Death of Congregational Singing

Michael Raiter wrote a great article back in April about congregational singing in the church.

It’s time for congregations to sensitively but firmly rise up and reclaim congregational singing. We must remind song leaders (or, perhaps, teach them in the first place) the purpose of their ministry. Putting a microphone in the hands of someone who can sing no more makes her a song leader than, as the old proverb goes, sticking someone in a garage makes him a car. All the microphone does is make someone a very loud singer. The ministry of the song leader is, surely, to guide and lead the people of God in singing. The role of the song leader is to help us to sing, and they will know if they have fulfilled that ministry when they can hardly be heard because of the praises of the congregation filling the room.

The whole thing is really very well written, and covers a lot of points. One of his concluding paragraphs, though, which I quote above really hit home. I’ve been in churches where the worship singing had been turned into a concert performance by the band. Where it didn’t matter if the congregation was singing or not, since all the hardware was on stage to ensure that the singers could hear themselves. And then they’d all jump into the chorus of This is the worship song that never ends…it goes on and on my, friend…we’ll sing this line again and again…

And that’s not good.

I followed the link from Michael Spender to find that article. Michael is even more pointed:

In its place we have a lot of songs that a lot of people don’t know, a lot of bad and unknown tunes, a lot of watching the worship team perform (especially if they are female of the right type and dress), a lot of forgettable, narcissistic lyrics, a lot of bad and inexperienced worship leaders, a lot of bone-headed thinking about congregational singing in relation to church growth, a lot of imitation of churches and methods that most congregations can’t imitate, a lot of lay people who simply don’t know how to sing at all, a lot of churches that don’t teach singing, a lot of turning congregations into audiences anyway and whatever else goes into the stew that does away with congregational singing.

I grew up with hymns. For the longest time, I thought praise choruses were only for when you went to summer camp, since you were in the woods and there was only a guitar. That was why you sang the same chorus 10 times over and over. That’s not to say those camp songs didn’t impact me. Even now, I hear some of them and I get chill bumps because it reminds me of times when God felt very near.

But heck, what if we just unplugged everything? Would our worship be worth less to our Lord? Would the rocks cry out if we were not in tune or off the beat? Amazing Grace, a cappella anyone?

Make a joyful noise…