is not singing? No. Perhaps the song moved them so deeply that their thoughts are in prayer. Maybe the song is new to them and they are hearing the words and absorbing the meaning. Maybe this is their first time coming to church and they are finding their way to sing in praise. Do people raise their hands in praise because the person in front of them did so or because the words led them to praise Him? Should we sing out in praise of He whom we came to worship? Absolutely, but I have a hard time thinking that because someone isn’t singing is a reflection of the musical worship going on. For some that may be the reason, but there is also a multitude of reasons why people are not singing.

      Why do we go to Church? To be seen by others? Because we feel it’s the right thing to do? Or to worship God and his Son, to be reminded that it is His Grace and His Mercy and His love that guides us, renews us? Your worship style is predicated on what you feel comfortable with in your relationship with our Father.

  121. Sometimes…when I am listening to music and I feel like God is talking to me, I don’t want to interrupt the blessing that I am receiving. Just because I am not singing does not mean I am not worshiping.

  122. I am a worship leader and I love to hear feedback like this. It helps us all to grow. I believe we all have a common end goal and that’s what I’ve always been passionate about. Singing songs in a way that glorifies God in heaven and edifies the body of Christ. I’d love to make a suggestion that is not in anyway my original thought but is something that works well for our church. Hymns are familiar because people have sung them for a long time so we have tried to take a more intentional approach to how we introduce our contemporary music. Instead of picking music entirely on theme, have a list of 20 songs and stick to these 20 songs for 6 months. This forces us to repeat a lot of the same music and gives people the opportunity to really learn the songs. Pick the list based on good theology, then all of the songs are worth singing. I truly believe this could help get people to song more. Also having your worship leader teach a little bit about the song the first time you sing it will give the worshippers a deeper understanding why the song has been chosen. Thanks!

  123. It is in our nature to desire that our church experience be what we prefer, which usually equates to what we grew up with. It is because of this presumed need to hold on to traditions that we earn a reputation for being stodgy and dated, while the church becomes culturally irrelevant to the coming generation. While we should never compromise the true purpose of the church or the message of salvation that we are charged to keep, we must be willing to let go of what we have always identified with as a “proper” church service so that we can, as Paul expressed, become relevant to all people. Traditions are nice, but they narrow the effectiveness of the presentation to the dying minority (figuratively and, eventually, literally). Today’s new church goer has a shorter attention span, a different taste in music, isn’t as familiar with the Bible or Christianity from extra-church influences, and is very much consumer-minded. To reach them, we must become relevant to them. And it is paramount that we reach them. And all of this comes from the heart of a “church singer.”

  124. Although, I understand these reasons, I believe we’ve completely missed the main reason why people don’t sing in church anymore. All of the reasons stated above are selfish. We have made worship about ourselves and how we “feel”. Maybe the real reason why people don’t sing in church anymore is because they don’t know what they’re singing for. Have you been forgiven? Have you been saved from eternal damnation by a loving savior who gave himself for you? Have you been plunged in the mercies of His grace and love daily? Are you in complete and total awe that the creator of the universe would come to this earth to purchase you? Then, that is reason enough to shout out praises with all your heart no matter the song choice, the volume, or what someone else looks like on stage.

  125. I recently heard a lead pastor [who is also the worship leader] say, “Everyone is worthy to worship, but not all are worthy of a mic.”

    For him, ‘worship’ as a noun [not a verb] had become the “thing” he wanted his church to be known for.

    I like Matt Redman’s view on worship…”I’ll bring you more than a song…’cause it’s all about You, Jesus.”

  126. There’s an easy way of dealing with this: get rid of the weekly “Liturgical Idol” competition (brought to you by your Ryan Seacrest-esque worship leader) altogether. Which do you think has more punch that fires the blood for praising God in worship: some weird, creepy, amorous-stalker themed, guitar based, two bit, dime a dozen, power chord driven drivel from Hillsong United or “My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought! My sin, not in part, but the whole, is nailed to cross and I bear it no more, praise the Lord, praise the Lord oh my soul*”? (*taken from the work of Horatio G. Spafford in the hymn “It is Well with My Soul.) When I was a child I worshipped as a child, understood worship in a child-like way, and reasoned about worship in a child-like manner. When I became a man I put away the VeggieTales coloring book and picked up a hymnal, stood shoulder to shoulder with my brothers and sisters in Christ and belted out praise in whatever key the good Lord afforded our voices. Here’s the chorus from a born again Belieber-style Hillsong shanty called “Alive”:

    Cause You are, You are, You are my freedom
    We lift You higher, lift You higher
    Your love, Your love, Your love never ending
    Oh oh oh

    ….Sorry….back now…..the nausea was too great and the trash can too far. To quote the comedian Tommy Tiernan: ” you couldn’t hang your coat on that, nevermind your soul.” The hippy dippy praise band of pubescents is as distracting as the moneychangers in the temple in the way that they virtually block the congregation from being a part of the worship themselves. Since when did we ever need a worship leader, eh? Oh wait, now I remember, it’s because we’ve been going towards this for years and now the kids are running the circus; enter the ringmaster stage (literally) left. I remember when worship was reverent, not some cacophany of Rockband Eagle Scouts disturbing the the quiet, reflective time people took to prepare their hearts for worship. Keep in mind it is only by the grace of God that the curtain in the temple was torn; we should tread there with reverence and fear. Lest anyone think this rant to be formulated by some crusty old pew potato, I’ll say this: I am 23, raised in the Methodist, Presbyterian and Anglican churches, the last of which is what I cling dearly to, and I think that worship such as what is found in our good old hymnals is as valid and relevant as it’s ever been. ‘Murica.

  127. I would add that often worship leaders are trained tenors or sopranos…which can lead to selections that fit an atypical vocal range. Most men are baritones or T2s, while most women are mezzos. Even as a trained baritone, keeping up with a worship set constantly at the top of my range (or almost beneath it, if I drop an octave) is just physically taxing. Sure, I can harmonize, and I do…but there again, I’m trained. If the congregation is going to be mostly on the melody, it’s wise to transpose to a place they can sing without needing to belt or growl to find a melody line.

  128. For me, thie real issue is that much of the contemporary music does not point to the cross, to what Christ has done and continues to do for us but, instead, it points to what we do, what we are, etc. It comes across to me as a production, a rock concert. Take me to the cross, let me sing the psalms and the old hymns. Something beautiful happens when all us off key singers sing praise, it sounds beautiful if you know what to listen for.

  129. im surprised to hear this seems like a problem with in your church because i go to a very large church and we have a full band microphones and loud music the words are displayed on the screen if you dont know the song and i and the rest of the people enjoy singing songs of praise to our god and when i look around i see every one with smiles on there face and singing their hearts out so please dont say that churches with loud music and micophones and newer songs are the problem cuz its not because i have never seen people more compassionet about siniging praises to god then my church

  130. I think the style of music is the least of anyone’s worries in a Church. There are more important things to worry about and work on correcting…. like church leaders who are living a double life of unrighteous behavior at home, gossipers, those that teach false doctrines…. these are the things that are destroying churches, not the music style.

  131. I’d like to offer a suggestion: Perhaps it’s better we take a break from “musical” worship altogether. Tell me, how often do you praise your wife or your job or the weather through song? It’s not how people normally praise things these days.

    I don’t usually sing during church because music isn’t how I primarily think about praise in the first place. Modern church programs teach the opposite, that the musical program before the sermon is an essential component towards being “the church”. People then confuse “singing” with sprituality, and confusion is always bad.

    • Additional Note: Worship is useless if it is not *self-expression*. While this might sound new-agey, it’s really the core of worship if you think about it. I am not, and have never been a person to primarily express myself through song. The church needs to explore other avenues altogether for people to express their awe and love towards God.

      • Mark, one significant problem with that: there are several NT passages that explicitly state that the gathered church should sing. It’s not up to us to decide how we should worship primarily based on how we feel about it.

        1 Cor. 14, Eph 5, Col. 3, the Psalms galore… Even God Himself sings over us (Zeph. 3:17). We don’t have the option to not sing.

  132. Great points Thom! Turn the music down!

  133. What about only singing the Psalms? Some churches practice exclusive psalmody without instruments. Here are some resources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exclusive_psalmody and https://www.crownandcovenant.com/

  134. does god fancy spot lights or reverence to Him?
    Isn’t colorful spot lights and rock music of the world?
    Is God following the trend of this world?
    Do not conform to this world.
    God sees our hearts? My people praise Me with lips service but the heart is afar.
    What does God wants of our worship?
    Satan has corrupted the worship service.today.

  135. I have said it before, and I will say it again, MOST church services today are NOT worship services, they are talent shows. I make FEW exceptions to my statement. The piece makes my point better than I can. WORSHIP is not about TALENT, the pretty young girl holding the mic, or the handsome college-age guy with the great voice. Now, putting such people up to sing a solo is fine! But when the service becomes about talent, it is no longer worship. Loud music is not worship, hymns are to be sung as almost a prayer, and the mind is to be focused on our Lord. In the church I spent most of my early years (age 17 to 30) the songleader sang not much better than the rest of us – and the lesson here was that ALL can sing unto the Lord. The church has not progressed, it has become worldly and fleshly and fake. I wish I’d wrote that.

  136. With all due respect Thom.

    Please take a moment to read “How To Worship A King” by Zach Neese. Then participate in worship at any Gateway campus or online at http://www.gatewaypeople.com.

    I am convinced your mind will be challenged if not changed.

    Unless of course this is not your real opinion, just a chance to sensationalize for the purpose of publicity.

    May God bless you to live a more excellent life,
    Loren

  137. With all due respect Thom.

    I would encourage you to read “How To Worship A King” by Zach Neese. It will shed magnificent light on the spiritual challenge to worship.

    Then participate in a worship service at any Gateway campus or online at http://www.gatewaypeople.com.

    I believe those two things will demonstrate a different reality than many of your commenters have displayed so far.

    You might notice there is seldom a line for lunch on Mothers Day at McDonalds like there is at Olive Garden.

  138. I am currently a lay musician in the local church I attend, playing drums (an electronic set) in the rhythm section. I am also a guitarist, a singer, and a song writer…

    Down through the years I have been in many camps, chiefly Baptist churches.
    I can remember the 1960’s- the decade the drum set showed up in the sanctuary, and back then (especially for the Baptists) it was a controversial instrument to consider as part of a worship service.
    New music of the 60’s was being written by various artists that would appeal to youth and the songs coming out during that time, by today’s standards, were actually quite conservative, incorporating percussion and guitars.
    Yes, the church was adapting to a new generation of believers with a different set of musical values, and the ministers of that decade were wise enough to realize many of the new songs were meaningful, inspirational, and scripturally sound. The music was not offensive, it was godly and it was energetic, and it added a bright new perspective of fresh compositions to the liturgy of worship.
    Rhythmic orientation was beginning to find a place in a setting where, for many years, melody and harmony were regularly preeminent.

    Our current disposition of controversy, as it relates to protocol and format, is similar to our standing of the past in that- there WILL ALWAYS BE multiple opinions to sort through regarding how worship is to be conducted according to methodology (Bible versions, congregational involvement, musical styles, modes of execution, etc.).

    Here comes my two cents worth of opinion on the matter: I believe our churches should allow the Holy Spirit to guide every facet of service involved in the dissemination of truth, using, obviously, the Bible as our guide to accommodate people from all walks of life who collectively gather to focus on the Lord, excluding none. No one should be left out there in the dark when it comes to acceptable styles and ritual and no one should be set up to be offended, for we are all a part of God’s creation, diverse, though we may be, by virtue of our individual exclusive tastes. Yet, we must remember, Church is not individual, it is collective.
    I believe this is why many churches today have a traditional and a separate contemporary worship service schedule available for the purpose of reaching- ALL men. The church I attend offers such a structure, but guess what, I don’t even think that’s scriptural! To me, that is telling the world we are divided, and the one service good for one believer is perhaps not good for the other. God is not something to one type of man and something else to another, He is immutable and constant without any variance to any man- the same, forever and always.
    So naturally, when it comes to music, there will always be conflicting attitudes existing in a large band of individuals as to how it should be delivered, what types of instruments should be used, what types of cadences are acceptable, and the list goes on (and on, and on, and on)- does it not?

    As far as instruction and solution are concerned…

    what we must bear in mind primarily is the immediate effect music has on our emotions, our spiritual psyche, our thoughts, even our actions. Music is not amoral and it sets the stage and preaches to us in its own way, mysteriously somehow, by its very presence- wafting through the air, landing on our ear drums, even causing us to move with it! Music is automatically spell binding. I was at a Bible study in Dallas one evening and the bass guitar was hitting a frequency I could actually feel below my waistline, with vibrations! I didn’t feel too particularly close to the Lord at that moment, needless to say. DO NOT underestimate the power of music, its significance, its proper and improper place, and the necessity of rightly discerning the types of songs allowable to the adequacy of acceptance.

    As for the platform of deliverance and for all those who deliver, also consider- the setting (God’s place), and what should done (rightful by all, to all), and how it should be done (in the right spirit).

    There will always be musicians in our midst seeking their own glory, attempting to fulfill their own carnal needs, using the platform during services to draw attention to themselves, due their gifts. It is very difficult for some people to transform themselves by the spirit of humility when they are expected to perform, for performance requires self-confidence, projection, and concentration, without which, a musical piece can be delivered half-heartedly and haphazardly.
    So, the questions we must ask ourselves are- are we moving ourselves towards God or away from Him, is this a viable song that helps us in our walk with the Lord or is it just another work of fake hype to put everyone in some kind of an empty religious stupor?

    Shame on all those who have turned our churches into Pop Shows! Shame on the Entertainers who seek to glorify themselves! Shame on all of those who allow so-called Christian songs (that are more carnal than much secular music) to be a part of a church service! Shame on all those who condemn contemporary music yet find it totally acceptable to allow Country oriented, knee slapping, peppy quartet music in their services. Shame on all those who find solace in super sentimental trance-like balladry, sugar-coated and syrupy-soft-like works of boredom, closing their eyes and saying “Jesus” over and over and over again, really? Give me a break, man!
    Much of our “accepted” music in the church today is not worth a single second’s moment of consideration when it comes to good lyrical and musical writing, compositions insulting to any thinking man and vainly delivered.

    Now, are you as confused as I am? Is it not easy to see there are complexities involved here? Remember this, God is not the author of confusion, let all things be done decently and in order.

    I believe our services should contain a blend of elements that compliment and parallel the Christian life of experience (giving, suffering, rejoicing, fasting, praying, witnessing) honoring God (the Creator, the Holy One, Redeemer, Savior, Judge) with respect to ALL men from ALL walks of life with music that is- high and holy, sacred and spiritual, energetic and rejoicing, traditional and contemporary, slow and fast, meditative and thoughtful, introspective and extroverted, as all things to all men within the boundaries of COMMON SENSE, for the Lord surely has given us the Spirit of understanding and the spirit of discernment to know how we should conduct ourselves in His vineyard with the right material delivered in the right way, o ye vessels of praise, stewards of the Word and song!

    Has anyone out there written a good song here lately? Has anyone tried to perform one?
    There are ‘chiefly’ five reasons people do not sing along during a church service:

    1). They are either lost, or backslidden.
    2). The music does not measure up to an acceptable godly standard of praise.
    3). They do not like to sing, period.
    4). They are physically hindered.
    4). Some, or all of the above.

    Psalm 150
    Monty May

  139. I attend a church with over 1000 weekly attendance who still sing plenty loud every Sunday. We apparently buck the norm.

  140. Interesting read. I agree with some of your points in the article, although I’m not entirely convinced that most people are disengaged. On the contrary, I would say that some/most enjoy a more laid back environment where they don’t need to worry about the lights being on (awkwardly looking around at each other) and being heard singing by their neighbor because it’s so quiet. As a worship leader, I can say that it is difficult to balance a lot of different variables in the overall worship experience (for both the worship team and the congregation) but I think it’s important to sing culturally relevant music in a culturally relevant style. Though I will say I am still a sucker for hymns. I think a lot of the distractions come from the people who are leading the music.. If the heart of worship they are reflecting isn’t one of authenticity, then the spirit of worship will not be reciprocated by the congregation.

  141. Couldn’t disagree with the article more.

    The problem isn’t technology, lights, the worship leader or the pastor. The problem is the people. We have lost a generation of worshipers. Our church has the lights and the cameras. I’m no rock star and I don’t think anyone thinks that I am.

    Our church worships like there is no tomorrow. It’s not a show, it’s not “Self
    expression” and it’s not a concert. This article sounds more like a critique of modern worship and is very judgmental. There are some valid points but I think you are throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Singing hymns to a piano in a small church does not make it true worship, nor does a large church with a loud sound system. Worship is no respecter of persons, cultures or styles.

    Don’t stereotype churches that have lights and a louder sound system.

  142. Then you need to come to our church in Florida. We still have Redback Hymnal singing in the choir. Also congregation singing with the choir. Welcome to come visit anytime. Thanks.

  143. I think there can be a balance between a more contemporary style and lyric of worship that is relevant to today’s culture, coupled with an appreciation of our rich heritage found in hymns. My concern is that today’s “worship” is very me-centric. Read the lyrics of what we’re singing and there’s very little “I worship You, Almighty God” (actually worshipping God rather than singing about Him) and a lot of “here I am to worship” (singing about the act of worship). The Millennial Generation – which is penning many of the songs we sing in church – has been referred to as the “Me” Generation. Wonder why? http://garystripling.com/blog/?p=222

  144. I agree with Seth. Let’s all get honest and admit that everything said here is based on personal taste and personal experience. There is no “one right way” to worship, except in Spirit and in truth. Can we stop bickering, judging, and posturing now…please?

  145. the individual who wrote this article was right I believe that if there was less loudness and music and more leading with the hymnal and giving them something to read instead of being up on the screen we would not be of the world we would be in God’s world and allowing the Holy Spirit to do what he needs to do during the service and not what we think is right

  146. Rev. Josh Gilreath Reply May 25, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    Here’s your first problem; Your first comment was that you were “looking around”. Did you forget where your focus should be? Herein lies the real problem. Your focus should have been on worshipping God, not looking around. The real “problem” is focus. If you would have been focused on the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, I guarantee you would never even know what anyone else was doing. Congregational staring is caused by people who are there to watch and not worship, in which case, they’re not there for the right reason, anyway. As for the loud music…if you’re uncomfortable with loud worship, you may want to skip Heaven because IT WILL GET LOUD there.

  147. I believe, as a praise band musician; that the comments in the article are only partially true. Why? How long does it take a person to learn the words to there favorite secular song? I believe it not to be in the volume, nor unfamiliar songs (perhaps at first, but not perpetually), maybe even with distaste for a song. Mostly I believe it is in the fact that the ONLY time most people hear praise and worship music is on Sunday, because many don’t listen to it by choice during the week, and therefore have “Never heard that song before” The ONLY thing that hinders worship for person is… they themselves. Worship is an attitude of expectancy. If you don’t bring it with you to church; you likely won’t find it there

  148. All interesting perspectives, but have we forgotten that out of the overflow of our heart comes the joy and desire to worship our God. If our attitude when we come to worship is one of wanting to connect our spirit with his spirit then who cares about the music! It’s not the worship teams responsibility to make it happen for me, I choose to worship.

  149. Thanks for your thoughtful post. You make some excellent observations. I actually just wrote an article that touches on this on my blog. If you have a chance, please take a look and leave a comment with your thoughts. I would love to know what you think. Thanks!
    http://364daysofthanksgiving.com/isnt/

  150. Thom I am a 52 year old Worship Pastor, Worship Leader, Lead Worshiper, Music Minister or whatever you want to call it these days. I have the privilege of leading a multi-generational congregation in praise and worship each week along with our choir, band and worship team. We have great audience participation but you can never please everyone.

    This is about the third or fourth very similar article that have seen on this over the last several months. I know that your intentions are good but people are sharing this article on their Facebook pages and using it as a battering ram to gripe and complain about what they think is wrong with church music today. The comments that are listed here are just a small sampling of what is going on Facebook pages and Twitter. Some of the comments here and on these other pages have been mean spirited and hateful. People are using your article to promote their own preferences with an “I told you so” attitude. I realize that you cannot control that but please for the sake of us guys who do this week in and week out and have to look these people in the face, think twice before sharing this kind of stuff.

    Most of us already know about the problems that you listed and are doing what we can to overcome them. I am sorry that you “have stopped singing” and hope that you can find the right place where you feel comfortable. As for me, I hope I never lose my hallelujah or my reason to sing.

    • I’m 66 years old and retired professional. However, I’m a musician and have played in the church setting since my teens. I used to play for a worship team for a number of years. My piano style varies from traditional to contemporary to jazz and my preferences for worship music range from hymns to contemporary to gospel so I can relate to most age groups…. Yet, I’ve said time and again, if people have time to nit pick every service then they’re not worshipping God because you can’t do both simultaneously. Currently I’m in a new church nearly 2 years now I went through the orientation classes so the leadership is aware of my musical ability (I don’t want to play every Sunday, but I don’t want to be put out to pasture either seeing as Dave Brubeck played piano into his 90s as did Marian McPartland jazz pianist) I loved playing in church but yet no one has asked me and I will not presume on anyone yet I’m frustrated because I’m willing to play maybe once a month or fill in so others can take a break

  151. The church I attend is N W Bible church and previously Pathway of Life don’t have such a problem. The rafters resound as members worship. Travis Jones is worship leader at NWBC in N. Dallas. While Kelly James leads at PWOL in Pleasant Grove.

  152. Good thought!
    I am a pastor of a contemporary church and I agree that participating in worship is key to honoring Jesus. Please REMEMBER that old school church with song books were mostly dead and boaring. It got old! Many modern churches have just become equally boaring and predictable. Lets be honest new and fresh doesn’t happen easily in church. If its not fresh it won’t inspire.

    • While I love contemporary, I still love to pull out those old standards such as “Come Thou Fount” or “This Is My Father’s World” now other traditional songs like “I Come To The Garden Alone” are beautiful but people like me live in condo highrises unlike the old wooden early American houses with gardens like my grandparents lived in. We have a very active generation of new comers that we hope will carry on the ministry after we’re gone………

  153. I honestly think this is a poorly written article that took a problem in some churches and blamed it on the people who use their gifts and talents to give their best back to God. Upon reading this article, not much research was done, and the loss of the main issue was never mentioned, you come to church to worship Jesus not focus on the music.

  154. what I have noticed is the type of music is not the problem . It is the constant flow of new songs the congregation does not know. When a song the people have heard before is sung many join in..that is why the hymns seem so much better. Too many times worship leaders try to be top forty singers leading the congregation in what ever the latest song on Christian radio is. If the leaders would stop adding so many new songs and let the congregation sing songs more than once or twice maybe more people would join in

    • I don’t know who decided that “new songs” should be introduced in every service when the congregants are struggling to learn the new one from last Sunday… the majority of congregants should be comfortable singing worship songs before another one is introduced

  155. Try worshiping with a congregation whose music is only a capella. Lots of churches of Christ still sing congregational a capella.

    • Churches that do entire worship services a capella with talented and gifted musicians in house send the message that “you’re not needed” then they complain when the gifted musicians leave the church for the secular venue

  156. Solution: Visit your local Church of Christ. We sing A Cappella and sing songs everyone knows. Biblically based preaching, great singing, and a heart for the lost.

  157. I have also been in church choirs since I was a child…and thank God everyday we still have a full choir in our church.

  158. The tune should be catchy, something you can hum around the house or on your way to work or school…. Too many lyrics with an unfamiliar tune coupled with offbeat syncopation making it too much work to even try to sing……….

  159. As someone who spent a lifetime in different churches and the better part of 9 years on the stage behind a mic (you know, one of those guys you want to hide from view) I’d like to think I have a fairly decent perspective on this issue. While I’ve had people comment on the style of music (pro and con) more times than I can count (mostly pro because we intentionally mixed it up and did our best to sing “singable” songs), I believe you are missing an important factor here. The issue could be with the crowd, not the band.

    Anyone who has ever been to a concert has been immersed and surrounded by umpteen thousands of people singing in at all volume levels and with all manner of skill levels – without ANY qualms. There is exactly zero reticence with these folks. Then there are the group who are content to just listen and enjoy the music. We saw much the same thing in our church, in about the same percentages.

    People who are into the music and the moment could not care less what anyone else is doing or if they even know the words. They just emote. Others just get lost in the music without singing.

    But if you are in a church where most people are just standing around, there could be several reasons. Sure, the music could be vapid crap, but the issue may also be with the people. Much like people who get dolled up to be seen at church, folks who are so concerned about how they sound that they don’t sing are doing it for the wrong reasons anyway. Folks just need to get over themselves.

  160. Melinda Deyoung Reply May 25, 2014 at 8:31 pm

    i dont like going to church in the dark andi dont like it because they are trying to please the world and stead of god. i used to go to night clubs but we are children light not darkness. i love the lord and i want to please him. my husband and i are looking for a church but every church that we have tryed out so far they turn all the lights down and they are putting on light shows smoke. i dont believe that it is god at all .i think they are trying to see how many people that they can get in the service an stead of pleaseing are christ jesus.

  161. Sadly, frustratingly true

  162. My belief is it all comes down to the individuals relationship with God overall, not just a Sunday worship time. I have gone to church with A Capella singing and now one with a band. In both scenarios I have no problem singing because of Who I am singing to. Same with how I approach a Bible Study, communion, the sermon, etc. So until the relationship with God is fixed I don’t believe it would matter what you did with the worship service. I worship with Christian radio stations every day of my life. It is the lifestyle I choose to have which is striving to put God on the throne each day.

  163. Church music went south when they took out the hymnals. Most people can read a basic melody and having something in their hand gives something to focus on if they’re unsure of the melody–at least the words are there. Churches are trying to teach people new music (that has no logical form and is usually the random strumming of the worship “leader”) without any words or notes to follow. The great old hymns, yes, some of them have archaic language, but they are full of great theology!

  164. Of all the people complaining about worship at their church, does your worship pastor and sr. Pastor know how you feel?

    What disappoints me about a majority of posts are suggestions of formulas to make worship better. If your worship team isn’t completely focused on ushering God’s presence, then style doesn’t matter. Any church that is giving a green light to rock star karaoke acts, then we’re into people pleasing and not God pleasing. That’s the core problem with most churches today…not even with just worship.

    Church is the modern day temple. I hope excellence is pursued since worship is an offering. There is a difference in perfection and excellence, go with the obvious.

    Also, I see nothing wrong with worship music being a big industry. I hope it grows as long as the heart is truly focused on God.

  165. I’ve know something else that is contributing. Today someone who could be helping there churches music program instead decides to try to be a professional Gospel singer so every Sunday they’re touring other churches instead of helping there own.

  166. you hit the nail on the head. thank you very much for your thoughts on this. glad to know i’m not alone in noticing these things. God bless you.

  167. Here’s my two cents (not that it matters) on why I almost completely disagree with this article:

    Spectator set-up: The church service has been in a “spectator setup” since around 300 A.D. (Read the book Pagan Christianity and you’ll be blown away) For many centuries now, the pastor/preacher/priest has been the only one in the spotlight. Prior to this change in the early church, not one person was the focal point of the gathering. Everybody shared in the responsibility of the gathering. To say that the setup is an issue is not valid because this has been the setup for centuries now. And I know they are saying in regards to the music, but even before modern worship, there was either a music director waving his arms, or a choir backing a music director waving his arms. And many people were spectators then too…especially during the choir “special.” How quickly we forget history… when it’s our own.

    Professionalism: Thank God for professionalism. Growing up in church my whole life, there was nothing worse than hearing a band that couldn’t play well or a choir or soloist that sang off pitch. I’m sorry, but that is distracting when trying to worship (you all know that one person who sang too loud in the choir…off pitch) and bless their hearts, not their gift. Obviously, you have to work with what you have, but to just throw anyone up there, regardless of their abilities is like saying, “who want’s to preach this week?” We don’t do that, now do we? No, in the majority of cases we pay a “professional” to espouse God’s Word. Why is it good enough for the message, but not the music, which is part of what prepares the heart for the message? It always amuses me that we demand quality when we attend a secular event, a restaurant, an amusement park, etc….but Heaven forbid we have it in the church service. I don’t know about you, but I would rather not eat at a restaurant who just let’s anybody with a reservation come back into the kitchen and cook.

    Blare: This one I may be able to buy into on a case by case basis, but I have been to enough LOUD rock concerts to know that when people really like a particular song or songs, they’ll sing at the top of their lungs, even if their ears are bleeding. I feel this is a greater problem in churches trying to push their sound systems to do what they aren’t designed to do. Often, the first budget line item to get cut in churches is technology. They then try to pull off something that their “budgeted” technology will not allow. This creates an awful sound, that can become a distraction. In sound, there are two types of loud: LOUD and GOOD LOUD!

    Music choice: This one here, well, it has to be said… The music isn’t about us. It is about a response from a grateful heart that has been redeemed. So when people tell me that they don’t like the music selection, therefore they will not participate, I remind them that it’s not about them. This is something I feel , unfortunately, that isn’t taught very often, if not at all in churches today. And guess what, there are different styles of churches for different types of people because of this issue. When someone critiques music choice it always has to do with them. Week in and week out, music directors, worship leaders and worship pastors toil over the music selection, many times working to pick songs that compliment the message, songs that will prepare peoples hearts for what God wants to say to them that weekend…but when you play that song or songs they don’t like…well…you’ve ruined their weekend worship experience. Worship is not absent of experience, but it’s ultimate goal is not the experience itself. We need to spend more time teaching people that it’s not about them…it’s about Him!

    Here’s a shot in the dark…maybe, just maybe…people aren’t singing because this type of music isn’t part of their daily lives…because…wait for it…the Church isn’t part of their daily lives. The Word of God isn’t a part of their daily lives. They don’t fully understand what it means to express a heart of gratitude for their salvation because they aren’t truly burdened by their sin that Christ carried on the cross for them when he died. To them, church is just one more line item to check off with all the other things to do during the week.

    The church is not a building or a service…it’s the people of God! And at one point and time they were “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

    Where’s that church?

    Many assumptions can be made about lack of participation that are solely based on what we see visually and what we hear from the few (of which we claim are many to backup our point) who always like to complain. Taking that information and assuming it must be like this all over the country. What if it’s not any of these things, but a heart issue. Everywhere else in life we teach people to look out for number one…is it a surprise then that people fell this way about “their” churches. The fact is, the only perfect church is an empty one. As soon as you put people in it, we think about ourselves and screw it up.

    I will now relinquish my soap-box!

  168. When you put words on a board for me to sing, I don’t sing. Because I’m used to reading music & harmonizing. I learned to read music by singing out of a hymnal or in the choir. I’ll stop going to church if I have to attend a ‘contemporary music’ show place. I’m reading some ancient books about the Moody & Sankey revivals. They truly sang from the congregations in those days. And much of their new songs are in today’s hymnals, dated in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s! People were being saved from hearing Sankey’s songs of Gospel as well as Moody’s Gospel sermons!!

  169. I am wrestling with this article and topic of discussion for a few reasons…
    #1-anytime someone is playing music in front of people it can be viewed as a performance (I see the difference between a performance and leading worship as a matter of the heart and unless you talk to a worship leader, you may not know their heart and how they view the ministry).
    #2-I know people that don’t want to sing out in church if the music is too quiet so the volume statement seems to vary from person to person
    #3-Scripture tells us to play with excellence unto the Lord and it feels like excellence is being equated with professionalism in this article (thus having a negative connotation). I believe music in the church should be well rehearsed and should be at a level that allows people to fix their eyes on Jesus and not be distracted by the music. Obviously, not distracting people includes playing with a level of excellence (we are doing it unto the Lord-shouldn’t it be the best we have to offer). Also not distracting people probably means not doing a 3 minute guitar solo. But I have been in bands that have gone the other way in which I was afraid to play a guitar solo because I was afraid people would then consider it no longer worship but a performance. Again, it’s a matter of the heart and if the player is worshipping God through his playing and if other people are judging him and saying it’s a performance then that’s something they need to figure out.
    #4-If worship leaders are planning Biblical songs that are familiar to their congregation, in singable keys, and encouraging the congregation to participate, I feel the congregation has a choice whether to engage and participate. I have heard that worship leaders are responsible for people to sing and though we are called to encourage, teach, and lead-I disagree that our “success” as leaders is measured in how many people in the congregation are singing. We are simply inviting people to the table and hope they come with us; what else can a leader do?

    Are we putting too much emphasis on worship leaders to create the environment which allows us to be in a place where we want to respond in singing? If so, that sounds like we are waiting for the very thing (a performance or specific setting) to then respond to the Lord and in the process desiring something that this article is addressing is a problem.

  170. But it shouldn’t Matter what other people are doing, or if it’s a cheesy song or if it’s unprofessional. God wants us to worship Him with joy!! The Bible even tells us to sing praises!!!

  171. As a worship leader in a church I have noticed this problem, and yes it is growing. I have led in MANY settings over the past few years to many different groups of people in different atmospheres and with very different song choices.

    Whether you do an “unplugged” set, invite people to the front, change the seating arrangement (if you can), step off the stage to meet them “on their level,” sing “grand old hymns” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) or if you sing any praise and worship song from forty years ago til now the issue is still there. Regardless of age, gender, cultural background or denomination the issue is still the same.

    In my humble opinion if the song glorifies God, sing it in praise and in worship to God. Leaders, worship in a way that the Holy Spirit leads you, let the people know what direction the Spirit is leading (if they aren’t already going in that direction) and as I heard a pastor say yesterday morning, “never lose the wonder of who He is.”

    We would all do well to get on our knees more often and seek God when we have troubles like this, and encourage our congregations to do the same.

  172. I’m sorry but I’m getting tired if seeing these articles. I understand people want to express their opinions and believe that they are right. But I’m a worship pastor and I get frustrated with this article. I can tell by the writer that they still have the “old school” mind set. Which is not bad. It’s just not reality. I’ll give my agreements and disagreements regarding this article.

    I agree that song choice is huge. Songs should be singable. Period.

    I disagree on the fact that the writer is basically portraying that this is happening at every church. Well it’s not. I’m sorry if you had a bad experience at a church during worship but don’t wrap it all in one and say your statements starting with “the church”.

    I have been a part of many worship services. Loud and soft. That has nothing to do with people’s participation. You see people not participating in both volume levels. Don’t blame it on being to loud because that’s not what you grew up with. I believe louder helps people sing out more. Which helps them participate. If it’s too soft. Forget it. They don’t want their neighbors to hear them.

    I can go on. But bottom line. Just because you grew up a certain a in church and you don’t like the way the worship culture is changing, don’t act like the old way was the right way. It’s all about culture. We all understand the core of worship. But the culture we all need to face reality. It’s going to change. But it’s still all for the glory of God. If you’re a WL, start or continue to teach your congregation to worship. Lead them. Guide them. Read what song works and doesn’t work. If they don’t raise their hands, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worshiping. If they aren’t singing, that doesn’t mean God isn’t working in their hearts.

    • RC, I appreciate your comments, and I’ve been feeling similar.

      I’m a middle aged song leader/music team coordinator for a modest sized church blessed with many young guitarist and drummers. Like most churches, we work with the skills of the people we have, who are all volunteers (including myself).

      “Are the people of God singing?” is a regular review question we consider as a team. It is the top practical criteria we apply when reviewing our work together (second only to Spiritual priorities).

      So many of the comments I’ve read here depress me with what feels like cliched solutions and criticisms I’ve heard all my life. (Worse than that, I’m writing an essay on Renaissance sacred music, and the controversies are feeling awfully familiar).

      Rather than criticising, let’s set our song leaders and musicians a challenge: to help God’s people sing together. Let the song leaders and musicians work out how to achieve this goal (there are many possible approaches and strategies, and it will be a little different in each church).

      Let’s stop knocking those who serve through music and encourage them towards the goal of filling the building with God’s praises, so the whole congregation becomes the music team.

      When our song leaders and musicians catch the passion for helping all God’s people sing, and apply their musical skills towards this goal, we will see the musical growth we desire.

      This won’t happen if we tear down and criticise each other.

    • Daniel Suminski Reply May 26, 2014 at 5:58 am

      thank you for writing this RC. you put into words what I was trying too. when we step back and look at this article and some of the comments that have followed, it’s clear to see the divide between styles. I think both sides must remember that these conversations and this article does not seem to be addressing, “are the songs we sing scriptural in churches today” but it’s rather stating preferences and opinions about style. It all comes back to our hearts and worshipping God in spirit and in truth. at my church I used to do acoustic sets once a month and I know some people liked them much more than the full band set. other weeks I did the full band set and other people liked that more than the acoustic week. some people like blues music, others rock, others acoustic, others no instruments, etc. The church is not a place where all our preferences and styles will be met each week and that’s not why the church exists, it’s not about us. so, that’s why I struggle as you do with articles like this because people may begin to label certain styles as “authentic worship” which then leaves other styles as “inauthentic”? This can potentially divide our churches even more when all the while, we are on the same team. humility and love must be present from everyone to remember that the vision of the church is to glorify Christ and it’s about Him and then from that place, we can see how small these differences in preferences really are and whether the music is loud/soft, blues or acoustic, my favorite song or my least favorite song-we can respond to the Lord in song because we clearly see that He is God and it’s all about Him.

  173. This is the most succinct description of today’s church that I’ve seen! It is a true picture of the slaughter of hymnology in the church! Having served as Minister of Music for 21 years in traditional churches and pastoring for another 21 years in such churches, I’m convinced that God is not pleased with our mimicking these so-called worship leaders!
    True worship is from the heart of the worshipper to the heart of God! To me, whAt I see in most contemporary churches is nothing more than a worthless attempt to gain God’s attention! They seem to think that the louder the accompaniment tracks and the louder their voices, the more acceptable it is to God. Oh, I’m sure He’s aware of it, but I doubt that He’s pleased with it!
    My Bible tells me that God speaks in a still, small voice. I enjoy sharing in services where there is robust singing from the heart, whether it is on key or not. I think God is pleased when we come to Him and worship Him in spirit and truth, which is how God says we are to worship in the first place!!!

  174. While the author of this piece has good points on WHY they don’t feel much like singing (and trust me, I’ve been there!), I can’t help but put the responsibility back on him. God, through His Word instructs us to praise Him through song, over and over again.

    You might prefer a different song… sing anyway. The music might be too loud, in a key you find intimidating, in a style that’s annoying, or maybe you just didn’t get enough coffee and you’re cranky… sing anyway. If the words don’t move you, sing something like “I love You, Jesus!” or lift your hands, close your eyes, and ask God to change your heart and maybe for Him to help the worship leader to do his/her [impossible] job better. This idea that “I don’t feel like singing and you can’t make me” is rebellious, prideful, and needs to be rebuked.

    Ultimately, you do have a choice of where you worship, but if you have committed to a church, then it is your responsibility to be united with that local body and praise the Lord together as He has commanded you to. Don’t disobey God because the band, the sound guy, or the songwriter hasn’t met your expectations.

  175. This article makes me sad. Let me summarize the author’s message: “I’m not getting what I like, so I won’t participate.” That would be fine, except God commanded all Christians to sing and to sing a new song. This is just selfish and judgmental.

  176. Maybe they don’t sing cos the one they came to worship is no longer there… Many have one another to worship. Many are more a show than corporate worship. Something more than music affects all of it… Is the presence of God sought or good worship… That’s the difference.

  177. People at concerts (even NFL games, etc.) dance, sing, wave their arms, lean on each other–their exuberance and participation is something to behold. Meanwhile, the frozen chosen remain either glued to their seat or standing like statues. Really? Where does this shame come from? We worship the one living and true God! Perhaps the blogger needs to recognize that it is not the music that’s the problem–his disdain for contemporary worship music shines through–rather its hearts that have not been ignited by the Holy Spirit that’s the real problem.

    As to professionalism of the choir–the temple choir was made up of professionals. Were they wrong? No, God gifted them to sing and the temple paid them for their service. Why do we think we can just throw God scraps? We’re no better than Cain if we think we can. We should give God the best–from service to worship–every aspect of our lives.

  178. Thom, thanks for writing this! I couldn’t agree more! In fact, I wrote something similar a few years ago – expressing my frustration. http://rodarters.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/whoever-has-ears/. Have you ever heard the justification as to why loud seems to be the ONLY option these days? I’d be curious…

    • “Have you ever heard the justification as to why loud seems to be the ONLY option these days? I’d be curious…” WHAT?!

      Just kidding. :-)

  179. i don’t think the answer is to bring back “grand old hymns”. (emphasis on OLD). That implies that the old is always better. but remember, when these hymns were introduced they WERE the new songs! lol! nothing wrong with the new songs accept they are not taught and have no background story .

    i think the answer lies in singing and teaching songs that people can easily pick up, don’t have complicated parts, add words to the screens when available, and discourage worship leaders from choosing songs that are more solo, than congregational.

    i too many times find myself watching than participating…and i sit in the pulpit! mostly because i may not even know the song, too many parts or the whole song is designed for a solo artist. frustrating. i enjoy listening to them, and I’m sure they enjoy singting them, but doesn’t do much for me as a worshiper.

    if you notice the worship setup in the book of revelations….all the nations sing, the angels sing together. no solo artist. simple song..”worthy is the lamb….” this is what we should be striving for.

  180. I have always been a member of an acapella church and loved the fact that our voices can be heard and aren’t drowned out by instruments. But, times when I didn’t sing or couldn’t were more of a heart issue than how the music was bring delivered. I think people need to address their hearts first before true worship can happen. When you are praising God, your focus should be on Him and not who is on the stage.

  181. Yes thank you… From a “wannabe rock star” that needs to be hidden.. I’m sorry to disagree with the blog author. But I worship in an extremely culturally and racially diverse congregation. It is loud.. It is not restrained. There is no hesitation or reluctance there to participate in the praise and worship… and even a fair share of “Amen, Pastors” can be heard throughout the message . This in my view is how the Bible tells us to worship.. Not luke warm, meek and milk toasty. But those that don’t like it end up at a congregation like the one this blogger describes. To each his own I suppose as long as the Holy Spirit arrives and lives there. But I find this blog to be purposefully offensive to a style of ministry that is scripturally supported. Where did Jesus say to take this attitude? Where did Jesus tell us to worship quietly and restrained? For 3 yrs I have had the privilege of playing in this P & W team (see vid). This is how we praise on Sunday. I do not apologize for it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1wjpwEzUB4Q

    • Love it–love the gospel tone to it. I also like the low-lighting. The low-lighting enables one to focus more on the music and the lyrics, and most especially commune with God and EACH other, through the Holy Spirit.
      Keep singing for the King! He deserves our best praise!

  182. I think most of that’s true. I don’t think it’s so much architecture though. Churches have always had activity at the front except choirs have often been to the side or back. We’ve certainly succumbed to entertainment though. We light it, amplify it, and choreograph it like entertainment, then act surprised when it’s accepted as…entertainment. I totally agree about the volume. I don’t go to church without earplugs. I’ve watched a meter on my music stand “peg” at over 110 dB. I think some of the music is sappy too. I don’t think I honor God when I sing words I don’t feel. I honor Him even less if I sing words I shouldn’t feel.

  183. Worship God with all your heart making Melodies even if you can’t cope with the song or worship leader/team. That’s what I do as long as the music is not metal rock or pagan music, I am fine. When the congregation is able to focus in worship, God will be present and the Holy Spirit moving in our life will transform us. Lyrics ought to be taken from Psalms and nothing worldly. God is in enmity to the world. Whoever befriend the world is God’s enemy. Do not conform to the world. These are God’s Word and His Will / Opinion which is in our bible and all of us must obey.

  184. Some of you have hit on some excellent points. In our congregation, we are primarily contemporary. We occasionally throw in a hymn as the Spirit leads our worship pastor to do so. We do not have a problem with people not singing. Our people worship no matter what we are playing. I watch the congregation as I’m on the platform and I know this to be true. Many times, our altars are lined during the worship service.
    Our praise band is not a group of professionals. I am primarily a bass guitar player, but play acoustic. Our bassist has only played in church. Our drummer is part time and is good on several instruments. Our piano player has played traditional church music since she was a girl and the contemporary music is a challenge for her. Our frontline singers are amazing but the most important part of our worship team is that we are all of one heart and one mind in realizing that it is NOT about any individual or us as a group. It is about worshipping and praising God and helping our congregation to do so.
    We ‘make the song our own’ because we can’t make them sound exactly like the original artists. We do our best to keep the familiarity so that those who listen to Contemporary Christian radio have a good idea how the songs go. Before we incorporate a new song into the worship service, we discuss it in the days before rehearsal if anyone thinks it’s not a song conducive to our congregation or if it would be better as a special song rather than a worship song. When we introduce new songs, we usually sing them twice so that people learn them and then we do it again the following week and usually 2-3 weeks after that. We don’t want unfamiliarity with the song hinder the worship of the people and more importantly, hinder the movement of the Holy Spirit.
    You can argue all different points but it comes down to this: no matter what style of music you use, the most important thing is to put God first!

  185. “Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with timbrel and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Psalm 150:1 – 6 (all verses)
    SHOUT for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God.
    “Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright. Praise the Lord with the lyre; make melody to Him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to Him a new song, play skillfully on the strings with loud shouts.”
    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth; make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise. Sing unto the Lord with a harp, with a harp and the voice of a psalm.”

  186. Besides all the wonderful, inspiring comments I’d like to add…Why does God instruct us to sing? I believe it is because when we are in “unity”, Christian or not, it is as in Genesis 11 whereThe Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language (sining the same words) they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” There is Kingdom power in corporate singing & worshiping. We don’t really ever explain that angle of worship to the church. Corporate singing redirects our minds and voices to speak words together in such harmony as to have the power to usher in the miraculous. Like light that is focused into one stream and becomes a lazar. Just saying.

  187. This is sad to me that people feel this way. As a part of a praise team our mission, our charge, is to LEAD others into worship not perform. We have a mix between contemporary and hymns and although I grew up singing hymns and agree that there are some great worshipful meanings within them, there are just as meaningful contemporary praise songs. We are all volunteers on our team with the exception of our paid leader. I feel confident in saying that although we strive to do our best, we do it for the glory and honor of God. The words and the melodies do not matter near as much as the heart and attitude behind it. It you are stubborn and are not singing in your pews because of what song is being sung or because the music is too loud or whatever other reason, then there is a bigger problem with your heart than music.

  188. Psalms 33:3 – Sing unto him a new song; play skilfully with a loud noise.

  189. Interesting points. I think if you are going to write an article about things that you see that could be better, why not at least give some suggestions? It’s too easy to criticise without being on the ‘frontline’ of a worship team!

  190. Reblogged this on mjmsprt40, sez me. and commented:
    I admit here to not singing much. Personally, I tend to choke up a bit anyway– but it’s way too true that many of the songs are simply unsingable because we “older folk” simply don’t know the words so can’t sing even if we otherwise would sing.
    bring back the hymnals, please!

  191. Oh clap your hands all you peoples, shout unto God with the voice of triumph!

    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, for He is worthy to be praised. Sing with your spirit, clap with your hands, our God is worthy to be praised”

    So.. The church described as ideal by the blogger, just does not appeal to me based on God’s Word. But ok… I have been an atheist. I have been a part of subdued congregations like the blogger likes. And I have been in congregations with loud music, with clapping of hands and maybe a couple people dancing in place. Again, to each his own. But as for me and my house….. we will lift our hands and voices loudly in praise and worship of the Lord. send all the loud worshippers to my church. They are very welcome there.

  192. I’ve been in quite a few churches and I’ve never gotten the ‘feeling’ from those ‘worship teams’. They strike me as cheesy, and not sincere. Especially when the songs sound like they were written by an elementary school student playing at song-writer, not someone who has a genuine outpouring of feeling, inspired by the Lord. I have no problem with either hymns or radio music, in fact I prefer when I can sing both. One church I went to even (occasionally) sang contemporary music from non-Christian artists, but only when the lyrics of the song went along with the message. In fact, some of the messages were inspired by worldly songs and what lessons we could take away from them. One of my professors used to say ‘all of the Bible is truth, but not all truth is in the Bible’.

    For me it is all about the feeling and the attitude of the musical leaders in the church. Are they encouraging the congregation to join in? Do they say ‘please join us’ or ‘raise your voices up’? Or are they just the MC for the worship team and the church’s band? Are they offering the lyrics in a convenient location so that worshippers can join in? We’re their congregation, not their audience. In the end, they should sing loud and joyfully, but also humbly. You’re there for the Lord, not for personal glory and/or recognition.

  193. Gone are many of the familiar songs. Seems like every week there is new music with which I am unfamiliar…..in fact it seem like we rarely repeat the unfamiliar ones from the weeks before. I love to sing, but don’t want to “blare out” sour notes, so there are times when I do not participate. It is disappointing and I wrestle with my emotions on the topic. I fully realize it’s about the Lord, not me. But isn’t the worship supposed to be participatory?

  194. So a couple of things about this article. I do see the point, people aren’t singing like they used too but worship music has changed and evolved in the past years, good and bad. It went from hymnal singing and the worship leader waiving his hand in the pattern of a cross to keep time, to bringing in bands and vocalists who have accepted their calling by using their musical talents for God by leading their congregation into worship. Yes there is a growing problem with churches playing contemporary christian music that has become a performance rather than worship and a lot of the time including poor, weak theologically written songs. Also graphic artists and stage lighting can also be a form of worship. so be careful. if the congregation has an expectation of the worship team to perform, then they have a heart issue and didn’t come to worship. its about God, not about them or the worship team performing. We spend several hours practicing and rehearsing and growing closer together as a team through prayer and fellowship to bring the very best to God they can offer Him. We don’t want to be a distraction and hinder worship by playing off beat or playing the wrong note. On the professionalism section, why should someone who has been given a gift and talent be told to hold back for the congregation? its not about their talent, its about Jesus offering their very best they have for Him. Its like the parable of the talents. (matt. 14:25-31). Yes there are times sound is mixed wrong or the congregation might not like a song because not every song works for every congregation. Remember most of the worship teams are volunteers even the sound guys. We are all learning and growing. So my response to the article is basically the author has about as much of a clue about worship music as i do about being a woman…just saying. poorly written article on the subject at hand. But the point is that there is a problem with performance. So liz no offense but I see why you posted this article. There is a growing problem with churches performing instead of worshiping, and/or singing poorly written songs that has very little theology put into it. The worshiper should be focused on singing to Jesus, not worried about what others hear, if they are focused on you then shame on them, they need a heart check( so not pointed at you liz just saying in general.) Thats my two cents coming from my perspective of playing worship music for 12+ years and what ive learned and been taught and been convicted of by God.

  195. It’s hard for folks to sign a song presented on a screen with no music/notes to follow. Sure, most are easy enough to learn, but it still takes at least a once through. Most of these choruses lack the depth of the hymns. The focus of the choruses seems to be more on the people and less on the glory of God, well, at least the ones being sung in the church I attend.

    My biggest gripe about the new “wanna be rock star” performance is the playing of music During the prayer. I can’t hear what is being prayed. And, I don’t need ‘Mood Music’ to talk to my Lord. It’s a distraction.

  196. I often get somewhat amused when folks tell me that they don’t understand the “old English” used in many of the old hymns. It becomes an easy “out” for us sometimes. Just my opinion, but the church as a whole seems to have become a lot less “thinking” in our approach to worship music, and a whole lot more “feeling” toward the music. (Not that there’s anything wrong with feeling the music….I absolutely feel the music!) I admit it’s sometimes a challenge for me to understand the meaning and language behind many of the old beautiful hymns of the church, but once I really seek to understand what they mean, I often find a wonderful, powerful thought that stirs my personal worship, and ultimately my relationship with God. I encourage many of the folks I encounter in music ministry to just take an old hymn and read through the words without thinking of any music melody. This often brings out more meaning to me. If you are having trouble understanding, then seek to understand. Don’t give up too quickly (sounding like Capt Obvious ☺, this could be applied to all songs) I believe I should always sing and worship with understanding (1 Cor 14:15), regardless of whether it’s a new song or old song. As an aging minister of music, I’m finding my horizons expanded in all directions musically, and I love it! Don’t stop using that wonderful mind, imagination and brain that God has blessed you with!

  197. STOP WHINING AND SPONSOR A KIDS MUSIC LESSONS.

    If you want the younger crowd to read music and sing along, stop complaing and lamenting their lack of musicality and pick a few kids from your church and pay for them to get music lessons.
    This is the real problem: the older generation complains but refuses to invest in the next generation.

  198. I now go to a church that doesn’t rely on the old hymns that people have grown up with. Without practice, how can you really sing something that is unfamiliar to you?

  199. Question: if you have someone paint the interior of the church or install carpet or repair a door or perhaps fix the furnace or provide any service to the church…would you criticize them on having too much professionalism or doing their job to the best of their ability? Why would you do that to the brothers and sisters in your church family who have music as their vocation or avocation and use those talents as God commands? Trained professional musicians in your service (paid or no) will: 1)Do a blended service with quality new material and the great hymns of the faith, because they get it. 2) Resist the projected words movement since it provides a fraction of the info needed to sing a song…but use them because they know it’s not about them.3) Interact with the congregation during songs (is your worship leader not looking at you? then they aren’t leading…) because they know who the audience is and who is the choir.

    One thing I’ve learned about worship leading in the past 20 years. Somebody will complain no matter what you do. I’ve felt the Holy Spirit visit during acapella hymns and soaring rock anthems on the DVD and kids songs sung by squirming 4 year olds. I’ll be as inviting and understanding and knowledgeable about congregational singing as I can be. Then I will craft a worship unto the Lord according to the best of my ability (40 years of musicianship). If you make excuses as to why you don’t want to join, well bless your heart, that’s between you and the Lord who wants you to worship. Maybe you ought to think/pray about opening yourself up to that. Now let’s turn to page 246 in the hymnbook and sing the 1st, 2nd, and last verses…. :-)

  200. many people are afraid of the commitment you make when you sing. “what if i sing a wrong note?” “what will the people in the power clique think?” face it, people are just afraid of stepping out and singing. i sing in the choir (i’m the tenor section), and when i sit in the congregation, the only voices i hear are my fellow choirmembers. it is saddening at the very least.

  201. It’s interesting that an overwhelming majority of the comments here talk about attender behavior and seating arrangements, volume, acoustics, music, lack of choir singing… Maybe there is another issue apparent here… Does the congregation really know why they are singing and whom they are singing too? Do they really hold a true belief in their hearts… Are they truly excited about who God is? In scripture most references to singing are in rejoicing and often as a response to an experience with God… The early church would do music as well but no one really knows if they did 5 full songs at the beginning of every gathering? They definitely didn’t have a stage with a PA system because that technology was not invented. There is record of instruments being used other than just voices… So what is the factor here and now that is different?… I think the answer lies in your lack of belief and understanding of who God truly is and who Christ is… The early church also was under constant persecution… The American church isn’t so much. I also think the the middle class protestant church has something to learn from our Urban and Gospel church brothers and sisters on how to let our selves go and be free to dance before the Lord. We are so uptight and so worried about if our kids are making a little bit of noise or what others might think… The reality is that this kind of culture that has been created stifles community and it forces us into an entertainment based self focused group of curmudgeons that argue about cultural issues and preferences rather than choosing to be committed to one another and walk through life together the way Christ intended the church to be.

  202. Maybe I missed it in one of the comments but one thing I’m surprised no one commented on is the heart of the people. I think people aren’t worshipping as much because Christians today are very shallow and have little if no connection to God. When your walk with God is close to nonexistent you will have no desire to worship. True worship is a response to God’s presence in your life not a worship leader. Although you may have your musical preferences, if a song reminds you of God’s grace, faithfulness, goodness, etc. you can’t help but worship. It will be a reflex. And no I’m not perfect and have been guilty at times of just showing up at church empty handed and drained, but when I’m spending time with God consistently throughout the week, no one will have to beg and plead with me to worship on Sunday, regardless of the music being played.

  203. Okay, I get it. Worship music sucks sometimes musically. And sometimes the people leading don’t mean a word they’re singing. Valid points. But honestly those are fruit issues, not root issues bro. If you truly have a heart for God, and truly long for His presence, you will sing no matter what everyone else is doing, you’ll worship whether you know the songs or not. True worshipers don’t need a “worship leader,” to stir up passion within them for their God. Why? Because if you really know God, there is no way you can’t worship or love Him. If you know how to get in His presence, then there is no one or nothing stopping you but yourself. =) have a blessed day

  204. Because I’m not overly rich, I take rooms in the rear of a friend’s house. We’ve been in the church since the early 1980s. He plays the piano and does quite well at it, and can play gospel right out of the old hymnals from memory. Neither of us can sing with the new songs though. Modern “worship”– I deliberately put that in quotes– leaves us oldsters out in the cold, since there just isn’t much we can sing with or even follow from one meeting to the next in many cases. I’m sure the “worship team” up front is having a time, but– they’ve had time to practice the songs and get them right, we out in the pews haven’t.

    Why don’t we join in corporate worship? It’s because we’ve been excluded. I know you don’t want to read that but it’s the truth. Having new songs every week that only a handful of worship leaders get to learn effectively excludes everybody else. Congratulations, I’m sure the team will win an award someday and the rest of us will be told that we just didn’t have a heart for God. or something like that.

  205. In the last two years I have visited several churches seeking a new church home after moving. Music is usually the hardest thing to adapt to. Probably the biggest source of the sound of crickets in the congregation from my experience is the personalization of the songs. The more that they “make the songs their own” the more the congregation is lost, confused and frustrated. No one wants to hear the same songs every Sunday but hearing new ones every single Sunday also makes it impossible for the audience to participate.
    It is supposed to be a source of praise to God from the church body, not a display to show others of how strong your faith is or how good you are as a performer. But the more the singers posture and put on a show, the more we as a congregation find ourselves becoming self-conscious of how we look and sound. It’s literally distracting and, more importantly, removes the focus from what it should be.
    Unfortunately, another source of irritation and distraction I have to admit is really bad singers and musicians. I know that it is a beautiful sound unto the Lord and in the time of choirs and lack of sound systems it was not so much of an issue, but now with bands and mics, I see a lot of cringing and groans in these situations. It can be very uncomfortable and can also be frustrating to follow music that is continuously off key and has wonky timing. Not sure how to remedy that since I’m thinking holding auditions or kicking someone out is not exactly a good Christian tactic, but I have to say it’s a problem.

    • If you have a large and ambitious congregation, auditions are necessary. Not everyone has the same gift. I would be a negative as a door greeter. Its just not me. But I do have a musical ability that is an asset to the worship program. Its not an exclusive club. But a foot and a hand, while both equally necessary, are not very interchangeable. People who are “continuously off key and has wonky timing” should be encouraged to get into a ministry that they are suited for.

  206. The big problem throughout this entire article has nothing to do with the worship leader or the worship team. It has to do with the congregation half-assing their way through church as if it’s something they HAVE to go to. Not singing because you think the song is “lame” is the dumbest excuse not to worship the Living God.
    “Hey sorry God. This song is lame, so I’ll worship you another time.”
    Churches have to learn to stop being selfish. This whole article shouts of a congregation that worship their own taste in music and style.

  207. I’ll chime in here and will probably upset a few…

    I no longer do it now, but for 13 years I was the worship leader. (Minister of music)

    Here’s the #1 problem with all of this, especially in America.

    We try to make God in our image instead of being made in his.

    It’s NEVER about what you or I like when it comes to worship, singing, ect. It’s about what HE desires.

    Now, let’s start with the overall theme of creation and the Father’s original intent.

    When earth was made it was made to mirror heaven and be a colony of heaven. This is still the Lord’s intent.

    So before we say how worship should be the first thing we should do is see how worship flows in heaven. Because this is the model for worship, NOT WHAT we feel.

    Where can we see this?

    Isaiah chapter 6.

    Here’s a clue into the throne room.

    Now, nowhere in that instance do you get any idea of worship being ‘manageable’.

    Here’s another thing.

    Quenching the spirit.

    God has clearly given us instructions on not doing this, but we do it every Sunday, Wed, or rehearsal times.

    Not saying there should not be order, but for those who are constantly talking about worship leaders being ‘rockstars’ sometimes don’t see that that make the pastor an idol.

    Listen, what do we come to church for?

    Hopefully it should be to experience God’s MANIFEST presence and not to do our DUTY to say we went to church.

    Because no matter how much you go to church or attend any ‘activities’ nothing will ever change you or is equal to the MANIFEST presence of God.

    And this is why a lot of people are failing in their walks including youth.

    See the problem is and has always been that while the babies (unchurched, youth, ect) have wanted to get to Jesus, it’s the DISCIPLES who are in the way.

    Listen, look at any example where Jesus or God receives worship and you won’t find THEM telling people to ‘stop that’.

    God likes, no LOVES, it when people make a big deal about Him.

    And He likes showing up and disrupting ‘church’ with blessings and a touch that no preaching could ever equate to.

    Not throwing preaching away, all I’m saying is, if church is supposed to be the place where you go to meet God, why are we walking away dissapointed?

    And if you think I’m off on the big deal thing, just check the story of David and the ark.

    If that was today, we’d say that guy is a lunatic, but GOD LOVED IT!

    And made his wife barren because she talked about it.

    Now where do we go from here?

    Understand that the overall attempt from God is to always introduce HIMSELF to humanity. And that includes the young person, the old person, the drug addict, the prostitute, and more.

    But if God is a fisherman, He understands that different fish require DIFFERENT bait.

    So yes, at one church hymns may do it where as another contemporary will do it.

    And this is coming from a person who has led worship in an black church, white church, nigerian church, and latino church. (Yep, all of them)

    And trust me, what opens the presence of the Lord in one church does not in the other.

    Because the thing that is the atmosphere of a church is the COLLECTIVE minds of the people.

    And as the worship leader, my job is to get the MINDS of the people on God so GOD CAN COME IN and do what He wants.

    And the way I do that is with a VARIETY of music.

    And this is what it means when it says David was cunning and skillful in playing. It’s how He disrupted the evil spirit from Saul.

    He didn’t play an F# and the spirit hurt.

    No, he played in such a way that it shut off all the INFLUENCE of any evil spirit so God could get through.

    I’ll end it with this.

    Earlier in this post I stated that God’s intent was to have Heaven and Earth run parallel.

    So whatever happens on earth happens in heaven.

    So the real question is for all of us, with the way worship happens in heaven…

    If God came to our church on Sunday….would HE feel right at home?

    If the answer is no, then it’s time to change something.

  208. The Bible says 9 times “Sing me a new song” The people have said countless times “No I won’t do that” “Lets sing a old song that we know”

  209. In my opinion, this issue has less to do with the music and more to do with a heart problem of the congregation. An outward expression of praise and love reflects the heart. I’m not saying it comes effortlessly;it takes work. You’re not always going to feel like singing. You might not always like the music choice. But for heaven’s sake it’s a chance to worship the creator of the universe. For the most part, I’d imagine that the people who aren’t singing have lost sight of the magnitude and glory of God. Spend additional time in prayer and in the word and leave the judgmental attitude behind when you come to church and I guarantee singing in worship will come easier to you. If you depend on the worship team to forcibly lead you into the presence of God, then you have an incorrect view of that groups purpose. They’re there to open the doors, but it’s your responsibility to walk through them.

  210. How true especially about the music choices. When I was music leader for our small church our people sang I selected songs easy to sing and repeated several weeks new songs. Comfort
    Sing to The Lord!

  211. KEITH CHARLES EDWARDS Reply May 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Come to NYC. Some neighborhood parishes are doozys. I could write an Epistle.

  212. If one’s heart and mind are in the right place, the song, the singing, or the lack of either will not affect the worship. Participation is probably not any better or worse than it was in the past. I think resistance to change and laziness is the primary reason for this complaint. Most people cant read vocal music. If they know hymns, they probably know them in the style that was used by their parents, not note for note in the arrangement from the hymnal. If they sang the same 10 hymns for the first 18 years of their lives, 9 of 10 were bored and simply droning the tune with everyone else. While some praise teams may in fact go overboard with “performing”, I don’t think it happens in the majority of churches. Branch out. Listen to Contemporary Christian music and you’ll know the songs. I’ll bet you already know a lot of current pop, rock, or country songs from the radio.

  213. I think we are in a society were we can’t express our emotions and in praise and worship it is about emotions because u are praising and worshiping GOD. Because I’ve even notice people are afraid to get involved in altar service also because people are afraid of what they might do. So lights or no lights loud or soft it all starts with each individual and is it what God has done for them is it really worth praising him with everything u have.

  214. I’m not exactly sure where you’re getting this information, but I have been leading contemporary worship for the last 25 years all over the country and I would say most often the congregation is singing quite loud.

  215. Most churches have decided they are after young people..those on the edge..k love radio listerners..and have forgoten the older church members. They have told them in a round about way you are gonna worship with this contemporary music and you are gonna like it are else..Who desided that Gods spirit doesnt move when you sing the songs out of the song books..Some of the older people are just discouraged with the music but the Church will role on

  216. 1. You are plagiarizing. These are not your original thoughts, but regurgitated thoughts from other bloggers that have been circulating for years. Shame on you for your lack of integrity.

    2. You can’t worship, or you won’t worship? Shame on you for placing yourself at the centre of your worship. It’s not about you, pal.

    You think hymns are congregational-friendly? You think they are easily singable and in the vocal range of the average person in the pew? That ridiculous and every musician knows it.

    I think you like the sound of your own voice too much. This is a heart issue, not a “I wish our musicians would stop aiming for musical excellence and I wish we would go back to fluorescent lighting” issue. I am so tired of these excuses that people use to express why they WON’T worship anymore. It’s all a deflection, and is fooling no one.

  217. This hits the nail on the head. Too often these days, it’s about who’s/what’s on stage instead of being actual worship. The volume is, more often than not, entirely too loud and/or the song leaders go on and on and on and on, dragging out praise choruses forever, sometimes nearly turning into “jam sessions”. I’m all for all different types of music, as long as it doesn’t detract from the purpose of worship, and the things I just describe do exactly that. I can totally understand why some are deterred from participating, and THAT’s truly a shame.

  218. Perhaps Worship is not a concert, but professionalism, musicianship, is not the problem. But a failure for individuals to have the music cater to their traditionalism that perhaps “keeps them from singing”. They sure can sing Wagon Wheel at their favorite professionally organized and extremely loud country shows just fine.

    Yes, in many mega church’s there has become this issue of egotistical, more about me than Jesus, attitude when it comes to worship/music programs.
    But those were not the points made in this article.

  219. I am currently in a church with a fantastic music program. Two churches combined, one a Church of Christ (non instrumental) and a Christian church (instrumental). Through working together, our services are now a combination of both. Old hymns are sung, often a capella, and also some of the more “contemporary” music. It is a real joy to stand (or sit) in the congregation and listen to the “audience” sing. More often than not, it is infectious and one cannot help but lift their voice and sing!

    • What about the people who are shy and feel uncomfortable singing when there is no music for the fear of being heard? Is it infectious for them…or is it just infectious for you?

  220. Good music and well written songs are meaningless. Without the moving of the Holy Spirit, none of this matters. Human efforts will always fail. God must move the hearts of man, and He will only move where He is welcomed.

  221. While some of this I agree with, what I don’t agree with is that just doing the opposite of your four points will cause people to all the sudden sing again. There are many many more things going on in a church where people don’t feel free enough to sing there hearts to God than just music that is too loud for your likening. And with that said this is hard to read because all it is, is a complaint. If you come up with the negatives then at least suggest some sort of solution otherwise you are just a cynic.

    • I agree. It’s easy to be a critic. Why do we stop at hymns when we talk about going back to the “tool old days” of church worship?

  222. This may have been addressed already but I’m going to go for broke on this and we’ll sort out the follow-up comments (if any) as they come through. This is not an all inclusive list by any means but here is what is not the issue: song selection, volume, skill, pitch, the worship leader, comfortable range for men, a Capella, pianos or organs, acoustic or electric, laser lighting, fog machines, spot lights, drums, bass, etc. (I could really go on but hopefully you get the point.) It begins with the Pastor of the church. I write this as someone experienced both in the pulpit as well as someone who has been part of worship teams for over 15 years. Pastors are shepherds, meaning they are responsible for the entire flock entrusted to them by God. Just as a child is taught to walk, speak, read, and write, so also a believer must be taught to worship. There must be clear and concise instruction. None of this “Because the Bible says so!” psycho-babble. If we are to worship in spirit and in truth, the root cause must be discovered. That begins with instruction from the Leader of the church.

    If you want to bring Biblical instruction into the conversation, let’s start with Psalm 96:1 “Sing a new song to the Lord! Let the whole earth sing to the Lord!” I don’t mention this to bash the hymns. At one point, they were new. I’m not even saying they have no place so don’t hate on that statement please. That verse give instruction not only for new songs, but also for everyone to sing.

    The point is styles change, culture changes, preferences change. What remains constant is God and the message of Jesus Christ come to pay the ransom of sin for all people. If the statement I just made is true, why then is a song “unannointed” if it glorifies God, giving thanks for the liberty and freedom the cross provided? Is it because it isn’t written in B flat? Or because it doesn’t use King James language? Describing a song as hollow or shallow is just that, hollow and shallow. So also are comments like: “I don’t like those electric guitars” “I don’t like that organ, it sounds old” “I don’t like hymns because I can’t relate to them” “I don’t like new music because its too loud” “The new slides don’t show the notes so I don’t know the tune”. I’ve heard it all. Have you ever said a variation of this? I know I have so shame on me.

    The point of the song service is the outward expression of a worshipful heart and is evident of a lifestyle of worship.

    Too often, the “worship service” is put on a pedestal as our 25-60 minute time to worship God. If that is your view, then there is not enough of a lifestyle of worship. When Paul and Silas sang praises to God while in prison, they were either songs they made up or they were singing songs that were current in their meetings (the message of Christ was new so the songs had to be new). They determined for themselves that no matter the adversity (see my list of complaints above), they were going to worship their Creator and the Messiah.

    Stop holding your worship captive! Your song preference should not even factor into the equation! Pastors, get to the level of caring for your flock that you will give sound Biblical instruction on how and why to worship! The definition of being a leader is the ability to gain followers. You can’t blame your worship pastor? No, be accountable to your worship pastor and give them the same instruction. Blame the “generational gap”? No, overcome it with the Gospel of peace.

    Older generation, I love you for the foundation I gained while under your watchful care. Now don’t let up on showing the next generation of church leaders that you can worship no matter what the song is. Please don’t build monuments to the past, but look forward to a great harvest that is coming. Let the new harvesters learn from you how to be prepared.

    Younger generation, I love your zeal in the expression of your heartfelt worship to God. Look to the older generation, not as irrelevant but as the pioneers. Take their true example and get ready. There is a revolution coming in the church, Whether we remain relevant or not depends on how prepared we are to receive the lost. I will not depend on our bickering over the music.

    “Traditional” vs “Contemporary” is nothing but a reason to have division. Division is rebellion. Christ taught us to be united. Where you stand is the reflection of your intent. Your words also show your heart. Any sentence or phrase that begins with “I can’t worship to…” is all the proof you need that there needs to be a transformation of the heart and renewal of the mind.

    I love you all, whether brothers and sisters in Christ, blogosphere trollers or a combination thereof. I’m open to discussion, but let’s keep it mature and factual.

  223. If you attend a worship service at a church of Christ, you will hear congregational singing because we do not use instruments. Only the voice is heard, therefore, all must sing. I attended the funeral of my father in law years ago. My wife’s family is Lutheren. My wife and I, however belong to the church of Christ. During the service, there was some singing with an organ blaring in the back and you could just make out some folks sing, but for the most part it was just the organ grinding away. THAT is when it was thrust home why we in the church don’t use instruments. Where is. The edifying? You can’t hear it over the instrument. Where is the teaching? Again, you can’t hear it over the music. We are told to talk to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, but how can you do that with all that racket coming from the plumbing?

    • Well Bill… Its church. We look to the Bible for direction. It mentions.. no, instructs us to worship with instruments… loudly.. to clap and to dance. If its just not your taste. that is up to you. But there is plenty of scripture to back it up.

    • Even David played a harp!

  224. I long for the days when familiar hymns with great words were sung. And even when the newer songs are used, it is a different song every week… too shallow… Something has been lost.

  225. One of the main reasons people don’t sing anymore is expressed subtly in this article. You even fell into it in this article by using the word “stage.” We have made the worship team a “band” and the church events are listed in the “program.” We have, in one generation, shifted the purpose of worship from a group activity to an entertainment activity. Stage, program, band….. What is the point of church anymore? We even have special Friday night worship nights that are promoted as times to come and be refreshed. I thought worship was for and to God, not about us.

  226. I have stopped signing in church for 2 reasons:
    1. My voice has changed from a medium-high soprano to an alto and I don’t know the notes.
    2. The music no longer pulls at my soul as it just repeats a few words or sentences constantly. I guess that music writers today don’t know how to write… It’s boring now, and yes, also VERY LOUD!

  227. You are always welcome at your local Catholic Church! They have had their moments in the past but overall, the church doesn’t really condone performance artists at mass. I’ve also been to some churches that do include more modern songs, but they will have either a projector or a song book to find them :) one thing I do enjoy is singing along during worship!! So yes when I come to a church with an over the top choir who would rather show off than include the congregation, it does bother me! I totally understand why people don’t want to sing or feel like they don’t have to either.

  228. You can come to my church, Vinings Worship Center, Smyrna, GA 30080. There you will see people singing dancing and shouting!! We are a worship center. We do praise and worship songs and there are times we might sing a hymn. So not everyone has stopped singing in church!!!

  229. The old blood washed songs that used to be sung in our churches have been replaced with worldly songs. Them BLOOD WASHED songs were meant to bring conviction to the sinner. To open their hearts and minds to a savior who died for you and I. Emotional songs brings emotions not conviction. There is power in the BLOOD. Think about it.

  230. Brandon the Primitive Baptist Reply May 26, 2014 at 6:20 pm

    May I invite all readers to visit a Primitve Baptist Church; we only sing hymns acapella every Sunday. It’s beautiful to hear the voices of the congregation singing heartfelt praises unto The Lord.

  231. I understand every reason mentioned in the article; however, there is no mention of worship leaders who do drop the key to allow congregational singing or take time to teach a new chorus, so the people will and can participate. There is no reference to the song writers who are fusing together old hymns with new P&W choruses or simply reworking a hymn with different chords. People equate the hymn book with the Bible, as if you can’t add or take away any content. Are we so rigid and subjective that new songs can’t become classic hymns someday, right along side Amazing Grace? Did God stop creating or influencing musicians to write lyrics? What year was that? Are the songs of our younger generation not really reaching them or us on a spiritual level? Are they being fed the word through song, or is their Christian worship suspect or even non-existent musically?

    I am from a small town Black church in North Central TX. After 18 1/2 years, I knew every hymn we sang. My affinity for Black gospel was based on nothing I did. It just happened because I attended that church approximately 936 Sundays, feeding off specific hymns and some choral specials by the choir. I also was a musician at an early age in that church. I didn’t listen to Christian music Mon thru Sat. on the radio, on records, or on 8 track tapes or cassettes. Hardly any of that existed in those days in my community. You could say I acquired my initial Christian musical preference simply thru a slow but steady immersion in black Gospel. I could have been born green and it still would have been my music of choice, favorite by default as is the story for most adults who have been Christians for decades. People like and prefer what’s familiar. I left the Black Gospel church in 1988 and commence to worship in a foreign land, the white church.  I grew to love and started playing for a southern Baptist church in 1992. At first the music was boring with no feeling because of some preferences I had hard wired to my upbringing, but through a slow but steady immersion, I can worship, cry, and say amen just like I did in the Black church.

    I don’t know when Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) immerged, but that music changed the landscape, primarily in the white church. Let me say there is no change greater than the one I experienced when I crossed the racial divide. That being said, how can the youth learn every lyric and sing loudly, no matter what P&W song, but their parents or other adults can’t? Immersion or intentionality to learn is required, even on my part. I confess I need to listen more and have the music on my playlist. You now have young adults who prefer the louder sound and P&W choruses often because it is part of their personal and corporate worship history. It is how they worshipped in youth group and then the same worship style in college and beyond. It is how our former pastor worshipped as an older teen when he was saved. These young adults and the current youth have a different Christian musical experience. If the youth are indeed the future of the church, do they need to mirror our musical worship style to grow their faith and sustain Christianity? We can’t honestly believe they prefer the same songs we prefer? If we want that then there is a need to shut down every Contemporary Christian radio station in America and break up the P&W groups because that is where they are constantly fed “church” music. We also need to revamp the music at camp, Wed night youth services, etc.

  232. There’s another reason that has bugged me for years. Most worship leaders have beautiful tenor voices & sing in a key that is very uncomfortable for women. We have 3 choices; screech the melody an octave higher than the worship leader, sing our best low alto, or come up with our own harmony that is in our range. And we often have to switch between octaves within the same song, based on how low or high the notes go. So frustrating!! Anyone else out there agree?

  233. There’s a lot of truth in this statemement. For a radically new kind of church go to:
    http://www.churchvision.co.uk

  234. I am with you. I don’t know have the songs so why bother…..

  235. “I long for an environment that evokes my heartfelt participation.”

    Change begins with one. Yes, change should happen on stage, but it can also begin with one person singing unprofessionally in the congregation. You want them to make this environment for you? Yes, it helps, but as a man of God who is knowledgable and writes many things explaining what is wrong with the church today, wouldn’t you agree that one of those things is we as Christians all follow each other instead of standing up as men and women of God and seeking His plan first?
    I understand, and partially agree with what you’re saying. You, however, won’t get a “good job” for standing up for what you believe in when you are simply standing there staring and ignoring the opportunity to enter the presence of God without having your hand held by a worship leader.

    You want change? Talk to your pastor about it politely, and pray about it between Sundays. You’d be amazed at what God can do in time when we actually humble ourselves and pray for the leadership in our churches, even the ones we may not approve of.

  236. Our church sings new and older choruses and a lot of hymns, as well, and the singing is fairly loud because almost everyone participates. Why? Because our worship leaders are, themselves, true worshipers who are led by the Holy Spirit! I almost never miss going to church!!! Love, love, love worshiping my Awesome God!!!

  237. As a worship leader for the past 20 years in all sizes of churches I can’t disagree more with most of your points.
    As a worship planner and teacher and worship leaders some of the problems are easily fixable. However, the heart of the person in the congregation is the number one reason they don’t participate. They have neither been taught how to participate or at a place where the aren’t participating for a zillion reasons.

    One, volume has little to do with congregational singing. I grew up in a little baptist church with the organ blaring and we sang just fine. Go to a youth event and watch kids poor out their heart with loud music. Honestly today people freak out hearing their own voice and get quieter when they hear it. It’s not the volume level it’s the person.

    Two, poor song selection either hymn or the latest P&W song in a key no one can sing. Picking a song the average person can sing is critical. Pick a great old hymn in a key too high and no one sings it. Completely debunking it’s a new chorus that is the problem.

    Three, having great leaders on stage doesn’t squash singing if done properly. A heart for leading others in worship versus being a star is a major difference. The church for 100’s of years has had great singers and instrumentalist without a problem.

    Finally, I will concede there are churches where it’s a showcase of ability. That isn’t the problem of the leader it’s a greater problem of the whole church and it’s leaders. They have missed their calling completely. It’s not a servants heart, but me centered.

  238. Consider “Angels We Have Heard On High” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.” They are carols, but for for practical purposes they are hymns. Here’s what makes them well-suited for congregational singing:

    – Good melodies. They are fun to sing, and if you know no other parts, you sound great on the melody.
    – Good inner parts. If you want to sing something other than melody, there’s a good part for you.
    – The rhythms are not complicated; they are straightforward.
    – They can easily be sung acappella, and when they are, it’s a glorious sound.
    – Instruments sound very good with them.

    This recipe for worship music is a good one, and we should keep it. We need to replace the negative image of “hymns” with the image of “Hark” or “Angels,” and re-discover the gift of hymns, crafted for us by some very fine poets and composers. Yes, some hymns are dull and lacking, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    Regarding music notation: we learn to read books because it greatly expands our ability to gather and disseminate information. The same applies to reading music.

  239. There was a time not too awfully long ago when it was considered that Worship did not happen until the Word was opened. Music was intended to be the vehicle that led the Congregation into that time of worship, but it wasn’t called ‘worship’ in and of itself. Our worship is intended to be supernatural, wholly apart from anything the World knows. It is a Supernatural Response to a Supernatural God by the Supernatural Body of the of the Saints. It wasn’t intended to give Flesh a rush. It wasn’t intended to be something that made Flesh feel good, fulfilled, or accomplished. Any Rock concert can create natural emotional responses, any motivational speaker, any convincing speech.

    I think we confuse Worship with Emotional Expression, when more often than not, such expression has nothing to do with Doxa, the accurate describing of the Father, which is translated into English as “Glorify”. God is Worshiped in Spirit (our New Creation, which is Supernatural, responding to the Supernatural) and in Truth (Doxa). This is why Spirit and Truth can never be separated. It has nothing at all to do with making us feel good – whether it does or not. Feeling good is not a measure, detector, or indicator of true worship.

    That being said, it might be, and I might dare guess it was the case, that the little local, unhip congregation with the grating voices sounding out those 300 year old verses of song to the strains of an out of tune upright played by Aunt Martha, yet accurately describing the Father and the Son with their heart, soul, mind and strength in supernatural response to the Spirit of His Son, might sound sweeter in the Ears of the Sovereign than all the professionalism and “religious cultural popular-ism” this Aeon can muster.

    But then, it has always been the remnant, the minority, the narrow road sojourners that are called by – and respond to – His name . . . . . not the masses.

  240. Reblogged this on Overheard and commented:
    Worship is being lost to the church and being steadily replaced by entertaining performances.

  241. I think he said it when discribing the musicians on stage as performers to be watched. Take the band down. Take the microphones away! Everyone should be able to hear each other singing- that is mutually beneficial and uplifting. Worship is not a show to be entertained by, it is to be participated in!

  242. You should visit Activate Church Vancouver in Vancouver, WA. I’m happy to say this article is very inaccurate there…not intending to be rude, I’m just happy that my church doesn’t fit this bill.

    • Stefanie and many of you others who cannot relate to the above article, it is accurate for many churches. If you are in a place where this is not a problem, you are blessed. We do have such an issue. One big issue we have is the almost entirely youth or below-40 appeal that leaves Seniors in the lurch. Hearing aid accessories are a small help, and the dropping of the Hymnals from use has cut down the ability of those with age oriented acuities from being able to follow words to songs they don’t know well. They need bright lights, a hymnal they can read through their mulifocal eyeglass lenses, and a linear sound waveform (sorry, tech talk) as opposed to the distorted flat-topping waveforms coming from many a church sound system as they ramp up the input signal in an attempt to provide a multisensory event. My heart goes out to the 50-plus group that I see becoming more and more marginalised, however unintentionally. And no, having “senior” services is not the answer. That only further fractionalizes an already fractionalized Church.

  243. Everyone at my church sings. Everyone. Cornerstone aka First Baptist Church of Helmet.

  244. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17. It’s not a music genre thing, it isn’t a seeker-friendly thing, it’s a heart thing. Either this Scripture in 1 Corinthians is true or it isn’t. Maybe, just maybe, it’s not the environment, but the people occupying the pews/seats. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the fact that the church is loaded with false converts (put in biblical terms; tares versus wheat). Maybe, most in the congregation aren’t worshiping because they don’t know the One they are meant to worship.

  245. One other problem is that many/most contemporary songs aren’t in a good key for the majority of singers. The bulk of them are in the ideal range for a strong tenor, leaving things awkward for baritones and women, leaving us to jump around from a squeaky high to a low unison etc. I say this as a professional musician and a trained soprano. I can sing all different kinds of songs but the range of most contemporary christian songs is not comfortable for a variety of reasons. A simple changing of keys will not always solve the problem, there is more to it than that.

  246. Oh, boy. I pray I don’t step on toes with one. I’m not being fair because I’m not a music lover of any kind. So, I’m not a good source. But I believe music has overwhelmed churches today. It’s appears to me to be more about look at “me” than look at Jesus. Don’t believe me? Notice next Sunday how many people pile out the back door when the music finally stops and the preacher delivers his sermon, the real food for the soul. I always feel I’m watching the American Idol TV show or attending a Broadway musical when I go to church. When I grew up, the elders used to think that rock n’ roll and modern music was the Devil’s workshop. Looks like we couldn’t beat ‘em so we joined them. To me, when you enter God’s house you humble yourself before The Lord and offer your praise with humility. For some reason, I just don’t think eating that microphone and acting like a rock star is humility. Give me that old time religion… It’s good enough for me.

    • So, Coby… Yes you are in my view intentionally stepping on toes with the “rock star” remark. I find it extremely offensive and rude. Things that may be “good enough” for you may not be good enough for God. Maybe its not all about YOU. I consider what I do.. the 15 hours or more a week that I spend at church rehearsing and playing for multiple services, the additional hours I spend learning and practicing at home… for free… to be a very important ministry. This does not even consider the thousands I have spent on musical instruments. I know for a fact that what I do is a service to God and that He has used it to bring in unsaved and unchurched souls. God can get by just fine without my help, but He requires it of me. Exactly what do you do for God except spew what YOU think is good enough for YOU? People… there are churches out there for every worship style. Find one that suits you and stop trying to conform everything to YOUR preferences. Its not your church. Last time I checked, God is still in control.. and He is concerned more about the lost than he is about the saints. Read the Bible and see what it says. Unless you know yourself to be on a mission from God… you are out of bounds.

  247. I think all of you need to reconsider Matthew chapter 6. Who do you do it for and why do you do it? Who’s opinion matters most?

  248. I’ve read many of the comments here, and I find it a little disturbing; no one (unless it was in the few I glossed over) have focused on the fact that worship is what we are commanded to do. It is not for us, but for our Creator/Savior. If I feel something, that is a blessing, but if I participate in corporate worship to feel something, I am making it about me.

  249. I agree with all this that you said. But I will say this, audience think there the ones being sung 2. We sing for an audience of one and that is God. We aren’t here to please the crowd and make them feel all good we are here to please God. The churches need to get back to true worship and concentrate on God and not everything they don’t like. We came to worship God nothing else. :) God bless you and thank you for this article.

  250. I have to know that this is an age old argument/discussion that each generation has. Do you realize that one time “Amazing Grace,” How Great Thou Art”, and “The Old Rugged Cross,” were “new” worship songs? Did you ever stop to think that it one time there was no piano or organ in the church? When those songs came out, and when those instruments were introduced, there were people in those congregations that were saying things like, “They sure don’t make music like they used to!,” And “That piano sure is loud!” I remember in the 80s and the 90s that people acted as if the electric guitar was an instrument that had to have been forged in the depths of hell.

    My earliest and fondest memories of church we’re standing in the pew next to my grandmother and singing some of the old hymns. (My favorite was Heavenly Sunlight.) I have lead worship in the most traditional of conservative churches where no one raised their hands, or clapped (even) and it got no crazier than an old piano (maybe an acoustic guitar and an organ); and in pentecostal/charismatic churches, where the music was loud and the people were “very free.” I have been moved in services where I was listening to the choir sing, and deeply moved in churches where there is a worship leader, praise team, and worship band. I had songs like “I surrender all” minister to me in the moment that I needed salvation, and Kari Jobe’s “Healer” minister to me in times that I needed strength. Will I have danced on the platform was singing “Pentecostal style” songs, and stood solemnly in the congregation holding an old hymnal.
    Here is what I have learned from my long and broad experience: there are people in all congregations who do not participate in worship. It seems that everyone (who does not worship) has their reason why they will not worship. It seems to me that if the “music is too loud”, or “the songs are not the ones you are used to singing,” is preventing you from celebrating what God has done for you, and thanking Him for who He is and what He has done, then maybe the problem isn’t the music.

    Selah…

  251. When the worship leaders – ministers, choir, instrumentalists, vocalists – are more about performance than leading worship, then the congregation will respond as an audience not a congregation.

    When the music is written for soloists – by style, range, rhythm, or lyrics – then the congregation will feel excluded.

    Service music is to gather and invite and move and escort the congregation into worship and should reinforce the message and theme of the worship service.

    A worship service should be a journey with a variety of worshipful experiences. For most congregations and most services, it should not be only exuberant exultation and it should not be only exclamatory exhortation and it should not be only quiet meditation and introspection. We are seekers and travelers and the service music needs to accompany us and inspire us on our journey.

  252. wirechoirconvert Reply May 27, 2014 at 7:44 am

    I am a music teacher who attends a traditional service where older hymns are still sung and hymnals are still available in the pews. That being said, when my husband and I were dating, he attended a contemporary church which I visited many times with him. I tried to participate in the singing, but found it nearly impossible for many of the reasons the author listed above. I love to sing and would love to add my voice to the mix (not that you would hear it), but how do you expect me to sing when you provide me with nothing more than the lyrics? These are new pieces, and you have given me no way to know what the melody is. I had other issues with the worship music, though. I hated feeling like my offering was actually my admission price to the rock concert I was being subjected to. My ears should not be ringing when I leave the service. Many of the songs were so poorly constructed that they were little more than the same 3 or 4 lines of lyrics repeated ad nauseum. Additionally, I got the strong sense that the people “on stage” were way more about their own personal glory than praising God. I wish I could say that it was just that particular church, but we have gone to other contemporary services and I have had much the same experience. I understand that everyone needs to find their own way to God, but for me, the whole rock concert thing just didn’t do it. I felt so isolated from what was going on up on stage, and didn’t feel like I was in the presence of the Lord at all. I’m much more content in my home church with my hymnal, with music that I can read and execute even if I am unfamiliar with the hymns we are singing that day…after all, there are a lot of hymns in a hymnal! Bonus, I don’t feel like the choir is full of wannabe rock stars performing for their own personal glory…

    • Well… Then you should probably just stay at your “home church with your hymnal” Forget about all that “Sing a new song” stuff. Its more important what YOU want. What God uses to bring new souls (that is the business of the church) is up to Him I believe. The “rock star” remarks are just nasty rude and uncalled for. I spend about 20 hrs a week preparing and “executing” what God has required of me. If I had wanted to be a rock star…. I would be one. What is your ministry doing that is reaching new souls… or is it just keeping old souls “comfortable”. What is your contribution to the mission of the church, I agree you were isolated from those on the stage, and you were not in the presence of the Lord…. because you made it about YOU.

  253. Great article. For everyone who says “well my church doesn’t do that…” Don’t be rude. This article is simply stating a trend. Also, I think it applies mostly to larger churches with contemporary styles, which is implied in some of the article’s reasoning.

    We just launched a “contemporary” service at my large church, and I thought that we would sing–but it’s the opposite. At the traditional service, everyone sings and mostly stands. At the contemporary service, we just kind of sit and watch. I love contemporary music, but I’m also a Millennial–which means I need to participate in worship through standing and singing. It’s like worship has become for entertainment value alone.

    • Heather…. Here is my church last Sunday. Not sure what the problem is at your church. But I would look inside first.
      https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.787551427929977.1073741927.486438778041245&type=1

      • WOW YOUR CHURCH IS WAY BETTER THAN MINE. OBVIOUSLY we have a theological issue that yours resolves. Geeze.

      • I’m sure your church is great. Its the people who just sit and watch that would seem to have the theological problem. Here is the thing… Its not your “opinion”.. or mine that matters. If you have a relationship with God… Just do what He says. I guess if just sitting and watching is His Word for you and your true understanding of how His Word says to worship…. I support you a hundred percent. Its not really about what you “need”… Its about what God wants. I am just saying that your experience may not be universal and perhaps the problem you perceive, is not everyone else’s fault. And to universally say that worship has become for entertainment value alone, represents your approach… not everyone’s.

  254. Man are you right on. So we’ll stated…and this is an expression of why old Christian guys don’t enjoy going to church anymore…If you were raised in the mid America Bible Belt anyhow.. Thanks for the statements. ..dlb

    • Well LeMoine… Good to know… Because it is all about you, right? BTW I am 60… Is that old?

  255. I like hymns and I like the contemporary “praise music” but this article is really disturbing… My hubby and I are missionaries and while on deputation the conservative hymns only churches didn’t even know the words to most of the hymns they’ve been singing since the church opened. The people needed a hymnal or the words up on the screen- I saw people who told me that they had been in church over 50 years stumble to sing the world to “Amazing Grace” without the words in front of them!

    We also went to churches that did “modern worship” and the sang without words in a hymnal or on the screen and they knew every word! In my opinion that show who is really applying the music to their lives! Again this is not in all churches and I like both hymns and the modern worship but this article is pretty far from what I have encountered in the 12 months I was on deputation and the over 300 churches I visited/attended!

  256. A very thought provoking article with some great responses. I started my ministry in a very small, traditional church with the old hymns sung to just a piano if we had someone to play it. I still love the old the old hymns. We had people then who just would not sing. I serve in a large contemporary church now with the praise band and I love the new songs. We have people now who just won’t sing. And the way I look at it … the style and method of corporate worship is left to freedom in the bible so the people who won’t sing are missing out on a great opportunity to worship.

  257. I read this as well and my view is…it’s all about focus. If you’re at a sporting event and your son, grandson, daughter, granddaughter or favorite player scores the winning point in the last minute of the game, you will most likely be out of your seat shouting praises, well done, way to go to that person and you will probably be clapping your hands not giving a second thought to the people around you or their thoughts of your actions why… You’re focused and in tune with that person you’re cheering for. It’s an involuntary action that happens. During praise and worship I sing very loud and pity the people in front of me but, it must not be to bad they sit there every Sunday morning (lol). That is My time with God My time to praise him My time to worship him. As far as the song choice goes I have actually been moved to tears by a secular song because I was thing of God during that moment. Even though the song was not referring to God but about a man or woman in love, in my mind I was singing that song of love to my God. I have been in the place for many years being a pianist and song leader of trying to please everyone. It simply cannot be done. After a church service once I was approached by four separate people who wanted to give their opinions of that mornings worship time. One told me it was too loud, one told me they couldn’t hear me it needed to be turned up, one ask if we could throw a few old hymns in there, and the last person told me they were blessed it really moved them to tears and they felt the presence of God. Who do you think out of these four people were focused on God that morning? I’ve been to churches across the USA Baptist, Methodist, Assemblies of God, etc. They all have a very different style of worship. Some use hymn books and some use projectors. Some use organs or pianos and some use full bands but I can always come away having worshiped my God that morning because, that’s my time with God and I have to focus on him. Sorry it’s so long…have a blessed day :)

  258. All too true. This is not what Martin Luther intended when he separated from the pulpit driven Catholic ceremony.

  259. What can be done about this? How can we restore congregational participation without being critical or divisive?

  260. Part of a worship leader’s job to set an atmosphere of participation…accapella singing, familiar songs, access to hymnals as well as screens for words….
    There are folks out there who’s eye sight cannot see the screens.
    A mixture of new & old…is there better theology than “Holy, Holy, Holy”?
    I love to sing & have decided NOTHING will deter my praise and sometimes it’s a challenge :)
    Pray dilligetly for your worship leaders and perhaps even volunteer to be involved!

  261. Thom, there is much in your blog post that I would like to comment on, however I will limit myself to your thoughts on Professionalism.

    I have been involved in video and television production for thirty-four years both within the church as well as in the marketplace. The churches I come alongside span the range from smaller local congregations and mega-sized churches as well as television ministries with 10 million viewers per week. The secular productions I work on span everything from smaller shows you may not have heard of, to well known day-time syndicated talk shows, to the highest rated prime-time entertainment specials and award shows.

    On secular productions I have never been pulled aside by an Executive Producer and asked, “Don’t shoot the lead guitarist during a solo.” Or asked by a network programming executive, “Don’t shoot the lead singer.” No, the executives and producers understand that the tool of video should not just be used to make bigger what is occurring on stage (with projection screens so the audience can see), but to make better what is occurring on stage. My job as a video professional is to be story teller and if the lead guitarist or lead vocalist are part of the story to be told, then they need to have appropriate camera-time. As a Christian, my mission is not only to make art good, but also to make good art.

    Yet some Christian leaders are quick to ask (in private, when no one else can hear) that “the story” of their church service or special event be edited to not include (or diminish the role of) their own worship leader. Some feel using video during worship is a “distraction.” Others fear it “elevates” man over God, or that it forces our “worship” to be directed toward the created instead of the Creator. If true, then why is it that using video during the teaching/preaching is not a distraction then? Does our worship end when the band stops playing? The argument is inconsistent and shows a lack of understanding as to the Biblical definition of worship.

    Thom, I would submit to you that it is not the “professionalism” of Christian musicians which is discouraging congregations from engaging in corporate worship. If the congregation is not worshipping, there is something else going on which needs to be addressed (Eph 6:12).

    Would you agree with me that the sacred works of J.S. Bach or Handel have been used to lead thousands of Christians in worship over the span of hundreds of years? Are these great works and the artists who authored them not “professional” in every sense? Yet, if these great masters were alive today and despite the fact that they even signed their manuscripts “s.D.g.” (the latin abbreviation for Soli Deo Gloria, “to God alone glory!”) I have no doubt that some Christian leaders would ask “Please do not shoot Johann,” or “keep George Frideric off camera.”

    Do you expect your preacher/teacher to study during the week in preparation for preaching? Do you expect your preacher/teacher to organize their thoughts in an outline? Some even write out or memorize their entire sermon. Do you expect your preacher/teacher to use language skillfully, so the efficacy of the message is not diminished? Do you expect your preacher/teacher to led by the Holy Spirit during this entire process including the skillful delivery of the message?

    If, as you contend, “quality is worshipped,” then the more polished a worship leader is the more engaged an audience naturally will be. Yet the premise of your blog post is that congregants are not engaging in worship because the professionalism of the worship leader is getting in the way. This again is contradicting.

    The standard for “professionalism” for the worship leader should be no different than that of the teaching pastor and visa versa.

  262. I recently returned to church after a 30 year plus absense, music is different yes, music is louder yes, but I don’t sing because the words are so moving and I don’t want to lie to God. If my heart is so torn how can I sing about the goodness of god and his people when until recently I only saw the judgement and harshness. Maybe some don’t sing because it is worship and they don’t want to lie to almighty god, someday you will see me singing and know that my heart is healed and I mean the words. Thanks you wrote a great article.

    • I am praying for that day for you Skylar. There are many in the church with stories like yours. Church is to be a hospital for the hurting and lost. Whatever they sing. I assure you God is glad to see you back. Heaven rejoices when one of the flock returns. And know that God has a purpose for you there. You will come to know it as your heart mends. Love you brother. Hang in there, I did and it is worth it!

  263. Blaming someone or something else for why you are not worshiping is not going to solve the problem. It all comes down to the heart of the worshiper. We are called to worship in everything we do. It’s a lifestyle, not just something that’s done during the music portion of the church service. Once we incorporate true worship into every part of our lives, lifting our voices and praising our God can become as natural as breathing.

  264. I am old……but far from closed minded…I am not against praise songs…but why throw the hymn book in the rubbish can? Why can’t
    we use both on a regular basis? I use to lead camp fire chorus sing a longs. Had to give them up.. No one knew the chorus any more!!! And they don’t know the praise songs with out them projected on the wall!!!.