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Why Would Anyone Sing in Church these Days?

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Moderator
Staff Member
Hello Brothers & Sisters in Christ Jesus.
I don't necessarily agree with everything said in the article, but it does bring up something that one should take notice of if you haven't already.
For I do notice the differences between how music is used today verses in years past. I'm also sure that this will also depend on the type of church one goes to as well, which I don't believe is addressed in this article.

So, thoughts, opinions would be nice to hear.

With the Love of Christ Jesus.
YBIC
Nick
<><



Why don’t people sing in church anymore?

A quick trip down Google’s memory lane reveals that the internet has been talking about this regularly since at least 2012. And everyone seems to know why.

Nobody knows the songs.

Singing makes men uncomfortable.

It’s just a performance.

We don’t love Jesus enough.

There is truth to some of these points, but the longer I think about this problem, the more I’m convinced we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of figuring out why people aren’t singing, we need to turn around, look at ourselves, and ask, “Why would they sing?”

See, when it comes to our sacred discipline of congregational singing, a lot has changed in our recent history.

We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church. The historic liturgy is out, and the 19th-century revival model is in. Instead of the entire service being filled with acts of worship – congregational prayers, affirmations, responses, and, yes, singing – we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship), and then followed by a little more singing (again, worship) for good measure.

So, while the congregation once had a vital role in the entire service, we’ve decided they really only need to participate during the music.

But we didn’t stop there.

At some point, we decided that corporate worship, especially the music, wasn’t about disciplined, regular reenactment of God’s story. Instead, we decided that the purpose of music was to usher in an emotional experience, a perceived intimate connection with the Almighty. Musical appeal became a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. If we felt something, it couldn’t just be the music, it MUST be the Spirit. (Funny how the Spirit always seems to time its biggest moves around the modulations.)

So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection. The congregation’s work was no longer to sing God’s story, but to feel happy, jesusy feelings while music is played in their midst.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our cultural ability to make music has decreased steadily since the dawn of commercial recorded music. For many years, churches were able to counteract this musical decline by training many in their congregations to sing and understand the written language of music. We had choirs for all ages. Now, most churches have given in to the cultural decline of music appreciation. Instead of training many of our own, we hire a few to stand up and perform from the chancel platform stage. We once heard the tapestry of vocal timbres, ranges, and textures rising in united praise and thanksgiving for God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ, and welcoming all to join in. Now, we hear one voice, or perhaps a small group of voices, electronically pushed toward us.

So, we’ve stopped teaching ourselves how to sing, and traded the collective voice of the congregation for a few amplified tones.

But we didn’t stop there.

We have a rich history of hymns and songs dating back centuries, set to beautiful, singable melodies with a rich harmonic framework, a group to which each generation added their best. Then we decided we didn’t need these anymore. Their language was too difficult for us, we said, and it just got in the way of our emotional experience, anyway.

So we replaced our hymns with new songs, written for solo commercial recordings. That’s right, we replaced songs created for many voices with songs meant for one or a few.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to give everyone the printed music, so that they could follow along. But nobody reads music anymore, right? (Of course, many of us once did when we were in the school choir or band, but, well, nevermind…) All those books are heavy. And a waste of paper. So we started projecting words (no music) up on the wall. They’re there one minute, and gone the next, kind of like the songs themselves. People crane their necks and raise their chins to read them in their place on high. They have no idea if the next syllable will be held long or released short. They don’t know if a pitch rises or falls. They just hope to catch on by the time it’s over.

So, we stopped empowering those among us who do read music to use those gifts. And we stopped expecting anyone else to learn. Just sing along with Mitch, and see how it goes. Maybe if you listened to more Christian radio, you’d know what to do.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to have these majestic and beautiful instruments, with infinite musical palettes and soaring, sustained tones that gave them the ability to breathe life into congregational singing. Now, we’ve dismissed those as passé, and substituted a rock band, fronted by a lead singer worship leader. He (it’s usually a he, for some reason) sings his song, and we try to sing along with his cover of our jesusy hot 100 favorites. What’s more, few of these leaders it seems are capable of just plainly, accurately singing the melody. Some of them croon with a whiny, closed-mouthed tone, turning every vowel into an ee-ended diphthong. Others wail in reckless abandon with primal, orgasmic strains, while we sit and watch. They often embellish their performanced with ad libs, rubato, rhythmic embellishments, and melodic freedom, while the congregation audience struggles to keep up.

So, we replaced an instrument uniquely adept at leading a congregation with a cover band.

Enough! When will we stop?

We’ve minimized the congregation’s role.

We’ve changed our focus from disciplined, intentional music-making to creating emotional responses.

We’ve stopped training musicians.

We’ve chosen songs written for solo performance.

We’ve stopped giving the musicians among us the resources they need to apply their abilities.

We’ve chosen instrumentation that doesn’t support a congregation.

We’ve stopped leading and started performing.

So let’s stop asking why people aren’t singing anymore. It really shouldn’t be a surprise, since we’ve done nearly everything we can to kill congregational singing.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our strategies. Here are a few suggestions for how to encourage good congregational singing.

Do music that is meant to be sung, and in a way that encourages healthy, hearty singing. Most of the music churches are now attempting to sing is instrumentally-driven music in a vernacular style that was written for a solo artist recording. Replicating that style of music, with its syncopation, affected vocals, aimless melodies, and awkward vocal ranges, is impossible congregational task. There are new songs and hymns being written that are excellent for a congregation, but you won’t usually hear them on Christian radio.

Stop the Hillsongization of congregational singing. (Thanks to Michael Raiter for the excellent description.) Musical leadership in most contemporary settings is basically a cover band making an attempt to recreate a commercial “worship” recording. The quality, therefore, of each congregation’s “worship” is directly determined by how good their cover band is. We’re left with churches that pretty much all want to sound the same singing mostly the same songs. And cover bands are not usually very adept at drawing the song out of a congregation.

I’ve even heard this sad story from my friends in the a cappella tradition. I don’t necessarily agree with their theological basis for not using instruments, but the effects are wonderful. Generations have grown up learning to sing, and learning to sing well, read music, and worship in song with confident singing and rich harmonies that is entirely vocally led. But even these denominations and groups are debating whether to bring instruments into their singing, you know, guitars, percussion, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, if they keep it up, they’ll eventually find themselves like everyone else, with their cover band in front of a tentative, muted congregation.

Recognize that singing is, in and of itself, a sacred duty. Singing is important. Not just hearing the music playing, not just being taken emotionally to a place where we enjoy cuddle time in the lap of our nice daddy-god, but the actual act of singing. Most of us believe and our churches confirm the ridiculous notion that worship is the musical part of the service. And since most of us aren’t singing with any intentionality or seriousness, the really worshipful part is letting the music that other people are do create these happy, positive, weighty, Jesusy feelings inside of us. Yes, we’ve decided that music’s job in worship is to lead us into the presence of God. If we want our churches to keep singing, and for that matter, to keep worshiping through song, we’ve got to put this idea to rest.

We may not be able to turn the tide in the rest of our culture, but with intentionality over the next generations, we can change the culture of singing in the church. This is not a non-essential. This is important stuff. If the ancient principal of lex orandi, lex credendi is true, if how we believe is determined by how we worship, then we must learn to sing well, just as we must learn to preach well and to pray well.

If we don’t, we may just stop singing altogether. And our faith will be all the poorer for it.

JUNE 6, 2016 BY JONATHAN AIGNER
 
Active Member
Hello Brothers & Sisters in Christ Jesus.
I don't necessarily agree with everything said in the article, but it does bring up something that one should take notice of if you haven't already.
For I do notice the differences between how music is used today verses in years past. I'm also sure that this will also depend on the type of church one goes to as well, which I don't believe is addressed in this article.

So, thoughts, opinions would be nice to hear.

With the Love of Christ Jesus.
YBIC
Nick
<><



Why don’t people sing in church anymore?

A quick trip down Google’s memory lane reveals that the internet has been talking about this regularly since at least 2012. And everyone seems to know why.

Nobody knows the songs.

Singing makes men uncomfortable.

It’s just a performance.

We don’t love Jesus enough.

There is truth to some of these points, but the longer I think about this problem, the more I’m convinced we’re asking the wrong question. Instead of figuring out why people aren’t singing, we need to turn around, look at ourselves, and ask, “Why would they sing?”

See, when it comes to our sacred discipline of congregational singing, a lot has changed in our recent history.

We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church. The historic liturgy is out, and the 19th-century revival model is in. Instead of the entire service being filled with acts of worship – congregational prayers, affirmations, responses, and, yes, singing – we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship), and then followed by a little more singing (again, worship) for good measure.

So, while the congregation once had a vital role in the entire service, we’ve decided they really only need to participate during the music.

But we didn’t stop there.

At some point, we decided that corporate worship, especially the music, wasn’t about disciplined, regular reenactment of God’s story. Instead, we decided that the purpose of music was to usher in an emotional experience, a perceived intimate connection with the Almighty. Musical appeal became a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. If we felt something, it couldn’t just be the music, it MUST be the Spirit. (Funny how the Spirit always seems to time its biggest moves around the modulations.)

So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection. The congregation’s work was no longer to sing God’s story, but to feel happy, jesusy feelings while music is played in their midst.

But we didn’t stop there.

Our cultural ability to make music has decreased steadily since the dawn of commercial recorded music. For many years, churches were able to counteract this musical decline by training many in their congregations to sing and understand the written language of music. We had choirs for all ages. Now, most churches have given in to the cultural decline of music appreciation. Instead of training many of our own, we hire a few to stand up and perform from the chancel platform stage. We once heard the tapestry of vocal timbres, ranges, and textures rising in united praise and thanksgiving for God’s mighty acts in Jesus Christ, and welcoming all to join in. Now, we hear one voice, or perhaps a small group of voices, electronically pushed toward us.

So, we’ve stopped teaching ourselves how to sing, and traded the collective voice of the congregation for a few amplified tones.

But we didn’t stop there.

We have a rich history of hymns and songs dating back centuries, set to beautiful, singable melodies with a rich harmonic framework, a group to which each generation added their best. Then we decided we didn’t need these anymore. Their language was too difficult for us, we said, and it just got in the way of our emotional experience, anyway.

So we replaced our hymns with new songs, written for solo commercial recordings. That’s right, we replaced songs created for many voices with songs meant for one or a few.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to give everyone the printed music, so that they could follow along. But nobody reads music anymore, right? (Of course, many of us once did when we were in the school choir or band, but, well, nevermind…) All those books are heavy. And a waste of paper. So we started projecting words (no music) up on the wall. They’re there one minute, and gone the next, kind of like the songs themselves. People crane their necks and raise their chins to read them in their place on high. They have no idea if the next syllable will be held long or released short. They don’t know if a pitch rises or falls. They just hope to catch on by the time it’s over.

So, we stopped empowering those among us who do read music to use those gifts. And we stopped expecting anyone else to learn. Just sing along with Mitch, and see how it goes. Maybe if you listened to more Christian radio, you’d know what to do.

But we didn’t stop there.

We used to have these majestic and beautiful instruments, with infinite musical palettes and soaring, sustained tones that gave them the ability to breathe life into congregational singing. Now, we’ve dismissed those as passé, and substituted a rock band, fronted by a lead singer worship leader. He (it’s usually a he, for some reason) sings his song, and we try to sing along with his cover of our jesusy hot 100 favorites. What’s more, few of these leaders it seems are capable of just plainly, accurately singing the melody. Some of them croon with a whiny, closed-mouthed tone, turning every vowel into an ee-ended diphthong. Others wail in reckless abandon with primal, orgasmic strains, while we sit and watch. They often embellish their performanced with ad libs, rubato, rhythmic embellishments, and melodic freedom, while the congregation audience struggles to keep up.

So, we replaced an instrument uniquely adept at leading a congregation with a cover band.

Enough! When will we stop?

We’ve minimized the congregation’s role.

We’ve changed our focus from disciplined, intentional music-making to creating emotional responses.

We’ve stopped training musicians.

We’ve chosen songs written for solo performance.

We’ve stopped giving the musicians among us the resources they need to apply their abilities.

We’ve chosen instrumentation that doesn’t support a congregation.

We’ve stopped leading and started performing.

So let’s stop asking why people aren’t singing anymore. It really shouldn’t be a surprise, since we’ve done nearly everything we can to kill congregational singing.

Maybe it’s time to rethink our strategies. Here are a few suggestions for how to encourage good congregational singing.

Do music that is meant to be sung, and in a way that encourages healthy, hearty singing. Most of the music churches are now attempting to sing is instrumentally-driven music in a vernacular style that was written for a solo artist recording. Replicating that style of music, with its syncopation, affected vocals, aimless melodies, and awkward vocal ranges, is impossible congregational task. There are new songs and hymns being written that are excellent for a congregation, but you won’t usually hear them on Christian radio.

Stop the Hillsongization of congregational singing. (Thanks to Michael Raiter for the excellent description.) Musical leadership in most contemporary settings is basically a cover band making an attempt to recreate a commercial “worship” recording. The quality, therefore, of each congregation’s “worship” is directly determined by how good their cover band is. We’re left with churches that pretty much all want to sound the same singing mostly the same songs. And cover bands are not usually very adept at drawing the song out of a congregation.

I’ve even heard this sad story from my friends in the a cappella tradition. I don’t necessarily agree with their theological basis for not using instruments, but the effects are wonderful. Generations have grown up learning to sing, and learning to sing well, read music, and worship in song with confident singing and rich harmonies that is entirely vocally led. But even these denominations and groups are debating whether to bring instruments into their singing, you know, guitars, percussion, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, if they keep it up, they’ll eventually find themselves like everyone else, with their cover band in front of a tentative, muted congregation.

Recognize that singing is, in and of itself, a sacred duty. Singing is important. Not just hearing the music playing, not just being taken emotionally to a place where we enjoy cuddle time in the lap of our nice daddy-god, but the actual act of singing. Most of us believe and our churches confirm the ridiculous notion that worship is the musical part of the service. And since most of us aren’t singing with any intentionality or seriousness, the really worshipful part is letting the music that other people are do create these happy, positive, weighty, Jesusy feelings inside of us. Yes, we’ve decided that music’s job in worship is to lead us into the presence of God. If we want our churches to keep singing, and for that matter, to keep worshiping through song, we’ve got to put this idea to rest.

We may not be able to turn the tide in the rest of our culture, but with intentionality over the next generations, we can change the culture of singing in the church. This is not a non-essential. This is important stuff. If the ancient principal of lex orandi, lex credendi is true, if how we believe is determined by how we worship, then we must learn to sing well, just as we must learn to preach well and to pray well.

If we don’t, we may just stop singing altogether. And our faith will be all the poorer for it.

JUNE 6, 2016 BY JONATHAN AIGNER

It's been a battle that's winnable. Millennials are coming back home in droves, to live with parents and grandparents. We drag them to church, as among many other conditions of living with us, only to see them choose the 2nd worship hour, meaning those of us transporting them have to consider returning for them, or suffering through the intense bass drums and flashing multicolored lights.

It took a few years, but many Millennials are moving over to our "Classic" hour, where 'Church' is like it was 60 years ago. The very music that produced tinnitus in me has finally lost some of its appeal to the youth. The 'wild drummer' guy in the plastic booth on the drums is still there in the second hour of service, but that congregation is shrinking. The first classic service sound managers turn him down, way down, while the wind and string muscians excel. I don't think the shrinking 2nd service is all because of the music. The article reveals "whys" I had not analyzed yet. I just "knew". Popular radio one liner songs with 6 words sung 60 refrains has an effect on me like shooting trap with a shotgun until I've gone through 50 rounds. Even with proper ear protections it always ends with "Oh my sore shoulder and pounding head!" The fellowship on the range is worth the suffering.

We are mostly back to singing aged hyms, but the preacher is apt to stop the singing to preach on a part of the song. That changes praise to worship. A slight move of the Spirit changes all to praise again, then perhaps to exhortation. That reinforces the reason we sing the songs, to real music, with tears flowing. Sing+preach+song+praise+sing+worship+spiritual gift event+sing+worship+fall in the Spirit+ministry one on one+sing.....until you look up and they are about to turn the lights out. From there it might easily be a move to a home "pot luck" lunch, Bible study later, including sweet worship, singing old hymns acapella.

Soul changing worship services are still alive, producing active workers of the gospel of Christ Jesus, even severely tatooed, cussing bikers, changed into gospel preachers among the "hopeless" I still can't communicate well with.

What this world needs is more genuine relationship with our Savior. It starts at home with our spouse, our children, and beyond.
 
Active Member
I will add that I am certain it was easy to get off track when deciding to change our ways to "reach" the youth generations. We had a fear all would die off while they didn't return to take up leadership. It turned out that us "leaders" didn't significantly retire out or die off, but are in fact being replaced by younger leaders of like mind in Christ. It was God working it all out all along. That has been true for several churches in our county.
 
Active Member
All the churches I've been in Do have congregational singing. And, yes, that Has changed over the years. It's changing to 'Praise and Worship' teams getting up with the snare drummer and guitar players. But it's not loud or 'hard to listen to' -- the music leader provides a variety of songs -- some new and some of the older ones presented in a bit more up-beat way.
 
Moderator
Staff Member
Dear Sister @Sue D.
That's how the church I currently attend started. Then it started to morph into what this article is talking about. More performance driven. Gradual of course, and nothing that one could notice right away, but it happened. Probably more to do with as Brother Dovegiven mentioned. It becomes in many if not all cases. What is the congregation willing to accept and moved to desire and do they understand it.
 
Active Member
The church I started going to 20 some years ago was a good sound Bible teaching church. Life happened and we ended up leaving. When I came back to that church it had gradually changed. Over a period of several pastoral changes.
 
Moderator
Staff Member
The church I started going to 20 some years ago was a good sound Bible teaching church. Life happened and we ended up leaving. When I came back to that church it had gradually changed. Over a period of several pastoral changes.
I understand. The same awareness is there when one moves away from a place and then after some time one goes back to it. One notices the small differences that those who have not left don't see. That is how Churches and Societies for that matter undergo changes both positive & negative without meeting much resistance, by having the changes introduced in a gradual manner. For churches this normally happens by introducing the changes into the youth groups first, because generations come and then the new ones take their place. That is why great care on how the youth of the Church are established in the Word of God and activities of the Church are so very important to monitor by the Elders, and secondarily by the Ministry teams!
 
Last edited:
Loyal Member
Praise and worship or entertainment. The Word does not tell us to go after entertainment but to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
 
Active Member
Praise and worship or entertainment. The Word does not tell us to go after entertainment but to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
While I relate to the former posts, I also agree with your statement. I've watched congregations give up cherished, very dynamic classic worship styles very slowly, often due to a common agreement "It's for the youth, the future of this church. Our preferences are secondary." So the elders tend to tolerate new things that seem to appeal to the next generation. In a sense the youth became a kind of Hebrew "nehushtan" (Moses' serpent on the pole worshiped for centuries) versus the monument in the Jordan set by Israel piling stones in the middle of the dried up river, to leave a memory of its crossing for the sake of their children discovering it in the future.

The interesting thing I have witnessed many times is the "youth" standing motionless, silent, while supposedly appreciating their mode of song, but coming alive when "scripture songs" break out in the congregation acapella, with no drums at all playing. often hearing songs long "forgotten", but remembered by the older generation. So I think "why are ya'll not seeing their response, then adapting to their responses?". But, the latest FM radio songs keep going on stage.

Sometimes the Church worship and praise is determined by the latest Dove Awards artists?
 
Active Member
I understand. The same awareness is there when one moves away from a place and then after some time one goes back to it. Once notices the small differences that those who have not left don't see. That is how Churches and Societies for that matter undergo changes both positive & negative without meeting much resistance, by having the changes introduced in a gradual manner. For churches this normally happens by introducing the changes into the youth groups first, because generations come and then the new ones take their place. That is why great care on how the youth of the Church are established in the Word of God and activities of the Church are so very important to monitor by the Elders, and secondarily by the Ministry teams!
I occasionallly visit around various churches I ministered to while active in the Gideons when fully in private business and able to leave business behind. Any criticism was strictly forbidden. I "retired" from that qualification a decade past. That affords me a perspective those congregations might not have considered yet. The only changes I see are concerning praise and worship, mode of song, and an ever increasing weight to what happens around the pulpit area, in that time slot, the congregation's space darkened, facing flashing blue and white lights, and staged displays imitating a 4th of July fireworks display, with sometimes praise and worship teams dancing in nighties. It all causes me not to re-align with former congregations, a partial reason I stopped the Gideon trek raising funding for Bibles for the world. There are more direct methods. Just contribute to the Gideons, for one, to cover publication costs, and distributions that exceed the ability of the Gideon members.
 
Loyal Member
Be it music or whatever, consider that what is being described here a minister many years ago named as "creeping worldliness". It can and will affect everyone adversely if not checked along the way. How do we check it? By getting into the good habit daily starting again at the lowest room:

"When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him;
And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.
But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.
For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Luke 14:9-11
 
Moderator
Staff Member
Praise and worship or entertainment. The Word does not tell us to go after entertainment but to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth.
Sometimes the Church worship and praise is determined by the latest Dove Awards artists?
Agreed, however for those who are new to the faith and the only exposure that they have had is the contemporary music, which for personal listening I find fine, on most occasions, but as part of Praise & Worship time is as the article identified not really all inclusive or driven by anything more then to get the emotions elevated. Is difficult for me to relate to, though I can understand how it has happened. For, those still on milk, they will follow only what they know or have been exposed to. Which is sad, because the beauty in the history of Christian Music is truly uplifting and I truly believe Glorifies God in its use. Its slow disappearance is a loss for the Body of Christ and the Church.
 

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