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June 11, 2014

55

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 tavern 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 churches disposal increased exponentially.

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).

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 schizophrenic 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.

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55 Comments Post a comment
  1. Vickchick57
    Jun 12 2014

    Amen, Amen and AMEN!!!!!

  2. NIck
    Jun 12 2014

    You appear to have no understanding of Christian history and what true worship really is as practiced by our Lord, His Apostles, their successors, and His Catholic Church.

    The Mass is not “for the people”, but rather FOR GOD. The Mass was not contrived form thin air, it is part of the Sacred Tradition of the Church and is spoken of in Sacred Scripture. The first Mass took place at the Last Supper and has since been handed down and practiced by the Twelve and all of their holy successors.

    Any liturgy that deviates from the sacrifice of the Mass fails to truly honor God. I’m sure our Lord, as He offered his Body and Blood as the new and everlasting covenant; saying “do this in remembrance of me” would be happy to see ‘Christians’ ‘worshiping’ Him with electric guitars and jumbo-tron karaoke screens.

  3. Jun 12 2014

    Thank you for a ministry-focused, intensive diagnostic on an issue that is an epidemic. One further assessment I would offer from my training at the Institute of Worship Studies (www.iwsfla.org) is the tendency to value style of music over the scriptural focus of the day and the hymns, songs, refrains, and even chant tunes that pertain to it. It is a worthwhile exercise to take stock of the songs used and ask “if someone looked only at these songs, how many centuries or generations of the Christian faith are celebrated? How many cultures are represented?

  4. Jun 13 2014

    So very true. Each of these is a very common occurrence and really makes praise music difficult to follow or sing. Your article is a very good reminder for our praise bands!

  5. Ang
    Jun 13 2014

    Or maybe, because of spiritual abuse, more people would prefer to remain safe (not in a church building environment).

  6. David
    Jun 13 2014

    I don’t play the guitar. I play the piano, but my church doesn’t expect me to. They hired me to LEAD the congregation in music, and I find it much easier without an instrument in front of me.

    I can engage the congregation more easily because I’m not concerned with putting my fingers in the correct spots on the keyboard or guitar. I also tend to move around a bit so I engage more than the middle aisle of the church. But I expect them to sing, and it’s quite evident! That’s not to say that people can’t lead with a guitar, but in my case I am free to concentrate on one thing: Getting the congregation to focus on the reason we’re together.

  7. Kristin
    Jun 13 2014

    Worship is a matter of the heart. If you are connected to Jesus you will worship, whether the song is fast, slow, loud, soft, old, new… your heart will cry out to worship the Living King. Worship leaders are charged with creating an atmosphere that promotes reflection and worship, but there will only be true worship when the people in the pews have met Jesus and are living in a dynamic relationship with Him.

  8. Mike Hanks
    Jun 13 2014

    This is a great article. I will submit it to the elders and ministers. Our congregation is not responding well to the current worship songs. Maybe something can be done about some of the suggestions.

  9. jkeyboard
    Jun 13 2014

    Acoustics also matter. Large carpeted modern spaces and loud instruments demand amplified worship leaders; congregants can barely be heard and must strain to hear their neighbors. Conversely, smaller, old fashioned wood and stone churches, even storefronts, are resonant and easily lent to congregational singing in a reverberant space.

  10. Nick Byrd
    Jun 14 2014

    I stopped singing because I didn’t understand what I was singing about, especially the metaphors. The words did not seem to be meaningful upon analysis, or analysis revealed multiple meanings, or analysis revealed something not not worth singing about. In other words, if I thought about it, I couldn’t keep singing (which makes sense given that many “worship” services are, by design, emotional, rather than intellectual or analytical).

  11. Jonathan Nichols
    Jun 14 2014

    FANTASTIC ARTICLE!!! Having had the opportunity to lead worship for the last twenty years, I have seen many of these issues come to light. I have especially witnessed this first hand in the last six months, having stepped out back from ministry and gone to observe other music ministries in our area. Kenny, you have put to paper what I have been struggling with for many months. “Why is there such a disconnect during the worship? Where has the corporate worship spirit gone?”. Thank you for answering my questions! Now back to work preparing “meaningful and participatory” worship!

  12. James Lowery
    Jun 14 2014

    Your reference to “simple tavern tunes” is an oft-repeated, little-researched reference to the “bar form” of Lutheran chorales. “Bar form” does not refer to the SOURCE of these tunes- the ‘tavern’ was not a saloon which specialized in low lights, and alcohol; Bach wrote cantatas to be performed in the ‘taverns.’ Luther wanted his tune-writers to emulate the serious composers of his day. The term ‘bar-form’ refers to the way the tune is put together, the ‘architecture’ of the tune: One phrase (A), repeated (A), followed by a different phrase (B). See http://faithreasons.net/uploads/Luther%20and%20Bar%20Song.pdf for an excellent discussion of this topic.

  13. Vickie
    Jun 14 2014

    Best thing I’ve ever read to explain this – thanks!

  14. Jun 14 2014

    Great article, especially re: No. 4, excessive amplification. Are we like the priests of Baal, thinking God is deaf and we must crank up the volume for Him to hear us?

    One thing, though: Not “tavern tunes,” but “bar songs.” As in the AABA musical form. See this article, which is one among many others on the subject:

    http://steadfastlutherans.org/?p=12198

  15. Joy Baker
    Jun 14 2014

    You left out the problem for older people of having to stand for 30 minutes during the song service, and being unable to see the screen with the words because of tall people in the row in front of them.
    Many worship songs are doctrinally incorrect. Poetic, yes. But the value in congregational singing is one reads the words, sings the words, and hears them all at one time, imprinting the message on their mind. Without that, a potent teaching trool is lost.

  16. John
    Jun 14 2014

    An overlooked problem is that almost all the contemporary songs used today do not have the type of structure that lends itself to group singing. While traditional hymns have an orderly arrangement of stanzas with or without a chorus or refrain, many of today’s songs have loosely organized verses interspersed with repeats, bridges, codas, oddball endings, and other confusing elements. In addition, hymns have more or less standardized melodies and harmonies that lend themselves to memorization, while much modern music majors on obscure chord progressions and riffs that are simply unsingable to most people.

    Even with the words on the screen, worshipers are unable to keep up with where you are in the song. Without musical notes (as in a hymnal) even experienced musicians are often at a loss. Without a regular meter, without a standard type of musical line within a predictable vocal range, without the chordal structure underneath the words as in hymns — it’s a wonder anyone ever learns such a song.

    The first commenter above (Catholic) is also on to something. While traditional worship is built around a “liturgy” of one kind or another, including weekly communion (or mass) in many churches, and including responsive readings, the Lord’s Prayer, and other elements that involve the people, a contemporary service is often nothing more than a string of songs then a sermon and another song or two. If a person gets through the whole service without ever recognizing or singing even one song, he leaves the building without having participated at all. No wonder much modern worship leaves people feeling empty.

    I pray for an eventual return to traditional music and ways of worship. Not that we need to go back to the boring, meaningless stuff that has been passed off as traditional worship in some times and places, but a newly revitalized worship built around traditional structures and using music that people can actually sing.

    Then we will give the people back their voice.

  17. John
    Jun 14 2014

    I might add to my already lengthy response above, modern instrumentation in contemporary services does not aid singing in the same way that the traditional organ does. We now live in an almost post-organ era, with a lot of people today having never attended a worship service in which the organ “leads” the hymns in a powerful way.

    Nowadays it is popular for music leaders to put down the organ as some kind of antiquated instrument, but in fact it WAS the instrument of the church for several hundred years until the contemporary worship movement began to displace organs about 25 years ago. We are losing something very important and useful.

    If you have never heard a worship service employing a truly wonderful organ, you should make a point of seeking out such a service and see if your opinion of the instrument is not changed.

  18. Vince
    Jun 14 2014

    Good Article… What we need to remember is that ‘Worship’ is for the Pleasure of ‘One’… The LORD God… It is not entertainment for the Congregants… When we approach ‘Worship’ it should be orderly, and designed for The Glory of God… Everything we do in Worship is for His Glory and Pleasure; Our Prayers; Our Creedal Confessions; Scripture Reading; The Preaching of The Word, and Our Singing… It is all for him; and when we are uplifted by our Worship Personally, by The Spirit, it is because The LORD is pleased and He Graciously pours out His Love, and Grace upon us. especially in our participation of The Eucharist…

    It was He who said to the woman at the well… “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John: 4:23b-24)

    I am glad I attend a Semi-Liturgical Service, there is a reverence and awe for God that one may loose in Contemporary Settings… And we sing, from The Hymnal and Spiritual New Songs… This is not a criticism, just an observation…

  19. Krummyhorn
    Jun 14 2014

    So many opinions to ponder here. For me personally, I agree with John – there is nothing more moving than the sound of a mighty organ playing one of the great hymns of the church. With all of the contemporary worship, organs have been displaced, and competent organists capable of making an organ truly sing are far and few in between.

    I also feel that people are getting tired of contemporary worship in general. When it became “mainstream” some thirty or so years ago it had a tremendous “novelty” factor. We began to “feel good” about our worship and our “feelings” associated with it became our primary judge as to whether it was good or not. But today it seems that many congregations are not happy with the contemporary worship styles. Is it, perhaps, because for the past several decades we fed their “feelings,” but not their needs? Have we made made our worship to “meet them where they are,” rather than to “lift them up and draw them out of this world?”

    As for me, I prefer to be drawn out of this world in worship rather than attending a Christian/Liturgical pep rally with the occasional tender moment.

  20. emmy bonja
    Jun 15 2014

    Thank you for your well-put insight. W have experienced most of what you described in our decades in the church. Then we came to a small town in Central Oregon which knows how to use current technology as needed, but has turned back the clock on what is happening with a worship leader who leads worship!!!

  21. morgan
    Jun 15 2014

    Great list, but missing a few things besides the nine stated reasons:

    10) Songs are written way too simply these days. The same few words repeated over and over 3 times in a chorus, followed by a bridge which is just a variation of the world “Hallelujah”. Is our society that dumbed down? Can we get some intelligently written songs that don’t all sound the same?

    11) Speaking of sounding the same, Christian music has the same “sound” to it. You can instantly identify Air1 just from the music, without hearing any lyrics. Why is it so homogenous?

    12) Lack of direction from the worship leader, besides stand and be seated. Plus worship leaders are scared to put people in a place where they feel vulnerable, like just having some hang time to reflect / pray, exercise spiritual gifts, etc. Or perhaps the worship leaders just aren’t qualified beyond having a decent voice and an acoustic guitar.

    13) Oftentimes, senior pastors have way too much input or control over doing the worship leaders job. Enough said.

    14) Nothing spontaneous ever happens. it’s always 20 mins of worship followed by 40 mins of message, then an outro song and done. So rote. It would be so cool to see some variation.

    15) There’s a lot of discrepancy out there about whether musicians should be paid or not paid for the leading of worship. By paying, I have discovered you often create a corporate mindset that leading worship is a job. It’s not a bad thing if it can be coupled with a sincere heart. But I have seen TONS of half-hearted musicians rolling out of bed 30 mins late to come perform and collect a paycheck. Why churches tolerate this I don’t know, but it DOES have an effect on the worship.

    I’m sure there are more. Sorry to chime-in so long winded but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and you posted a really good list!

  22. Jeanna Sebald
    Jun 15 2014

    Unfortunately many of the new songs being sung in church have meaningless words sung over and over. They are often so lacking in originality of tune you can begin to pick out what the melody will be even though you have never heard the song before. Sadly, many of the old hymns have had their lovely lyrics and melody shredded by those who feel they improve the song by changing the rhythm, adding bits of this or that old hymn to make it see more Godly. And, yes, so loud one cannot only not hear their neighbor sing, but cannot hear themselves.
    It is said that God loves any kind of music that comes from a pure heart, but are we really bringing our best to Him with ditties we can knock off in ten minutes?

  23. Tom Doak
    Jun 15 2014

    I guess I need to thank God for the church He has led us to. Our worship leader does a wonderful job leading worship to our awesome God. Some days the congregational singing takes my breath away, it seems like a foretaste of heaven. The music does not overpower the church and he teaches new songs by having a song of the month, which are later drawn on for worship.

  24. Christopher Hadley, S.J.
    Jun 15 2014

    Great article, and right on the money. As a Catholic priest, I would have to agree with all of the author’s 9 points. And in response to one of the first comments above, I do not believe the author was saying that the liturgy was done “for the people” in the sense of entertaining them or even edifying them, but rather, it was carried out by professionals so that the congregation did not have to do anything other than show up and pray their devotionals. I would have to say, he is right. (The commenter Nick is also right, in that liturgy should be done by the people for God, and more importantly, because God always does the liturgy for the people first. Liturgy should never be done by people “for each other,” in either the sense of entertainment or of relieving them of their duty to offer God praise.)

    The author is also right in that we are sadly returning to a time when ministers and choirs do everything and the congregation just sits and watches. And hopefully prays. But that’s not what liturgy is supposed to be, no matter what church or rite. The Catholic teaching on liturgy is that the people have a duty to gather on Sunday as One Body of Christ to praise the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. The hymns and prayers should be offered in a way that facilitates active participation by all the congregation, so that they can pray with their minds, hearts, and bodies. For Catholics, that means receiving the Eucharist, but it also always means bowing, kneeling, and singing.

    My main two worshipping communities, a Byzantine-rite parish and a very lively Latin-rite student-run campus ministry, both have the tools and the will to combat most if not all of the author’s 9 obstacles, and as a result, these two congregations sing and pray very well together. But it is a huge problem in the wider Catholic church, and I appreciate my Baptist brother’s very excellent words here.

  25. Sue Trigger
    Jun 15 2014

    I would like to add just one more perspective. I am a classically trained singer. I LOVE to sing in worship! However; I read music and when a song I don’t know is posted on a screen with only the lyrics, I’m lost. Teaching it helps, but it feels awkward and uncomfortable. I am able to sing praises better with a hymnal or songbook in my hands. I think your article may make the case for a core hymnal or songbook that may be updated after a time.

  26. Patricia Morrish
    Jun 16 2014

    You are mistaken about worship before the reformation. The early church from the time of Christ until the reformation, and the Orthodox church and many Eastern Rite churches today did not and do not have any instrumentation. All hymns were and are sung by the people a- Capella. The hymns, Troparions and Kontakions were meant to convey the theology of the church and celebrate the saints and martyrs. Often then, as today, the hymns were Psalms set to music and the people often sang them as they walked to the worship place.
    Other than that– I agree. We left the Protestant church and have become Orthodox because of the “worship.” God does inhabit the praises of his people so I’m not implying that God is not receiving what is offered in contemporary worship, or that it isn’t meaningful to some, but we found it was getting to distracting, loud, and meaningless for us– like mantras. Personally, it wasn’t just the music– the element of mystery and Holiness seems to have gone missing as well. It’s very disturbing to see a Starbuck’s coffee cup sitting next to the chalice on the stage on Sunday morning while the pastor gives his “talk” . Just could not do it anymore.

  27. Mark
    Jun 16 2014

    Reading the comments just shows why worship wars divide a church. Everyone has an opinion of what worship music should be and is. It’s so sad to see this foothold that Satan has on the Church, dividing congregations and generations over a song selection or key choice, or tempo, or volume. As one blogger (Kristin) commented, “worship is a matter of the heart.”

    God’s word instructs us to prepare ourselves for the worship of the Lord. This should not be the 30 seconds before the first song of the Sunday worship service, but should begin early that morning, or even the night before. Meditate on God’ word and His greatness, and it will spur on your desire to worship and praise Him with jubilant song and with excitement. The Psalms also say to sing joyfully and to sing a new song to the Lord. Many times this was done on the spot and people would cry out to the Lord in whatever fashion they could – some were very musical and some very non-musical. But it truly is a matter of the heart. If people are not engaging in song then they are denying themselves communion with God – and unity with fellow believers.

    Like preparing to watch a football game, we don’t just show up having no idea who the team is or what sport is being played. No. Most people study the stats of the teams and plan out the day, what they’ll wear, where they’ll eat, when they’ll leave — (to make sure they’re early) — and so on. But when it comes to church people just arrive expecting that the moment they step foot in the door of the church ….

    Nevermind.

  28. Craig
    Jun 16 2014

    I have a question about “music” mentioned in reason # 4

    Where in the Bible is the New Testament church authorized to use music in its worship?

    I found these scriptures:

    Ephesians 5:19
    Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    Colossians 3:16
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

    but there is no mention of “music”. I’m assuming “music to loud” refers to something that it is being generated by something other than vocal cords.

    How could mechanically generated music be in agreement with these scriptures?

    Can mechanically generated music teach or admonish one another?

    Can mechanically generated music sing from its heart, from its soul?

    Does the NT authorize the use of mechanically generated music in worship? If so, where?

    How does God feel about unauthorized worship?

    Numbers 3:4
    Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.

    Mark 7:7
    They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

    Matthew 7:21-23
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  29. Tim Hurley
    Jun 16 2014

    The article listed Nine things worship teams do to quench congregational participation. While reading it, and then the Psalms for awhile…a sense of conviction hit as to what might be happening from the other side of the microphone, preventing congregants from lifting their voices in praise to our King. Having experienced both sides, here are nine things I can identify in my own heart that can quench, nullify and grieve the person of the Holy Spirit, commissioned by Father to further His Kingdom.

    1) A soul too full of sin to enter in.

    2) When a (dis)comfort level takes precedence over anything else.

    3) Worshipping the worship, resulting in murmuring when a certain song, (be it a hymn or a contemporary expression of praise) is played or not played.

    4) Bereft of the gift of desperation, not putting forth the effort required to lift up a sacrifice of praise

    5) A critical spirit bent on taking inventory of the musicians and singers in lieu of allowing God to examine my heart

    6) Going a whole week without reading the Word

    7) Going that same week without praising God in gratitude for all He is

    8) An unrealistic expectation that the worship team/and or/pastor should fix that which I’ve neglected, ignored, resisted or rebelled against.

    9) Coming to church week after week without contributing anything to the local church, whether that be tithes, encouragement, service work, or any personal gift being neutered as the result of unconfessed sin and an unrepentant heart.

  30. Justin
    Jun 17 2014

    This article makes some very good points. These issues out of balance can definitely hinder congregational singing. My only concern arises as it appears ALL the reasons people aren’t singing are attributed to the worship leader and his choices. This article seems to get a lot of Amens by people who are obviously disgruntled that their flavor of song isn’t being offered to them each week. While this article does raise very real concerns, I would suggest a lot of the reason people aren’t singing is due to their relationship with Christ. Do we enter corporate worship with clean hands and a confessed heart as one who is entering the presence of the King of kings? Do we live lives Monday-Saturday as living sacrifices? Do we enter worship with anticipation for how God will work through Christ-centered songs? Maybe Christian apathy we see in North America is closely related to this issue. Maybe nominal Christian (if there is such a thing) who don’t display the fruits of the Spirit or spiritual disciplines throughout the week just want to point a finger at someone else for their lack of personal worship. Perhaps another article could be written regarding the 9 reasons worshipers don’t sing as related to their own spiritual condition.

  31. Justin
    Jun 17 2014

    In response to Craig’s comments above, I notice a bit of sarcasm in the tone lol. It seems you are obviously using the silence of the NT on the use of instruments to negate their value. I find it interesting you choose to neglect the varying forms of instrumental worship in the OT, but then you qualify God’s response to unauthorized worship by using an example from the OT… interesting. I’m not even sure how you made this comment on this blog. Nowhere in the NT does it mention to encourage or rebuke teaching by use of electronics such as computer.

  32. Ted Meberg
    Jun 18 2014

    Why does “worship”, by default, always refer to music? There is so much more to worship, than what passes for music in the 21st century Evangelical church. Recent visits to a couple of more liturgical churches, have been like a breath of fresh air, as far as meaningful worship is concerned.

  33. Jun 18 2014

    As always, an insightful and helpful article.

    As a sidenote to Ted Meberg, I agree with you. When I became a Christian – too many years ago to be decent – I absolutely loved the jointly read Church of England affirmation of faith. It had some way of binding the group together with our words combining in a worshipful way. I think contemporary worship music works much more as an individual response (although sung collectively).

  34. Steve Markowitz
    Jun 18 2014

    I hate 7-11 songs!!!! The same 7 words repeated 11 times. Boring!!!!!!

  35. Andy Alverson
    Jun 18 2014

    The Greek word used in the Pauline epistles for psalms is psalmos. Psalmos is defined as a set piece of music, a sacred ode accompanied with the voice, harp or other instruments. There are religious denominations that believe music should not accompany songs in the church. However, the very definition of a psalm refutes that idea.

  36. Jun 18 2014

    Liturgy is “the work of the people” for God. also it is a misnomer to say that the hymns of the Reformation were simple tavern tunes. Luther wrote hymns himself and encouraged the best composers of the day to write for the church as well.

  37. Jeffrey Shoup
    Jun 18 2014

    Just a historical note: Luther and his comrades didn’t use tavern songs, and in many cases avoided replicating popular styles.

    http://faithreasons.net/uploads/Luther%20and%20Bar%20Song.pdf

    Also, the awkward lyrics of many modern worship songs are a deterrent. They lack the signifiers of modern or even premodern popular verse: rhyme, syllabic symmetry, recurrent and focused imagery, etc.

    Often what I’ve seen in the worship of my generation (Gen Y) is stream-of-consciousness lyricism with half-formed images. When Katy Perry and Coldplay have better mastery of verse-to-be-vocalized than worship writers do, we’re in trouble.

    That said, there are hundreds of hymns from the 1800′s and early 1900′s that simply aren’t very good. Hymns aren’t necessarily better. Time tends to whittle all canons, whether literary or musical or otherwise, down to a representative few that are passed on because of their outstanding merit. We remember the Beatles; we forget Strawberry Alarm Clock. We’ll remember “God of Wonders” in fifty years I suspect, but will has forgotten David Crowder’s entire catalogue.

    As a person in the audience, I’d prefer worship songs with coherent artistry that fit the liturgy (where present) and sermon and other sharing for that service. Even better when the pool of songs doesn’t turn over every three months, so we can have consistency.

    But I for one think the evangelical church ought to bring back liturgy. An entire audience reading a Psalm together is powerful, and what’s more trustworthy for creating a worshipful attitude — the God-breathed words of poets whose work has stood 2500 years, or that of some young buck or doe without even a degree in Scriptural matters?

  38. Justin
    Jun 19 2014

    There are a lot of comments here regarding the organ as being the most appropriate and best suited instrument for the church. Some language above seems to almost equate “replacing” it with a band of modern instruments to heresy. When and why did the organ take a prominent role in the church? There used to be quite a bit of instrumentation in the church. Imagine that… the God who created all we see might actually like diversity. Then some folks decided people playing instruments were receiving glory and suddenly instruments became the devil. Insert decades and centuries of a cappella singing in churches. Slowly, the organ became accepted as a “band in a box” instrument. Have you ever looked at the stops on an organ? You have trumpets, flute, oboe, etc. The organ worked its way in as being able to play many instruments by using just one instrument. Now, it seems like because grandma played an organ in one’s church from the time they were born, they assume the organ has been around forever and is the best instrument for worship. People don’t realize that hymns carols like Silent Night were first written for and played on a guitar. And beloved hymns like At the Cross are actually hymns from hundred years earlier (Alas and Did My Savior Bleed) with a modified melody, altered text, and an awkward chorus added. And folks love their gospel church piano but don’t realize great hymns like When I Survey the Wondrous Cross were actually written before the invention of the piano forte and certain well before it’s acceptance in churches.
    A long time ago, missionaries went to Africa and told new converts they now must wears suits in church and sing Amazing Grace. The only problem was that music wasn’t their heart language and nowhere near their context. Not everyone grew up with piano and organ playing hymns. Our country is very different now than it was even 20 or 30 years ago. That’s why I believe a lot of these comments are erroneous simply because they don’t seem to take into context a missional view of worship. Is our worship for God? Certainly. But we the people are the active participants. Maybe each church should judge their style of worship by the people in their context (church as well as community) and stop judging others worship styles and imposing and “right and wrong” mentality. Just some thoughts… I’m sure if anyone reads this lengthy comment it will stir some emotion. Any thoughts?

  39. Craig
    Jun 19 2014

    In response to Justin’s post above. I find it interesting that people refer back to the OT for authorization to use “acts” of worship THEY want to use in NT worship. Using this logic opens the door for ALL forms of OT worship including animal sacrifice or risk being exposed as divisive.

  40. Jun 19 2014

    Wow! I didn’t realize so many people hate on the way music is done in the modern church. As a worship leader for more than 10 years, the idea of the church being able to sing together is near-and-dear to my heart. One of my biggest goals is to find music that people can sing together, regardless of when they were written.
    (Just as a quick note: I’ve discovered that un-churched people tend to sing the hymns better than the modern stuff)
    I find it very interesting how so many people are quick to bash the music itself, and more-so elevate an older way of singing. I really thought the so-called “Worship Wars” were done and over with, but apparently this is not the case.
    In all honestly, I strongly believe that the type of music should be dictated by context. Are hymns better than modern worship songs? Yes and No. Are modern worship songs better than hymns? Yes and No.
    I believe there are two issues that the article doesn’t touch on that are at the heart of the real issue. I believe this article has some great things to think about, but have failed to really look at two of the most important factors in why people don’t sing.
    1. Song leaders don’t know how to lead. Much of what was mentioned are symptoms of this issue. But I think when all is said and done, the church is looking to hire talented musicians as opposed to talented leaders.
    2. Our culture is less musical than generations past. People do not sing like they used to. Most men have no idea how to dance. Many people don’t sing in the shower, sing in their cars, or sing to anything. If they don’t sing throughout their life, why would they sing at church? If you were to put a hymnal in most people’s hands, they would have no clue where to start in reading music.
    As church leaders we need to stop being so negative toward other styles or strategies in leading people to lift up their voice in praise to our Creator. We need to work on inspiring and encouraging and equipping people to do so.
    Perhaps the issue isn’t with the music, but rather with those involved in the music.

  41. Andrew
    Jun 19 2014

    I’m sorry to hear that people aren’t singing in your church. However, this post appears to be a list of personal pet peeves rather than objective observations.

    I must have missed the part where you cited evidence that people are singing less in church services. My anecdotal experience is the opposite. Worship is huge and one of the main reasons people will attend one church instead of another. The churches with more modern worship, large bands, and thumping bass appear to be growing. Those with a “common body of hymnody”, organ, and unamplified sound are whithering. People are not only singing, they are shouting, clapping, and jumping up and down with joy to their Savior!

    This blog post does have a few points that worship leaders need to remember, but this has always been the case:
    -make worship accessible (keys, song choice, clear melody)
    -connect with your people
    -let people hear each other at least some of the time

    However, congregational response has more to do with really connecting with the presence of God. If we welcome His presence and make worship about Him, people will respond.

    At our church not only are people singing, but they are repenting, getting healed, and having their hearts softened before the preaching even begins. Then the Word of God is preached powerfully and we worship some more as people respond.

    I’m sorry to hear that this isn’t the case in your church.

  42. R.F. McKinney
    Jun 20 2014

    You nailed it brother,worship should be directed toward GOD and his leadership by the HOLY SPIRIT and not programs, and praise bands!

  43. Craig
    Jun 20 2014

    See this is what SO many people have lost sight of. There are only 5 acts of worship authorized in the NT. Singing, prayer, Preaching, Lords Supper, Collection for the Saints. No where does the NT approve or authorize shouting, clapping, or jumping up and down. Placing a label of “with joy to their Savior” on these un-authorized additions to NT worship does not make them okay.

    The OT teaches us that there is a worship that is acceptable to God and there is a worship that is not.

    Numbers 3:4
    Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.

    Before you stand up and attempt to support YOUR desire to have ANYTHING other than the 5 acts authorized in the NT in your worship please read these scriptures:

    Matthew 7:21-23
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Mark 7:7
    They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

    Who are these people who THINK they are worshiping God in a manner that pleases Him?

    If we can add anything we want to our worship simply because we THINK we are improving on the NT pattern, or WE like the way it makes US feel, then who’s worship is vain in Mark 7:7?

    Who THOUGHT they were doing the work of the Lord in Matt. 7:21 when in reality they were not?

  44. Jun 21 2014

    Some good points here…for some churches. Very, very over-generalized, however. Not the experience of my congregation at all. Feels more like a list of pet peeves about one’s own congregation.

  45. Catholic
    Jun 21 2014

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

    In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value.

    We need a true understanding of what worship is. If we think singing is enough, we are sadly mistaken.

  46. Justin
    Jun 23 2014

    Dear Craig, understanding some truths regarding God in the OT as relevant today does not mean one has to embrace ALL OT acts of worship from the OT. What it means is one has to understand the principle from the OT and apply it. Did God’s covenant with His people change? Duh of course. Did God change? Obviously not. Why don’t you explain your view point further with either Scripture or logic. Why does silence on issues in the New Testament mean they aren’t allow? When the Psalm writes, “Praise Him on the lyric, harp, tambourine…” Does that mean in the OT they were only allowed to use those specific instruments? Of course not lol. In fact… now that I think about it… Jesus walked everywhere except his final entry into Jerusalem. Do people think you’re weird when you tell them you don’t drive a vehicle because it’s unbiblical?

  47. Laura Millward
    Jun 25 2014

    My past church has a congregation that did not need any over amplified bad voices drowning us out. Does not need screens on the wall where there is no music to read and the words are not always correct. Or someone, after the song is over standing up in front singing the same chorus over and over again entertaining us. We kept it simple and beautiful offering excellent praise and thanksgiving to The Lord. Using printed music so even if you were not a music is you had an idea of if your voice was to go up or down in range. Our voices were lifted up in praise. The music is to guide us not over power us. All things in excellence, not loudness, to our Lord.

  48. Joseph Forster
    Jun 26 2014

    Good thoughts. Just one comment if in defense of the Reformation: there were no “tavern tunes” used in reformation hymnody. No confirmed examples and no evidence for this. In fact, many of the tunes used were simplifications of chants that had been used in th Church for generations. While they reformed the way church music was done, it was not a complete revolution or break with the past. Luther, who is often credited with introducing “bar tunes” would hav been furious to see frivolous music introduced into the liturgy. If you read his work on music, that becomes pretty clear. :) thanks for your article.

  49. Neil Chaban
    Jun 26 2014

    I recently started projecting the MELODY and words… took some work to create but the congregational response has been awesome! They love having the melody just like in the hymnal or song book!!!! I hope this is the future!

  50. Jun 26 2014

    I would add another point, although it tags onto what you’ve already said: The individual has been isolated from the gathering.

    There are a few reasons for this. One, we’ve decided that the worship is the singing portion of the gathered worship service. Not true. Worship is a response to God’s self-revelation. Any response on behalf of the congregation is a form of worship. We have to stop saying “worship songs.” They’re just songs (hopefully most of them are hymns).

    Secondly, and most importantly, we’ve decided that worship is this individual intimacy with God. Many current songs suggest that congregants are only worshiping if they’re singing directly to God, often in the first person. That’s find when you’re on your own, but that’s not the point of a corporate worship service. You are there to be the collective congregation and together affirm truth about God’s character, not just close your eyes and pretend you’re by yourself. We even manipulate the setting with low lighting and loud music to help people further remove themselves from the group.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oE6gaH9spEc

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