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June 11, 2014

214

Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

by Kenny Lamm
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Worship leaders around the world are sadly changing their church’s worship (often unintentionally) into a spectator event, and people are not singing any more.

Before discussing our present situation, let’s look back into history. Prior to the Reformation, worship was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language (Latin). The Reformation gave worship back to the people, including congregational singing which employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people. Worship once again became participatory.

The evolution of the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased.

With the advent of new video technologies, churches began to project the lyrics of their songs on a screen, and the number of songs at a church’s disposal increased exponentially. [1]

At first, this advance in technology led to more powerful congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).

What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God. Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess.

I see nine reasons congregations aren’t singing anymore:

  1. They don’t know the songs. With the release of new songs weekly and the increased birthing of locally-written songs, worship leaders are providing a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs. Indeed, we should be singing new songs, but too high a rate of new song inclusion in worship can kill our participation rate and turn the congregation into spectators. I see this all the time. I advocate doing no more than one new song in a worship service, and then repeating the song on and off for several weeks until it becomes known by the congregation. People worship best with songs they know, so we need to teach and reinforce the new expressions of worship. (more)
  2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. There are lots of great, new worship songs today, but in the vast pool of new songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on stage).
  3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer. The people we are leading in worship generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out, and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D (more).
  4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.  If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it is too loud. Conversely, if the music is too quiet, generally, the congregation will fail to sing out with power. Find the right balance—strong, but not over-bearing.
  5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment. I am a strong advocate of setting a great environment for worship including lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts, and much more. However when our environments take things to a level that calls undue attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. Excellence – yes. Highly professional performance – no.
  6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing. As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range.
  7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody. With the availability of so many new songs, we often become haphazard in our worship planning, pulling songs from so many sources without reinforcing the songs and helping the congregation to take them on as a regular expression of their worship. In the old days, the hymnal was that repository. Today, we need to create song lists to use in planning our times of worship. (more)
  8. Worship leaders ad lib too much. Keep the melody clear and strong. The congregation is made up of sheep with limited ranges and limited musical ability. When we stray from the melody to ad lib, the sheep try to follow us and end up frustrated and quit singing. Some ad lib is nice and can enhance worship, but don’t let it lead your sheep astray.
  9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation. We often get caught up in our world of amazing music production and lose sight of our purpose of helping the congregation to voice their worship. Let them know you expect them to sing. Quote the Bible to promote their expressions of worship. Stay alert to how well the congregation is tracking with you and alter course as needed.

 

Once worship leaders regain the vision of enabling the congregation to be participants in the journey of corporate worship, I believe we can return worship to the people once again.

[1] see David Murrow’s excellent post, Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church.

 

 

 

 

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214 Comments Post a comment
  1. Cliff Bell
    Dec 20 2014

    I first read this article translated into Spanish. I affirmed many things I had believed for years but had not heard anyone say. Of course, you brought out many more excellent points. I love it so much I shared it with those who follow me on Facebook throughout Latin America. In less than 24 hours it has already been shared from there over 100 times, and has been seen by another 7,000 people. I was happy to find the original article in English.

    Thank you for helping the Church get back to worshipping the King they way He desires to be worshipped – in Spirit and in truth.

    Reply
  2. Judy Gyde
    Dec 16 2014

    That was an interesting article. I would also add that sometimes people don’t sing because they are self absorbed…not focused on Him, not engaged in the process of giving Him their all. Singing to The Lord is to worship Him. Worship isn’t to be about us but about Him. Maybe we can only offer a joyful noise, that’s OK. Why not bless The Lord by singing from our heart as He desires we would. The Psalms reveal interesting insights on this matter: Psalm 33, 47, 95, 100, 149 &150, just to start with. My personal favorite worship song is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redmond.

    Reply
  3. Long time church attendee
    Dec 11 2014

    I would want to shout hallelujah, and as a Southern Baptist, I have never raised my voice in church. This is probably the first thing I have ever commented on.

    A friend of my mother’s (now 90) called them 7-11 songs. You sing seven words 11 times, but now they are 12-24.

    I never sing in church, and I grew up singing — that’s the only place I can sing because I am so bad, but I used to think that I gave a new meaning to making a “joyful noise unto the Lord.” Now I get to church in time to hear the preacher, and I am not alone.

    Reply
  4. Vanessa Chetty
    Dec 8 2014

    My husband and I are Pastors of a local church. I lead worship and I consider it great joy to part of a team that has dedicated their lives and time to create a “platform” for the Word of God to be preached. We are certainly not entertainers or ego driven in any way as we know that the demand for a righteous lifestyle is more important than the expression of music and song. Corporate worship should be a culmination of private worship which comes from a personal relationship with God. A heart connection to the Father is far more important than singing or dancing. The temptation for worship leaders to become entertainers is very real until they realise that they can be replaced. The song becomes an expression of what your heart feels toward your Father, to me that is True Worship. The objective of church gatherings is the Word God . worship aligns our hearts to receive the Word. Be blessed. Vanessa South Africa

    Reply
  5. tiki
    Dec 8 2014

    I think church now is too focused on worship and not focused enough on teaching. I recently left a church because they increased the worship time to 45 minutes every Sunday. I found it to be too tiring every week to have 45 minutes of worship. Also, after the announcements and a couple extra’s like a baby dedication, it was almost an hour. By the time the Pastor got up to speak I mentally checked out. I really didn’t find it worthwhile attending there if I wasn’t getting anything out of what the Pastor had to say.

    Reply
  6. Malcolm
    Dec 8 2014

    I studied at a college of music. I’m also a music worship leader. To be honest, it’s not often the first helps you with the second! However, studying the history of music over the last 2 millennia has shown me something that’s relevant to this issue. Music used in church worship is constantly going through a cycle, whereby it begins very simple in format and essentially grass-roots led, then gradually increases in complexity and thus becomes more and more exclusive (i.e. led by trained or experienced musicians) until at some point there is a counter-reaction to return back to simplicity and congregation-led worship again. A classic example of this counter-reaction occurred with the rise of Lutheranism, when hymns such as ‘A Safe Stronghold’ reclaimed the place of congregational participation. In my own time, songs used in worship in the 60s and 70s were generally of a very simple nature and easy to pick up and sing. Some of them, to be fair, were also rather banal and corny! As a teenager growing up in the 70s listening to rock, I and my friends used to long for the time when ‘Christian’ music would catch up with secular music in terms of skill and style. Well, now we have it. The songs we hear on CDs and dowloads today could rival some of the world’s most successful bands. Unfortunately, what we’ve now lost is the common touch. If history teaches us anything, it’s probably time for a counter-revolution.

    Reply
  7. Frank Byers
    Dec 8 2014

    Hey guys sorry for the delay. Life never slows down no matter how much I try to make it!! I will answer each of these with a short answer however I have a much longer version for this article is great for the rhythm of my heart. My replies are based on My Part. Gods Part, Their Part.

    1) They don’t know the songs. I agree many times the congregation will not know the songs. It is my job to introduce them to new once while also using the familiar ones. No one can sing out to something they don’t know. (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) They also have to want to know the songs. If they just hear the sermon on Sunday and do not get into the word through out the week the want grow to know Christ either.

    2) We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. This is subjective to each person. Every style of music has songs that are heard to sing to. It is my Job to set those moments up as clear as possible that there is not expectation to sing. Some people will stand and sing no matter what. ☺ (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)
    3) We are singing in keys too high for the average singer. Songs are written for a reason, and many times if you change the key it will take away from the blessing in the music. Some churches only have a male leader. Well what about the women their choice key is different than ours. Any time I am leading I will always share the stage with a female, and will not lead all of the songs if I have other male leaders. I do process the key of the songs based on what key is best for the leader.
    (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) By me not leading all of the songs this allows for a divers time of singing praises.
    4) The congregation can’t hear people around them singing. This part is really a personal preference and a tradition that some churches have giving up themselves. I have learned that no matter how I set up a song for the perfect key in some settings the room fears what the person next to them thinks more than there heart before the LORD. More Ashamed of being heard than they are ok with standing alone it what should be a “safe place”. Have you ever been to a secular concert where those who are in attendance make it clear that they want to be there? No matter how LOUD or who is watching them you will hear the room sing every lyric to every song. WHY? Because they have chosen to do their part, and learn the songs even making up words they don’t know. Finding joy in just letting go and giving that artist all that they can. Those same people will walk into church and not open their mouths. My PART? GODS Part? Or THEIR PART? The truth, our music is not louder the heart of the worshiper his weakened. I don’t show up to be heard, and if I let the thought of hearing others inspire me ( and I will say it does when I do hear it☺ ) the my muse for worship is defiantly off track. WHY? (BECAUSE WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)

    5) We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment. I truly believe this one of all is at times a big joke. What has turned out to be cool and open doors to allow men and women to use their gifts that the world appreciates we like to say it’s just a show. It takes talent to create moments with in the arts. I am sure not a person sits backs and complains about the building they are sitting it calling their house of worship. Please remember a talented; person who loves design took time to use their gift to create that building. From the blandest church building to the most contemporary design an architect got to show off what they could create. When you think about lights, video work, and all the things that fuel the above statement you forget that is someone’s worship, and offering back to bless. It was never apart of the church at one point but neither were microphones. RIGHT? (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) I love that someone wants to use their gifting for the local church.

    6) The congregation feels they are not expected to sing
    I know for me that I have to always work on the clear expectation. Once a DNA is set it takes more work to get the room to stop singing or to start. No matter what the churched person cannot walk in with the mind set we all know the expectation. It is our job to lead on and off the stage for the seeker or lost person attending a service.

    7) We fail to have a common body of hymnody. I make sure to repeat songs as often as I can and fuse together many for the overall time of praise. The work that I put into the flow of the songs always helps with the outcome for my soul and those in the room. The lack of knowing a tune will always be an issues for someone or lost people are not being invited to church. If that’s the case we should not even talk about the music we have bigger fish to fry ☺.

    8) Worship leaders ad lib too much. The weight on the person on stage as turned the congregation into lazy little robots. You will hear people only from certain church styles say I cant follow the leader some times. I do believe we should be mindful of this! For some churches it does not matter because the room understands their DNA and style. For those who have seen the shift of this there are a few key reasons why. The room does not fill themselves with these songs throughout the week. They complain about following you because they are lost. To me it is the same as not knowing where a book of the bible is and the teaching pastor as you to turn there. IF you are in the word you know where to look if not do you get mad and say hey preacher man you are hard to follow how dare you ask this of me. Those who are in there word find it and can keep up. We along with many other churches post links to our worship set on our site so that people can go and download and learn the songs.

    9) Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation. I will say that so many worship leaders get lost in their person time of worship when on stage. Eyes close 4th wall up them and the Lord. The problem with this is clarity of why we are doing what we do. It helps to fully understand just how impactful or time before the LORD is and can be. When coaching worship leaders I remind them that you want people to see and hear the truths and convictions of your heart. Open your eyes and connect. We have a message and it is the most important message ever. When is that last time you saw a well know artist singing there message with their eyes closed the entire song? You will not because they want to clearly welcome their fans into that moment with them. It is like magic to see a major artist perform and sing lyrics that you may even have a hard time singing, but they draw you in or turn you off with the delivery of their song. There is nothing wrong with being confident in your gifting. We have to teach our point leaders, that being confident in your message is key on and off the stage. If the teaching pastor taught the whole sermon with his eyes closed what would you think about him? BECAUSE WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)

    Most of this blog post is missing the main point that was once held by the church.
    WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG. Worship is a life style. Worship is offering everything you have to GOD. We have lost the focus on our gathering time to be solely about God and it is now about how can I be filled up. This selfish heart is what allows the enemy to help the room see all the things they don’t like and why it is ok for them to not participate. It may be my job to lead you in songs, but it is my calling and Gods will for me to serve those I am “leading”. I look at each time of praise as a worshiper worshiping. I to can’t spend all week away from the Lord and then expect radical things to happen on Sunday morning so why is it ok for the congregation to? The Lord is with us every step of the way. We have to acknowledge him to experience him. SIGNING LOUD MEANS NOTHING WHEN YOUR HEART BEATS TO IT”S OWN RHYTHM. It should be an overflow not always a pick me up. In the old days the power did not come from the hymns, it was that people lived in the WORD. Lets focus on how often we are in the word and not how loud or much we sing. The music portion of worship is meant to be the under score to the life devoted to worshiping GOD 24/7 not Day 7 / 45 min.

    Reply
  8. Daniel
    Dec 3 2014

    Appreciate the article Kenny, but you’ve clearly not done the research… The NCLS surveys and my own for my phD show ppl are actually very engaged with (which includes singing in) corporate worship… But nothing like playing to the fans… This is actually more of a generational issue than a congregational song style issue. Check my articles in worship leader mag, if your looking for the facts ;)

    Reply
    • Dec 3 2014

      Good to hear that you have more favorable data. My observations come from multiple site visits and discussions with many others who all agree this is a real problem. The viral nature of this post indicates that it indeed hits a nerve today. I didn’t make this stuff up.

      Reply
      • Dec 3 2014

        You did an excellent job. There is no need of a PhD to see this, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us to all thruth. Thank you for this excellent article because God is tired of the show. He wants and deserve genuine praise. God is the same yesterday, today a d forever. People is forgetting to who is the glory and sometimes we see more a show to glorify who is singing, and not to glorify who deserve all our praise …our Savior and Lord! Thanks again!

        Reply
  9. Chris Dollinger
    Dec 3 2014

    Great article – I totally agree with these 9 points. Thanks for putting this out there

    Reply
  10. Dec 2 2014

    Or, people could actually worshiping during a song, I personally don’t sing along sometimes because I’m praising and talking to God during the song.

    Reply
  11. Josh
    Dec 1 2014

    First off, let me say that I appreciate the thought out in to the original article and I agree with much of what was said. There are certain things we should always be mindful and/or weary of when planning our worship services.

    Now, with all due respect to the original poster, and all the above comments – this kind of theory and debate, to me, only emphasizes the hypothetical “Drive-Thru Worship/Church” idea. The main thought behind that is that everyone wants to order something different for their worship experience. Some want to sit and listen, some want to participate; some like it loud, while others prefer more quiet; and some want atmosphere or ambiance, yet others may find it distracting. The use of new media (i.e. music, video, sound, lights) to enhance worship is a great thing, but agreeably can be overproduced and distracting… but some may want precisely that. It’s all personal opinion, and who’s to say what’s right or wrong? What’s completely unacceptable to someone may be just want someone else it looking for. Is God going to judge them based on their preferred style of worship? Or is He simply happy that they are worshiping Him with all their heart, no matter the media to get there. As some have said before, it all boils down to the heart of those worshiping. Sure, as church leaders we can try and find a happy medium of all the things mentioned above, but no matter the choices we make on how we present our worship, there will always be some who want it differently. That’s just human nature. What made me excited to worship may be the exact opposite of the person standing next to me on Judgement Day, yet again, I don’t think that’s going to matter to God.

    I grew up in a Church of Christ congregation which, stereotypical of that organization, was fairly traditional and conservative. Since I was able to talk, I fondly remember singing the old songs from the hymnal, which still mean a lot to me now. 30 years later, I’m now part of the leadership planning for that very same church, but today our worship is much different. We went from a single song leader at the pulpit, to a praise team (4 part harmony), to a praise band. We have one service that utilizes the musical style worship, and another that utilizes a cappella style worship. Both are attended and received well by our congregation, as some prefer one style over the other. I know we’re by no means different in doing this than so many other churches, and in fact, we’re behind the times in doing so. When we finally decided to incorporate an instrumental worship service, it was mainly due to the concern of our church elders leadership that we would lose too many of our youth to more contemporary churches.

    Ultimately, what I think this debate boils down to (which supports the idea of the “Drive-Thru Worship”) is – how are we able to attract people to want to worship and have the best experience they can, which (hopefully) brings them closer to God. I like to think of it kind of like fishing – since we are fishers of men. You can head to a lake to do some fishing, and chances are if you’re like me, you’ll bring several different styles of bait. You can do all kinds of research and read up on the fish you’re hoping to catch, see what they like, how they are responding to certain types of bait, etc. You’ll then try your luck casting out with what you think will be the best bait to catch the most fish. Good old fashioned worms can and still do the trick with some fish. Some fish respond better to the expensive, flashy lures. A lot of it also comes down to your skill of fishing in general. In the end, all you want to do is catch some fish, and does it really matter what bait got them to you?

    Reply
  12. Phil Wilhelm
    Dec 1 2014

    I agree with Bill Worley except for one point. We don’t have a church band. We don’t have a church organ. In fact, we only have our own voices, and they sound just fine in four parts. We do, however, have the occasional voice that wants others to know how powerful they are, but that doesn’t happen very often. Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, sounds great without an organ or band.

    Reply
  13. Morgan Williams
    Nov 30 2014

    Two weeks ago, I attended an Episcopal church in town that was new to me. The pipe organ was just restored. It was a large Hook and Hastings organ that was to be played that afternoon at a concert. As the organist played the hymns, I did not feel much like singing because no one else was singing, and I felt that I might drown out the organ. The organist was not playing loud enough and did not demonstrate the organ’s ability to lead in singing. If I had been at the console, I would have given it much more punch. Who would want to sing when played in this manner?

    Reply
  14. Alvin Robb
    Nov 30 2014

    WELL ! All kinds of opinions.
    The fact remains that each person singing must make the words meaningful, from the heart. Think what you are singing and make the words your own.

    Reply
  15. Fred wilson
    Nov 29 2014

    I’ve been doing church music a long time. I have a full music education. I fully agree with the 9 reasons. I will add that in many churches music is for entertainment and feel go with minimal if any worship value.

    Reply
  16. Donald Livingston
    Nov 29 2014

    1. Generally speaking, music making today making is about singing along to a recording, not making music as a group. People don’t know how to corporately own their music making.
    2. Music making is expected to be performed for people, and must be seen to be a performance. Litmus test: if the group performing (whether it’s praise band or soloist or children’s choir) has to be “up front” and can’t fulfill their duties from a balcony, it is not music for corporate worship. It’s a performance for the sake of entertainment.

    Reply
  17. hannah
    Nov 29 2014

    Actually, the Reformation gave the Word of God to the people. Worship was what came out of it – because people understood it, they wanted to praise God for all His wondrous works.

    Reply
  18. J. Watts
    Nov 28 2014

    If I hear the term “Worship Leader” used, I know immediately to avoid that church. There is no such thing. The pastor, elders, choir(s), accompanist and others are all, in their time and throughout the service, leaders of worship, but to have one person (who is NOT the pastor), designated with that title tells me immediately that things are on the wrong road in that place. Add other words such as “stage” and “auditorium”, and you just seal the deal. Sanctuaries are not, not NOT places of performance and thus DO NOT have stages or auditoriums. Ever. If you use that vocabulary, I know exactly what the mindset is in that “church” and will know to avoid it like the plague. And “praise band” – we won’t even go there.

    Reply
    • robert king
      Nov 29 2014

      There is a story I heard during music history class that has stuck with me for many years. There was great criticism of a new director of music many years ago whose music by many was considered the devils music. They could not understand how the church elders could allow such a musician to take holy music for the purpose of worship in the Lutheran church and make it so UNGodly.

      I used to have a copy of this story, but, probably lost it during a move so no longer have it.

      This criticism was directed toward the newly appointed organist of the Cathedral in Leipzig, none other than J.S. Bach.

      Our church has wonderful christian musicians and we have several >worship leaders> all of whom present the Gospel in a respectful, holy spirit inspired way from the ‘stage’. What happened to PEOPLE are the church? The ‘church’ is not the platform or the sanctuary or the auditorium, it is the people.

      Different denominations have different names and titles for positions within the church structure, you surely cannot tell me you “judge” a church and its “chiristianity” on labels??? I have learned in my last 60 years God wired us all differently and this is why we have different church’s and different ways of worship.

      Lastly, who are you to judge, I thought was God’s job.

      Reply
    • Peter
      Nov 30 2014

      Try a one year worship leaders course and you may feel both humbled and overwhelmed by the feeling of responsibility to facilitate worship.

      Reply
  19. Brian Mansfield
    Nov 28 2014

    some songs only work when sung in an American accent!

    Reply
  20. Annie Mcintyre
    Nov 27 2014

    another reason:
    The congregants are too busy drinking their coffee, eating their muffin, and enjoying other foods allowed in the meeting room to be able to shut out the world and allow the HS to move them in worship and singing. And any singer knows that food and drinks except water are not conducive to the vocal chords singing clearly.

    Reply
    • Dan Marty
      Dec 15 2014

      I figured if I scrolled down these comments far enough I might find a comment like this. I think the table ministry used in our creative worship service has contributed greatly to our sense of community and corporate worship. (We combine seating around round tables with rows of chairs so that each can sit as they prefer.) I think it also helps us attract a broader spectrum of people to our congregation, welcoming to those in needs of food and those with other special needs not entirely comfortable in pews. The Holy Spirit is still invited and quite welcome. And, frankly, after nearly six decades of singing (and directing) in churches, I much prefer a good cup of coffee to a glass of water. I actually have the most trouble with the communion elements, but nobody is going to keep me from taking them before sharing a table song! Peace.

      Reply
  21. Ginny
    Nov 26 2014

    I agree with everything you said. This is pretty much a nuts-and-bolts approach to why people don’t sing, and you’re exactly right. What I don’t read is anything about letting the Holy Spirit guide in both song selection and in the actual time of singing. Where does God really fit in to any of this? Some of the advice would work for business situations etc. One thing I remember about growing up in church was that during the music the Spirit of God would be so real. And just a few years ago I heard a choir sing such a powerful song, it felt like the roof of the church opened up to heaven – not like a big rush of emotion, but in awe and quiet wonder that God had come so close. That’s what I treasure and what I long for – the Spirit of God, not theatrics and performance.

    Reply
    • Nov 26 2014

      Thank you for your comments. This post was not intended to be anywhere near exhaustive on the topic of leading worship–just wanted to hit a few things that I see happening so often in churches today that are hurting worship. I certainly teach the importance of seeking God in planning and leading worship. I do feel that you can grow a large “church” today totally void of God’s Spirit. Sad to see. You might be interested in this post: What Happens to Your Order of Worship When God Shows Up?

      Reply
  22. Tom
    Nov 26 2014

    Some great points made in the article, but isn’t strange that there is not one mention or example of a “worship leader” within the New Covenant context? I think we have moved very far from how the early church functioned. The model we are used to today is not working and is well past its sell by date!

    Reply
  23. Tom
    Nov 26 2014

    Some great points made in the article, but isn’t strange that there is not one mention or example of a “worship leader” within the New Covenant context? I think we have moved very far from how the early church functioned. The model we are used to today (in most part) is not working and is well past its sell by date!

    Reply
  24. Elizabeth
    Nov 26 2014

    referring to church goers as pew potatoes and sheep in the way that is written here is disrespectful to them. I agree with many of your points in this article, but you don’t have to be so rude.

    Reply
    • Nov 26 2014

      I certainly meant no disrespect for church goers. This post is intended to open eyes of worship leaders who do a disservice to the “church goers” by not engaging them in participative worship . I use the words, “pew potatoes” to show the parallel of engagement to “couch potatoes” when we merely sit back to be entertained. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  25. Anna
    Nov 26 2014

    Drives me crazy when verses or choruses are repeated. Once now and then is nice. any more and I stop singing.

    Reply
  26. Herman
    Nov 25 2014

    Oh I don’t know…..how hard is it to sing along with the same songs you hear on the Christian radio Station………

    I prefer hymns remade….like In Tenderness……abound in us…..etc.

    although, Chris Tomlim does writes some pretty good corporate worship songs……..more than he does radio type worship songs…
    I prefer songs that speak to worshiping Jesus rather than making me! feel all good about myself ….
    many songs sung in Church are all about how good we feel about worshiping……easy to make it about us and not Jesus

    Reply
  27. Cindy
    Nov 25 2014

    I find that most songs for me (the typical second soprano) are limited in range, going across the voice break repeatedly, and are not melodic. Great melodies, regardless of how much they move around, are what the church sang for ages. If a note was too high, people dropped an octave. I also feel that the loss of a hymnal or video showing the actual notation has hurt us – people don’t sing parts any more. The songs don’t lend themselves to that anyway so they might be too high for men who are reduced to singing only the “melody”. Three or four part writing lends itself to beautiful harmony which is why most choirs use it. Regardless, people aren’t going to sing if all they hear is a drum.

    Reply
  28. CeeCee
    Nov 25 2014

    It makes me said that The name of Jesus isn’t site a single time in this article. Worship is a lifestyle, and songs are a vehicle to transport what’s in the heart to an outward expression. Perhaps if people are not “participating” in worship, there might be heart issues at the core, or perhaps some people simply aren’t expressive in that way. If I went to a church whose form of worship was only dance, I certainly would not be participating, and not because I don’t appreciate it, or love Jesus, but because that really isn’t my thing. I think song is one medium of worship. There are many others. Service, Encouragement, love, prayer, quietness, and most specifically loving like Christ. Blessings to you all!

    Reply
  29. Gina Ayliffe
    Nov 24 2014

    My husband and I just returned to this area after being gone for 16 months. We grew up in traditional churches but have really come to appreciate contemporary worship music and very much enjoyed the interactive worship/singing at our interim church. So we were kind of taken aback by the change in music at the first service we attended at our old church after our return. It was a concert, a performance, so loud that if the people around us had been singing we couldn’t have heard them. There were spotlight solos with applause, and that was the only interaction between the performers and the audience, and, yes, I know what I just said. I agree with the reasons in this article. There is really something missing in the service now. The congregation has been banished to the darkness of the auditorium and the roles of spectators. It’s sad. And not just for us.

    Reply
    • LindaSDF
      Nov 28 2014

      Applause? I grew up being taught that applause is not appropriate to a worship service, and I still feel that way. We don’t applaud anything in our chapel. Anywhere else in the building is ok, but not where we do our formal worship.

      Worship services should be simple affairs, with hymns that everyone can sing, with hymnals with the notes and everything.

      And remember, that David said to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, but nothing about having to be in tune!

      Reply
      • PaulaMarie
        Dec 1 2014

        We have applause in our church but it is giving Praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and our Pastor always clairifies that is who the praise and Glory is intended for…for Him, not the singers. So saying applause doesn’t belong is a bit far out there if you don’t understand why there is applause in the first place. The Bible clearly says to lift our hands, sing songs, make a joyful noise, give thanks and praise to the Lord our God. Just thought I would give my thought on “generalized comments without the facts. God Bless.

        Reply
  30. Luke
    Nov 24 2014

    “At first, this advance in technology led to more robust congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).”

    So if I’m understanding correctly, technology led to the worship leader shift that is now causing churches to miss out on congregational singing?

    Look, these are fine tips and congregational singing is quite biblical and should be a sought after trait of any church. But technology isn’t the culprit. It’s ego, it’s lack of training from churches or Sr Pastors but it’s not technology. Professionalism has been around long before modern technology and isn’t the only fly in the ointment pushing worship leaders toward performance and away from congregational singing. A huge choir up front with a grand piano and no technology can be performance driven and stifle congregational singing.

    I’m all for the 9 tips and likely a few others that might help bring back congregational singing, but let’s not blame the wrong culprit.

    Reply
    • Nov 24 2014

      Sorry this was not clear. In no way do I intend to suggest that technology is the problem. “A shift in worship leadership” began to make the change, not technology. I am a major proponent of utilizing technology in the church so we can speak in a language our culture understands.

      Reply
  31. Miles
    Nov 24 2014

    This is a solid list, I appreciate the focus on the purpose, whereas many articles like this can tend to focus on style or a bias towards certain types of songs. We could probably add ease of the song itself to this list. My church introduces a new song maybe once a month, but our worship leader usually does a great job of introducing it and making any notes we should know about it, but even more importantly, the new songs are usually very simple to learn. We typically sing hymns, so when our worship leader introduces a new one (and yes there are such things as new hymns), we may not know the words, but the tune is always simple enough that you can literally sing along for the first time because each verse uses the same tune. But whether it is a hymn or not, as long as the song is simple to learn (which doesn’t mean that the words need to be simple, just that the rhythm of the song can be quickly learned) the congregation will be more likely to sing.

    Reply
  32. Jeremy
    Nov 24 2014

    I suppose since this is a Baptist publication (Baptists just adore their carpeting), it’s understandable that this EXTREMELY important item was left off the list:

    #10 – Worship spaces are not being built with the right acoustical properties for mass congregational singing. Wall-to-wall carpet, other soft surfaces, and absorptive “panels” on the walls does not a favorable environment create.

    All of those things contribute quite directly to the congregant being self-conscious about singing. There’s a reason people like to sing in the shower — because it sounds better than it should!

    The worship space is no different. The sales force of these acoustic “treatment” companies is quite the racket. In 2014, there is no acoustic in which an EXPERT-designed and installed PA system cannot project the spoken word to offset the reverberation that is ideal for music and mass singing. Preachers in the largest of cathedrals can be heard just fine. Your 500 seat sanctuary is not the exception to the rule.

    Reply
    • Alan Munshower
      Nov 25 2014

      Yeah, but….those great acoustical spaces, like the old European cathedrals are not made for amplified instruments or drums. You can’t have it both ways. Either you make a space that the modern worship band(re:guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, et.al.) can play at a reasonable volume in OR you make a space that’s great for “singing in the shower”. Its very tough to do both. Cue the acoustical treatment company….

      Reply
  33. Ian
    Nov 23 2014

    I don’t sing in church, because I don’t sing period. It’s not an apathy or disrespect thing, I just don’t sing.

    Reply
    • Luke
      Nov 24 2014

      Even when it’s requested of us in Scripture? Psalm 95:1-2 That’s kinda like saying, “I don’t love people in church, because I don’t love period.”

      Reply
      • CeeCee
        Nov 25 2014

        The word “sing” in that passage is the Hebrew word Fut, which means, “to emit a tremulous and stridulous sound”, which is basically a shrill scream. It’s not singing as we would think. I’m not sure many church’s scream these days:) It’s all about a heart positiion:)

        Reply
  34. Worship Leader
    Nov 23 2014

    If you stop singing because you don’t care for a certain song or style of music, please leave the church. You are doing more harm than good. You are obviously no longer lost because you have heard the gospel, you are rebellious. If you had any idea of how great our God is, it would be hard to keep from singing! “Even the very rocks would cry out!” The American church is far to consumed with pandering to seat fillers. The body would be so much stronger if we could “spew out” the lukewarm. “Christians” who refuse to sing because of worship styles are in insult to the Body, and blaspheme the sacrifice that Christ made.

    Reply
    • Andrea
      Nov 23 2014

      Wow. This is harsh at best. The piece above makes some really great points about the “average” worshipper’s abilities. For some, singing out loud, even in worship, is a very learned action. If I had read this as a new believer, I would have been afraid to walk into any church and sing. May I suggest that you check your own heart before you speak so strongly (and errantly) about others and their motives. It is the Lord who judges what is in a person’s heart, not us. Maybe the 13th time the chorus is repeated or the note played over, and over, and over, and over again like we’re at someone’s performance instead of music as a catalyst for worship has something to do with those unmoving lips. Tone it down, Maverick. He knows your heart for Him, but His heart for others is not nearly this hard.

      Reply
      • Julie
        Nov 24 2014

        I agree with you, Andrea. She was very harsh in regards to what she said about people who went into the church. I would not feel comfortable sitting next to her and would have to ask God to forgive her and her bitterness.

        Reply
    • Carol
      Nov 24 2014

      OH my goodness! Where is the love of Jesus in this comment?! My husband is not a singer either but that doesn’t make him a lukewarm Christian. Please take step back. Look at scripture and see that we are supposed to meet and love people where they are at even if they are a seat filler. At least they are there!

      Reply
    • Karl Marx
      Nov 24 2014

      Wow! you can see that this person have no love in his heart. This person reminds me of our leader in the pulpit that keeps on reminding it’s congregation that “If you don’t like the church etc. etc. etc. then you are free to go to and find another church” or another favorite quote of his is “God is top priority, his family is the next and the church and its members are the last”. I pray that all Christians here especially the one’s in the pulpit will experience God’s grace.

      Reply
      • Aaron
        Nov 24 2014

        Karl,

        I do not know your pastors heart, or the way in which he says the things you quoted him saying, but the sentiments are correct. The church in general is pandering to the “Christian consumer.” The Gospel is offensive, therefore we are called to be as loving and graceful as possible. But we cannot neglect the full truth of the gospel. God is love, but he is also holy, holy, holy. We cannot come to Him without repentance and choosing to follow Him. And instead of trying to keep people, we should love people, which means teaching the gospel, not just acquiescing to their preferences. But all of this in love.

        Secondly, your pastors priorities are dead on. The best way to love and lead my church is to love and lead my family well. That means being available to them and having boundaries. There is a never ending supply of needs and emergencies from people in the church. My family has needs too. And the best way to love and lead my kids is to love my wife well. When they see me loving her, they feel safe, because things are in the right place and their parents love each other and will stay together, protecting the family. And the best way to love and lead my wife is to love God more than anything else. But all in love, not anger or defiance.

        Reply
    • Austin A. Preston
      Nov 25 2014

      Maybe you need to read and absorb the meaning behind #9. Obviously, if you truly feel this way, you are not, and maybe never were connected to the congregation. A worship leader needs to be more than a “my way or the highway” driver. I would also suggest a serious prayer meeting before stepping back into the role of a worship leader. Thank you!

      Reply
    • Shane
      Nov 26 2014

      Worship Leader, Elders are not born, they are Discipled. If we turned away every lukewarm Christian based on our personal, and very small view, of who a christian is, we would have NO Elders in the church. We would have no pastors. We would have no congregation. The purpose of Christ warning us against being lukewarm in our faith was not to turn people away, but to challenge us! So if you see a lukewarm christian, it should bring you to a place where you want to disciple them, to challenge them, not turn them away from the church. However, for those individuals serving in a leadership role in the church, the bar should be set a bit higher because we lead the body of Christ. A role that we are GRANTED, and OFFERED, and BLESSED, and CHARGED with by God through those who appointed us. You may need to take a breath and reflect on why you serve Christ and His people before next Sunday. Above all else, I believe that this is probably the unlisted #10 reason. We have lost touch with why we serve in the church, and lost sight of one key word in that phrase, “serve”.

      Reply
    • ISeeWhatYouDidThere
      Nov 30 2014

      I’m really hoping your screen name points to your post being a sarcastic one, but I’ve heard this kind of talk enough to think that you are one of the folks who actually feels this way….and that’s very sad.

      Reply
    • Linda
      Dec 8 2014

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your insightful article! My husband and I have been discussing the same thing but you said it so much better. I find that signing hymns and choruses while harmonizing and listening to my fellow worshipers around me gives me an opportunity to praise the Lord and prepares my heart for the sermon. Singing meaningful lyrics that are based on Scripture helps me remember Biblical truths. Singing songs that were written by authors who were in the midst of pain and disappointment, reminds me of the sufficiency of God’s grace.
      However, extremely loud, difficult to sing, or repetitious music does not have the same effect. All the worship team has to do is turn the house lights up, open their eyes (it is not more worshipful to sing with closed eyes), and look at the congregation. If many people are not singing, are wincing, and/or looking puzzled take the hint.

      Reply
  35. Karen
    Nov 23 2014

    I agree with many of the comments above. I would ask the reason for the repetition of choruses. I love to sing – I too love the old worship hymns and don’t think we sing enough of them anymore. If I like the song, I join in. If I don’t like it so much, I join in. It’s not about me. Worship is praising and worshiping our Savior. I believe the music should be an extension of the message. It’s somewhat arrogant to think that only the old hymns are worshipful.
    But I don’t understand why choruses have to be repeated over and over. I counted once whatever song we sang the chorus was sung eight times – sometimes loud, soft, slowly – it became almost hypnotic.

    Reply
    • Keith
      Nov 24 2014

      I grew up in the church, my father and two brothers are pastors. I could have commented on just about everyone’s views. Karen I could not agree with you more. It almost seems as if there is this specific amount of time for singing and preaching. Regardless of how much content is developed that x number of minutes needs to be filled. Candidly I got so sick of it I don’t even attend church anymore. That said, 3 people, without instruments singing Amazing Grace or a similar hymn brings tears to my eyes.

      Reply
      • Dan Marty
        Dec 15 2014

        Keith – I pray that you haven’t stopped attending worship simply because one church repeated too many choruses or failed to prepare a service worthy of your participation. There must be some place you can find. Go look for a church that sings the great hymns, with or without instruments, whatever. Your community is out there. Just don’t stop worshipping.

        Reply
    • Dan Marty
      Dec 15 2014

      Karen – I so admire your willingness to join in, even when you don’t care for the song. Because you know it probably has meaning for someone in the congregation or it wouldn’t have been selected. As to why some choruses are repeated over and over – some people just can’t think of anything else to do but annoy people who don’t care for repetition. Wait – just kidding. Seriously, I ask you to consider the last phrase of your comment. Not unlike some ancient chants or reciting the rosary, repetition of some praise choruses leads some congregants to a higher meditative and worshipful state – a feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit. While I recognize that it may lead others only to an agitated and irritated state, (and that there are limits to how many times you can repeat just a few words before losing most of the congregants), I ask your understanding that, like the song you sing that you’re not so fond of, a repeated chorus or two might also lead to someone’s deeper praise and worship of our Savior. Peace.

      Reply
  36. Tee Bowers
    Nov 23 2014

    I think that churches need to include some of the hymns into their worship, find songs that match the upcoming message and when singing a praise song, STOP REPEATING the chorus over and over and over again! The hymns will attract those who grew up singing them while the younger Christians will enjoy the new praise music, possibly causing both to enjoy the time of worship together! My husband and I tend to quit singing when the chorus, whether praise song or hymn, is repeated more than twice! Also praise teams need to learn how to enunciate better. I cringe every time I hear: “How GRAY is our God!”

    Reply
    • Julie Pallas
      Nov 25 2014

      They’re probably just mimicing Chris Tomlin’s enunciation: “GRAY”, “CRAY” “REY” – they’re all in there. Maybe he got bored with the repetition, too, and had to change it up a bit to keep himself awake!
      JK, of course.

      Reply
  37. Ranath
    Nov 22 2014

    Worship leaders ? what is worship? is worship only singing and shouting? We worship also when we pray, give our offerings, read our bibles and listen and respond to the sermon. Do we name the person that lead us in these areas of worship, “worship leaders”, no.
    So why do we name person that lead us in singing, “worship leaders”
    I think a more appropriate name is lead singers.
    Can anyone tell me what is” praise and worship” considering that we should be worshiping for the entire worship service.

    Reply
    • Robert
      Nov 25 2014

      I am a worship leader/pastor. I take that role very literally. I plan every aspect of the service as an act of worship. You make a great point. When we go through the motions of the “worship” service, we fail to help lead our congregations in worship. Every aspect of the service is planned as an act of worship. Anything less of my efforts would does not honor God or help my congregants. I’m not just the person who leads singing. I’m not saying by that in many churches that this is not the case. I’m sure in many churches you have “song leaders” that make up a larger group of individuals that lead worship.

      At my church, we have prayer before the worship services with everyone involved with the worship service. From me to our praise team, pastor, ushers for the day, to our sound & lighting technicians and Visual technician, we all play a part in leading worship. There should be more of this line of thinking in every church.

      What you write about is something that I have worked hard to create in our church. I have found it easy to do this since we were a new start 10 years ago when I came onto the pastoral staff. It seems to be more difficult to create that kind of mentality in a church that is set in their ways, in a rut. Thank you for sharing and encourage you to voice your opinion in your church if this is not how things are being done. God bless you.

      Reply
  38. Nov 22 2014

    I am fortunate to attend a church with great praise & worship, so I’m not an unhappy worshiper by any means. That said I would make a couple of tweeks if given the opportunity.

    1) Turn down the house volume just a tad. I love hearing the congregation lifting their voices and that is frequently masked by the band. 2) When you introduce a new song immediately follow it up with a tried and true standard that everyone knows to get them back into worship mode. New songs have to be sung a few times before they move from just words to being a part of our worship.

    Last year I had the opportunity to visit Brooklyn Tabernacle. Not sure what to attribute this too – maybe the unique acoustics of that building. They have a lively band, and a great choir, but during praise and worship the congregations voices filled up the place. It was glorious.

    Reply
    • Robert
      Nov 25 2014

      Scott, you’re 100% right about the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Amazing. I will say that as a worship pastor, it is difficult to know what’s too loud from the stage. I actually wear in ear monitors. So to your first point, I’m blessed to have an amazing sound engineer. That person makes all the difference. We work hard to find the right balance of the music with the praise team vocalist to the congregation. There are a lot of factors that make that dynamic change every week. I have to depend on my sound engineer to make those changes once the worship has started. The worst thing that can happen, as is the case in so many churches, is having some “running the soundboard” that is there to mute the right person at the right time.

      To your second point, you are again 100% right! I use new songs in a couple of different ways. If it is an upbeat song, I’ll introduce it during our fellowship time for the first time. Then I will use it again in the same place before I make it a sine we use for corporate worship. If it is a slower worship song, I’ll use it during the act of worship of giving tithes and offerings. Again, I’ll use it as an offertory before it becomes a part of our corporate worship. By then, the church has heard that song at least twice. If they go back and watch the worship service online, then they heard it again. This makes the worshipper more comfortable with that new song. You make great points!

      Reply
  39. Aaron
    Nov 21 2014

    I have mixed feelings about this article for a few reasons:

    First, I can understand the author’s perspective and I agree with the 9 points. But maybe there should be ten points or more, because something is missing. In our church we sing from the hymnal 100% of the time, and still about 1/3 or more do not sing. I think something else must be going on.

    Secondly, I do feel like we are missing something when we do not even try to sing any contemporary worship songs that are suited for corporate worship. There was a day when every song in the hymnal was “New” and a congregation had to decide to try it.

    Older folks and younger folks need common ground. I hope we can find it.

    Reply
  40. Matt
    Nov 21 2014

    This is a great article and I completely agree with the author. There’s a lot of wisdom in those 9 points.

    Reply
  41. Tedd
    Nov 21 2014

    The most serious problem I have with the singing is how the worship leader keeps inserting comments into the songs. “Come on, sing it out.” “Sing this next verse with Amy.” And, even though the words are on the screen, he repeatedly tells us what the next phrase is.

    There’s a lot of phrases that he adds to indicate agreement with the words just sung. Song “We love You, Lord” Worship leader “Yes we do!”

    I’ve gotten to the point where I count the number of times he inserts himself into the singing. It’s usually around 25 times during the singing. (One song had 27 interruptions.)

    It is almost impossible for me to focus on the singing anymore. It feels manipulative and I’m getting whiplash from just beginning to hear/sing/get into the song and be jerked back to the stage to hear the worship leader’s new idea or comment.

    It doesn’t make any difference if it is traditional or contemporary. When we do a traditional hymn, there are two additional distractions. They are usually sung at about 6/10ths speed and most of the time somebody has added some sort of new chorus or lines.

    Reply
    • Matt
      Nov 21 2014

      great comment: completely agree

      Reply
    • Tina
      Nov 23 2014

      THIS! This drives me crazy. It is not necessary for the worship leader to tell me the words to the next line when they are on the screen! Just sing, please!!

      Reply
      • Kathryn
        Nov 24 2014

        While I mostly agree with you that it can be irritating, I just want to point out that sometimes it may be habit. 15 years ago when we didn’t have a projector and my pastor would be leading the singing, he would often say the next phrase of the song so that people who didn’t know the song could sing along…now, he still does it, but it’s probably habitual. I also have blind friends who obviously can’t read the screen, so saying the phrase is helpful for them if they’ve never heard the song before.

        Reply
    • Mary
      Nov 24 2014

      This is an interesting comment. I am a music director at a church where I lead traditional as well as contemporary music. I grew up listening to tapes of Don Moen telling everyone what the next line of the song was. My brother and I made fun of that practice and giggled endlessly at the Integrity/Hosanna albums, although we actually enjoyed the songs themselves. I hate talking during songs, so I never chose to do it myself – I figured the words were up there on the screen, so read them! But I recently found that apparently there are people in the congregation who were not sure whether they were always supposed to sing or not and needed the encouragement of the words so they’d know, YES, WE WANT YOU TO SING WITH THE BAND (Despite the fact that we tell them to sing with us each week). It does seem to help bring them in at the right time and encourage them to sing.

      I personally STILL hate doing it (I feel ridiculous and condescending), but I will continue, as I believe one of my purposes is to encourage congregational singing, not congregational observation.

      Reply
    • Luke
      Nov 24 2014

      While some leaders can get into overkill with how often they insert themselves, it’s often those very insertions that are helping to encourage people to be a singing congregation. Speaking the verse just before it starts is a way of helping people know when to come back into the song. Points #6 and #9!

      Reply
  42. Bill Worley
    Nov 20 2014

    if churches aren’t including the great traditional hymns in their worship, they are forsaking some rich and beautiful worship music. Moreover, unless your entire congregation is brand new young people, you are ignoring parts of your body by ignoring music that truly speaks yo them. There should be room for both.

    I think some places have strayed perilously far from being worship bands, to just being bands. Our corporate worship time should be about uniting as brothers and sisters to glorify and praise our God and our Savior. It’s not about your cool licks and fancy vocal runs. It should be about experiencing life around the throne of our Heavenly Father.

    Reply
    • michael morkert
      Nov 21 2014

      Bill…you are missing the point…whether it’s the traditional hymns or a new song it’s the heart of the worshiper and NOT the style. I feel the same way as this article…I hear these words too many times…”put your hands together” and “let me hear you”…while these are mean to encourage participation they do little or nothing to create the heart of worship.

      Reply
      • Mary
        Nov 24 2014

        Michael – I get what you are saying, but I think the struggle of the worship leader is that we aren’t sure how else to get people to participate…so we issue these statements because we don’t want it to be just the band singing.

        It seems very necessary to encourage people to sing because there are many, many folks that tell me they like to come and “be entertained” at our contemporary service. I am horrified by these kind of statements and feel that I must do SOMETHING to remind them that we want them to participate. The effort behind it is meant to get them to not only sing, but that the act of singing these meaningful words will touch their hearts and prepare them to hear the message and Scripture of the day.

        Having a “heart of worship” is a personal choice by each individual. The band certainly can’t “make it happen”. But I do think that people appreciate having a leader encourage them. At least I hope so.

        Reply
  43. Kelli Arrowsmith
    Nov 20 2014

    I was very sad when my teenage daughters who attended church with myself and my parents helped teach Sunday school and started a youth group in our church and were even on the church council had never heard “Amazing Grace” until they attend a funeral. I got an old hymnal and played “Rock of Ages” “the Old Rugged Cross” “onward Christian Soilders”. They hadn’t heard any of these.

    In our efforts to include “new” music, my daughters had been deprived of the classics.

    Reply

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