Six Reasons Congregational Singing Is Waning

Please be nice.

This blog has several million viewers every year, and many of them are not believers. They are watching your interaction with one another.

I know I am touching on several sensitive subjects in one post: the loudness of music; lighting in the worship center; music preferences; and performance versus participatory singing.

But here is the clear reality in many congregations: congregational singing is waning in many churches. In some churches it seems to have disappeared altogether.

I will try to discuss this reality from a dispassionate perspective, at least for the most part. And I don’t consider myself the expert in this area, so I asked the guru of church worship, Mike Harland, to help me understand some of the technical decisions we make.

Ultimately, though, this blog is my own, and I take full responsibility for its content. What then are the primary reasons fewer people are singing in church? Why has that act of worship before God become nominal in so many contexts? Here are six reasons:

  1. Some church members do not prepare themselves for worship. We come to judge, to check off an obligation, or to go through the motions of a habit. We have not prayed for God to do a work in us through the worship. If we do not have a song in our heart, we will not have a song in our mouths.
  2. We don’t know the songs. We sing the songs we know. That is obvious. But if we are introduced to a steady influx of new songs without sufficient time to learn them, we don’t participate. The best congregational singing includes both the familiar and the new, but the worship leaders teach the new songs until we know them and love them.
  3. The songs are not sung in a range where we can participate. Many trained musicians have a wider range in which they can sing. Most of the rest of us don’t. If we are expected to sing in a range that is beyond our ability, we won’t try. Worship leaders make the decision, intentionally or not, if they want to lead the congregation or perform for the audience.
  4. The lighting communicates performance rather than participation. We participate in singing when we can hear each other and see each other. If the lighting for the congregation is low, but it is bright for the platform, we are communicating that a performance is taking place. We thus fail to communicate that the worship by singing should include everyone present.
  5. The music is too loud to hear others in the congregation. There have been quite a few comments at this blog about the right decibel levels for music in a worship service. The greater issue, however, is whether we can hear others. If we hear the voices of others, we are encouraged to join in. If the music is so loud that we only can hear ourselves, most of us will freak out. And we will then be silent.
  6. The worship leaders are not listening to the congregation. If worship leaders truly desire to lead the congregation in singing, they must be able to hear the congregation. Some can only hear the instrumentation and platform voices from the monitors. And some have ear monitors where they are truly blocking the voices of the congregation. Congregational singing becomes powerful when it is well led. And it can only be well led if the worship leaders can hear those they are leading.

Your own perspective about this issue may be one where you really don’t care if the congregation can be heard singing. But if the desire is truly to lift all the voices before God, some things will need to change.

Now it’s your turn to comment. Be kind. Be gentle. Be Christlike.

Posted on October 24, 2016

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Corey Troutt says on

    I just wonder if these are just excuses for the American church. Why do I say this? Have you heard of the country singer Garth Brooks?
    To my amazement with all the lights, fog machines, and music so loud that my ears rang fro hours after. Every song. Old, new, or not even his own. People sang along for nearly 2 hours!
    Let’s stop making excuses, and let’s just worship.
    It’s not about the song, and it’s not about the lights.
    It’s about the AUDIENCE OF ONE! Seems to me, making a sacrifice of praise needs to be applied. (Sorry for the typos. And thanks for the article)


    • Alas, that argument cuts both ways. I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me young people won’t come to church unless we use a contemporary format. Aren’t they equally guilty of making excuses? If the style doesn’t matter, then why do so many people insist on nothing but contemporary worship?

      • Lou-Anne Smith says on

        With regard to young people not coming to church if it’s not contemporary enough for them:

        Let’s assume they’re not even Christians yet. Is anything we’re doing in worship going to make a difference in their lives? Regardless of age, non-Christians entering our worship do not know to prepare their hearts for worship. To say this is great for those of us who are already Christians, and now we’re being exclusive. That’s fine, however, what are we doing in worship to attract non-Christians of all ages? Our mission is not to entertain, no matter the worship style. Our mission is to make disciples.

        From the moment someone new, and let’s ramp it up…DIFFERENT…comes into our building, what are we doing for that person to love them and introduce them to Christ? How are the greeters and ushers treating them? Does the music speak to them? Does the sermon reach into their hearts?

        I might add this: I’m not very sure that our regular attendees are Biblically literate to the degree they should be. What are we doing as pastors and musicians to change that? When we enter the worship place, are we changed and transformed so that we are different when we leave? Or are we honking our horns to get to lunch at 12:01 before the other church goers and then stiffing the waitress at the end of the meal?

        My main concern is that we are attentive to welcoming worship for all ages. Let’s not exclude the less Spiritually mature because they don’t know better, and let’s give up holding on to what we want at the exclusion of another generation. Yes, worship must be authentic, Biblical, and Jesus centered, but it doesn’t have to look the same for everyone. The bigger question could be, not why aren’t people singing, but why are they there, and what have we given them to take away for the week…or for their very lives!

      • Your whole argument seems to be based on the “seeker sensitive” model, which is fallacious. The Bible says no one seeks after God (Romans 3:11). The lost aren’t supposed to “seek” the church; the church is supposed to seek them.

        I repeat, I’m not against contemporary music in and of itself. I do have a quarrel with the phoniness of certain people who promote it. They say, “It’s not about you”, or “God can be worshiped in more than one way”. If that’s true, then why do so many of them invariably insist on doing it their way and no other?

    • I think, sir, you hit the proverbial nail on the head with this one sentence, “It’s about the AUDIENCE OF ONE!” Too often in recent years the focus of worship assemblies in many churches seems to be on the events going on on “stage.” For the last 20 years, I have heard people describe some assemblies this way, “It was not like church, it was like a concert, it was exciting.”

      Yes, exciting, well rehearsed, and theatrics will bring people to a venue, but we must not let the accouterments of staging detract from the One we are there to honor.

  • I’ve found that it is also the case that when the music is too soft, and people feel like they can hear themselves too much, the back off from singing. I think there is a balance. The music and the leader must be at a volume that people feel like they can participate in without feeling like they stand out, but also not too loud to where they are drowned out.

  • Great thought provoking article. May I add a thought. Consider the architecture of your worship center. In many Pentecostal churches the ceiling is low and the sounds of the congregation is easier to hear. Many modern sanctuaries are beautiful and extremely tall and the sound dissipates.

  • If the congregation knows the song, they sing it. If it is just singing a few words six times in a row, people wonder why.

    • That’s a good point. I hate to say this, but some of these newer choruses are just plain tiresome (please note that I said “some” and not “all”).

  • OK – I’m the oddball in this bunch. I am solo Pastor of a traditional Lutheran congregation. Our worship takes a liturgical form, it is led by an organ, and we are in a very traditional sanctuary. The singing of our congregation raises the roof every Sunday. The participation is 100% (I have a good view from the front – the area we call a chancel and you may call a platform). If you don’t believe me, come and see at 9 am any Sunday.
    When I worship in other places where I see a more “contemporary” format, I often see people watching the praise team. I have been in places with a “contemporary” service and I understand how it speaks to many people. What is, however, often lost is the participation of the congregation. My 2 cents for what it is worth.

  • Jan Andersen says on

    Thank you for your perspective. I belong to the Lutheran church, often called the “singing church” because of our historical shift from the old catholic tradition of everything being in Latin before the Reformation. Once the service and music were in the language of the people attending/worshipping, they began singing along joyfully. That being said, even fewer Lutherans are singing, but not for the same reasons you discuss nor to the same degree perhaps as other denominations. The primary reason I see is that the schools no longer teach music like they used to do, so those children being raised today do not have the same musical abilities including using their voice as an instrument.

    • Wanda Tillman says on

      Very valid point. Many things are being taken out of the schools, music both instrumental and voice, being among the first items cut to help with increasing costs. Children are not being raised with “personal music” making music for themselves, they listen to ipods and electronic devices and don’t know how to make music themselves.

      I am in a small church where 35 individuals is considered a “good crowd”. If everyone is there we have 12 in the choir. We sing harmonies whether we are in the choir seats and have 4 or 5present or the congregation. There are times we can see and hear the congregation singing along with the choir (and yes, it is a familiar song), and that makes our day all the more joyous. The older members of the congregation do not like the projected lyrics in part because they are hard to see; with a hymn book one can hold it at an appropriate distance to make reading easier.

      Anything that makes the tune or lyrics harder to access, whether it is volume (too loud or not loud enough), inability to see the words or follow the tune, discourages people from singing.

      Every three months there is a group of churches in my area that get together for the purpose of singing. It has been going on for 35 years at least. In January we reprise a couple of songs from our Christmas cantata, in April it is the Easter cantata, July usually calls for patriotic songs and October will find songs of harvest and thanksgiving. Most of the individuals who attend this event are choir members and we do sing at least two congregational hymns to open and close the service. We aren’t bashful about singing out and it is awesome to hear a church filled with voices lifted in praise and worship. People who have never heard this kind of singing do not know what they are missing out on. None of us are “professionals” though there are many talented and gifted amateurs.

  • Phil Gifford says on

    Thank you for this great post! All these reasons are right on target and I have seen them in church worship ministry consultation throughout Maryland/Delaware. In regards to your second reason about not knowing the worship songs, I believe learning new music has become more difficult in today’s church culture of declining attendance patterns. As early as 5-10 years ago, you could assume a person would learn a new worship song if you played it a couple weeks in a row. Now it can take several months or longer to rotate in a worship song before it really becomes a part of the congregation as a whole. I would be interesting to explore how aspects like attendance regularity has changed elements of worship planning.

    I would add that an understanding of the theology of worship (starting with those in the role of preaching) can go a long way to helping strengthen the worship expression of congergational singing.

    Thanks again for addressing these practical issues!

  • Kent Anderson says on

    Perhaps because I serve a small church, and have served smaller church my entire career it seems that these items are geared more for a large/mega church. Since we do not have the resources to hire a profession worship leader about half of those do not apply to the smaller church. May be one of the reasons singing is on the wane is that there are almost no other venues where sing together other than the church.

    • Tony Watson says on

      I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. I pastor a church that runs about 140 in worship, and I find all of these things are pertinent to our situation. We are in a small town and do a blended style of worship. Even if you only sing out of the hymnal, many of these things are items to consider in planning and leading worship.

  • I think singing them in keys may not be an issue. If those people were to attend a Chris Tomlin concert, passion conference or whatever it may be, they would sing out strong and those keys are even higher than the ones we sing in church. Also there are hymns as well that are in a higher key and they have been sung for years and people still sing them. Now this can be an issue I believe but #1 I think plays into most into this issue. Thanks for sharing.

    • Tony Watson says on

      But how many of the people in the congregation, percentage-wise, are going to those events. Those same people are going to sing heartily, no matter what the key. So, I think this point has validity. I was a Music Minister for 22 years before becoming a Senior Pastor and now in that role as Senior Pastor I’m back to planning worship for my volunteer Worship Pastor. Keys and singable arrangements, I can tell you from experience, DO make a big difference. The songs that are on the radio aren’t always designed to be sung corporately. Some are performance-type songs and those are needed as well, just not for congregational singing.

    • When I was a worship leader, I had to lower the key of nearly all of the songs we used just so I myself could sing them (I’m nowhere near a soprano). I was astounded by how many people (male and female) would come up to me after the service, week after week, and thank me for choosing songs that they could actually sing. Without training, the human voice averages towards alto and baritone/bass. Worship leaders, no matter how much musical/vocal training they’ve had, must consider this.

  • In my years as a worship leader, I would say that 2 and 3 were my biggest issues. I discovered that I needed to repeat those songs over the course of several weeks in the services. I taught them to the choir so they would be voices in the congregation that already knew the music. I later found that the senior adults were asking me when we were going to sing “Jesus, Messiah” again. I was shocked. Now that I am a church member who ministers around, most worship leaders pick guitar-friendly keys over sing-ability. Many have not been trained and honestly are focused on the band being able to pull it off. I’ve been on both sides and understand all that is often considered. I pray that worship leaders will read this and take these nuggets of wisdom and seriously consider them. They would be pleased with the product. A good worship leader wants participation. These are good thoughts to help them along the way.

    • I read some time back that the worship team is getting sick of the song because they practiced it so much about the same time the congregation is just getting used to it. The argument was to slow down the introduction of new music, because your perception is different. I spent several years in choirs and worship teams and have also been just another member of a congregation, and new music, particularly when the worship team’s harmonies are more elaborate, can make it hard to learn the song. At least with the old hymnal, those who can read music can learn the music faster because they can see it. I miss hymnals (well, I own a couple, so they’re not completely lacking in my life). Singing off of a chord chart or a slide on the screen isn’t quite the same thing, and it takes longer to learn songs that way, at least for me.

      • I agree and I’m part of the worship team. For those that do read music, NOT having at least the melody line is frustrating. When we introduce a new song, we first use it as one of our pre-service videos. Then we sing it 3-4 weeks in a row in worship. Then we might drop it down to once every 3-4 weeks, but we try to keep it on the “short list”, provided it is still appropriate for the season and the readings for the week.

    • Matthew,

      Your church still has a CHOIR??

    • Thank you for your insight. I very recently (as in within the last month) became involved in our churches music. We experienced a pastoral change this summer and the church was left with no musicians and a self-proclaimed tone deaf song leader. Now I am playing the flute to go along with the singing. Figuring out which songs to use in the service is my biggest challenge right now. It seems that no one knows the same songs. In a small congregation (10-25) there is no such thing as songs most people know. Our members all come from different church backgrounds.

      • George Seevers says on

        I taught my congregation to sing in parts by seating them in sections on Sunday evening, just during the singing. That’s not feasible in a large church. But you might get a select group of talented singers from the congregation and work with them on the four-part harmony. Then have them spread out in the congregation during the worship service to help the less experienced singers along.

  • I am glad that you started with the one you started with. The most important and primary reason why a worshiper in a congregation is not singing and worship is because their hearts are not tuned.
    And the decibel level and lighting and even range or something that we are experimenting with in our church. What what is interesting is the majority of the “mega” churches that seem to really have a strong worship ministry and are putting out albums of worship songs that the rest of the churches are singing have professional musicians with incredible ranges played at loud volumes underneath great stage lighting in dark rooms. I am not sure how to contrast that with your article .

    • Good point… I also was caught by 4 & 5. Isn’t it possible that a dark crowd and loud music removes any “embarrassment” from someone who doesn’t want to be seen singing?

      Wouldn’t a list of points found from surveys of church attendees that would list themselves as “non-singers” be more valid here than a list of points clearly swayed against the fastest growing churches in the country? I would imagine decreased singing comes in larger churches for one reason – they are made up of ;arge numbers of people who didn’t grow up in church singing hymns every Sunday, they don’t sing in any other environment during the week, so why should we expect them to belt out a few lines next to strangers on a Sunday morning?

      • Yes but sometimes the anonymity you mention spills over into how some view their role in a church. They want to remain detached, and do we really grow spiritually without interaction and encouragement of fellow believers? Balanced lighting makes corporate singing good fellowship training, and I think helps us connect with each other. It is hard to do in the dark. There are also those churches where choirs play such a big role that the congregation is content to be a spectator, even during hymn time. That said, I respect the fact that, for some, singing isn’t comfortable under any circumstances, and purposeful worship can be done within in their hearts and by reading and listening to the words of a doctrine-rich hymn.

      • You’re right, but I’m still not drawing the connection between “I don’t like to sing, so doing it in front of strangers is uncomfortable so I’m glad the lights are dim – if you love to sing then keep bellowing it out” and “I don’t like to sing, so don’t push me away from your service because you have the spotlight on me so people see I’m faking it” 🙂

      • Can we just be clear that people are currently writing doctrinally rich hymns? Just because it is new, doesn’t necessitate that it is doctrinally shallow. E.g. Keith and Kristen Getty

      • Tony Watson says on

        I understand your point, but I think that if you are able to see AND hear the other worshipers singing, you may be more inclined to join in. The dark atmosphere, lends itself to more of a “performance” or concert setting and therefore any singing from the audience is optional. Turn dem lights up!

      • …and the dim lights also reinforce the individualistic nature of our culture and faith…which is not good when compared to the corporate nature of the NT church.

        Dimming the lights can be effective at times, but all the time is not good for “corporate” worship.

      • So I hear you right – you’re saying that if the lights are dim, we are going against the Bible? Jesus somewhere said “Make sure your worship area is well lit”?

      • Christopher says on

        “Men loved the darkness rather than the Light because their deeds were evil.”

      • Christopher – you may want to look up two words – “Eisegesis” and “Legalism”

      • Christopher says on

        Lance – you may want to look up the phrase “tongue in cheek”

      • George Seevers says on

        Correct. After all, Paul wrote that we are to speak to or admonish “one another.” How does that fit with the contemporary worship scene?

    • Craig Giddens says on

      Music is only a small part of a strong worship ministry. A strong worship ministry is centered on Bible centered preaching and teaching.

    • Do you really want to stress anonymity in a corporate worship service. I’m convinced one of the reasons for the decline in singing is that both leaders and the congregation have forgotten the corporate nature of our gatherings. We are not just singing to God. We are singing to each other as one united voice of unity is Spirit and message. It should be stressed that the congregation participation is vital to the service. Corporate worship is not individual by God’s design and I do not believe we should try and make it so.

      Mega churches are producing quality music but that doesn’t mean in turn they are producing quality worshippers.

      • Tony Watson says on

        I agree with this wholeheartedly. Sometimes it’s much more about closing your eyes and having an individual experience rather than experiencing the fellowship of believers, corporately expressing glory to Almighty God.

    • Great comments – I’m on a worship team and I also do lighting for worship. This has been a constant battle and seems to be an age issue too. Many worshippers over the age of 40 want all the lights on and no dimming or speciality lighting during worship stating that they want to see other people. The younger crowd (40 and under) seem to want dim lights in the audience to create intimacy and to be free to worship however they feel without people watching them. Many married couples (especially with toddlers) site reason #1 as the reason they want intimate worship time with dim lighting as they cannot always prepare themselves for worship before hand.

      I do agree that worship should be focused on glorifying God and not on putting on a “Sunday American Idol Concert.” Every song/hymn should be drawn from Scripture and the focus of worship should always be Christ-Centered. However, people connect with God through a variety of mediums during worship – certain lighting colors make people feel a certain way (even if they don’t realize this) and if we can use dim lighting, colored lighting, videos, etc. to help people connect and glorify God better…it’s a positive thing as long as it is done for the right reasons…to glorify God through worship.

      • Christopher says on

        So, in other words, all you’re doing with lighting is manipulating people’s emotions. I’m sorry but that’s not worship. Worship has nothing to do with feeling a certain way because worship is not about us. If someone is looking for a worship “experience” or “feeling” then they are worshiping themselves, not God.

      • Christopher – manipulation is changing behavior for abusive or deceptive reasons. If dimming the lights or using color so people feel more comfortable worshipping, especially those new to the faith or those who have not grown up in the Church, is manipulation…then churches manipulate people every week.

        Giving a first time guest a “gift” to fill out their contact information.

        Putting coffee in the church to “entice” people to come.

        I’m sorry but dimming lights is not manipulating anyone, it’s just creating an environment that some people find more conducive to intimate worship and glorifying God. There’s no “Mind Altering Experiments” being conducted.

      • Christopher says on

        I agree – churches do try to manipulate people every week. What do you think an alter call is all about?

        Besides, dimming lights in order to create more “intimate” worship? C’mon were not on a date. This is suppose to be corporate worship. If you want a spiritual make out session, do that at home.

    • Monte Nichols says on

      But how is the actual congregational singing in some of the mega churches you’ve referenced? Sometimes there are low participation levels. When the people sing enthusiastically in spite of the impediments you can attribute it to No. 1 – – radically saved people who are not holding back!

    • Jeff Jeffries says on

      Of course, if reason 1 is important for the congregation, how much more important that the worship leaders be preparing their hearts beforehand so that they are in a place where they are in tune with the Spirit of God, hearing His voice, and following wherever He may lead?
      Oftentimes God may lead the congregation in a direction that was not planned before the service began. Other times, God begins to plant a seed for what He intends to do in the mind of the worship leader. But this usually happens as the worship leader is seeking the face of God in the days and moments leading up to the worship experience.
      I served as a worship leader with my wife for many years and, I must admit, there were times, when I was asked to lead 3 services a week, that I did not prepare my own heart in the manner that is necessary. I began to rely more and more on the anointing that remained from past experiences instead of actively seeking to create fresh new experiences with God.

  • This is an excellent list and points to things I have said many times over the last 15yrs.

      • Tien DuBose says on

        Just curious how the list came about in the first place. Is it personal observation or the results of scientific polling from an organization such as the Barna group? Also, the premise is not entirely objective–whether or not congregational participation is waning seems to be a subjective generality. Is this based on fact, or simply personal observation? If the latter is the case, then the disagreement among the respondents certainly would be explained. I do appreciate the question as it mirrors the Lord’s conversation with the woman at the well in John 4. But ultimately the real question is in the heart of the worshiper–whether or not they are worshiping in Spirit and in Truth.

      • My wife and I are transitioning from a loud, focused on the stage worship experience to a family based, blended service where the lights remain on in the sanctuary and mosteoporosis people join in the singing. The worship is focused on God and that’s been a blessing. It is important to help everyone learn the songs and that they be sung in a key for all to sing. Thanks Thom.

      • Lorraine Wentworth says on

        I live in Jacksonville Fl and have been searching for a place to worship with traditional hymns can anyone help

      • Carey Vinzant says on

        I think this is a substantive list of concerns, but I think it is (whether intentionally or not) slanted toward critique of contemporary worship. If we take a moment to reflect, these principles do apply to traditional worship as well.

        Point 1 can be true of any church.
        Point 2 is just as possible with obscure hymns as with disposable choruses.
        Point 3 is absolutely true, and not just in terms of range, but also in terms of convoluted melodies and tricky rhythms. At the same time, it applies to traditional hymnody as much as to contemporary music. If something is un-singable for the congregation it is not suitable for corporate worship, no matter who wrote it or when.
        Point 4 paints the picture of stages that look like a rock concert, with big screens and trusses full of lights, but the picture applies just as well to the Willow Creek “auditorium” atmosphere, where the worship space feels like a lecture hall or a place to hear a motivational speaker. It also points to the problem inherent in extremely formal and complicated liturgical worship, such as a Russian Orthodox service with icons, incense, and the majority of the liturgy being said by the celebrant from behind the iconostasis. The message is “You are here to sit and listen.” Lighting and staging are not the only things that communicate performance though. There are a multitude of subtle (or overt) clues that draw attention to the people leading rather pointing the congregation’s focus toward God. That is the heart of the issue. It can manifest itself in flashing lights, but it can just as easily come out in the choice of songs that show everyone just how well the leader can sing or how technically brilliant the instrumentalists are.
        Point 5 is a real problem, but loud drummers and guitar players do not have a monopoly here. Pipe organists are just as guilty of this one.
        Point 6 overlaps with what I said about Point 4, but this should also be said: worship is about solidarity among God’s people. Corporate worship is koinonia given artistic expression, whether that is in the form of music, common prayer, sharing in the sacraments, or even preaching. As someone who grew up in very WASP-y churches, I have to concede that African American congregations often have a culture of preaching that is more a collaboration between the congregation and the preacher than I typically experience. This is equally true of churches in the developing world. The principle is this: worship is meant to engage and involve. I have heard it said, “If you say you are a leader but nobody follows you are just taking a walk.”

      • Wow. Spot. On!

      • George Seevers says on
        Carey, I don’t know whether you are the one that posted that some hymn writer used bar tunes. Nevertheless, the link above explains that the term “bar tune” had nothing to do with saloons or pubs, but referred to a medieval form of musical form. The beer hall comments need to be reconsidered.

      • Daniel Nichols says on

        I agree. Another factor is the building materials chosen which do not reflect sound. Most contemporary spaces rarely have reflective surfaces like your shower that makes it fun to carry a tune. We have to start from scratch and build environments that promote congregational signing. Check out Sovereign Grace Music for the kind of content and humility that promotes singing that anyone can immediately enjoy, hear one another, and proclaim the gospel!

    • Harry Warren says on


    • Donald L. Timberman says on

      You must engage the congregation. Not sure what word that would be used today, but engage, involve them in the worship of our God. Christ is not dead, let us worship in spirit and truth, let us put aside all the things that try to steal our peace. In Paul’s letters to the churches that he wrote to does it ever sound like he is in prison or does he ever dwell on the things that he has suffered for Christ? Are we alive in Christ or not? Victory in Jesus!! Remind God’s children who we are, make us be over come with enthusiasm. Just my two cents, thanks, I’m glad Jesus saved me, just saying!

      • I agree, we have to come prepared to worship! I close my eyes sometimes to keep my concentration on the words I am singing to the Lord and feel his presence and praise him in the Spirit. God has told us we are and ACTS 2 CHURCH.

    • George Seevers says on

      1. The exclusive use of psalms cannot be supported, but never using psalms is obviously contrary to scripture. Psalms are the benchmark for worship music. Metrical psalms are the closest of any worship music to the scriptures. This benchmark affects hymns and hymns in turn affect spiritual songs. When the psalms are neglected, the standard for hymns and spiritual songs declines.
      2. The contemporary music scene is to a large extent profit driven. Classic hymns will sometimes be used, but a chorus will be added, so that a new copyright is possible.
      3. The words to many new songs are repetitious, so that content is watered down.
      4. For introductions, two or three chords will be used, rather than a portion of the melody, which would enable the congregation to get a feel for the melody and possibly even the alto, tenor and bass lines.
      5. Singing in harmony is not encouraged and would be very difficult due to the fact that the chords used are not always proper for four-part harmony.
      6. Harmony is difficult due, not only to the chording, but also the volume of the instruments.
      7. With harmony, it would be possible to sing acapella occasionally, but that is not done, because the emphasis is on the instrumental performers rather than the congregation.

      • Repetitious is the word for sure. Seems like trying to woo the Spirit by repeating verses or just sentences over and over.

      • Robin Drake says on

        In general, amen! One comment though – contemporary worship songs can be harmonized pretty easily. The challenge for singers (whether performers or congregation, is that unlike your average hymn, praise music both bases vocal harmony on thirds paralleling the melody, and uses more dissonance for effect. I’m a classically trained singer who also sings with a praise band, and I had to lean the style from scratch.

      • Mitch Gissendaner says on

        Just because you are a classically trained singer doesn’t mean you understand harmony. Most contemporary music has the same harmonys as traditional, but perhaps a 4-3 suspension may not resolve. That’s not new. It’s in all 20th century music and our ears are used to it. Number 3 is important, but range is hard to satisfy. If a woman leads worship I’m happy because I take the lower octave without much strain. If a male leads she is more comfortable. If you believe there is a happy medium then you probably haven’t sung hymns recently. Hymns frequently enter the realm of high ds and es.

      • George, I don’t know I agree with the profit driven assessment on revamping hymns, since you’d have to know the hearts of those artists. But what I will say is a whole new generation of people are singing hymns with a new refrain that wouldn’t sing the hymns otherwise. What’s more important–the words or the exact style and instrumentation from 300 years ago?

        For profit or not, let’s be grateful that younger generations are hearing older hymns that are theological rich and Christ centered.

      • “But what I will say is a whole new generation of people are singing hymns with a new refrain that wouldn’t sing the hymns otherwise.”

        But aren’t these the same ones who are always telling us style shouldn’t matter? Why does it matter to them?

      • George Seevers says on

        It is a serious error to assume that the music of “300 years ago” was similar to the popular music of the day. We have to train people to prefer exegetical preaching. Just as surely, we need to train people to prefer music that blends a depth of message with a musical score, which does not obliterate the text. And this has been done recently. Consider the excellent hymn–and it is a hymn–“How Great the Father’s Love for Us.” That piece mentions an aspect of the atonement that I do not remember seeing in any other hymn.

      • Carey Vinzant says on

        It is a matter of record that Luther and Charles Wesley both admitted to appropriating popular melodies (even tavern songs in some instances) as settings for their lyrics, probably because those were the tunes people knew. Other examples may be out there, but those are the two I know, and they are both deservedly well-respected for their contributions to worship. Worship music does not have to ape whatever is popular at the time, but it does not have to categorically avoid it either.

      • Linda Greenwood says on

        Well said, Mr. Seevers!!

      • You hit the nail on the head. The CCM industry is mostly profit-driven. And they do add choruses to classic hymns, and some of those repeat the same words over and over again.

        I think that in some cases, the hymns are all but abandoned to keep worship music up to date with our day in age, especially to appeal to the younger generation. It’s sad that some younger generations may never hear “The Old Rugged Cross”. You need a mixture of CCM and the classic hymns, a balance, not too much of one or the other.

      • Another thing about the songs that repeat the same words over and over, we do the hymn “Take My Life and let it Be”, but it’s with a chorus “I Am Yours”, which the words are I AM YOURS set apart for You. I AM YOURS, hungry for Your truth. Take my life You are all I live for, I AM YOURS (repeat chorus 3 times) “I AM YOURS” is repeated about 10 times! By the time we get to the 10th, we are no more His than the first time. It’s very shallow.

      • While repetition can be shallow, if it is used to mask a lack of relationship, repetition can also be a powerful tool for memory and focus. Think of how many of the old hymns are extremely repetitive and simple. They were often designed that way to aid in congregational assimilation of the songs. Those who could not read could still easily learn church songs. We should be seeking to aid others in worhsipping God and encouraging one another.

      • George Seevers says on

        First, many of the old hymns in a current hymnal are absolutely indefensible and should not be used in worship. Bit I was recently reminded of the difference between a devotional and a testimonial. Testimony is hymns and songs is permissible, but where are the devotional hymns? For instance, have you ever heard a hymn like “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise” in a worship service?

      • George Seevers says on

        Like it or not, there is a metrical form to most hymns. In addition to that, there is a musical pattern within the metrical form. For instance often, the first, second and fourth stanzas will have the same melody, while the third is different.

      • Seems like there is a lot of repetition in the psalms…let’s not demonize something we don’t like.

      • I agree with each of your points. Thank you for stating them so well.

      • Thank you, Lorie.

    • Number 6 is probably the most important…too many Worship services (if we can still honestly use that name) have conditioned the congregation to be an audience and not participants. We have forgotten the usage of Invocation and desiring God to be the audience who is worthy of our devotion and worship!

      • I would echo this and add the lack of shepherding through a service. One of the reasons I love liturgy with clear movements is because there is potential for clearer understanding of why we’re singing this particular song. I wonder if there would be more participation in some cases if song was the appropriate response to a calling, not just something we do every week.

      • Amen!

    • Excellent insights – my addition would be that as regularity in worship retreats, even when new songs are repeated, those gathering may never have heard it before.

    • Before I become a born again Christian, I was a night club singer. My profession was to entertain. So when I become a pastor and my son was a worship leader in the church, I instructed him to lead the church into worshipping the true God of the Bible. I said; “You are not entertaining people, you are worshiping God, but most importantly, every member of the worship team is a totally surrendered life to the Lordship of Jesus. God does not need your talent, God needs you. And talent will only be added.”

    • Regenia Martin says on

      It’s part of our praise , and worship to Jehovah. It draws us closer to him and makes his heart glad.

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