I don’t normally editorialize here, but there’s a trend I’m seeing more and more, and it’s starting to get under my skin. The headlines vary, but it seems every other week or so there’s a new blog post or article touting all the reasons why the author doesn’t sing in church anymore. In some variations, the author instead speaks for an entire demographic (millennials, men, seniors, women) and explains why they don’t sing in church anymore. And these get shared and liked and tweeted and passed around.
I’ll be honest with you: my church still sings. I can hear them.
Maybe congregational participation is on the decline. Many signs and stats indicate as much.
But these “doom and gloom” articles make it sound like no one sings in any church at all anymore. And those of us who stand up front and watch the people sing know it’s just not true.
Many of these articles focus in on a few key areas: the volume, the songs, and the worship leader.
As for the volume, yes, it’s a problem if the music is too loud to hear yourself sing. But not all churches do that. Go talk to the sound guy or the worship leader or the pastor. If they’re unwilling to lower the volume from a level that causes you physical distress, then maybe that’s not the church for you.
And the songs. Most of these articles imply that if you just bring back the old hymns, people will start singing again. Personally I don’t think it’s that simple, but that’s a conversation for another day. Yes, some modern songs have complicated rhythms. So do some old hymns. Yes, some modern songs have vapid lyrics. So do some old hymns. I’ll just say this: if you don’t like any of the songs your church uses for worship, maybe you’re in the wrong church.
Finally, we come to the worship leader. He’s putting on a show. He dresses funny. He’s just trying to sell you his new album (it’s for sale in the lobby). He’s performing. He’s too feminine, whatever that means. I’ve seen all of these complaints listed as reasons that people have stopped singing (and it’s always a male worship leader in these articles). And I’ll grant you that if the worship leader is just putting on a show, your church has a problem. But I’d be willing to wager that the overwhelming majority of church worship leaders out there are working hard to choose songs their churches can sing and present them in a way to maximize participation. I’m sure there are some performers around – we’ve all seen them and we’ve all heard the stories – but you can’t let a few people ruin it for everyone. That’s like hearing one bad preacher and then posting an article called “Why I Stopped Listening To Sermons.”
Please understand: I’m not saying that worship in the church is in a perfect state. I’m not saying that congregational singing isn’t declining. But I do think there are good things happening in the church, and we too often fail to acknowledge that.
What I’d love to see is a host of people – worship leaders, congregants, pastors, anyone – writing blog posts and articles about how loudly and robustly their churches sing. Now that would be something worth sharing.