Some subjects touch a nerve. I’m pretty sure this one hit an artery!
The discussion went on for days. Last week’s blog was entitled, “7 Reasons That Churches Don’t Sing.” The 7 reasons we explored were:
- Because the song leader is not singing.
- Because they don’t know the songs.
- Because they want a hymn.
- Because the songs are too complicated.
- Because the music is too loud.
- Because they feel manipulated.
- Because we need to love the God we sing about.
Now, I noticed that much of the discussion about congregational singing last week had a generational slant to it. I understand. I grew up in the 60s and 70s, B.P.T. (Before Praise Teams). On Saturday mornings in churches everywhere, there was a chorister who led the morning hymn. On Sunday morning an old, and I do mean old, deacon led out the devotion at the Baptist church. And over at Temple of Deliverance, a “mother” armed only with a tambourine, was wrecking the house.
Well, a number of things have changed since those days. Some good and some bad. But the result seems to be less congregational singing. So let’s look at 3 more unscientific but undeniable reasons that some churches don’t sing.
1. Because the songs are in a bad key.
A bad key can hurt a good song. I remember growing up hearing one person after another die a slow painful death singing, “He Looked Beyond My Faults” (Amazing Grace). You know the song, “Amazing grace, shall always be my song of praise…” Now for me, as soon as I heard the first note, I knew that when they got to “How Marvelous!”, somebody was going to be laughing! (I’m not proud of myself.) Correct keys are absolutely critical.
Certain worship songs and hymns demand to be transposed. While I was writing this blog I got a text from my absolute favorite pianist of all time, Gale Jones Murphy. We grew up singing and worshipping together in Memphis. She reminded me that the hymnal that most Adventist churches use was published in 1985. The older hymnal that we grew up with had (generally) higher keys. That could be a problem.
The point is this, I’m not a musician, but when the church is singing, and the men are switching octaves, straining necks, and sweating bullets – it’s time to change the key.
2. Because the singers or musicians are unprepared.
Singers and musicians are gifts to the body of Christ. They can frankly make or break a worship service. That’s probably why the Bible puts such emphasis on musicians and worship leaders being skilled (see 1 Chronicles 15:22; 25:7).
Now skill doesn’t make our worship more acceptable to God, but it does demonstrate that we appreciate the gift. Musical skill in the local church is generally a combination of spiritual gift and discipline. One without the other is a problem. And the older I get the more I favor discipline over natural or even spiritual gift. Because I’ve seen too many gifted folk accomplish very little because they won’t practice.
When singers and musicians are unprepared they can be tentative and unsure. It hampers their service. It can literally keep the congregation from experiencing congregational singing and worship at it’s fullest.
3. Because congregational singing is not a priority
People can tell what we value. We prioritize it. We emphasize it. We invest in it. If we want our churches to sing, then our local churches need to make congregational singing a priority. The ways to do that are limited only by our imaginations:
- Praise teams can be sensitive to some of the principles we discussed last week.
- Churches can invest in continuing education, conferences, and workshops for musicians and worship leaders. Put your money where your mouth is.
- Some churches might want to bring back the hymn of the morning and even purchase new hymnals.
- Church leaders who are on the platform during worship should always participate in congregational singing.
- Unless the song is super-simple or familiar to all, the lyrics should be available for all to see.
- The pastor is the key. He or she can teach the value of congregational singing and encourage the church to sing. But most importantly, the pastor can provide an example by joining the congregation in song.
Finally, let me repeat myself. The issue for the church is not the praise team, soloists, choirs nor congregational singing. They are all marvelous means of expression and worship. They all have their strengths and limitations, but ultimately the same rule should apply to each of them. We would see Jesus!