Why men have stopped singing in church

Why men have stopped singing in church May 8, 2013


Man with Tape on Mouth
image – iStockPhoto.com

It happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

A few months ago I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

Reformers gave worship back to the people in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. Since most people were illiterate in the 16th century, singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About 20 years ago a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about ten years ago. Worship leaders realized they could project anything on that screen. So they brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.

In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now,” they would say. “We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, sung in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.

How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang. Even the men.

David MurrowDavid Murrow is the author of the bestselling book, Why Men Hate Going to Church. David’s books have sold more than 175,000 copies in 12 languages. He speaks to groups around the world about Christianity’s persistent gender gap. He lives in Alaska with his wife of 30 years, professional silk artist Gina Murrow. Learn more about David at his Web site, www.churchformen.com, or join the conversation on his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/churchformen. Don’t forget to share this page by clicking on the links below, or scroll down and leave a comment (right below those annoying ads that pay for this blog). 

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  • DustinDopps

    As a member of a Church of Christ, I think this is one of the benefits of not using instruments in worship. We’re acapella all the time, and almost everyone participates.

    • Alice

      I was going to say the same thing.

    • Except that the phenomena he describes is now happening in churches of Christ as well, with words only being flashed on the screen of unfamiliar songs. I’ve visited several churches of Christ that do this recently and noticed the same phenomena: Fewer people singing, especially men. Maybe we just don’t pick up by ear as well.

      • DustinDopps

        I agree to some extent. Many CofC churches have started putting new, unfamiliar songs up on the overhead and it drives me nuts. It makes much more sense to have a core group – maybe a small group? – learn a new song and teach it to the congregation. And I think the sheet music should be up there as well to help those of us who can sight read.

        But I haven’t noticed a trend of men singing less in the churches I’ve attended recently. When the song is a familiar one, everyone seems to sing with gusto. It sounds amazing.

        • hav2sing

          This is a topic near and dear to my heart, and I’m probably overt-the-top passionate about it. I can read music, and can help sing ‘new songs’ when the notes are put up on the screens, but so often it is “mystery music” as a friend of mine was fond of saying when the projection screens first started going up, and feel frustrated and angry instead of uplifted and encouraged. I am a member of the c of C tribe, and love the a cappella tradition. I recently came back from a c of C lectureship and noticed a HUGE lack of singing due to unknown songs. I strongly, fervently believe we have to continually teach songs ‘on purpose’ – otherwise it is a distraction to our purpose of worship.

          I want to learn new music, and I also want to sing familiar songs, and there are times there is a good mix. http://keithlancaster.com has a CD series of learning tracks for old and new songs (a cappella), which is a huge help.

          And another church I went to would have an informal ‘singing night’ where those who were interested would get together and listen to a (new release) CD, read the words/music that was published along with the CD, and then practice together, so when the song was introduced on Sunday morning, there would be that core of people who could sing it. (Yes, what you said, DustinDopps 🙂 ) However, I disagree with your first comment, because not everyone participates all the time if they’re not comfortable with the song.

          Singing is one of the most vulnerable things we do (in or out of a church/worship setting). I have observed singers and non-singers, and helped people sing better, and singing is one of the most ‘exposed’ things you can do. In general, we don’t want to be laughed at for singing badly, or singing wrong notes, or feel awkward and be publicly observed feeling so ill-at-ease. [There are all sorts of points regarding humble-before-God, and honesty-with-ourselves-and-brothers-and-sisters-in-Christ that could be argued here], but if we just *started* at allowing people time and repetition to learn and get to enjoy and love new songs before we move on to the next unknown song, and offer opportunities for more in-depth learning, we might end up with a more God-focused worship experience with music (a cappella tradition or all-out band and concert experience!).

          My heart hurts when the singing is half-hearted.

          • Ah yes, but some of the prettiest music is when people ad lib their own harmonies to music. It is not always necessary to have sheet music . . .

    • Well, when you’re going to play a song on an instrument —whatever that instrument may be—, it helps to know in advance what key you’re going to be playing in. Of course, it’s easier to match someone else’s key if all they’re using is their voice and the same is true for you.

    • Lalala

      Same with the Orthodox church. A’capella here, too, and we definitely have a strong male participation in the music.

  • Corey Pickens

    The Scripture Says ‘play skillfully’ & ‘sing a new song unto the Lord’! Maybe we should slow down a bit and wait for the folks in our churches to catch up to our song leaders!

  • Mike Gerbrandt

    While a bit of an extreme point of view (assuming the content is true of everyone everywhere), still valid and thought provoking.
    Well done!

  • Your perspective makes sense for why people would stop singing, but I’m not sure why this would disproportionately affect men. Might want to expand on the gender difference. Why can women cope with these new practices better than men?

    • Perhaps because women are more likely to listen to Christian music stations, where a lot of these songs come from. Even if they’ve not sung the song in church before, they’ve heard it on the radio and know how it goes.

    • David French

      Part of the gender difference, I think is due to the fact that men are less likely to like “Jesus is my boyfriend” music and often rebel at the over-hyped emotionalism of it all.

      • rwstr

        I’ve noticed that trend. More and more “praise and worship” music is just romanticized, and often could be played on a secular station with little or no changes, and people would have no clue it was supposed to be a “Christian” song. Some songs I have found personally to be just flatly vulgar if you pay attention, and I don’t feel they have any place in a church.

      • Billy R

        Yes. This is certainly part of it… One other point – romantic narcissism.
        Look at the bulk of traditional hymns – 80% of the lyrics are about who GOD is, with little reflection upon “me” or “self.”
        Today’s songs feature “me” as a (usually not THE) prominent fixture, with God as the over-romanticized love interest. It is challenging to find a ‘modern’ worship song which reflects solely upon the sovereign (creator, sustainer, and judge) nature of God, without dragging ourselves into the mix somehow.

      • Kristin Daniels

        Perhaps it is not wrong; but, strange for some?

        As a young man marries a young woman, so will your Builder marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. Isaiah 62:4-6

        Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Revelation 19:6-8

        One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” Revelation 21:8-10

        You have stolen my heart, my sister, my bride;
        you have stolen my heart
        with one glance of your eyes,
        with one jewel of your necklace.
        Song of Songs 4:9 (debatable book, yes)

        Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. John 6:52-54

        It appears Jesus is okay with us viewing Him in a way that seems strange or inappropriate at first, in order to understand our need for Him in all areas.
        Perhaps there are many ways we can praise Him with our hearts, minds, and actions.

  • Rhoda

    When we were in China, we went about half the time to the international church and the other half to the open, legal Three Self Church. One thing that I loved at the Three Self Church was that they were so packed out that people arrived a couple of hours early for the services to get a seat. Another thing was that the waiting time was not wasted. Someone always led in practicing the songs. We could not understand what she was saying, but we could clearly tell that at times the leader was correcting the music (off key or off time), but other times she was directing people’s attention to the words. The songs that were practiced were the same songs that would be sung in the service. Although I sincerely doubt that you could ever get Americans to come two hours early, even spending the fifteen minutes before the service practicing the songs to be sung could prepare people for worship while increasing their comfort with the music and decreasing the sense of attending a performance, which troubles me even more than the lack of singing.

    • mccsmagistra

      Our church ends our morning prayer meeting with a hymn “practice time”. This does not distract from the actual service and helps us to learn new music.

  • I disagree. The hymns were so old and overdone that no one felt anything when they sang anymore. They were sleep-singing from boredom. Folks need to continue to learn and not be so afraid of new things. They can be quite refreshing! 🙂

    • That’s not the fault of the hymn, but of lazy minds. My husband has been saying “I love you” to me for almost 19 years – same three little words, but he never sounds bored or detached because he actually means it. The old hymns usually have far better theology worked into the lyrics that the trite new stuff – half of which can hardly be called “worship” because it’s more about celebrating what we get out of being Christians than actually adoring the Lord God Almighty. That’s not to say ALL new things are bad, but lazy minds tend to produce lazy songs.

    • fb

      i’m all for new songs, but this isn’t an either-or, right? we could sing some familiar music and some new, i would think…

    • Jenny Mertes

      Sleep-singing? Not me. I love attending the little church of my youth, where hymns are sung with gusto, and the “band” doesn’t drown out the 120 people who are singing their lungs out. I feel such emotion and joy when I hear – actually hear – my fellow congregants worshipping, singing, praising. At my current church, all I can hear is the guitars, drums, and worship leaders. I can’t even hear myself sing.

  • It’s not like that in all churches. I attend a Southern Baptist church, which used to be VERY traditional in our music style (mostly standard hymns with a few 80’s praise songs.) But our worship service has changed in the last 10 years or so. We do mostly contemporary songs and hymns with rewritten accompaniment. These have the same words and basic melody, but a beautifully written piano, or parts for drums and guitars, etc.

    The men still sing in our church. I think it’s in the way our music director introduces new music. We (on the Praise Team) may sing it one Sunday as a Special and then over the course of a month or so we’ll have it as a congregational song. He only introduces one or two songs per month or so. He mixes these in with the ones that are well-known or have been learned over the past few years. We receive many comments on how much people love our music/worship service.

    We’ve also have a more open atmosphere to freedom of expression in worship, such as hand-raising, and yes, I see men doing it too.

    That’s just my two cents worth.

    • As a worship leader, I wholeheartedly agree that songs should be introduced as Specials and at most two a month. The disagreements I had during my tenure were with the youth who constantly wanted the latest stuff. But I was unwilling to sing anything 1) that wasn’t worshipful (describing the worth of God), 2) didn’t either speak directly to God (prayerful) or built up the congregation (edifying) and 3) wasn’t easy enough to learn (either simple melody or repetitious). It’s amazing how few of the songs qualified on these scores.

      Music or no, choruses are still the model songs, because of the criterion above. Note that as a musician, I did not like many of the songs we did (they were boring), but as a worshiper, they were good in that, they presented the Gospel in a different way. They were clearly “new” songs of praise and worship.

  • I’ve been a “paid” worship leader in both c of c’s and instrumental churches now for more than a decade and I think the “less men singing” has more to do with our culture. We live in a society that says art and music are for sissies and “real men don’t sing”. At least that’s the vibe at many of the places I’ve been. I currently work at a church around 700 and we have 2 or 3 (including myself) men who will sing up front…compared to a couple dozen women. I do agree that worship leaders should be mindful of how many songs they keep in a rotation. I’ve heard this recently from some friends visiting churches…they went 6 months and never heard the same song twice! That makes it very tough to participate.

    • Loyd

      Agreed. Men not singing I think has more of a perception issue than anything else. Singing alone is a strange phenomina that anyone can experience. Ask anyone you don’t know well, or do, to sing something. More likely they’ll clam up. Men, especially older, will perceive singing to not be masculine. Women sing. Men in the arts sing (and a lot of those are gay or perceived gay) and boys sing. I’m 46 and been to a lot of worship services of many churches and it’s rare to see a gaggle of sport jock types belting out a lovely ballad in worship. Now the culture is changing all of this but performance and artist inflection (and song choice) will also determine whether a congregation will be comfortable enough to sing along.

  • I think the author forgets to mention that a lot of modern church songs are written and then performed in keys that your average singer just cannot reach, and if they don’t know how to harmonize then, by default, they become excluded from even participating.

    Lowering the keys of the song that that it becomes comfortable for someone of average ability to sing then enables the majority of the congregation to at least pick up on the melody, which will in turn encourage participation.

    Also what I have found in churches that write and sing their own songs, the congregations in those churches are passionately involved in the worship themselves. The only people who don’t participate are generally people who are not from that church.

    This is a great article though and definitely thought provoking. It’s something that our leaders at church are currently discussing.

    • PaulMartens

      I see the “not performed in the appropriate key” as well. Leaders don’t understand the value of a congregation’s range.

      • greggwon

        This is where the whole musical theory thing comes into play. This page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tessitura details why key signatures are more than just a convenient set of sharps and flats. It’s things like that, which old hymns have embedded in them. The key signatures and vocal ranges of your singers have to meet up.

        Internationally, there is even conversation starting about change the standard 440Hz A back down to 432Hz because even that 8Hz difference in pitch is an import part of how the human voice works.

        There are just so many important details wrapped into why there is a hymn book, why they’ve been sung for hundreds of years, the same way, over and over etc.

        The lyrics and the music in the hymn books is a treasure of information about how to make sure your congregation can participate and be moved by the music.

        So many young people have little knowledge or experience with trials and tribulations that the lives of the original lyrics/poetry of the hymns discuss. No matter how out of date you feel the messages are, the rest of the things about the hymn books are why they are still around.

        If you stopped being a worship leader today, would people remember you, your performance of the music or the message in the lyrics? What’s the most important thing for them to remember?

        • Sam I Am

          The 440Hz standard does not affect the pitch of the singers. It is for tuning purposes. It has no affect on the human voice. Putting songs in the correct key for singing is very important, not how the keyboards are tuned. I am a professional musician. You must not be.

          • greggwon

            But it does. The resonance of the human voice box is the issue. The averages of the physical characteristics of the vocal chord length and lots of other things play into how “high” and how “low” in pitch the human voice can sing, as well as the timbre of the sound at particular pitches. As a “professional musician”, surely you understand that speaker boxes, rooms, guitar and other string instrument bodies are sized, shaped and crafted to specific detail in order to create the richest possible timbres. It’s all of those details where this slight shift in pitch becomes relevant. If the average “singer” is slightly “flat” on every attack of particular ranges then making the target pitch flatter is a benefit to them as well. Clearly, you can say that all of the synthesizer voices and everything “computer” manufactured would have to be “retuned” to the new standard. But, most analog instruments would have no problem changing to it, and it has been pointed out that there are many advantages to the listeners in doing that too.


            Ultimately its about the pitches being mathematically pure tones when shifting off of 440. There’s lots of information in lots of places about this on the web. Go do some research and reading and you can learn about others experiences and the facts that are driving the conversation about this.

    • a great point. I tend to think G and A are great for congregational singing.

    • Most men are baritones, I think. most male worship leaders (like many lead singers) are tenors. I don’t know if the same holds true for women / altos / sopranos. But key selection is important, as well as rotation strategy. When you bring a new song in, I think you should sing it 4 weeks in a row. It also might work to pick about 3 week’s worth of music per quarter (13 weeks), and rotate through them, to build familiarity.

    • Hugh Jass

      We just formed a men’s choir at our church, so that we can sing familiar hymns in appropriate range. Crikeys!

    • Guest

      You raise an interesting point, but no one who raises this point considers the incredible vocal range demanded by many of our favorite hymns. Look through the hymnal and notice how many times a high E-flat shows up in the melody… coincidentally the same E-flat men and women often complain about being “too high” in contemporary songs. Again, it’s an important consideration, but not a product of contemporary music.

      • EileenP

        Hymns in a hymnal are written for all 4 singing ranges–soprano, alto, tenor and bass.. Therefore, range was never a problem. And if by chance a person didn’t know how to read a part, they could always just follow the melody (top) part and sing it as written or an octave or two lower. Don’t have to actually read music to follow to up/down, step/skip motion of notes. Lyrics only being projected onto a screen has reduced the ability to learn a new song, especially since the volume of most praise bands is so loud that everything is distorted.

        • Guest

          Range is never the issue. Education is the issue. Hymns were written in four parts because that’s how people were trained to sing. The last couple of decades however have seen a sharp decline in music education. To assume that the average person can follow the ups and downs of a line in the hymnal today is a pipe-dream. As a worship pastor myself, I can attest to the musical illiteracy in our congregations… and it’s not the product of the contemporary worship movement.

          • EileenP

            I am a elementary music teacher in public school. My second and third graders can read a music line when put in front of them. (And I have a projection screen to use in my classroom.) If there is illiteracy in the church congregation, then it is being perpetuated by churches that do not encourage music education by teaching children in Sunday School the hymns and using the hymns frequently in services WITH the music written. Throwing away the hymns is like throwing away all classical music saying it’s old. Certainly, there are people that live without enjoying classical music, but those that know and enjoy it are much richer emotionally and educationally. Why should Christians settle for mediocrity/triteness or whatever you might call it???

          • Guest

            YOUR school still has music education, but for thousands of schools it’s the first thing cut when money gets tight. Also, let’s get serious for a second about hymns. When we say we love hymns, we mean we love the 20 or so that have survived. Charles Wesley wrote over 6,000 hymns, Isaac Watts over 750. Only a few are actually great songs. “Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty”? “There Is a Balm in Gilead”? “Earth and All Stars”? “Faith of Our Fathers, living Still”? These are terrible hymns. The way you talk about non-classical music as “mediocre” is simply pride and preference. The fact is high church music doesn’t speak to the masses like it did back… wait, high church music never spoke to the masses.

          • EileenP

            My point was not about what your school has in the way of music education, but how easy it is to read and sing music when the proper tools (written music) is provided as well as what we in the church are or are not doing. I beg to differ on your assessment of hymns, describing them as “high church music”. First, most hymns were written as folk-type songs, some were popular tunes of the day. They have survived the many years since they were written just because of their greatness. Many of the songs written today are too trite to last. Faith of our Fathers” is NOT a terrible hymn. There are 500+ hymns in “Great Hymns of our Faith” compiled by the great John Peterson, copyrighted by Singspiration. 99% of them great. You have been feeding yourself with mediocrity, so you don’t know any better.

    • therealwillhill

      Good point about the key of the song. Many times the key is too high for me to sing. Fortunately, I do know how to harmonize but I get tired of always having to harmonize. Another thing I hate is when they take a great hymn and add some repetitive redundant chorus lyrics that just butcher the hymn. Case in point: Hymn: Jesus Paid It All. Such a great hymn! But so many insert a praise chorus: “Oh praise the One who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead” and they repeat it over and over and over and then finally return to the hymn. yes, Jesus is worthy of all our praise but it is just grating to hear such a great hymn suddenly switch to that repetitive praise chorus and then back again. Maybe it was good to do this the first time when it was spontaneous, but now, it’s like regarded as part of the hymn and it must be played. ok, rant over.

      • greggwon

        Ahh, the 7-11 worship model? The same 7 words, sang 11 times…

  • I’m reminded of what God said in ( Jeremiah 6:16 ) Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls: but they said, We will not walk therein.

  • tanyam

    Actually, I think the problem is a wider cultural one. Once upon a time, people sang at sporting events, in bars, and in homes, gathered around a piano. Children sang in schools — beyond the early primary grades. Congregational singing was one more occasion of public singing, but it was hardly the only one.

    • I think it’s going to get worse and worse as schools continue to cut budgets, with music teachers often the first to get the axe. Some homeschooled teenagers and young adults have joined our Cathedral choir. We also get a fair number of law school students. It might be interesting of someone did a study on law school students and church music. Perhaps the law students were raised by parents who exposed them to quality music?
      The ratio of female singers to male singers is about the same as the rest of the choir: 75% female. But the few young men we get are very good and enthusiastic!

      • curtismpls

        Maybe. But we can’t blame the schools for our failure to sing or play music in our homes.

        • stimpy77

          Why not? Schools are one of the staples of cultural training of children.

      • Cornupenuria

        Perhaps, just maybe, an obligation to teach [people to read] music has fallen to the churches.
        If I remember correctly, Sunday School was initiated by the Wesleys to teach children to read and write; children who worked in factories and mills while other children went to school. Children who learned to read and write could work their way up in society.
        Is God calling us to teach children to read music? If so, are we ignoring that call?

    • stimpy77

      It just dawned on me. Picture a congregation of everyone belting their hearts out. But everyone is holding up a camera recording in video mode, pointed at themselves. “We figured out how to get the congregation to sing when we convinced them to picture themselves auditioning for American Idol.”

  • You should come visit an LDS church sometime. I promise you you’ll hear women AND men singing, & we still use hymnbooks too. No projector THANKYOUVERYMUCH. = )

  • Smoke machine? I don’t go to church to enjoy a concert. I go to church to be edified, to help edify, and to learn more about how to edify the one true God. I would never go back to a church if no one was participating. New songs are fine, but not every week and certainly not in concert style so that every week I am made aware of my woefully inadequate singing.

  • titustubb

    I wrote a speech on this when I was in college in the early 80’s when projectors where just coming out. The thought was that the hymnals were too expensive too keep up and that the screens would save the church money. We did still sing hymnals back in those days along with worship songs, but now the hymnals have taken a back seat to worship songs.
    Back in the early days, a Bible and a song book were considered as essential to the church service as the preacher. Now do we not only use projectors for songs, no one carries a Bible to church anymore. Many times as a child I would pick up a song book and read the words when I got bored. Even though I probably should have been listening I was gaining great insight into God’s greatness. “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father. There is no shadow of turning with thee. Thou changest not. Thy compassions they fail not. As Thou has been Thou forever wilt be” This hymn was written in the 1800’s and sung up until around the 1980’s regulary, but when was the last time you sang this song in church? It was good for 200 years, but now it is considered tired and old.
    Now we get to sign worship songs with the same 4 chords with the same beat and we are getting bored yet again.

    • Tim Bode

      Just to answer your question (even if it probably was rhetorical): we’re singing “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” next weekend (June 1-2) in 3 of our 4 worship services, and the last time we sang it was March 3.

    • me

      At our church we print the music in the worship folder for that week.

      • EileenP

        Good for you! My parents church also does that. The congregational singing sounds much better than any other church I’ve been to lately I’m sure due to that.

  • Rev23

    You say the prob isn’t the rock band, lights or smoke…but maybe it is. Instead of a call or invitation into Gods holy presence..worship time has become a show

    • SamHamilton

      Agreed. It often feels like the people up front are the center of attention, or are trying to make themselves the center, when obviously the center of attention should be God.

      • Lalala

        Agree. In the past 30 years, we’ve made Christan music superstars, and that I think was the beginning of the end. Example: there is a youtube video of Amy Grant and Michael W Smith singing “Our God is an Awesome God” and the fans act like they’re worshipping them, and not God Himself. I had to ask is this a worship service or a rock concert? Way I see it? If musicians are used in a church service, they should be there to facilitate worship of God, not be worshipped as celebrities themselves.

        • Jared

          The Problem isn’t the music or the rock band. I think the problem is much deeper than that. Why on earth would you go to church on a Sunday and worship God, if he isn’t object of your worship rest of the week? Are we fooling ourselves so much that we blame it on the music? Having served on a worship team for 20 years, I know that it isn’t about me. Our objective isn’t to receive glory, praise or attention. I doubt any of those famous people you mention think any differently. We are human so everyone is prone to desiring attention.

          The problem is focus of our worship. Quick history lesson. God saves people from Israel, and shortly after the red sea Moses travels up a mountain. When he comes down the people are worshiping golden calves. We are not so different from them. We praise God in the moments of victory in our life, but offer our worship to other things throughout our life as well. Money, job or careers, promotions, family, toys, and whatever else. We are created and designed to worship, it is part of our make up. If we aren’t worshiping God well it is likely we are living in idolatry worshiping something else.

          Furthermore, I disagree with author that singing is somehow a sign of whether or not we are worshiping. I agree that its not the best point, but to simply discredit a person’s worship because they aren’t singing is missing the point of worship entirely. It has nothing to do what is on the outside, but on the inside. I would counter that by saying that often times our outside is a reflection of our inside, but you get the point.

          Lastly, if musicians are being worshiped rather than God, it is likely not the musicians fault. Somewhere in the leadership train, often times senior pastor, things have gotten off course. Things within a church always flow from top to bottom. If majority of people aren’t worshiping God and projecting it to musicians, leadership needs to step up and lead the way. Demonstrate what real worship looks like, talk about it. Only way for something like this to change.

          • Dave May

            I could not have said it better myself, though many times I’ve tried. You are exactly right! The problem starts in us, with our desire to compartmentalize our lives (which leads us to only be worshipers one morning per week, as you mentioned) and is compounded by poor leadership in the church. Though musical styles or production can exacerbate the problem, those things are symptoms -not the disease.

          • Jared

            Treating symptoms verses the disease is exactly right. Reason being, the disease is usually personal where the symptoms is nott, and no one wants to go under the microscope and be honest.

    • Gavin Seim

      Most of today’s so called Christian churches are not building followers of Christ. They are building followers of THEMSELF.

      I am a showman – I like to perform and sing and I do it pretty well. However I avoid doing so publicly as part of church worship for the simple reason that I think my show would be more about “me” than about really honoring God – Sure I could combat that, but it is in my nature.

      These people rocking out on church stages can say whatever they want – But the reality is most of them are seeking the praise of men. I know because I have the same weakness. There is very little worship happening in today’s sanctuaries. It’s a show of the flesh.

      It’s time to quit building followers and start building real Christians.

      • Wayne Thompson

        Your post saddens me.

        • Guest

          What do you mean?

      • Eric

        Gavin: I agree with your thoughts on this subject and have seen some church praise bands become “stars” who seem to seek only to focus attention on themselves. I sing in church and was invited to sing a solo in front of the congregation some years ago, which I did reluctantly. I have done so only a handful of times since, because I do not want to be the center of attention. I am not worthy of that. But one family left our church when their daughter, who sings very well, was not allowed to be the “star” on stage. I don’t know where they went, but it pained me to see the changes in that family when the focus shifted from the Lord to them, or more accurately, their daughter. What we need to remind ourselves is, “Just who ARE we worshipping?”

      • DixiePub

        And Amen.

      • mrsmicole

        I think you hit the nail on the head. Call it what they like, but they are WORSHIPING the wrong One!!!

      • Annual Collins Jr

        I couldn’t agree with you more….I too am an entertainer/performer and its easy to miss the mark of worshipping and singing for one’s self. Even in the Black Churches its about the pastors using the musicians to get people on an emotional high so they can be put in a position to give money…they call it sewing a seed…BS…its giving them money…plain and simple. Some musicians/singers like to be worshipped and admired and they are self centered phonies. Yes lets really worship the LORD and win souls…not win ourselves.

        • Thanks for your honesty. Great comments. Something that’s obvious to the eye, but rarely spoken.

      • Really?

        Gavin the solution to your pride is not keeping your talent from the church. It is dealing with your pride and serving.

        BTW… my name is Lance. I used “Really?” on one post and now I don’t know how to change it. 🙂

    • Julia Scott

      So, are you all saying there should be hymns only? What about young people who don’t connect with hymns? Our youth are our only hope for the future of the church. I am 54 years of age and have a deep love for hymns. They are the foundation of the church as it relates to music. I also enjoy most contemporary worship music and feel the Lord is in this, too. As a worship musician, I feel you are bashing the very servants who strive to bring unity to the generations, hope to the weary soul, and be the conduit to communication with God, as we our tails off during the week and on Sunday. I know making a strong stand for Christ brings persecution, but from our sisters and brothers of the faith? Please think about your words and the discouragement they cause to those trying to minister through music.

      • Flamekindler

        The hymns are indeed the musical foundation of the church. They do contain the gospel message in an easily remembered form. I learned the hymns in childhood, and as a young adult. Most of us older generation did. That’s why they are precious to us. If today’s young people do not learn them because they like the rock music better, how will they have the memory of them in later life when they are no longer young? Mix them in with new songs, but the old hymns deserve to be heard and taught today.

        • davidt57

          Hymns are the musical foundation for YOU. In earlier generations congregational singing was looked down upon because so many voices were untrained. At one time, Gregorian Chant was the music. Earlier, it was the singing of the Psalms (incidentally, much more closely related to contemporary worship songs than most hymns). I love the old hymns. But let’s not confuse changing methods with the eternal message.

          • greggwon

            If hymns don’t move you, then you aren’t reading and understanding the lyrics. The “music” part of the hymn may not be everything you “want” at that moment. Worship is a time of submission and contemplation, not a time of demand and intolerance. Certainly you can say everyone should tolerate the music you enjoy. But, that’s not what this is about. Hymns are not always “great” music. Many religious pieces have new lyrics based on variations of old music because the music was moving to someone.

            Demanding that foundations change to meet your desire does promote change and can be a good thing. But, there is not a lot of good things that are coming out of the “worship leader” phase of religious worship improvement.

          • davidt57

            Some people struggle with hymns because there are so many words and few repetitions, so they’re constantly reading, which engages the head but can block of the heart. Many (not all) contemporary worship songs are thin on theological content, but focus on expressing the heart to God (much like many of the Psalms). There’s a place for both. But the point of the article had to do not with “new styles” of music, but not teaching new songs to the congregation… just doing it. Which results in low or no participation.

          • greggwon

            It doesn’t matter whether it’s hymns or “new music”. Without the words to reflect on, and the music to read, you are failing to accommodate the needs of “all” of the congregation. Some people need to see those words go by over and over. So people can read ahead, farther than the words on the screen go, so that they can look up and experience them. Others fail to sing the words and feel them, because there is no “musical” representation that they can grasp. Whether there is an ascending pitch, descending pitch, major chord, minor chord, a strong 7th or whatever the composer used, all of that, for musicians, allows them to feel even more empowered to express the message and participate in the musical experience.

            The largest problem we have, based on what I’ve seen, is that there are a large number of young, inexperienced or untrained “worship leaders”, who can “sing”, but understand nothing about musical structures, why there are names for them, what it means to use them, and how the very timber of instruments, voices and dynamics of the “space”, are actually what creates the experience that pulls everyone in.

            The musicians in your congregation, more than ANY OTHER PART of the body are the ones most likely to “create” the experience when participation is what is happening. If you just want your “worship leaders” to be the “musicians”, then surely they will be the ones who “have” to create the musical experience. I have no problem with that, but then you just have a concert, not a worship service, and the one way direction of that delivery, may actually cause the people standing near the beautiful voices in your congregation, to miss out on the “message” that might be delivered by those voices.

          • EileenP

            Agreed, It is my experience that many of the current crop of “worship leaders” have no formal training in music. They maybe be good solo singers or a good keyboardist, but that does not mean they know anything about composing, conducting, the history of church music, etc. The quality of a churches music will be no better than it’s leaders.

          • LeftyLuna

            I love a good hymn, and that’s still a load of judgment. COME ON. Some hymns are old, plodding, boring, and downright annoying. There’s almost nothing more annoying at church than “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” that sounds like it should be a dirge.

          • greggwon

            As I said, you probably don’t enjoy the music. The Lyrics are what matter. Go compose some music that moves you and your congregation, and include the messages found in the hymns, and you’ll be able to pull your congregation in. Ultimately, if it’s just the music that makes you stay or leave a congregation, then perhaps your expectations are not in line with what they need to be for a great worship experience. I am most moved by our ministers message. That’s what I come for. I enjoy the music, but the lyrics are what I listen for. They have the message for me. Our music minister and main minister work a year in advance to plan the service around the expected liturgy. That allows the correct music with the best lyrical ties to be selected and practiced so that the congregation can hear/read those lyrics and then “rehear” them during the sermon, because they will occur in some form or another as part of the morning message. When it’s all put together with that kind of intent to deliver and attention to detail, I find it extremely hard to “miss out” on what is being delivered.

          • LeftyLuna

            “Ultimately, if it’s just the music that makes you stay or leave a congregation, then perhaps your expectations are not in line with what they need to be for a great worship experience. ”

            Didn’t say that. But if I’m going to be annoyed by bad music for a good half the service, no, I won’t be going to that church long. Especially when there are other ones out there.

            And as for “the lyrics are what matter”, well, that’s your opinion. Not fact. Music is important to me. It sets the tone. If the song of joy sounds like a dirge, it’s nigh on impossible for me to feel the joy. I’m glad that’s not true for you.

          • Brian

            Perhaps the style is more important from our current perspective in this world. But eternally, it does mean a hill of beans. That’s quite possibly the shallowest reason to attend/be a member of a church. I say it bluntly as a challenge to look deeper at life and relationships (with God and man).

          • Lalala

            Yep, and I’ll bet you probably want only the dessert instead of the meat and vegetables, too. Well, desserts alone make a person fat, soft and lazy.

          • LeftyLuna

            Did you just say that to me? REALLY? I’d like to give you an opportunity to retract it and apologise.

          • Natalia

            I don’t know why it always surprises me that these issues turn into heated debates, even among Chiristians. I agree that music needs to appeal to everyone in every sense of the word.

            We all grew up with a certain style of music in church, and the emotional attachment to it is encouraging, and it is forever. It is what keeps us on track when we stray. Our connection with an old tune or lyrics can move us to change, or inspire us.

            In fact, these “ancient” hymns are just that…ancient! They have been ancient for quite some time now, so why did they get through to ME when I was a teenager or young adult? They have stood the test of time, and they have meant something to us.

            Do we need to have newer styles in our services? Absolutely! I think the issue is making it appealing to every member of the congregation, not just staying with the elderly or moving to modern songs for youth.

            The key to any kind of health, including spiritual, is moderation. Our bodies need certain amounts of nutrients to live, and so does our Christian church! Too much of one thing does no good.

            What we need to do is satisfy every part of our church’s needs. I am not an elderly person, I am only in my thirties, but I grew up with the old hymns. I feel a spiritual connection with them, and love to sing them solo as well. The thing I ALWAYS do is change the rhythym. I update the song so that it appeals to younger members, but still connects with older members.

            That’s just one way to change it up. When you change too much, people just don’t participate. Our church sometimes sings a contemporary song, and 3/4 of the congregation might not sing it. The issue here is that of this article. If we took the time to actually learn the songs, and then sing them regularly, most of us would connect to them.

            What we need to focus on is the church as a whole body – not it’s newer or older parts. If we have different demographics, than we need to focus on satisfying all of them.

            I mean, really people, do we want to survive? Or thrive?

          • John

            I’m John. God blessed me with a talent I am so grateful for –
            to be able to “play by ear”, never having taken a lesson. I
            acknowledge that this is a gift from Him, and I try to use it to His glory. I was the organist for St. Chad Episcopal Church in Tampa, Florida when I was only five years old (I discovered I could play when I was three). Since then, I have been a member of the Episcopal Church, several Protestant denominations including Baptist, Presbyterian, as well as “non-denominational” churches – some Charismatic, some not. I have participated in many forms of worship. As a participant in a church “Praise Band” – I felt convicted that (at least, in this particular case) – we were the object of attention, and the praise and worship was beginning to look more like a “Christian Lawrence Welk show” (okay, I’m 56 years old) – FEATURING the
            singers and musicians. We learned how we could get the congregation “caught up” in the “praise and worship” by repeating the verses or choruses, changing the tempo, volume, highlighting different instruments, etc. People would leave saying “Wow – we had a great service today!” – but by Monday morning they were in the same state as the rest of the “world” – what happened in less than 24 hours? What happened was that people were depending on an emotional experience instead of focusing on an Almighty God.
            I converted to the Orthodox faith in 1994, and in the particular church I attend we do not use instruments. All of the singing/chanting is done acappella, and it is beautiful to me. Do I miss playing the piano or organ? Yes, sometimes. But I have learned to love the ancient hymns and worship style of the Early Church, a worship that has remained unchanged for a thousand years.
            People used to a theatrical “performance” might be greatly disappointed if they visit an Orthodox Church. No instruments, no sound system, no stage, no special lighting or effects. Not even a “worship leader”. But I feel like I have finally found a home – a place that is not willing to follow the world and change with the times. A worship directed to God, for God, and with the sole purpose of praising and glorifying God.
            Music will continue to evolve, styles will change, and people will continue to prefer “this” or “that” – and churches and even entire denominations, doctrines, and music will merge and emerge and change…but the Word of the Lord remains forever…no compromise.
            What is more important is that God has given me the ability to love my brothers and sisters who prefer a different style of worship, even a style I do not like, because things like that should not cause a divisive spirit.

          • Randy

            No, I love that song! In the church where I grew up, it meant we were about to start the potluck! I still start salivating every time I hear it. Granted, I’m thinking more of the food than of praising God.

          • LeftyLuna

            *grin* Good connotations help. 🙂

          • Lalala

            Depends on how it’s sung. I’ve heard some beautiful renditions of that hymn and some that are pretty dreadful.

          • Gloria

            At the church I used to attend, the pianist was excellent, even though he would have been considered young. He didn’t like the plodding pace either so the tempo was much much faster. I’d have to take a very deep breath to sing that fast. I still sing that fast and when I go to church, the hymns being slow just makes me laugh – a lot.

      • Rev23

        I am bashing anyone. But we must be willing to be examine how society affects our body

        • davidt57

          We must also be willing to consider how we translate the eternal truths of the gospel into the language and culture of the people we’re trying to reach. And, as i stated in the comment above, the point of the article is not about musical style, but about teaching new music to the congregation so they can actively participate, and not just observe.

          • Rev23

            I agree. I think we are preaching to the choir/band 🙂 My initial comment was meant in that direction also. The style is not as important as the intent, being called into God’s holy presence for a personal worship experience. Not just an good show for an emotional charge.

          • greggwon

            For hundreds of years, church music as it is expressed in hymn books, has stood the tests of time. It’s been a part of the service and provided a long sustaining truth about the message. There are a handful of hymns that my maternal grandmother loved to play on her piano and sing. When we at church with her, and those songs were sang, we all enjoyed singing them with her. To this day, some 20 years after her death, I still have the same experience with those songs that I had with her then.

            That’s the familiarity part of this discussion. But also, when I read ahead, looking over the lyrics before they are sang, the anticipation builds because I can look at the music and know which harmonic variation I’d like to sing for that phrase, or switch between tenor and bass lines etc. Having the printed music and lyric, together, elevates the experience I can have with the music to a level that is just unreachable for a “band” standing on a stage with lyrics scrolling up the screen.

            Go watch the “produced church” youtube video. It illustrates exactly how I feel about this.


      • EileenP

        I don’t care if it is hymns or praise songs, but whichever it is, it should be good quality theology-wise AND musically. And there is no reason for not providing the music notes (not just the lyrics) for those who CAN read music other than laziness on the part of whoever prepares the program. Expecting the audience to follow with no clues as to the melody, etc is ridiculous. And BACK DOWN on the amplification! There is a point where the voices and words just get distorted.

        • Nhat-Viet Phi

          Amen on both points! Preparing projector material with only text (and chords!?) helps only some people, but does nothing for those who prefer to sight-read and can actually use this skill to help strengthen the melody.

      • Dave Hall

        In my experience, a person’s age hasn’t always influenced the style of worship they connect with. When I pastored a congregation in a smaller community (pop. 5,000), we added a periodic contemporary service. Many of the youth of our congregation, who grew up on the hymnal, did not like this service. However, we had people in their 70s, who grew up in a different Christian tradition, who loved it.

        The point I am getting from the author of this blog is that we have lost our focus. Worship is a rhythmic dance. God calls us to worship and places his name on us. We respond by admitting our unworthiness. God forgives us. We respond with praise. God speaks to us. We respond with prayers and offerings. God comes to us and forgives us in communion. We respond with thanks and praise. God send us out with his blessing. We respond with lives lived for him.

        The issue for me is not the medium. Though the author does lift up concerns with different mediums. The issue for me is focus and the ability to do the dance of worship. This can be done with guitars and drums, organs and bells, or maybe even with a band of kazoo’s and spoons. The challenge with whatever medium we utilize is retaining our focus.

        • Nhat-Viet Phi

          Good point. But that said, I’d like to see a memorable church service conducted with full musical mass done with kazoos and spoons. 🙂

          I’m sure Leonard Bernstein would be impressed.

      • Boisenoise

        How can young people possibly “connect” with hymns when they haven’t had a chance to learn them? I think he is saying that familiarity is the very thing that brings a “connection,” no matter what type of songs are being played.

      • Lalala

        So we’re to tailor everything for people with short attention spans and basically render thousands of years of tradition meaningless? How shallow can you get? If you’re putting your faith only in the kinds of youth programs which are milk vs meat, then you pretty much insult our youth. That’s like saying well, gee, we gotta keep giving people bread and circuses.

        • Julia Scott

          Wow, Lalala, your comment contains so many generalizations, assumptions, and negativity it makes my head swim. The same goes for other comments you make. Christians need each other. Your bitterness turns the world away from Jesus. Please, let’s be salt and light, reflecting the love of Christ in the things we say and do.

    • davidt57

      It’s only a “show” if you just stand and watch rather than actively participating. Musical style does not determine what is a “show.” Once upon a time, some people protested congregational hymn singing because the voices were untrained. Once upon a time, some people protested the use of the pipe organ in church because it was a “vile instrument of the devil.” No, contemporary (“rock”) is not everyone’s cup of tea. But it is a good tool to help some people to worship, encouraging more an engagement of the heart than theologically thicker hymns where the head has to be fully engaged to read all those many words. I agree with the author that too much novelty in songs selection means we don’t really know the songs, words or tune, and so are less likely to participate. Our worship leader, on the other hand, does take time to teach new songs and repeat them over a period of time so we can learn them well.

      • Rev23

        I didn’t say(mean to say) that a style of music was the prob. The approa8ch regardless of the style is the problem. Many today use w worldly effects/ strategies to spread the gospel. Worldliness has no doubt infiltrated worship as well

        • davidt57

          It is true that a lot of glitz can dazzle and draw people into observing, while real worship ought to invite people to participate. It can be smoke and lazers. It can be a “worship leader” who acts like a rock and roll star. It can also be a choir full of trained voices with a dazzling vocal solo. Traditional vs. contemporary is not the real key to it. It’s whether the leader(s) know how to draw people in to participation.

          • Oscar_DeGrouch

            I’ve been to several “praise” type services, and I sing in many professional church choirs that do traditional hymns, anthems, and liturgy. “Praise” services are NOT meant for congregational singing, and every time I would try, I would be the only guy singing. It’s nice to hear someone in the congregation say “oh, you have a nice voice”, but it is also somewhat embarrassing in the context of worship. I am not trying to be a soloist, I am trying to participate in a congregational affirmation of faith. “Praise” music and bubble-gum “Jesus is awesome” MTV-style pop just doesn’t inspire me. It seems narcissistic.

          • davidt57

            Keep in mind there are those who criticize “professional church choirs,” as if “they’re just doing it for the money” or “it’s all a performance.” Also keep in mind that much “praise” music is written with words that come straight from the Psalms. I hope we’re not going to say that’s “bubble gum.” There are certainly individuals who are more truly performers than worship leaders. But let’s not lump every worship leader and congregation into the same mold. I won’t speak for all, but I can say our worship leader is quite gifted, not as a solo voice or rock guitarist, but as one who leads others to actively worship God.

          • Souljer

            To each his own, brother. You certainly can’t sing hymn-style to a faster contemporary song… of course you’ll stand out! And if, as a professional-caliber singer, I would think you’d have the ability to change with the genre, have the ability to learn & develop your gift… Well, maybe there’s no desire to. Can’t teach an old dog new tricks maybe? I could go on & on about the old-style hymns that seem stale, dead and un-engaging… producing Michael-like “Christians” always criticizing and wanting the Davids to stop their rejoicing & dancing. But why argue over music styles? What good will it produce? Is it edifying? To criticize another’s style, I just don’t get it. If you’re not able to connect with God in that setting just stick with what allows you to. And learn each has to learn to put up with one another. The young should be thankful for the elderly & respect them, and the elderly should likewise be thankful for the fresh youthful spirit and respect them. We have much to learn from each other.


        • Tophertag

          Worship either happens or it doesn’t long before it comes out of our mouths. The only approach to fixing the problem is on our knees.

      • stimpy77

        >> It’s only a “show” if you just stand and watch rather than actively participating. Musical style does not determine what is a “show.”

        At what point do we cross the line of “too showy”, then? Strobe and laser lights with floor-to-ceiling artsy, flashy video? Oops, no, that’s in use now, too. What, then?

        Or perhaps the question is, participate in WHAT? When the crowd lights are dimmed and the stage lights are on and the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself, what is the participation expectation in this kind of environment but to simply “shush and enjoy it and be blessed”? Really?

        • davidt57

          Is it “show” to dress up in fancy choir robes? To install a pipe organ that costs as much as our sanctuary? To have hired musicians? Worship happens in the heart (thank you Tophertag, above), and then flows out of us. It can certainly be “show” in any style. But worship leaders (traditional or contemporary) can work to draw people into expressing worship. Teach the song(s), point to their meaning, and encourage active participation.

          • stimpy77

            >> “Is it “show” to dress up in fancy choir robes? To install a pipe organ that costs as much as our sanctuary? To have hired musicians?” <<

            The difference is that these things happen on stage, not in the congregation. And yes, I think there's an extent that these are showy. But shifting to "worship", which relates to the congregation's actions and not the stage folk's actions, my question has not been answered. I'll repeat it for your convenience.

            Participate in WHAT? When the crowd lights are dimmed and the stage lights are on and the music is so loud you can't hear yourself, what is the participation expectation in this kind of environment but to simply "shush and enjoy it and be blessed"? Really?

          • davidt57

            If your beef is volume turned up too high, that’s not a matter of worship style, but of a sound tech who needs some instruction and coaching. “If it’s too loud, you’re too old” just doesn’t cut it. It’s all about getting people to actively worship, and if they’re not… make adjustments in how you’re doing things! Our folks have learned how, and our congregation lifts up hearts, voices, and… sometimes hands.

          • x_grinder_x

            So what you’re saying is – is the house lights are low, stage lights are on, and the music is loud, people will just “shush and enjoy it and be blessed.” I realize this is not the analogy you are looking for, but I suppose you’ve never actually been to a rock concert.

            I believe the point of this article is the familiarity argument, not the style argument (even thought the author alludes to a disdain for certain styles with the snipes at the “super-hip band”). Again, it is the same thing at any rock concert – when they play the songs that everyone knows there is much participation. When they say, “Here’s a new one of our forthcoming CD to be released next week,” then people just sit back and listen.

            I’m not saying there aren’t “worship” bands out there who are more into the “show” than the savior. I’m not saying there aren’t worship services that are too loud. I’m also not saying the style has much to do with whether the congregation participates. Lighting and volume are probably several items down the list on reasons why people don’t participate. I’d say their heart would be #1 and then somewhere close by would be familiarity with the songs. If people know the songs, they will be more likely to sing them….which I believe is what this article was trying to convey.

          • chundo

            Yes, those things are also for show. I prefer congregations not divert their resources to fancy pipe organs and choir robes.

          • Nhat-Viet Phi

            Now hold on, puppy. You are obviously ignorant of churches that painstakingly raised funds and proudly use choir robes and organs, as well as the implied skilled choristers and organists. You are not qualified to judge churches and/or denominations which skillfully mix congregational with choral singing. For instance, the Anglican church has a long, rich musical tradition of which you are not aware, otherwise your words would be much wiser.

          • chundo

            I’m not sure to whom you are talking, but the last I checked, there were no canines posting here.

            Please explain how having an opinion about the nature of the activity and the expediency of the expense makes one ignorant of the skill of the performers, the length of the tradition, or of the pride with which such things are put on display.

            Is one only qualified to “judge” churches which mix congregational with choral singing unskillfully? Ones that did not raise the funds in a “painstaking” manner?

          • Nhat-Viet Phi

            1. You have missed the point entirely. The point is that your previous curt, smarmy comment never comes from the choirs *I* have seen who do worship using choir robes and fancy organs. It’s not at all a question of vanity or frivolity. Having experienced this kind of choir from the vantage points of third-person worshipper, singer, accompanist (on piano and organ) and director, I can speak with confidence – not vanity, as you imply – and firsthand knowledge.

            2. Corollary point: to my knowledge, noone using choir robes or organs ever belittles other churches who don’t use robes or organs.

            3. You are being argumentative for argumentativeness’ sake. This does not advance your weak opinion, nor that of anyone else who thinks like you based on one-sided observations.

          • Lalala

            Some of that could be considered somewhat vulgar if not done in the right spirit. Over the past 20 years I’ve seen the devolution of Black gospel music. It’s become more like a Broadway musical production than a pure form of worship. Now anyone can gather up a group of people and call themselves Gospel music! Some of the folks don’t even believe in God. It’s all about the narcissist “feel-good” stuff for them. That’s NOT what Gospel music or praise music should be about.

        • Guest

          I’ve many different styles of worship services and I can tell you that the people complaining about other people’s worship are the ones not worshipping… they’re watching others worship and deciding whether it’s sincere or not. That’s what I LIKE about a dimmed lights in the crowd. My worship is as visible to the “watchers” who are easily offended by those who express their adoration and praise differently than they do. I can be (more) free to give Him by all. And if the music’s really loud I can also sing loudly and since I’m not gifted with a beautiful voice no one has to hear it but my savior.

          My point: dim & loud isn’t always so bad. Don’t be too critical just because it’s different from what you’re accustomed to. The spirit of religion doesn’t like different, and it doesn’t like hearts on fire. We have to keep our hearts & minds in check…

        • Souljer

          I’ve been in many different styles of worship services and I can tell you that the people complaining about other people’s worship are the ones not worshipping… they’re watching others worship and deciding whether it’s sincere or not. That’s what I LIKE about a dimmed lights in the crowd & loud music. My worship isn’t as visible to the “watchers” who are easily offended by those who express their adoration and praise differently than they do. I can be (more) free to give Him my all. And if the music’s really loud I can also sing loudly, and since I’m not gifted with a beautiful voice no one has to hear it but my savior. I can speak for a lot of people on these points.

          My point: dim & loud isn’t always so bad. Don’t be too critical just because it’s different from what you’re accustomed to. The spirit of religion doesn’t like different, and it doesn’t like hearts on fire. We have to keep our hearts & minds in check…

          • stimpy77

            Sounds like for all of our “many different styles of worship services” we’ve all experienced (myself everything from Lutheran to Assemblies of God to non-denominational charismatic to pentacostal to Baptist to everything in between them all) each of us clearly reaches different conclusions from said experiences, because mine is that some worship situations really are concerts, intended to be concerts, under the guise of “worship”. Period. Also I’ve been in worship situations where the spirit of God really swept over the congregation, and more often than not the lights were dimmed, *but* it usually wasn’t a strictly preprogrammed schedule/playlist either, and the music *complimented* the immediate pursuit of God by ushering the congregation into said pursuit.
            Everyone here is rambling on about the music and the heart and in my opinion missing the point. Music in a place of worship is supposed to be solely a tool.

          • Magsparker

            Yep. Agree.

      • Adam Roe

        “But it is a good tool to help some people to worship, encouraging more an engagement of the heart than theologically thicker hymns where the head has to be fully engaged to read all those many words.”

        Do you truly believe this? I am reading into it a false dichotomy between heart and head, and you seem far too intelligent to play that angle. Scripture, and the true music of the church, the Psalms, are also pretty theologically thick. Perhaps we should be raising our expectations of the laity rather than lowering them, to include our music.

        • davidt57

          1. Sadly, we live in a time when masses of people do not read well enough to read words, sing music, and think about the meaning of what they’re singing. 2. Yes, the Psalms do have some theology, but typically not as much as a traditional hymn full of biblical references and allusions. 3. We can and should “raise expectations” for members of the church (in a lot of ways). But what about the first time Sunday morning guest who comes in with no church background? Or the young person who is bored to tears by what they consider “antique” music? Shall we leave them feeling like they really don’t belong here? Then our mainline churches will keep doing what they’ve been doing… declining.

          • Adam Roe


            I do not accept the premise that people do not think about what they are singing. If this is true, then it is spiritual sickness rather than something we should simply accept. God does not call on us to check our brains at the door when we come to worship, to include the unchurched guest.

            The mainline congregation I pastor has grown in attendance by 30-percent over the last year, with pipe organs, choirs and robes, creeds, etc… Many of the people who attend now are people who have no Christian background, or have lapsed for many years. We have changed nothing about our worship, but have simply started inviting people to experience the awesome grace of God. The unchurched, in my experience, worry far less about style than those who are in the church, but they do care about depth and substance.

            I am not saying that a church must utilize pipe organs or choirs, or robes, but I am saying that the music in a praise setting should be as rich and forming as music in a traditional setting. We do people no service by expecting the least of them when we should be expecting the most; to include the unchurched person. A person with no worship background should have the sense that what we do is different anyway. There is nothing culturally affirming about the process of lifting praises to an invisible God, believing that His Son came to earth, died for ours sins, rose on the third day, and reconciles us to our heavenly Father.

            Many blessings to you, David! I wish you all the best.


          • Cornupenuria

            Sometimes I think that there is a greater need for ministry to “returning prodigals” than for ministry to the truly “unchurched.” Returning prodigals may be seeking traditional worship much like that from which they rebelled in their youth.

          • davidt57

            You make a negative presumption when you ascribe people not thinking about what they’re singing to “spiritual sickness.” Often it’s because they are not “readers,” at least not enough to get the words right and understand the at the same time. And for others it is because they’re new to church and Christianity, and the words don’t make sense to them… yet. We cannot expect people with poor reading skills or people with no church or faith background to be able to do what you and I can do. But no “spiritual sickness is necessarily involved.

          • Adam Roe

            David, I did just a brief lookup and discovered that the U.S. has a 99% literacy rate. They may not all be “readers” but they’re reading lots more and far better than that of past cultures. No matter what they read and sing, whether it be Isaac Watts or Chris Tomlin, they will have to think about what they are singing. It is impossible not to make mental connections when one is reading and singing. Now, I’m no harsh taskmaster, but neither do I think it acceptable for the church to play to the lowest common denominator. There should be enough meat for the most mature believer, and those mature believers should be standing alongside the babes and nurturing them to maturity and, yes, spiritual health. Again, I really don’t care about style, but I do care about substance. Better substance leads to better health.

            Many blessings!

          • davidt57

            There is a huge difference between “literacy” and the ablity to comprehend what is being read at a pace not set by oneself. I’m not suggesting any “watering down.” I love the old hymns (I was raised on them), and we have found some wonderful contemporary arrangements that include moving new choruses in between traditional verses. But we do have to take seriously the culture and language of those we are trying to reach beyond those who are already inside the family. We have to add “substance” in ways that we can explain/interpret it for those who do not already know the language.

          • Adam Roe

            I don’t think we’re far apart on this aspect, David. I believe that culture and language are significantly overvalued as it relates to evangelism, but I very much agree that there is wonderful value in updating what is good from the past and creating new expressions. Many blessings to you!

          • Josh

            AND, you only grasp the fullness of the hymns (with the subtle allusions and rich metaphor) when you sing them over and over again over several years. They hit you in surprising ways. When you just studied Malachi, and then sing “Hark the Herald Angel Sing” – you see more fully that which you are proclaiming in those often ignored or skipped stanzas. (Any Charles Wesley hymn seems to have that effect. =) )
            Again, the key is familiarity and regularity. The beauty of hymns in worship is that they are deep enough for us to dive down into over and over again and find fresh expressions of worship (the thing that happens in your heart while you sing) at every different stage of discipleship.
            Probably the bigger issue in this is the lack of Biblical literacy to ever catch what the hymn writer (or contemporary worship song writer) is saying or alluding to. “God is really big… and nice, too” theology can only sustain a thirsty soul for so long. (That’s not a dig against Contemporary Worship, it’s a dig against shallow songs- which are present both in the hymnal and in contemporary worship.)

          • Marla

            I realize this is not the point of this article or discussion, but your facts are sorely inaccurate. 32 million adults in this country cannot read. We have a literacy rate that is much lower than when our nation was founded.

          • Magsparker

            What? Masses of people do not read? Oh geez. So we will give these “nonreaders” a hymnal to scratch their heads over and we will give you a Macbook Pro guide to scratch your head over.

          • Jamie Smith

            davidt57- I read this article and have followed the theme of the posts and believe me when I say that I am not one for confrontation, especially confrontation between the church but I feel I have to step in here. You have just said that “the psalms do have some theology, but typically not as much as a traditional hymn full of biblical references and allusions”. Amazing! Truly amazing! I do not mean to sound cynical but I must respond to some of your comments. Firstly, are you saying that hymns are more Biblical than the Bible itself? What do you hold in the highest regard as being a basis for all that is Biblical/theological? What is theology? Where do we humans get an idea of what is theological? Surely the “psalms” are full of Biblical references considering the fact that they are of the Bible, God’s Holy word. They do not merely contain “some theology”, they are theologically true and correct! As for the hymns, as relevant and wonderful as they are, they are nothing in comparison to God’s word. Nothing is more Godly and Awesome (what a wonderful word so readily misused today) than the word of God. Mere man cannot compete with the Creator of the world. The word’s of scripture, including the Psalms are “God breathed”.

            Secondly, why are we to raise expectations for the members of the church? Are we the perpetrators of the gift of the Holy spirit? Do “we”, through “our” mercy pour “our” grace upon people? Do we sanctify the nations? Is it not the Lord of Heaven and earth who does this and is it not the Holy Spirit who leads the congregations and “raises expectations” as you call it, to its congregants? The Holy spirit is the leader in a worship service. If we have first time visitors to our church, we are to firstly glorify God and honour the name of Christ and trust that He will take that sinner and replace the heart of stone with a heart of flesh. God draws man to Him. Mere man cannot do this of himself.

            The church’s first and foremost priority is to remain faithful to our faithful and loving father.

            As for the “young person who is bored to tears by what they consider ‘”antique”‘ music”, I again ask the question, is not worship about Glorifying the Lord and not about what “we,they,us them” perceive?

            The Bible hasn’t changed, God hasn’t changed so why does post-modern Christian society feel the need to change and divert from the path of righteousness? In order to worship according to God’s way, the Bible teaches clearly that the Psalms , acapella are the only way.

      • Eric Lizotte

        Loved what you had to say David. I am a tech director at a church that uses a very rock and modern influenced style of music in its worship gatherings. We dont do it so that the musicians can get any sort of attention or so the tech staff can have fun using the latest equipment. In our gatherings, we very intentionally work to create an environment where people can have their lives changed by Christ. We think especially about people who have never been to church when we create our gatherings so we sing songs that have solid theology but are also easy to sing along with. We know that God doesn’t need our church to change lives. He could go through whatever means he chooses to touch peoples hearts. But far be it from us to not prepare the fields for the harvest or worse yet, prepare them haphazardly.

      • Sam I Am

        Most churches that I have gone to do not teach the song. Your church is in the minority.

    • tonyburgess1969

      So many churches have gone contemporary in an effort to make the church relevant to today that they have forgotten to carry the message of the ancient faith with it.

      • Rev23

        I agree. Being contemporary isn’t necessarily wrong as in style of music or sermon presentation but when we can look around and see a distinct deficiency in power ,in the American church specifically, we have to reassess what we are doing and why we are doing it

    • Just Me


    • Tim Ottinger

      Nah. People sing along at rock shows. People shout at sports events.

      People tend not to do these things in church, and haven’t for my entire history including the late 60s and early 70s.

      We sang a much wider variety of songs from the hymnals than we do from the worship music and hymns combined these days. If anything, it’s dumbed down.

      In a crowd of 100 people in the 70s, less than 30% were men, and far fewer than 20% of the men ever sang in church congregationally.

      Part of it was machismo (singing was seen as less than manly at the time) and part of it was ability (tone-deafness or lack of practice).

      I suspect we’re seeing less “a modern problem” and more “an embroidered sense of nostalgia.”

      I’ve even had people tell me that in the 50s, the weather men were always spot-on with their forecasts unlike the spotty guessing they see today. It happens.

      That being said, I don’t attend a megachurch, so I’ve never seen the lights, fog, 4-minute intros, and 6-minute outros with 2-minute solos in the middle. I suppose that could be pretty tiring when you’re standing.

      It might just be that people are tired, and waiting for the song to end so they can sit down, but I don’t know. My experience isn’t the same.

      • Lalala

        They’d never make it through an Orthodox service. Most of it is standing lol

    • DixiePub


    • Andrew Logan Sr

      That’s true too. Performers with huge egos would be surprised to learn that people worshiped God face down, prostrate before Him in the Bible. Guess what, He showed up as well! Hmmm.

    • Yep

    • Thetruthhurts

      Can we not be invited into God’s holy presence with a rock band, lights, and haze (it’s not smoke, it’s haze, so the lights don’t look dumb)?
      If congregational worship is a “show,” who is being shown off?

  • mypantsdontchuckle

    Men are doers? And women are, what, observers? You undercut an interesting argument with this inaccuracy.

    • You bring up an interesting issue. As a retired professor of communications, I knew, immediately, what was being said. When building a “team”, it is important to have all the “positions” filled. In temperament/personality tests, people are divided into four major groups. While we have parts of each group in us; most people (in stress/action situations) fall into one of four groups. 1.Doers 2.Talkers 3.Thinkers 4.Listeners.
      It is no insult to be mostly in any one of these groups. The Bible actually mentions this concept. In fact, there are many situations where a person needs to be all four; as is the case of the single parent.

  • What a terrible thing to say to someone! I don’t think what the singer/songwriter said to that woman reflects God’s heart at all! Not that he is required to record anything that anyone hands to him. But how incredibly ungracious and unkind!

    • rwstr

      It may seem rude, but I think this was a joking way to handle a common problem. Most well-known artists will not accept unsolicited submissions. If nothing else they have the potential of someone claiming theft of their song that never even got listened to because of some vague similarity. It happens all the time. The artist probably had lots of people waiting to say hello and take pictures and didn’t have time to repeat another drawn out apology, side-stepping the issue that the person is likely delusional and had not heard from God. Note the person had not heard the song yet, and he probably made the statement with a smile on his face. It was probably best for both parties. If you have a better way I know some people that would sure appreciate a better way to delicately and quickly turn down song submissions.

      • Kristin Daniels

        “No thank you.”

  • PaulMartens

    I feel like I was shortchanged in this article…there are many paragraphs here, only one discussing “why men have stopped singing in the church”. Where’s the research?

  • Since it seems like congregational music seems to be becoming less of a form of personal worship for your average joe, maybe this is at least an opportunity to focus on other forms of worship and service that include people who don’t do music at all – regardless of the key or how familiar the song is.

  • We are also losing a strong avenue to musical literacy by ignoring our hymnals and just projecting the lyrics. That repeat of seeing those notes every week meant that I was learning how notes related to each other, even before I could read well. You also learn how to find the harmony and not just sing the melody, which seems to be a dying skill for the younger generations.

    We actually church shopped and one of our main criteria was “mostly real music”, meaning the stuff where people sing traditional hymns in harmony. We want our kids to grow up to value all the intricacies of music, not just the repetitive, shallow, cheap lyrics so common in modern church music. It doesn’t have to be every song, but you really lose out when you go the extreme of just modern music.

    • kormathaw

      I do not believe Luther’s lyrics set to tavern bar songs hold any extra musical or theological superiority to modern praise music with good theological lyrics. Bach’s music is great, but there are plenty of modern artists doing incredible things. That being said, I 100% agree. As a worship leader, the great travesty of our generation is that the congregation is not learning to read music. I rarely go to traditional services anymore, but I can tell you the music I play on Sundays, I learned how to read through hymnals as a kid.

  • wsextonm

    I loved the old days when most parishioners knew most of the hymns and coud sing along without the hymn book. I was always amazed at one old fellow whose face would turn pure red as he sang so loud enthusiastic. Now we have to squint at the overhead and stumble along in unknown territory.. It is now boring and not many youth are showing up for service anymore.

  • jajafehr

    Isn’t one of the most important historical steps in congregational singing missing in this (albeit very short) overview? Namely, “negro spirituals”? The biblical message of freedom for those in slavery or suffering from racism – singing the subversive (biblical) message of liberation was something that black men could CERTAINLY relate to and sing about.

  • CHosking

    Most of the discussion in the comments below seems to be about preference…what I prefer, what I don’t like, what I miss etc. Worship isn’t for the individual, it’s for God. We sing to worship and glorify Him. If that is truly your hearts desire then it doesn’t matter the song, the style, the instruments. Even if you don’t know the lyrics or the melody you can still say the words in your head, or out loud, and still be worshipping God. I’m not disagreeing with the point about the frequency of new songs being introduced. But I see this as really a heart issue. Men (and women) will always find reasons to not worship in church and it isn’t always about the song choice. If there is a sincere love for God, and a heart to please Him, the music, the songs, the powerpoint are all irrelevant. You will find a way to worship Him even when everything else is not what you prefer.

    Overseas in a church service all done in a foreign language I do not know, I can still worship God. I don’t know the songs, I don’t know the melody, I don’t even know the language, and I can still worship God! It’s a heart issue, the rest is just preference.

  • Dave

    The job of a worship leader is NOT; to entertain, or to enter into worship only themselves. They are to facilitate the congregation into a act of worship.

    • There were no Worship Leaders in the new testament… who are you to say what a Worship Leader is and isn’t supposed to do? I agree with you btw I’m just saying. There is no biblical defense for a worship leader having to only facilitate the congregation into an act of worship.

      • WiMax

        Cody, would you care to share your exhaustive research information into early church history as evidence that it did not have worship leaders, or is it proprietary and confidential? (Note: There is LOTS of evidence from other sources about what Jesus did in his ministry that are not written in the scriptures. Does this mean that those evidences are entirely false?)

      • kormathaw

        Matthew 18:6
        “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.”

        A worship leader needs to be in worship and communion with God, but they also need to not be a stumbling block to the worship of others.

  • This is so true and the lyrics of a lot of the new worship make no sense…….The wonderful older songs..had wonderful true meaning……and the music was singable….Today it has become a watching of the group leading more than true woeship……..God wants true worship from the heart not pyrotechnics…..Amen

  • Great article!
    This article corroborates my own experience. Several times over the last years, I have been in a church where a band has led worship. I have noticed the same phenomenon the author noticed. Most of the men don’t sing. More women sing than men. And when the band reverts to an old hymn, the men join in. There may be several reason why this is happening. I will tell you the reasons that I often don’t sing in that environment:
    a) Sometimes I don’t know the tune the band is singing. And since there are no notes to read (for those of us who read music), I don’t bother singing.This is really too bad, because if the notes WERE available, I would certainly make an effort to join in.
    b) Sometimes the band is so loud and overpowering that whether you sing or not makes no difference. You can hardly hear yourself if you try – so you end up thinking – ‘why bother?’.
    c) Sometimes I don’t like the music. If you don’t like the tune, there is very little incentive to join in and learn it, (even if it is repeated multiple times).
    d) Sometimes I’ve stood for so long, I’m thinking less about the music and lyrics and worshiping than I am about my legs, which are about to go numb.

    Of course, I usually do sing in our own congregation. Why?
    a) Usually I know the tune that is being sung. And if I don’t, there are notes I can read — so by the second verse, I am usually singing with everyone else.
    b) The background music (rightly defined as accompaniment) is never so noisy as to drown out the singing of the people. I can hear the person behind sing as well as on both sides. This makes for a community of believers singing instead of a performance of believers.
    c) Most of the time I like the the tune and the words and feel that I am actually contributing to worship by singing along.
    d) Although we almost always stand to sing, the songs usually are no more than 3 minutes or so, and then we can sit and take a breather.

  • At Calvary Fellowship we ocassionally stop the instruments and sing acapella and it’s wonderful to hear just voices, men and women, singing praises to God…there have been times when the worship leader has paused the music and a prayer huddled ensues. Many of our “congregants” are new believers so they haven’t picked up the “religious” way to act in the church but simply express their gratitude to God for a newly transformed life. In other words, we don’t work through the set-list as if it was a concert but instead we try to be sensitive to the Holy Sprit’s leading. It is so awesome that we don’t have to rev people up to sing. We try not to quench the Holy Spirit…it all works out with no need for a big production.

  • We would LOVE to sing in church if we could merely overcome the dire & overwhelming state of our woeful congregations.

  • Psalms 150…1.Praise ye the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.2 Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.3 Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.4 Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.5 Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.6 Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord.

    Isaiah 23:13 Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men

    Jeremiah 6:16 Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

    Psalms 51:1 1Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving kindness: according to the multitude of your tender mercies blot out my transgressions.

    1 Samuel 15:22 And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.

    Psalms 51:16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

    Psalms 96:1 O sing unto the Lord a new song: sing unto the Lord, all the earth.
    2 Sing unto the Lord, bless his name; shew forth his salvation from day to day.

    What do all these scriptures have in common? This whole article is about preference. It is the nature of some people to have a problem with change. look at the pharisees in the new testament of how angry it made them when Jesus came in and made alterations to their traditions and beliefs. But in the end what Jesus did was add a deeper meaning to everything they believed and created a way for man to have a one on one relationship with God. Our preference is not Gods preference. God has no required tune, or key, or style. Gods desired song is that of the heart. He doesn’t care about your talents he cares about your love and your thankfulness. If you want to really get back to the old paths, well its not the music of the great depression, or the 50s, or black gospel or contemporary worship. The old paths are the foundation of who God is. And surrendering yourself to his will. repentance, baptism in jesus name, and the infilling of the holy ghost (ACTS 2) is a good way to start. So before any note is played or any word is sung, FIRST praise him with your heart (whether you know the song or not). And do your best to praise him according to his excellent greatness. If you do that, then it will never matter what song is being sung.


    Thank you for reading and I hope that it can be of some help to someone.

  • I think blaming the use of newer music is a cop-out. Seriously: With the number of songs available these days, the chance of songs being “new and unfamiliar” to some people will happen. So for this argument to hold weight, then it means almost every song would have to be introduced as a “new song.”

    Worship leaders need to take responsibility for leading the congregation. This means demonstrating worship, while at the same time scanning the crowd to gauge the congregation’s reception. If the people appear lost, then it’s the leader’s job to encourage, and even instruct, in how to use the song for worship.

    Worshipers need to step up as well, and not let the performance distract them from expressing themselves in worship. I’ve had a critical spirit about the mechanics some worship teams used. This only showed the blackness in my heart. As a worship leader myself, my role in the congregation is to act like a leader and demonstrate how to worship from the congregation.

    And pray for your worship leaders to experience the love of God more fully, that it may come across better from the stage.

  • Aaron

    1. Where’s the research? This doesn’t represent my church or most churches I have visited.
    2. Paul was willing to forgo things he enjoyed in order to reach people. Now it appears that we only come to church to get what WE can receive out of it. I went to a christian rap concert (rap gives me a headache) and saw more young people give their lives over to Christ than most churches see in one year. When did “church” become about us? If it brings glory to God and brings others close to him then I am all for it.

    3. I think there is a bigger issue for “Why Men Don’t Sing In Church”. It doesn’t have to do with MUSIC! It has to do with the heart!

  • At the church I attend, it’s nothing but contemporary tunes. The problem is that I am not a tenor (the range for most male vocalists these days). So, in order to participate, I have to make up a bass line since the melody is out of my range.

    So I end up focused on the mechanics of the music instead of praising God, which I thought I was there to do in the first place!

  • As a worship leader it’s important to try and keep your songs simple and familiar for congregational singing. There are great songs in worship that are wonderful for listening but way too hard for the average person to sing. Also there are way too many worship songs out there. I can go from one church to another and hear a totally different set of songs. Most of the time from week to week the songs are totally different. I like to progress when I lead, but you got to remember to bring your congregation with you, it’s about enabling folks to enter into a worship experience with their creator. So I will usually do 3 songs that everyone know that are done almost every Sunday. I will do two that haven’t been done in a while, and one new one. Every so often I will retire songs that have been overdone and replace them with other familiar tunes.

  • Dan McGowan

    This is a great article and one that needs to be written, read and reviewed. My background in worship (as a singer, a worship leader, songwriter, etc.) is extensive and I have seen and experienced the very same things noted in this article. We are not called to “watch people worship.” We are not called to “Watch the God Show.” We are called and created to worship the Almighty with all we are – lousy voices, terrible dancing, clumsy banner waving – or, if we can, better versions of those – and more! I have far too much to say on this (my book, “What in God’s Name are we Doing” is available for Kindle on amazon for more.)

    Music is an unbelievable gift God has given to us with which we WORSHIP and ADORE and GLORIFY and HONOR Him. To do anything other than that is simply a waste of time…

  • MarylandHome
    • The link is to a liturgical perspective. Sometimes we evangelicals vilify liturgically-oriented worship but it has served many true saints well for a couple of thousand years. A large number of them finished the race well.

      • me

        I love liturgical services. 🙂 Sometimes people associate them with liberal theology, but I go to a liturgical service that is not liberal.

  • A lot of good questions here. I agree that we have lost something with the shift away from a hymnbook. I think that always singing new songs fits well with a “secular” view of time, and we lose an older, fuller idea of time. This, I believe is a significant loss. Christians need to help the world experience more meaning, rather than experience less ourselves. Here’s my argument in more detail: http://trentdejong.com/?p=959

  • Jim

    Julie, your answer is great, because it’s common sense. Throwing new
    songs up every week is not common sense. If the band plays too loud, it
    is like one is at a rock concert. The loud instrumentation will drown
    out the voices as well, and leaves no sense of the sacred in worship.
    The songs also need to be sung at a tone and pitch low enough for most
    men to be able to sing. I personally don’t like the smoke. It’s a
    distraction. I’m old enough that I prefer a blend of old hymns with new
    hymns and the praise hymns style of music like in the 80’s.

    What a shame that many young adults don’t know the beauty of traditional
    hymns like “In the Garden”, ‘How Great Thou Art”, Blessed Assurance”,
    “Amazing Grace”, and some of the Charles Wesley songs. Not everything in church music should need to be so rev’ed up (Pun not intended.)

    • I liked best the collections of hymns and the musical arrangements that were in the Methodist and American Baptist hymnals publised in the mid 1950s.
      I’m sure other hymnals had nearly the same music, I was most familiar with those.

    • Dr. Julie Connor

      Thanks, Jim. I think there’s a lot of common sense in good liturgical praise music. However, I find that many young people DO know the words to “Amazing Grace” and old familiar hymns. Lots of young people enjoy harmonizing and adding alternative beats to old renditions. I found that many young people are hungry for them. That does not mean that there’s not “room at the table” for contemporary music. I believe there’s room for all kinds of music within worship. We run into “watching” mentality when there is lack of familiarity. Stadium behavior during the singing of “The National Anthem” is a classic example of audience exclusion;; even though the words are familiar, celebrity soloists singing to a melody that no one knows results in an assembly who stand silent and tune out until they hear familiar words again (like “Play ball!”).

  • Amanda

    I agree with the importance of using new songs with discretion, and teaching them to the congregation, however, I don’t think this has anything to do with just men. It is a problem all around if people don’t know the music.

  • Love this. I go to church to worship God with everyone, not watch a rock concert. Also, Jesus Smog causes Jesus Smog Cough.

  • A lot of the modern songs are not memorable, easily singable, and don’t tell the gospel story or lead us into more understanding of the riches we have in Christ.

    • Keith Matten

      In the early 80’s Terry Clark would come visit our church. He would sit at the piano alone and sing songs most of the people had never heard. I didn’t know one song he sang on several mornings but I worshipped fervently. Terry usually sang the verses and invited us to join in on the chorus which were very simple yet powerful. You don’t have to know the song to worship God. Maybe some of those men are just listening to the voice of God as the Worship Leader offers up his gift. Maybe some of those men are thinking about lunch. Who knows? I sing because I choose to. It pleases my Heavely Father. That choice to participate is fostered long before I walk into the sanctuary.

    • kormathaw

      I love the good old hymns, but name me one hymn that more fully tells the Gospel story than Casting Crowns “Glorious Day”. If you can’t find modern music that preaches the Gospel, you are not looking very hard.

  • Jeff Q

    This truly is a terrible, pointless article. It is full of sarcastic, backhanded statements towards “hip” music, vague generalities that are impossible to refute, and don’t have to have any basis in reality. The title should have been “everything was better in my day.

    This statement is completely useless– ” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again.” What is the point? When you were a young man 20-30 years ago (based off of your pic) don’t you know that there were traditionalists saying the exact same things about the Jesus Movement people or even before that when the Southern Gospel (Stamps, Rambo, Gaither etc) songs made their way into the church?

    “That kind of coaching is rare today.” Another useless general statement that does not add anything to the discussion What church did you visit? Did you go speak to the song leader and share your concerns or just complain in the car on the way home and write a ridiculous blog post?

    “In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.” This sentence…..again…either another ridiculous exaggeration to prove a point that the new stuff is less holy or an outright lie. Did EVERYONE sing EVERY verse of EVERY song?

    Let’s not let an opportunity pass us by to also make it sound like they’re only after money too. Oh, and they write their own songs? Wow, that’s terrible. A person called into music ministry tries to use his/her gifts to glorify God? Get ’em out of here. Do preachers only recite sermons written by Luther, Sproul, Spurgeon, or Edwards? Of course not. But that’s different you say? I thought the goal was familiarity?

    I’m trying to figure out the point. You visit a church and don’t know a song and therefore make the (il)logical conclusion that men don’t sing because of the invention of overhead projectors?

    Finally, I am not saying that “hip, contemporary” churches are perfect. Of course they aren’t. But what I am saying is that if you have an issue with the way music is played at your church, talk to your song leader. I’m sure they would love to hear your feedback. Get to know them and their heart. Figure out why they emphasize certain songs. Find out how they prepare and pray to select the songs to lead YOU in worship. Don’t just anonymously complain. That helps no one.

    • very well said

    • This article does, indeed have a number of “faults”. However, being pointless was not one of them. The self-stated goal of this site is to have conversations. The author shared their opinion and you shared yours ….. goal achieved.
      Chances are, he reached his (albeit anecdotal) conclusions, based on his own experience. Your berating of him, as you label his experience terrible and pointless, says more about your current state of mind, than his. Your own points are excellent and worthy of consideration in the entire context of this blog.
      It is just my opinion, but I think respect, grace and love are always “hip”.

      • Jeff Q

        I definitely went a little more on the harsh side with my comments but it was to try and prove a point that everything he is using to support his side of the discussion was anecdotal, as you say. It’s preaching to the choir…..just look at the majority of the comments. It’s people essentially saying, “yeah it’s too loud and too different for me as well.”

        Where was the grace and love on display in his article? It wasn’t as aggressive as my comment but it was certainly sarcastic and backhanded. If the point was to start a discussion, where are the questions to discuss? It really is just a rant against modern music.

        • Todd W. White

          I thought David Morrison was righteously funny in his article – he made you really think about and “see” what he was talking about! I didn’t think he was trying to belittle, bash, or demean anyone whatsoever.

          That said, I believe he wrote it that way to make folks – especially people who are enmeshed in the false concept that “we must become like the culture in order to reach it” – understand just how detrimental to the cause of Christ that belief really is.

          The lost KNOW instinctively that there is something wrong with them, thus, they NEED to change. The problem is, without the clear presentation of the Gospel, they don’t know where to find the change they need, which is to be born again. SO – they try changing themselves, and that’s where all of the body piercing, tatooing, wacko hairdo’s, etc., come from.

          The problem is, it’s not the change their souls need, and they interpret this as what they’ve done so far as not being “enough”, so they sink even deeper and deeper…

          Then, here comes along one of these people who professes to be a Christian, he sees these lost souls in need of Christ, but instead of offering them REAL CHANGE, he offers them a SANITIZED VERSION OF WHAT THEY ALREADY HAVE – exactly the OPPOSITE of what they REALLY NEED!

          Christ came to make us NEW creatures, NOT merely “polished up” versions of the old nature we were born with. People need to be born again, not wiped down with spiritual Armor-All, perfumed up, and presented as some sort of “changed” person.

          In reality, I am convinced that this lagoon of spiritual sludge we’re being forced to swallow as “superior”, in fact, really isn’t, and is, instead, a way for carnal (if saved at all) church members – particularly church musicians – to feed their visceral appetites and assuage their spiritual conscience at the same time…

    • Chris Wade

      Great response! As a worship leader, I love it! Good stuff!

  • From experience I would say that I often cannot hear a line in the music that fits my voice. When I have the notes in front of me I can usually find a line I can read and follow.
    In honesty, I truly dislike those traditional hymns that are marked to be sung in unison — I have to sing them an octave or two lower than written and may move back and forth between one and two octaves lower.
    For those hymns for which I once learned a part that fits my voice, by reading the music, I sing the notes from memory.
    Projectors with sufficient resolution to display the notes and the words are beyond the budgets of most churches. People didn’t stand between the congregant and the hymnal. Of course the congregational area had to be lighted well enough for congregants to read the hymnals, or scriptures.
    I would not require choir members to be able to read music; but as a practical matter; I would want half of them to read music and place those who do behind or beside those with similar voices who don’t.
    There are more people in the world who read and write Mandarin Chinese than any other written language. There are more people who read traditional, Italian, musical notation than read Mandarin Chinese. When the hymnals were removed or went unused we lost a valuable mode of communication.
    Reading music has been shown to slow the progression of dementia in the elderly. Reading music has been shown to correlate well with learning mathermatics in the young. While not everybody can learn to read music; why deprive those who might retain mental acuity longer or build better mathematical skills to cope with life and work. I think churches lapsed in ministry by disuse or removal of hymnals.
    Some people find loud music physically or emotionally painful whether it be drums and electric guitars or pipe organs. Others find the same music cathartic or rhapturous.
    Some who enter a church are seeking sanctuary others are seeking celebration full of sound and fury [maybe not as in Act 5, Scene 5 of Macbeth].
    The real question is this: Will either group be more likely to build a lasting faith that will sustain them through the end of the race, no matter what obstacles they face? Who among us has achieved that? What sustained them?
    When a church moves to embrace or include one group that church nearly always moves away from another group.
    Many who have left churches in the past quarter-century felt the churches first left them. I’m sure this was happening when Paul wrote to the Galatians but I’ve observed it more in the last quarter-century than in the previous two.

    • me

      Our church prints the music in the worship folder each week.

  • momof4

    Ours is a Sovereign Grace church in Miami Lakes, FL. Our lyrics are theologically rich, combined with simple tunes. It also helps that our pastors are humble men who sit with us and worship like there’s nobody else in the room but them and the LORD…in complete surrender. We cannot help but be humbled by this. Everyone in our church sings, claps hands and praises God with complete abandon…but with order. Our worship leader or pastors (who are near the front and close to the mike) at times pray or read scripture in between songs. The songs are different every week, but still everyone worships. The great thing is that because the lyrics are so theologically rich, teach us the gospel. So even if we were to only worship and not hear the message/sermon, we leave church feeling like we’ve been in His presence.
    I’ve been to many churches over the years and have been disappointed with how many churches have a worship band that seems to be performing on stage rather than serving the church in leading us in humble adoration to God. “The audience” gets sucked in to watching a “performance”.

  • The article was a very interesting start to what has become a lengthy conversation here. I have noticed from time to time and from congregation to congregation, that the participation levels vary. The reasons for this are just as varied. Discussion and sharing of experience can is helpful and instructive, as long as it is done with respect and Love.

  • Todd W. White

    This is a very interesting article, and one that I’ve been on the
    proverbial soap box for 35-40 years. I’ll probably get beat to death for it, but here’s my view on all of that, in a nutshell (though I
    could say much more) –

    As a degreed musician and former church
    music director, I can tell you that we are dumbing down our
    congregations, musically (to say nothing of the spiritual dumbing-down that’s going on as a result). They aren’t singing parts much, because they
    have NO PARTS TO SING. Instead, they’re been subjected to the “sing along with Mitch”
    syndrome, where the WORDS are up on the screen, but not the MUSIC!
    Therefore, unless someone already knows the parts or how to pick them
    out, the harmonies get lost and everyone sings unison, which is pretty
    boring, musically (and spiritually, too).

    Worse yet, now the
    worship leaders (who rarely, it has been my observation as a pastor,
    know what biblical worship REALLY IS), keep pulling out songs that
    NOBODY KNOWS BUT THEM, so the congregation – who is forced to stand
    interminably, as if standing is more spiritual than sitting – just kind
    of stands there, not knowing what notes to sing with the words being splashed for them on the
    JumboTron. This, of course, results in anything BUT real, corporate
    worship – in reality, it’s just glorified entertainment, which explains
    why the “performers” (who are no longer standing on a “platform”: it’s
    now a “stage”) have to keep adding more and more repetitions in the
    music and more and more gimmicks to keep the “feel” of the service “up”.
    The result is more of a pseudo-Christian sideshow than it is
    Spirit-filled, biblical worship.

    That said, I don’t doubt the
    motives or intentions of these moderns, I just doubt whether or not
    they’re really spiritually mature at all, and, by saying that, I’ll get
    labeled the one who “doesn’t understand how to reach the modern
    culture” and the one who is “out of touch” and the one who is

    So be it.

    Suffice to to say the younger
    generation of church-goers are being inoculated against Spirit-filled
    music and true, biblical worship, in favor of that which is merely visceral.

    As my good
    friend John McKay has so wisely said – the modern church music
    people…”are robbing the older Christians of the music that speaks to
    their spirit and their soul, and they are also robbing the younger
    Christians of the deep walk with God that their grandparents had –
    partially because of the great music they sang in church back then.”

    Todd W. White, Pastor
    South Heights Baptist Church
    Sapulpa, Oklahoma

    • Mary Pothoven

      I am sure people will try to label you this and that, but the only thing they should read here is truth from the bible. Christians, young and old, are being robbed. The older ones at least have a choice. There are still churches out there who are standing up and fighting for biblical worship. Let’s not call it “traditional” worship. It is biblical worship.

      There is a very good book called “What is Worship Music” by Paul Jones


      and the same author has one even more in depth which explains the biblical mandate for worship and liturgy in the church: “Singing and Making Music: Issues in the Church Today”.

      Both explain that singing during worship is not a choice. God commands it.

      I have four children, two are still young. We have brought them up in churches that supported biblical worship. Recently, our church has compromised and put up a big screen, allowed the crowd pushing for the electric guitars to move in with their microphones and their chorus teams onto the “stage”. After serving in the choir for years and tried to convince the leadership to not go down this slippery slope, we are leaving. We will support the church which is holding firm to biblical worship and liturgy.

      We have spend thousands of dollars and hours educating our four children with music lessons so that a younger generation is equipped to carry on our Christian heritage. I know others like us who will be blessed to still have a different option. Interestingly, even our youngest who is 9 years old realizes that the contemporary songs that the “praise team” plays are dumbed down and ridiculously repetitive.

      • Todd W. White

        Thanks, Mary! It’s great to hear that some are still hanging on and passing the truth to their young ones! Where we are, precious few understand – most have been inoculated against Spirit-filled, biblical worship, making reaching new people difficult, at best.

    • EileenP

      Amen!!! You said everything I feel. Very hard to find a church in South Florida that has hymns.

  • Laura Padgett

    Art is not a spectator sport and especially when praising God. Our voices, our bodies, our hearts and our love cannot be projected on screens or filtered through others. I love contemporary and I love traditional avenues when it comes to worship, but if I want entertainment I will go to a concert. Somehow I see this movement as just another example of people sitting on the sidelines of life, love and worship and expecting someone else to do it for them. How very, very sad. God wants to bless us from our heads to our toes. We all need to be blessing Him and praising Him in song, dance, prayer and participation in Him, period. And when you get your voice back, let’s get your feet and bodies moving too. Praise Him in the Dance. “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” Luke 19:40. Don’t be silent beloveds, shout and sing because our God is worthy. Oh He is so worthy. Amen?

  • David Murrow,
    Much of the commentary on your article shows thought and a conciliatory spirit. Perhaps you could consolidate the commentary into another article or even a book.

  • Dave

    Problem – Contemporary Music is inane lyrics sung to meandering melodies that nobody knows, except the guy leading, problem is he changes the melody each time. Oh, did I mention they are typically in a key that’s either pitched to high or too low making singing nearly impossible. That’s due to the fact that the guitar players are such poor musicians they mostly have to use a capo because they only know 3 cords.

    Solution – Music needs a predictable melody, pitched and played in a key everyone can comfortably sing, and have words that are theologically sound. Sounds like a hymn to me.

    • Jeff Q


  • pelagrin

    I think this is an important line that’s briefly mentioned: “They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. …singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.” Sadly, a lot (though not all) of modern worship is emotion-driven, and theology is often light, absent, or even unbiblical. Unfortunately, I don’t think most people take time to examine the lyrics against scripture to determine whether they present sound doctrine.

    • Jeff Q

      Any examples? Google the song “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townend. Or “From the Inside Out” by HIllsong United. It’s easy to make vague generalizations about something you don’t understand, but there are plenty of new songs that are theologically rich and easy to sing. It’s just a matter of removing your bias to see it.

      • pelagrin

        Bias and personal preference have nothing to do with it. Just as with preachers and prophets, we should test everything against scripture. One approach – look at who the focus of the song is about. Is the song about us and what we do, or should do? Or is the song about Christ and what he did for us? Also, is the song about the biblical Jesus and the one true God? Or could the song be sung to/about another (false) Christ, and/or any generic god (ie. could a person of another faith easily sing it and it still make sense to them? or could the song be even sung to a girlfriend/boyfriend have it make sense?) “In Christ Alone” by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend (which btw was also recorded by the Newsboys – I really do know what I’m talking about) is rich in Gospel and talks directly about Christ and what He did for us. Meanwhile, the focus of “From the Inside Out” is on the person singing and what they do. It is sung to a god it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is to the God, and the lyrics aren’t clearly based on biblical teachings. (And it’s worth noting that the Hillsong church is a false megachurch – not my opinion. Compare what the preachers teach against scripture.)

        • Jeff Q

          A thousand times I failed, still YOUR mercy remains. Should I stumble again still I’m caught in YOUR grace. Everlasting, YOUR light will shine when all else fails, never ending YOUR glory goes beyond all fame…. etc. From the Inside Out is a personal song. Is that wrong? Many of the Psalms are written from the first person perspective. Hillsong is definitely suspect, but does that make the words of the song any less true if I sing them? 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redman is another wonderful song that most people here will never get to sing because of their preconceived notions about modern, contemporary, hip music…whatever you want to call it.

          I know you had a qualifier in your comment that not all new songs are bad, but I don’t think most of the people commenting here take the time to listen to them. If it’s a “hip rock band” then they immediately disqualify it. That is the mindset that I’m concerned with. I guess it really shouldn’t matter to me, but when someone posts a blog blasting it and it gets shared by 36k people, that’s discouraging.

        • me

          I agree with pelagrin. I have noticed the exact same thing. There are a few exceptions, but I have noticed that the most theologically rich songs don’t use the words “I” or “me”, they are all about God. “In Christ alone” is an exception.

  • Kim

    Great article! I too can’t sign without the hymnal or the other little book with some more contemporary music. I NEED the notes! We have a song leader, but that doesn’t help me if I don’t also have the music notes. Thank you for putting this in writing!

  • Randy Culp

    Sorry folks, I read the article and all the comments, and I believe we have missed the real issue. Worship is NOT at ALL about music or lyrics or singing. It is a response to the human heart catching a glimpse of who HE is. IF one does not experience worship on Sunday morning they probably have not encountered Him all week long. Worship is NOT a switch that can be flipped on Sunday morning, the worship that flows on Sunday morning comes from a heart that worships on Tuesday night, Monday Morning, and Thursday afternoon … and it has NOTHING to do with music or hymns or lyrics, its about a heart that knows the power of His spirit and has spent time in communion with Him.

    • kormathaw

      I have often said. If you’re “not being fed”, pick up a spoon. You get as much out of worship as you put into it, regardless of the quality of the pastor/organist/praise band

  • I wouldn’t go to a fake church (?) that has that garbage anyway. When I got saved I was delivered from that wild music. It is no more right than Christian adultery done to the glory of God. I can’t believe you even wonder why men don’t sing to that two faced fake style of so called religion. I can’t even call it Christian with a straight face. Pitiful.

    • Link

      So, your FB profile says you “like” the Allman Brothers, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Bob Segar and the Grateful Dead, but here you are criticizing other forms of worship that you consider “garbage.” Wow. Of course you’re free to worship as you see fit, but with so much venom in your heart, do you know the One you’re singing too? People all over the world come to God with many different styles of music. God knows the heart, and He will judge all who use worship as anything other than the pure thing He desires. I don’t care what you play, or how you sing, God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth.

    • Tophertag

      Mike, I hate to be the one to tell you this, but the fruit on your branches appear to be spoiling. Matthew 7:16-20

  • disqus_d1Q663BXdM
  • KBinPlano

    GREAT conversation – however, I would add one other potential answer to the conversation. I believe it is an issue of willing vulnerability for most men. Yes, familiarity is a concern. I am pretty daring vocally and have been that guy brandishing a new song far too often. However, I believe the bigger concern is not over knowing the words, it is over truly knowing God and realizing that He is in control and we are not. Far too often, we all – not just men, go to church and want to “look” like we got it going on. Knowing the words, or being in “control” spiritually is a big thing. If you can get to the place of pursuit of God in everything, you can find a way to worship in the midst of something unfamiliar. One thing I have done often when faced with a daunting tune is turn to the passage from which the lyric is based. After chewing on that, then the melody and my confidence seem to appear more quickly. SO, while on my soapbox, I will say that one other issue for many men, this one included, is that church continues to become more feminine focused. It is important to express love and joy toward the person of Christ, but men also need to be challenged, coached, kicked in the seat – but it has to be from a person of whom they respect. Many pastors today are catering to whatever audience will laud praise and affection upon them – hubris. Men need elements of a coach. That is why Promise Keepers was so strong in the early going. Coach Mac could kick you in the teeth and you loved him for it and wanted to do better. It is a fine line of how to encourage ALL of us to worship. Men are a tougher nut to crack however. I believe the most critical ingredient needed to engage both men AND women is authenticity – and that is sorely lacking in the church today. Just my $ .015.

  • RohnaH

    I direct our praise band and work very hard to make sure I choose songs that are easy to sing and in comfortable keys for everyone. We haggle over what key to put a song in quite often, as some songs have a wide range and it’s difficult to find a happy place for both men and women. But eventually, we arrive at that happy place and introduce the new song to the congregation as a special music (but they are invited to join in if they know it already). The next week, the new song is a part of the set list, and I usually program it for the following week as well. We never have more than one new song in a service and from what I see and hear up front, we have excellent participation from everybody. It’s unfortunate that this sequence isn’t the norm because repetition is so important. People won’t sing the song until they KNOW the song, and until they are really comfortable with a song, they will have difficulty worshipping through the music.

  • SamHamilton

    I think another problem with a lot of modern music sung in churches today is that it hasn’t been written for congregational singing. It was written by a song-writer to be recorded in a studio. That’s not a criticism of the writer or the song, but the songs were written with a different purpose in mind.

    Too often, they’re expressions of what that individual song-writer was thinking and feeling at the time, but then those thoughts and feeling and emotions are imposed on an entire congregation of people. There have been times when I’ve been reading the lyrics and thinking “No, that’s not at all how I feel right now about God.” Songs sung by the congregation in church should be timeless…statements about God and our faith rather than about how we feel.

    Then there’s also the issue of a song sounding good when sung by one or two vocalists on a recording but not working well at all for hundreds of people because the melody just doesn’t work or it’s too intricate or something. I don’t know exactly what the problem is, but sometimes it just doesn’t work.

    • David E. Davis

      You have hit on another point often forgotten in some modern churches – having only up-beat praise music for a congregation and not including at least one repentantive or reflective piece within the worship service. Engaging music reflects the heart, and honest worship understands that sometime our hearts are high and other times low. Some times we must reflect and repent before we can fully praise, or we won’t feel right in singing along. Look at the Psalms of David and many Old Testament recorded examples of corporate worship – the emotional “Lows” are there along with the “Highs.” If we want the worship experience to be engaging to all, and honest emotionally, the highs AND lows must be represented. Liturgical-based worship services ‘automatically’ covered this; modern worship services tending to ‘up-beat only’ should learn from this.

      Also be aware that some false-gospel Health-Wealth-Prosperity churches only have up-beat only music for a reason! They want to addict people to an emotional high fix at their church. The true Gospel covers our “Lows” as well: our lostness sin, Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice for us, our repentance, our continued battles in this sinful world, our battles to reach those still in darkness. We will have non-stop praise music in Heaven after all of creation has been renewed, but until then, let’s sing honestly about the highs AND lows we face in this life, and worship will be more honest and engaging.

  • Sevrin Caswell

    “Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.” This is the core message of modern christianity.

  • Joe Cook

    Just to stir the pot a little bit… What about the people who didn’t grow up in church, have never heard a hymn anyway, except Amazing Grace maybe. Would never sing or listen to anything that sounds like something written in 1500s. But want to worship Jesus with something that speaks to them. I get it, those songs are important to you, they’re part of your experience with Jesus. But I’ll be honest, if most of the young people I work with who’ve just met Jesus and haven’t grown up in church got handed a hymnal and told this is how you worship God, many of them would run the other direction, and i’d run right behind them. In fact they are running and starting their own new churches and worship services, which is great!! worship starts with wanting to sing to Jesus, I know lots of choir directors and members who are more interested in the show they’re putting on for people than the praise they’re offering up to Jesus. I get it, worship leaders sometimes want to be rock stars, so do some preachers and choir directors in their own way, their’s all kinds of temptation when you’re put at the front. And the rock stars can learn a little something to be sure, like how to teach people new songs, but lets not be pharisees and prescribe for people what songs are acceptable for worship.

    • me

      I know a lot of young people who are embarrassed when worship music tries to be too hip and trendy. Most people are familiar with classic hymns, especially the ones based on classic, timeless melodies. My son’s 3rd grade class sang the “Finlandia” at their concert, which is the same melody as “Be still my soul”. I don’t think that any of these kids would run away if they heard it in church.

      I personally like variety in a service, especially since I am a musician myself, but it is important for me to be able to sing old classic hymns that are theologically rich and have beautiful melodies. Some of these hymns have held up for over 1,000 years. “All Creatures of our God and King” is always a favorite among kids and adults. The melody is famous, the words are rich in theology, and the fact that it has been around for so many years sends the important message that the church is historical and grounded, not some new hip and trendy thing.

      • Link

        In the late 80s I was attending a Calvary Chapel church. The congregation was mostly under 30 and many were not raised in church. Though our worship pastor was raised in a “traditional” church, we sang all the new choruses (no hymns). I still remember the night he drifted unplanned and unannounced into “Amazing Grace.” I was shocked that virtually no one seemed to know that song! Not the worship team, and certainly not the audience.

    • greggwon

      People who are learning about the message of Jesus should be learning to do what Jesus did. He didn’t walk around singing. He walked around do good things and pointing out the beauty of God’s creation and how certain attributes of ones behaviors were best managed.

      The hymns tell these stories and point out these things over and over. Crying out “My God is an Awesome God”, is a great thing to do. But, so is understanding that God’s grace is an “Amazing Grace” and that you have a tremendous responsibility to yourself and the rest of mankind, to manage your own self in a way that Jesus showed in his own actions.

      If there is a God, what responsibilities do you have?

      If there was no God, what responsibilities would you have?

      Jesus illustrated quite a few things which are always summarized into “you are forgiven for you sins”, and “by the grace of god, you are …”. Those things are the messages that need to be in music. Hymns are not a poor representation of these messages. They are the lyrics and the music which have stood the tests of time.

  • James Bozeman

    When you gear your worship services in emulation of concerts, and when you make attempting to satisfy the modern craving for something “new, fresh and different” the supreme goal of these services in order to remain relevant to the ever-changing moment (which is clearly the over-riding concern), it seems obvious that this is the sort of problem that you are going to run into.

    And part of the problem *is* the rock, the lights and the smoke machine. I participated in the Christian music industry for many years, was in a touring band, signed to a label. I was a worship leader in an evangelical church. I have watched the slide into contemporary worship from both the inside and (now) the outside, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian who left the protestant evangelical paradigm.

    You are correct: church music— whatever the style— should make as its focus the participation of the people. Music should instruct by way of the text of the songs. it should teach theology, Church history and (most of all) scripture. It should have a depth that contemporary non-Church music (i.e. “secular” music) can’t compete with. it should challenge us and unsettle us and present a goal for us to achieve. it shouldn’t coddle us with silly and nostalgic psuedo-spiritual drivel. It shouldn’t present us with a finished image of ourselves (and thus, an inaccurate image) that we can easily and cheaply tack onto our selves like a bumper sticker or a quick coat of paint. And within the context of Church services, this same music should both unite us in a common confession of belief and in a common act of glorifying God with our voices… which are far more appropriate for praising God than any instrument will ever be.

    Basically, kids, there will be no rock-and-roll in Heaven. So why continue to push it now, in the Church, as if it has a place within the context of the Kingdom of God revealed to us in the here and now? Don’t get me wrong: I’m not telling anyone to burn their records (er…CD’s… does anyone do that anymore, by the way?). Enjoy good music (I’m listening to M83 a great bit these days, FWIW). But realize that perhaps the contemporary church movement has it all wrong. And maybe this is the real problem.

    Father James Bozeman

    • xjm716

      No rock-and-roll in Heaven? This makes me sad.

      Here’s a thought that popped into my head on my run this morning…what role does the giftedness of the body play in your post and thought process? Suppose someone is gifted musically, how might they use those gifts? In an evangelical church, there is room and space. How would the same person fit within a context like yours?

      • James Bozeman

        Maybe there is too much room and space in evangelical paradigms. If I offer “my gifts” to God for service within His Church, then they are no longer mine to exercise according to my own tastes. In Orthodox understanding, this translates simply to this: Do I submit to the Church (which is the Body of Christ, of whom I am a part), or does it submit to me? The implications are great.

        And I have to be honest here: how could you be sad about the fact that rock music ultimately will pass away? You know me. I love the rock and the roll. But what place could such a fleeting snippet of our passing culture have in the eternal, unending day of the Kingdom of God? Why would we miss it, or anything else like it, standing (or better yet, kneeling or even prostrating) in the presence of our perfect Creator? What would there be to miss? Suddenly, I’m having visions of Lot’s wife, turning back and becoming a pillar of salt.

        This is the danger of our contemporary concept of worship, in a nutshell. One of the side-effects is that it promotes an attachment to the things of this world, which themselves skew our perception of the Church, and the eternal, transcendent reality of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our Tradition of worship should be something out of the ordinary, beyond the realm of the secular. Worship music in the Church will draw from our human gifts, but as Orthodox, we would say that the exercise of those gifts should be guided by the Church and not the other way around.

        I am that person that mentioned above, but I don’t feel as if my gifts aren’t being utilized by the Church just because our worship doesn’t involve instruments and is guided by an ancient Tradition of what Church worship should look like (look in the book of Revelation, and you will see the Orthodox Liturgy there, BTW). I play guitar, jam with the band and record my music. And in as much as I offer this up to God as a pleasing sacrifice and do it for His glory, I am worshipping Him. But there is worship and then there is Worship.

    • Randy Zabel

      How, exactly, would anyone know with certainty that there is no rock-n-roll in heaven? Charles Wesley used bar songs to attract the illiterate and unchurched to hear the Gospel. Was that heresy? Millions of church goers now hold the Wesleyan hymns up as high Church music.

      As for lyrical content, how does one in 21st century America (for example) relate to “All hail the power of Jesus’ Name! Let angels prostrate fall;
      Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
      Bring forth the royal diadem, and crown Him Lord of all.
      Let highborn seraphs tune the lyre, and as they tune it, fall
      Before His face Who tunes their choir, and crown Him Lord of all.”

      versus one of those new songs …

      “Amazing Love that sent His Son To suffer in my stead
      The sinless King who died for me When I deserved His death
      Yes, I deserved His death The Savior wept my every tear
      He groaned that I might sing My thorny crown upon His head
      My cross, His suffering”

      Additionally, many have mentioned theological density. the use of complex phrasing and deep thinking is not demanded by Christ in worship of Him. In fact Christ tells us to speak plainly.

      Matthew 6:7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 9“This, then, is how you should pray:
      “ ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10your kingdom come,
      Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11Give us today our daily bread. 12And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
      13And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ’

      Sure that does cut against flashy stage productions, but the point I am making is that all forms of human worship have failings and must be measured against the point Christ attempted to make again and again; the condition of the heart matters not the form of the words, dress, or even the law. Faith is demanded and through faith repentence leads to salvation. Our purpose in corporate worship is to express that faith and thanksgiving and to draw the unsaved into a fellowship through which they will hear about the saving grace of Christ.

      • James Bozeman

        You suggest that as long as your heart is in the right place, then the form of worship doesn’t really matter. And so you are positing a heart vs. form model, when I am suggesting that both the heart’s intentions and the form in which the worship is manifested are both integral to proper corporate worship. There is always a “best” way to do things, and we are (hopefully) offerring our best to the Lord in worship.

        In my post, I suggested that there would be no rock and roll in Heaven because Heaven — the presence of God, undimmed and fully realized— is beyond all rock and roll, all Wesleyan hymns, all of everything. What we do here and now should reflect this reality, rather than catering to some nonsensical idea that “you can take it with you” when you die and face Christ.

        It is from this perspective that Eastern Orthodox Christianity offers its worship, which is not anti-contemporary or simply ancient for the sake of being ancient. It is something that is making the attempt to realize this “beyond-ness” of God and His Kingdom. This sort of thing is bound to make the form of worship distinct, with “rules” and boundaries that rather strictly define what is best and what is less than best.

        You say, “Our purpose in corporate worship is to express that faith and thanksgiving and to draw the unsaved into a fellowship through which they will hear about the saving grace of Christ”. But I say that worship is the basic reality, the basic posture, of the human regenerated in Christ. We need not worry about “saved” and “unsaved”, which are simply categories that depend on our limited human judgment. Instead, we should concern ourselves with offerring back to God a portion of all that He has given to us. As St Seraphim of Sarov famously said, “Be saved yourself, and thousands around you will be saved.” That is worship at its best, “speaking plainly” and in faith and with repentance.

        • Randy Zabel

          How can you define what is the best form of worship? Christ broke any number of “rules” when it came to the form of worship He participated in and He encouraged His diciples to participate in. Your position that The Eastern Orthodox church is able to “rather strictly define what is best” smacks of an arrogance that I cannot even put into words. Christ came to break the chains of legalism in worship. Read Matthew 23. He chides the Jewish religious leaders because they prided themselves with the clever rules establishing the proper way to enter the Temple or the proper way to address each other. He praised the woman who broke all social norms as she broke open priceless oils and washed His feat with her hair. Christ calls us to an unpretentious immersive relationship with Him not some dogma. (Do some who practice contemporary worship do so with improper intentions? yes but to dismiss that form of worship as not “best” is not acceptable.) I have watched as people sleep through services of hymns. I have seen congregations recite the litergy with the passion of the dead. I have seen shallow performances of extravegant showmanship. But I have also had the humbling honor to enter into the pressence of God as the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church presented the Gospel. I have had tears of joy wash down my face as I sing the Old Rugged Cross. And I have stood in awe as three-thousand people raise their voices and hands in praise singing “God undefeatable, kingdom unshakeable In majesty and power You reign Love undeniable, matchless and bountiful To waken us to life You came You came.” When we ascend to be thie God, yes, all these trappings pass away. But for today, to reach a fallen world, the exact form used is NOT the priority. Rather, reflecting Christ’s Gospel is the priority. If no one listens, they cannot hear.

          • James Bozeman

            Interestingly, I have had many of the very same experiences as you have had, though I have not had the pleasure of experiencing His Holiness, the Patriarch, read the Gospel. That would be a beautiful thing. I, too, have been on both sides of the fence, in terms of the types of “worship” I have participated in. My experience suggests to me (though not to you) that there is good, and then there is better and best. This isn’t arrogance, I promise, but rather simply a fact of how things work. It doesn’t matter what we are talking about, there is always a “best”. Why not seek it?

            I think that the problem here is that we are speaking of two different things. You are fixed on a pragmatic approach to the Gospel: whatever works = a justified approach. Whereas I am suggesting that some things don’t work, whether we feel good about them or not. You appeal to your own feelings in both the case of the Patriarch reading the Gospel and the case of 3,000 people singing a particular song (of which I am unfamiliar). You call these “trappings,” and you suggest that they will fall away. My suggestion is that this should not be the case. Shouldn’t we seek “worship trappings” that don’t fall away? I am suggesting that worship here and now should be of an eternal quality, emulating and manifesting “on earth, that which is in heaven.” The book of Revelation, for the Orthodox, resounds with imagery of our own services: incense, presbyters gathered around a throne, silence, folks falling on their faces in awe of God, dispassionately and in sincerity.

            Christ was not a rule-breaker, at least in the sense that you portray Him. As He said Himself, He came to fulfill the Law, not to abolish it (Matt 5:17). He merely “broke” men’s rules, which were not God’s Law. But then again, He was Christ, and we must be careful to not try to appropriate his vocation for ourselves. If we break men’s rules, then we should do it not simply as if breaking these rules was the end of the game. When the woman who anointed Christ’s feet did what she did, it was because she was firmly in touch with who Christ was, and did so out of love for Him. Not simply for the sake of breaking a rule. So let’s not focus on that as if that was the point of this account. Nor does Christ “break rules” for the sake of breaking rules. If you set up a barricade on a highway, where it doesn’t belong, it is bound to be destroyed by a passing tractor-trailer. These men were doing that very thing, and Christ was merely redirecting their misguided attempts at worshipping God and constraining others to do as they did. They had the right idea, but they simply had taken it in the wrong direction, suiting their own passions and missing the call to love, which is after all the entire point of the Law: love of God manifested in a love of neighbor.

            The pharisees didn’t make up their rules out of thin air. They were based in a God-ordained pattern of worship, which they in turn distorted. It wasn’t that there wasn’t a “right way” to worship. Clearly, if you read the Old Testament, you can see that God gave His people a “right” way to worship. But they had begun to distort this “right way”. The scripture points us first to the right venue of worship: the Church. St Paul’s words here are to the point and clear: “…if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15). There is a way that people ought to conduct themselves in the Church, which is the venue wherein we understand what it means to worship, and how it is to be done to the best of our ability. Whether we agree on this and on how it is done is immaterial, it would seem, at least as far as St Paul is concerned. Again, this is not arrogance. The sort of thing that I am (so poorly) trying to communicate can come off as some sort of fundamentalism, and that is not my intention. Instead, my hope is to point out that maybe there is a “more perfect way” to worship God in spirit and in truth.

            And one final thought: I would be slow to judge those who “sleep through services” and those who recite the liturgy with the “passion of the dead.” There is precious little difference between those things and the hyper-emotional high that comes along with much that is offered today as contemporary worship. In fact, those “dead” and “sleeping” folks might be closer to the “peace that passes understanding” than those who have had their passions enflamed by a rousing rendition of “Our God is an Awesome God.”

  • Link

    I travel a good bit for work, so I’m in more than just my home church. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in a church with hymns and hymnals (sadly, I like the new songs but would prefer more of a mix). In all of these churches it’s the band and the big screen, etc. However, I have not seen what you’re talking about. I do see some people not singing–just like I did in my hymn-singing church growing up. I’m left wondering if this is a matter of spiritual health. As for me, I am not going to stand there not singing just because there is a professional band. Truth be told, I sing louder than normal because nobody can hear me! I also jump in sooner on the new songs, because again, no one is gonna hear if I miss a note! I’d say at least 80% of those around me are worshipping and connecting with God. But if a person doesn’t want to worship the Lord, no amount of the right “stuff” is going to get them there.

  • Matt M

    Isn’t this whole argument making congregational worship focused on the individual rather than God? Worship is not about what makes you comfortable or happy or satisfied. It’s about your response to your relationship with God. If you can’t get past the style due to your traditions, you’re in the wrong place – both spiritually and physically. If you feel the worship team is getting all the attention, close your eyes and turn your attention to the one who deserves it.

  • Jana Lybarger

    I think it depends on the church itself. I go to a small church that can seat about 250 people and we combine contemporary songs with traditional music. A lot of the people listen to K-Love so few of the songs we sing are unknown to everyone and when we sing them, I can feel the fire we have for God. Believe it or not, there aren’t many young people who attend my church anymore. This is a good article but I think it generalizes a little too much. I visited a church in New York State with the kind of band mentioned in this article but saying that they’re not really praising God on account of them being a modern band couldn’t be further from the truth.

  • Alan

    Interesting article. The point he fails to mention is that in the Post Christian America, 25% of church-goers only attend one time a month.(3 months a year!) Another survey I read stated that a regular church attendee is considered 3 out of 8 Sunday attendance. It’s no wonder men (or women) don’t know the songs that are being sung in church anymore…modern or traditional. As a worship leader, I used to get all wrapped up in not “repeating” a song within a given month thinking people would get bored. Now I know that the people that are hearing the song this Sunday more than likely weren’t at church last Sunday…or even the Sunday before that. The REAL challenge at hand it to make going to church a priority. Making worshipping God with others irresistible. And if we’re accomplishing our mission (to go and make disciples) it’s not so bad that the people sitting in the pews/chairs have never heard a traditional hymn like Holy, Holy, Holy….EVER!. That’s ok with me. I’ll sing it to them.

  • Carol Baker

    I’ve been to churches that were dark and had the big screens, the great loud and fast music for worship, but what they forget is that while its new and different, we aren’t there to be entertained. We are there to worship. The rest is a distraction. What person doesn’t realize that when you hear a new song on the radio at that at first it is weird to you. It takes hearing it over and over until it becomes so ingrained in your mind before you really know it. Like singing happy birthday or other songs from grade school that are standards. The more you sing them the more you want to because you know every note, every word. Look at the classic Christmas carols. The new ones just aren’t as familiar and I tend to stick with the old ones we all know so well. It does seem the “younger” congregation is looking for a wow entertainment factor in choosing a church; the kids also can’t settle unless there is cool stuff, entertainment, games, music, freebies, snacks and food for them. Sure everyone wants fun, but that is not what we are to be about. It’s not a party people, its worship and its not about you, its about God.

  • There are other factors: Many of these songs are not in a comfortable range for most men, and many of the lyrics are romantic in nature. Men do not want to sing in a high tenor about longing for Jesus’ touch.

    • Put another way: men don’t want to sing songs that are unsingable and unbiblical

  • Franklin Westergren

    “Enter into
    His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise…” “…come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100)

    Often, I have
    forgotten that I am in invited, and privileged, to come and sing to Him with
    Whom I have to do. Relationship – for me
    at least, relationship with my Savior – this is the very foundation of why I would
    ever, and in fact do Worship in the first place, whether in private or corporate
    venues. A second reason would be that as
    a follower of Jesus, I come to understand that – because of that relationship –
    His desire is for His Body, His People, which is His Church, both current and

    Ergo, if I am
    to serve the King in His Kingdom by being willing to become all things to all
    people if by any means I may save some, then for me, I need to be willing to labor
    in whatever field He sends me. I try also
    to keep in mind that while one holds one day above another, another may hold
    all days alike. That too, when done in
    faith, allows for God’s Grace to flow in and through our lives. This causes me – yea, compels me – to accept
    the rational that not all of the congregants of the Body of Christ throughout
    the world will ever, or necessarily should, agree on every point of doctrine or
    expression style of faith, more specifically congregational worship and singing.
    (To be sure, I am not talking about “deal-breaking”
    deviations or departures from “The faith.”)

    In addition
    to this privileged invitation to come and sing, worship, and commune with our
    Lord, both privately and corporately, it is possibly more profound that according
    to Zephaniah 3:17, He joys to sing over us.
    Therefore, as we come into His gates with thankful hearts, and into His
    courts praising Him, I find that as we begin to sing and Worship Him, and
    prepare Him a habitation of praise, inviting His Manifest Presence to invade
    our corporate gathering, He rejoices over us, His Bride. Then, as the Glory of His Presence
    intensifies, we find ourselves wanting more than anything else, to become
    pleasing in His sight, changed into His likeness, and filled with His Love.

    To this end,
    in my opinion, should be the main reasons for the music, singing, and
    worship. It is to usher us into His
    presence (which also prepares us to receive the Word). It is to introduce those who have not yet
    known, to the Presence of the Spirit of the Living God (“Oh taste and see..”). It is also to minister to Him – to offer up
    our praise and adoration as the morning or evening sacrifice, thereby preparing
    Him a Habitation of Praise that He is pleased to be enthroned upon (“Yet You
    are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel.” Psalm 22:3)

    To the
    degree that we lose sight of any of these, I can only fear that we as the Church
    have truncated and possibly jettisoned part of our heritage as adherents of
    Christ’s call. Then it will yet remain
    for another generation to reach their generation while we have squandered our
    opportunity to reach ours. While we are each
    on our individual journeys of faith working out our own salvation with fear and
    trembling, may we ever be diligent to balance our contending for the faith once
    delivered to us with our mandate to: if at all possible live at peace with all
    men, especially those of the household of faith. After all, the reason Jesus prayed to the
    Father to make us one, was so the world might know… Until we are – they will never know.

    This is just one
    brother’s view, ever in pursuit of Him while pursued by Him.

  • Felix

    I’m a youth in a generation where worship is SUPPOSED to consist of drums, guitars, and a lead singer – akin to seeing a rock concert.
    Frankly, I think the church’s attitude with music is going in the wrong direction.
    I understand that most of my peers fail to “connect” with hymns so we turn to contemporary forms. Nevertheless, therein lies the problem.
    I’m all for rock music by the way, but I say this because my peers regard hymns as “retarded” and something that they would never listen to because its “dumb and old”
    Seriously? Is my generation going to be the one that disowns the music of past generations that has led the church thus far; that can ONLY feel God’s Holy Spirit with the bashing of drums and strumming power chords?
    We must remember that music is a major, MAJOR part of the worship service and we have now made it a something that my generation buys tickets for…
    Since when does it cost MONEY to praise the Lord? Oh, and you might say, “sometimes, the money goes to charity” and yes, that’s good – but for the right reasons?

    Nevertheless, It’s not to say that many followers have resulted in said music. Although, I feel that some of these followers of Christ have joined as a result of listening to a band – so… bravo to the performers, but – I don’t think choosing to follow Christ should be undertaken the same way one decides whether or not something sounds good… I don’t think Jesus had to play a guitar solo to win the hearts of his disciples.

    I’m not saying we should stop contemporary worship altogether. It’s good to praise the Lord no matter the medium as long as the heart’s in the right place, so go for it with the right attitude – stop adoring the men that lead them as well, and have all eyes towards God. Also, we must at least respect the hymns of the past.

  • sgfan

    I completely agree. I attended a younger church in MI and all the songs were played by the band and singers and I didn’t know a single song. The lyrics were plastered on the screen but I didn’t know the melody so I didn’t sing. Why have we discarded the great hymns of the church? Church is not “showtime”; it’s worship. I can’t worship to 7/11 songs, where you sing the same seven words eleven times!

    • kormathaw

      I’m confused. Is the issue that you don’t know the songs, or that they are too simple?
      I do sympathize with new members coming into a church, regardless of the style of music. The hymns or praise songs will be unfamiliar. What is important is that the songs are familiar enough for the majority of the congregation to sing. This is done through repitition. The simpler the songs are, the fewer times of repitition necessary, but the more watered down the message. The more rich the lyrics, the more challenging the song, and the more repitition necessary. There are songs of each type in both traditional and contemporary music. Finding the balance between these elements is an art unto itself.

  • Melinda Johnson

    While I agree that it has become a show for a lot of congregations, it isn’t always. It depends on the worship leader. I was part of a mega church of 5,000 and in recent years, they scaled back on props and used simple lighting techniques to draw visually minded people into the sermon series. They always introduced a new song and sang it a few weeks in a row so others could catch on. But they usually don’t introduce every song in every set like artists to in concerts. So, while your statements are a great warning, especially to those who are on stage (I have one of them in the past), it’s definitely not true of every congregation. We moved and now go a 100 person church and they conduct their worship in a similar manner. I’m 32 years ago and while I love new songs and don’t always enjoy worship songs from the early 90’s I’ve never heard, I do enjoy the ones that I did grow up listening to when they are song again. And my ultimate favorites are the hymns that they “update” with a new chorus and add a beat to. I grew up on hymns and Marantha praise music and enjoy both. My generation is missing some great music and great lyrics from the hymns for sure. I say, do both! Great article, thanks!

  • Randy Davenport

    I wonder how many people actually think about the words they are singing? Hymns, praise chorus and some modern songs are reach in theology, and some are prayers. I do not know how to read notes, but I sing, not to impress but to God. Worship should be celebratory and participatory. In seminary, a professor asked this question; “What type of music does God like”? His answer “Whether its Bach or rock, God likes the music that connects you heart to Him”.

  • greggwon

    The problem is that “worship leaders” are just performers who have found an audience that will tolerate them. If they were actually leading, everyone would be singing. But, instead, they’ve lost sight of what the church worship service is about, and made it about them instead.

    My church is not one of these churches, but is a church still doing things the right way without a worship band. Everyone opens their hymnal, finds the right page, reads the music and sings. 20% or so of the congregation are musically educated enough to sing SATB parts as printed in the hymnal and we all have a great service because the music is great, the members of the congregation are all moved by the music and the lyric because they can participate.

    What’s next for “worship leaders” is the large scale implode that is building steam up as more and more people happen back into great churches, have great experiences without “worship leaders”. Humans are not stupid. They will discover what they are missing…

  • TommyK60

    I am one of the sound team in church and subscribe to the ‘less is more’ method of running sound. The sound of the worship band shouldn’t overwhelm the congregation or they’ll never join in. Lasers and smoke machines are fine for performances, don’t see any place for them in worship.

    As to what we sing, we sing a mix of modern worship songs and the ‘old hymns’, to deny the new songs is to deny that the Holy Spirit still works to help us worship God.

    Not all the ‘old hymns’ are deeply spiritual and theologically correct ‘Jesus Wants Me for a Sunbeam?’ really?, and not all modern ones are either. I also believe some hymns are for a season, written for that time where others are for all time.

  • andrewlawton

    As a worship leader, I’m inclined to weigh in on this discussion. In part, I agree with what David writes. When I was leading, I always made an effort to pick songs that the congregation was familiar with (that being said, they weren’t necessarily songs that non-congregational visitors to the church would know.) Whenever we introduced a new song, we would do a guided performance of it so that the congregation could join in whenever it felt ready.

    The issue that I’ve had with other worship leaders is when they insist on improvising during the song–moving around verses, changing the bridge, spontaneously turning it into a medley, etc. Not only does it make the projector guy’s hair fall out, but the congregation gets discouraged and stops trying. It’s possible to do new music in a user-friendly way.

    As far as hymns go, hymns aren’t significant because they are slow and dirgy, it’s because of the lyrics. There are plenty of modern, upbeat arrangements of traditional hymns, and “rocking” songs that have scriptural lyrics that are great at reaching out to a younger audience. It’s not enough for someone to say “They should change to listen to the old music.”

    As Christians, we need to package God’s Word in whatever way we can so long as it does not dilute His message. If this means adding drums to a hymn, then so be it!

  • Dr. Julie Connor

    I was a liturgist and pastoral minister for many years. I believe there is an inverse relationship between performance and congregational singing in churches. The less there is familiar music and more there is of smoke, flashing lights, and CD sale promotion, the less there will be of congregational singing. When I introduced a new song at church, I generally used it as a reflective piece to expose congregants to its sound the first week, taught and reviewed it as an opening hymn the second week, used it as a communion hymn the third week, etc., so the congregants would feel comfortable singing it. When the focus is on the soloist or band singing unfamiliar pieces throughout a service, I am in the presence of performance art. I attend a church where services always include songs that we know and love interspersed with solo/band selections that are reflective and inspiring (I like the mix). I believe congregational “watching” is not too different than stadium “watching” when a soloist or band sings “The National Anthem” to a melody no one has ever heard. When the subliminal message each week is, as you state, “Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money,” we should not be surprised that congregants stop participating and, ultimately, stop attending … except on Christmas Day and Easter. On those two holidays, we can anticipate with (almost) certain surety that we’ll be invited to join in the singing of the hymns we know and love.

  • Clearly a helpful and necessary message, even though the historcal progression he describes is an inaccurate oversimplification. Let’s choose songs well and lead them relationally.

  • Craig

    I think it’s more the fact that praise and worship completely SUCKS now. Wimpy, effeminate sounding guys singing unimaginative self-aggrandizing pathetic songs that all sound the same lyrically and musically. It’s a great show. A wonderful concert. But the no-balls, eyes-glaze-over, worship-Jesus-in-a-trance content is not what we’re seeking. I imagine God shows up right around the time it stops each Sunday

  • Columba Lisa Smith

    Also, there’s the problem of worship songs being “dumbed down.” It’s hard to muster enthusiasm for an infantile repetition of “God is so good,” week after week. I love when a worship team presents the old hymns. They are so much richer. They aren’t focused on the believer’s personal feelings, failures, and angst, either. They point us to Christ. Bring ’em back, I say!

  • Diane

    I like all music that is made to Worship God. I know most of the contemporary music in our church because that is what I listen to all week. I know hymns because I grew up with them. I like to teach children a mix and I think adults need the same. But if adults only listen to worship when they are standing in a sanctuary that will never know any of the “newer” stuff well. Only the stuff they learned in church growing up. Just as with hymns, I have found that if you throw on popular secular music like country or ‘oldies’ they will also sing… even the men!

  • Stephie

    I think the biggest problem is musical range. Pop worship tunes sung by a hip guy with a guitar are too high for men and too high for women in the proper octave, so they drop the octave, thus losing any sense of import or corporate sound. There’s no sense of the corporate like there used to be when harmonies (3rd verse acappella :)) were sung, and non-projecting voices can’t be heard over an amplified praise band.

  • santley88

    such a contraversial topic. One that has been argued for centuries…. We are all called to be, among other things, worshippers. We all were created to, among other things, worship. Men, women, musicians, singers, non-musicians, “non-singers”. The comments seem to focus on methodology and presentation, even, to some degree, content. But, the fact of the matter is, style and, to some degree, content, presentation and methodology, are not, and should not be, the focus. The focus is Him, and our interaction and love for Him. If that is in tact, everything else is just “preference”.

  • David Chapman

    Thanks for this – I am 68 and have served the Lord over more than 50 years. I have seen all kinds of “worship”. I have been in churches where musical accompaniment was not included. I have been where the band was so strong it became mere entertainment. Real believers tend to manage to worship the Lord whatever. Your point about familiarity is strong – very important. When we know the words we know what we are singing about and can leave reading and just sing!

    However, worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness requires some appreciation of Jesus that humbles even a proud man! Singing his praises instead of singing a football team anthem demands an act of will that no worship leader can alter – only the Holy Spirit!

    Keep up the good work – be blessed! -David Chapman

    • Mac

      Great post. It seems that few people are comfortable acknowledging the fact that different forms of worship are not only to be expected, but also effective! The humble heart worships God throughout the day… everyday.

  • Shane Williford

    I think ‘pegging’ lack of singing solely on the multitude of songs is narrow-minded. Is partially to blame? Absolutely. And, to be honest, not something I woulda thought about until reading this article. But, I think the issue is multi-faceted. I think @Rev23 below has a very valid point; and I also think part of the issue is insecurity, as somewhat eluded to in this article.

    Anyway, this is something to think about. I think there are many reasons for lack of singing and do hope we (as a community of believers) can institute things that open us up to sing freely again.


  • David Williams

    I’m not the hugest fan of CCM, but it can be done well, in even a Large Venue church. I attended a worship at the local JesusPlex a while back, and was surprised at just how participatory the praise worship was. The songs being sung were clearly known to most, and those around me were singing them. The praise leader…who presented as just a regular guy…was careful to lead the whole church (3,500 in attendance) through the new song so they could sing along. It can work, although it’s not my preference.

  • Guest

    We are what we eat and our congregations are becoming exactly what our worship leaders are feeding them. If you want “Spectators”, then continue feeding them a rock concert. On the other hand, if you want “Worshipers”, then lead your congregation to the Throne Room of God and then get the hell out of the way.

  • Tophertag

    We are what we eat and our congregations have become exactly what our worship leaders have been feeding them. If you want “Spectators” then continue to feed your congregation Rock Concerts. On the other hand, if you want “Worshipers”, then lead your congregation to the Throne Room of God and then get out of the way.

  • KJQ

    Well, I’ve read all of the comments over my lunch and not a single comment from anyone who believes the scriptures call us to exclusive psalmody, so I guess I’m it. We believe in the regulative principle (i.e. if God hasn’t approved/instituted it, it shouldn’t be done in worship services) vice the normative principle (i.e. as long as we’re sincere, God will accept anything we choose to do in worship services), and so that means that the only songs that God has authorized to be sung in formal worship services are the psalms. The foundational questions I’ve also not seen anyone here address are ‘what is the purpose of worship?’, and assuming one’s answer is to give glory to God, then the follow-on question is ‘how does God want us to worship Him?’ If you don’t think God cares about how He is worshipped, then you’d better not read the Old Testament lest you learn otherwise. Sure, God didn’t (and doesn’t) always punish immediately like he did with Aaron’s sons, but just because He didn’t punish doesn’t mean He was happy with worship in the high places for example. IF you’re interested on why the psalms should be sung, here is an article to start: http://www.arpnovascotia.com/covenant/why_psalms.htm. In our congregation everyone sings – men, women and children. God doesn’t care how we sound when we worship Him singing the psalms, He does care about our hearts.

  • Dan Duley

    maybe a little guitar smashing on stage would help.

  • Kelly Dalton

    Amen and Amen!! I’m glad somebody else noticed and addressed this issue.

  • Kyle Campos

    Funny to stumble on this post as the pic they used in the post is of my band. Also funny that a pic of my band would be used when you can pretty clearly see men singing hands lifted. Doesn’t seem to serve the point of the article.

    Anyhow, I agree familiarity is important but it’s not the most important factor nor can you assume hymns solve the problem of unfamiliarity. If you are a church like mine (the one pictured) most of your people were saved in your church, they don’t know any Xian songs at all, so hymns isn’t going to help.

    We sing lots of hymns with our own arrangements and most of the time people think it’s an original(of which we also play a fair percentage of). So familiarity should be a consideration, but nothing to be held hostage by, otherwise it’s a zero sum game. You can never write new songs and you’ll fail every new convert with any song selection if familiarity is the guiding principle.

  • Megan Mercier

    #1 If the only way for men – or anyone else – to engage in church is by singing, doing communion, or giving an offering, that church is lacking quite a bit in the purposes church is meant to fill. Those are simply SOME of the activities within church gatherings, not what church is meant to be.

    #2 I agree with the point that complicated songs do not always foster true spiritual worship. I personally am a fan of simple worship songs with few lyrics that are repeated over and over, which can become a kind of meditative worship, rather than songs with lots of words (but that can be fun sometimes, too). When you have to work to follow something with your brain, it can be harder to engage with your spirit.

    #3 I’m starting to get tired of people talking about worship becoming too much of a show. The only thing that determines whether someone’s worship honors God is their HEART. Flashy things aren’t ungodly. Muted things aren’t more godly. Someone may put on an intense light show because that is what moves them, and that is how they relate to God and praise Him from the heart. Great! If you are most moved by greyscale and poetry, that’s great, too. But someone singing quietly with a guitar or a piano can be just as prideful as anyone else.

    #4 This all goes back to #1. We all have different styles and preferences, so churches should be filled with many different types of worship, praise and prayer, so that if one thing doesn’t float your boat, there will be other things that you can really plug into with your spirit and be blessed by. We all have different passions and interests and gifts, and church gatherings should be a time of sharing those things with each other and with God, and connecting with each other and with God through our mutual love for Him and desire to express the things He has given us. Each church should be a unique knitting-together of the unique gifts, expressions and passions of each of its unique members.

    God has given each of us beautiful things he has given to no one else. Stifling, conforming or ignoring those things doesn’t honor Him. God is not boring. Art, sound, color, words and originality all came from Him. Some of us need to remember how to find and use those things.

  • stimpy77

    “In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.” This article in one sentence.

  • Chris Wade

    The ultimate issue in worship today has nothing to do with music at all. Worship has nothing to do with music really. The songs we do on Sunday morning are only an outward expression of an inward attitude and posture of worship toward God. Worship is a lifestyle. People that aren’t engaged in continual worship toward God throughout the week will never truly engage in worship music on Sunday morning, regardless of the style. Whether the band is playing “Jesus Loves Me”, or Jesus Culture, a true worshipper will engage anyway. What we are doing when we chose to argue over things like this is minimize what true worship is all about. When Jesus was talking with the woman at the well, she got into the discussion of worship preference. She said that her family worshipped God on one mountain, but the Jews worshipped on another. She then asked Jesus which one was the correct one on which to worship. Jesus’ answer was pretty profound. He said, “The time is coming and now is when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth”. A true worshipper can engage regardless of the style. We need to quit teaching people that worship is a type of church service and start teaching that worship is a way of life. As a worship leader, I refuse to just go through the motions and lead songs that don’t move me. If I am leading a song that doesn’t move me, but I am only doing it because it has been requested by someone, I have stepped into the world of performance and away from worship. I lead worship with songs that move my spirit. Few of those are hymns, mainly because I wasn’t raised in church and never learned them. There are a few hymns that I do on a Sunday morning, but I mostly do contemporary worship songs that are gospel rich lyrically. If someone wants a song done that doesn’t move my spirit when I listen to it, I gladly give the person that wants that song done the opportunity to lead the congregation in that song. I guess my point here is this: I choose to teach worship as a lifestyle, and not a musical preference or style. In doing this, I am able to rise above all of the new songs vs. hymns drama. I never allow it to be an issue with our team. Do naysayers challenge me on this? Absolutely! I just choose not to get caught up in the issue. The comments of naysayers go in one ear and out of the other.

  • Dan S.

    If one agrees that the root intent of assembled worship is the elevation of ourselves to an intense focus on God (i.e. full of the Holy Spirit), for His glorification, and that His glorification includes the “speaking to one another in psalm, hymns, and spiritual songs,” as we “sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,” as was Paul’s exhortation to Christians in Ephesus (Eph. 5:19), then we have a measure for whether or not the music in congregational worship is in tune (Yes, pun intended!) with God’s intent. Having joined with other pastors in an intense study of The Scriptures I have concluded that God affords us much freedom in our worship formats and styles. But what He does make clear is that in order to glorify God our worship must be “from the heart” and exhortive “to one another.” Anything less falls short.

    I have long associated with a fellowship that has an a capella tradition, and have come to appreciate the value of that tradition, when done well, as a component of effective worship. I have also experienced instrumental worship that is consistent with Paul’s teaching. But of course I have also experience the opposite… for both a capella and instrumental. Speaking to those who have a say in directing music in assembly worship, I would encourage not to let the world dictate practice, but to trust in God’s wisdom through The Scriptures. Heart; mutual exhortation; for His glory. Anything else falls short no matter how much it appeals to our traditions or personal preferences. And while it may affect our choice choice of assembly attendance, it should never be used as a test for our Christian fellowship.

  • Randy Zabel

    As I read this article and the comments, I was more than a little distressed. Then I reread an article from this morning. The second paragraph is key for this discussion.

    “Pentecost inverted Babel: Not in a tower reaching heaven but in an upper room, the apostles and their associates received the heavenly Spirit, and in Acts this is immediately followed by a “table of nations” and a de-confusion of tongues. At Pentecost, God advanced His post-Babelic purpose of reuniting nations. The pneumatic church became God’s renewed imperium. The Spirit-filled church became the new Zion, the mountain from which Israel’s God rules and from which He reaches out to the Romans and barbarians.

    It is anti-Babel at nearly every point: Many tongues, not one; scattering, not gathering; built on the blood of a willing victim; Jew and Gentile united in God’s work, not in opposition to Him. Yet the ecclesial imperium is at certain points a mirror image of Babel: All tribes, tongues, nations, and peoples confess with one lip that there is one Lord, Jesus. Jesus sends His Spirit to enliven the church as a multilingual, multiethnic, multinational empire.”

  • Tastes change. I’m OK with that.

    I grew up in the church singing both hymns and praise songs, and I was aware that hymns and praise songs tended to appeal to different groups.

    But there was, through it all, congregational singing.

    Sometime around 2005 or maybe a bit later it started changing. Songs were updated more frequently, lyrics became less and less dogmatic and instructive, and songs themselves seemed to be constructed to be difficult to sing–timing, pitch, scale all became difficult to follow.

    I stopped singing. And after a while I stopped “attending” during the singing. It was no longer worship. It was a band, playing, and singers, singing. But not me.

  • Joe Phinney

    Hi David,

    When considering the topic of worship and how to worship I can only come to one conclusion and that is there is no “one size fits all” style of worship for every church or every person.

    The most important question which should be asked when considering the style of worship to have in church is simply does the worship experience allow people to open up and let God in? For every person the answer will not always be the same. Some people worship quietly taking in the moment while silently praying for God to fill them. Others like to sing out no matter if they know the song or not.

    Not only is there no one single “right” way for worship to be experienced, but consider for a moment the creation of new praises to our heavenly father. Some of my favorite songs are “Sanctuary”, “Old Rugged Cross”, “Amazing Grace” but if I had to sing those songs and only those songs every Sunday for the rest of my life the meaning behind my worship would grow dim and loose its luster.

    Look at Hillsong Church (http://www.hillsong.com/). They’ve produced some awe inspiring songs such as “Amazing Love” and “For All You’ve Done”. Every song was new at one point in time. I agree that familiarity helps a congregation to worship more confidently, but familiarization with new songs will come with time. Perhaps even, familiarization with new songs may even be achieved by playing the new songs as ambient background music prior to the start of the service they will be used in.

    In any case, I believe the Christian church is in a critical transition phase. I believe most Christians are waking up to the fact that staunch doctrine and religious piousness have cost a great many souls who probably could have otherwise been saved. People need to view Jesus as someone to have a personal relationship with, not a deity only to be worship on “holy” ground. Tradition equates to religion and religion can sometimes be the biggest barrier between a relationship with God and humanity. If any church’s doctrine does not come directly from scripture, then maybe it’s time to take another look at what the core beliefs are of that church.

    Like I said, however, there is no “one size fits all” way to go about worship. People should go where they feel God leading them so as to grow in Christ to the fullest. To me, to imply or say that any one way of worship is or isn’t the “right” way to worship sends a dangerous signal that maybe man-made beliefs are being made manifest instead of divinely inspired words of guidance.

    I guess the last thing I feel God laying on my heart about this subject is simply to serve. If you are in church and you plan on staying with a particular church, but you have questions as to why things are done a certain way or if you have ideas on how things maybe done better, then serve in the area which you are concerned with. One thing which can kill momentum in a church faster than anything is an uninformed majority squashing the creativity of the working minority. Before anyone can teach, they must first learn. So go, serve, learn and listen and then pray as to how God may use you to further his kingdom. Only then can you say with divinely inspired confidence what the “right” way is for the particular church or situation you are in. Do not be so hasty to judge unfamiliarity. The Holy Spirit moves in ways which none of us may ever fully understand.

    God bless.


  • ConcernedSK

    Isn’t it curious that the first century Christians did not use instruments? Evidence shows that they actually chanted much like we characterize monks doing and yet the Church back then grew exponentially. The pagan temples used many instruments so it’s not like people didn’t know about what a good show was like. By trying to be so “relevant” are we losing something in the process? We have made the “show” the drawing card instead of the message of Jesus the Anointed One and along the way have forgotten what discipleship really means.

  • James Stagg

    Sorry I’m late with this, but it is important to say..

    Let’s get a little better with the “history” and drop the “Dark Ages” stuff:

    “Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).”

    Why don’t you try to learn something about what music meant, how it was employed, and how the “complex” instruments were created before the Reformation, rather than make this ignorant statement? You might even learn something about meaningful Liturgy, as opposed to the bare-bones offerings of many “Christian” churches today.

    It’s ironic that in so many churches, the only “ritual” that is left to a “Christian” service are two minor elements: music and preaching. All else has been lost..

  • Rev23

    I agree. Being contemporary isn’t necessarily wrong as in style of music or sermon presentation but when we can look around and see a distinct deficiency in power ,in the American church specifically, we have to reassess what we are doing and why we are doing it.

  • you want men to sing in church? start by forbidding songs that make me feel like Jesus is my girlfriend.

  • Richard Asghar-Sandys

    I see what you are saying however belong to Freedom Churh in Hereford – and boy, o Boy you should hear the men sing. If a new song is being introduced (look for “Everything Changes” album on ITunes) then it is either gone through at a mid-week meeting or during the offering then repeated in Worship.
    Also you should see our Barbarians Men’s Meetings!

  • Just Me

    Meh. I love music, but don’t appreciate being forced to stand for 30-45 minutes. It’s almost like legalism – like somehow we’re not as spiritual if we don’t stand?

  • Just Me

    I find the smoke lights, the oh-so-sincere singing of the bearded guy with the flip flops and acoustic guitar so stale. I also feel manipulated, like I’m supposed to be worked up into wherever I’m being led. I speak as someone who prefers secular music to the Christian version of secular music. It just seems contrived to me.

    • Some worship leaders believe it’s their job to bring the bride of Christ to orgasm.

      • Julie Marie Shepherd

        Wow, really? Is this how you feel when you hear newer songs about Jesus? If so, then you might need to get that checked out. You mentioned above that Hillsong churches “tend to attract people who sing robustly” and therefore cannot be compared to the majority of churches. Could we perhaps delve a little more into that subject? Why don’t the majority of churches attract “robust” singers? What about the Passion conference, with thousands upon thousands of males singing robustly? Does that not count either? There are other examples. Although there are some bad apples in contemporary worship music, I think there is also a problem with traditional people thinking they have encountered and worshiped God because they have sung a few hymns that day. Robust singing does not equal worship and a strong relationship with God. I think you’re right that it is up to worship leaders to teach and train folks with new music. But that’s hard when churches don’t hire or pay leaders that are themselves trained. Like me. I am a worship leader without pay because our church did not have anyone else willing to do it, and they have only had one paid worship leader in the last 30 years. I took piano for 4 years and am not trained to lead a band. So I’m really not equipped. Also, 1/4 of the congregation demands only hymns using only piano, while the other 3/4 wants to do everything they know from the Christian radio station. I just try to do a mixture of theologically strong music of different styles, in keys that are good for most people, that somewhat go along with that week’s sermon. It’s hard being a music leader, and it’s even harder when people blast everything you do. So please pray for and support your music leaders. Articles like this that just stir up the traditional folk even more don’t help. Strangely, the contemporary folk, who usually ARE the ones singing robustly, aren’t usually the ones complaining about everything. I wonder why that is?

  • Jake

    Maybe I missed it somewhere, but I have yet to see a reference to the Scriptures regarding the nature of singing. I would cite two passages for your consideration:

    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.

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

    My point in bringing up these two verses is that I take issue with one comment that the author makes regarding singing. He notes that singing “was a chance to participate.” The Scriptures cited above don’t enjoin a “chance” to participate in worship, but rather a command to participate.

    Lest anyone think I am discounting the author’s main point, I thought the article was spot on. Constantly introducing new songs without a chance to learn them is discouraging participation from all congregants!

  • EileenP

    Don’t even get me going on the cheesie-ness of the lyrics that get repeated over and over too. It’s like they are hyping up the audience to some sort of artificial “worship”. Impossible to learn a tune with no music written out especially when the band and singers are blasted at us!

  • Jenifer Schrag

    This is a good article about why PEOPLE don’t sing in church as much anymore, but it isn’t really about why MEN don’t sing. But here is a reason.
    Worship leaders tend to be tenors, the voice classification for men who have a higher range. It is also the most rare of voice types. Look at any choir, (except the kind that caps their numbers) their tenor section will be the smallest one. Even men who would be tenors if they sang regularly won’t be comfortable in that range if they aren’t using it regularly. So men can’t even sing the songs they know in this type of situation, because they are just too darn high.

  • Wayne Thompson

    I kinda think you’re full of balogna. men don’t sing because the spirit doesn’t move them to. It’s no longer a needed thing in their hearts OR they can’t get the song together, neither one is anyone elses fault. Men learn songs just as easily as women if their hearts are in it. Forget the physical history, look to the Bible, what is singing to the Bible. Men don’t sing because their hearts are not in it, period. Well, of course if you play some completely unintelligible or difficult to sing no one will sing it except a select few then, and only then did the worship team screw up. Flashy stuff? it’ll stop a few? Boring stuff? Stiops me all the time but still not the fault of the team. people always blame others for their own hearts failings, ALL the time. A person with a heart of worship will see past these things. It doesn’t mean they’re not good people. They are just at different points in their walk. The worship team is to minimize the distraction and point to Him. he has to do the rest of the work. Men don’t sing because their hearts are not there. I am a man.

    • OK, let’s say the worship leader decided one day to sing in Aramaic, since that’s the language Jesus used. Would you expect the congregation to sing such songs easily? Of course not. To say that men should magically be able to sing songs they do not know is complete hogwash. To imply that men’s hearts are dark because they don’t sing songs they don’t know is unfair and judgmental.

      • Wayne Thompson

        LOL, if you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. You’re reading way too much into what I’m saying. I don’t think i even close to implied that anyone should ‘magically be able to sing songs they do not know’. You, my brother, are being unfair and judgmental towards me. I include myself and I do not consider my assertion to be gospel but just something I have observed in my limited life here on this Earth. So, just relax and take it for what it is, an opinion that is true for many but not necessarily all.

  • hey there, while I do understand where you’re coming from, I would just like to add this if I may. I am a worship leader at Hillsong Church Cape TOwn, South Africa, where we have great sound, great lighting, a smoke machine & a few projectors for graphics & lyrics, but theres a difference here. PEOPLE SING. and not only that, but they WORSHIP there hearts out..even the Men 😉 but in all honesty, theres a different spirit at work than the one you’re talking about. All the “glitzy” stuff I guess, is just something anyone would do if they were throwing a party to celebrate something or someone they love! and lets not even talk about being creative here (+ having the spirit of the creator within us). We love Jesus, our Church loves Jesus & the altar is filled each sunday with people wanting to commit their lives to Him. (Why not throw a party!) So where does leave us, or this conversation. ?….well. I am, also aware that there are people out there using the platform as a way to attract attention to themselves, and of course, that aint cool, but lets not throw the baby out with the bath water here. From what I’ve noticed, God’s spirit works from the inside out & the word says “You’ll know my people by their fruit”. So if people aint worshipping, or meeting with Jesus. Their are probably some other issues at hand. But lets not disregard the amazing creativity that God has placed within us because of some bad apples.

    • This is a great reply, and I respect it highly. The thing is for me, while I appreciate artistry (and don’t get me started on how the church works with artists), and I appreciate the offering of a creative experience–if I can’t sing the song because it’s too hard, too high, or has too many words–I don’t sing. I’ll listen, and that’s OK, too. Worship is not singing only, and congregational worship is not singing only. We all know this. Watching someone play and sing skillfully is as much a part of worship as is listening to a sermon or offering a tithe.

      But while a preacher should know his Greek and Hebrew, and a musician should know his instrument and his song, the congregation shouldn’t be expected to rise up and deliver a sermon on the meaning in the original Greek of “soma” or to deliver a vocal interpretation of a song that is pitched in a key where the top third of the notes are out of range.

      Of course, to each his taste and experience.

    • Thank you Rash. Hillsong churches are known for their great music. They tend to attract people who like to sing robustly. It’s not a fair comparison to the majority of churches.

  • Wonderful post, Dave! Sobering, but honest and you have expressed well what many of us have observed over the past 10 or so year’s.

    I think song key and melodic range is another reason congregational singing lacks gusto

  • Tom Tracht

    Following set rules of music and singing the song the same way every time may not entertain, but it sure will promote congregational singing. I’m simply not going to praise the Lord in song with a loud voice if I’m not sure what the “entertainers” are going to do with the song. I love to sing with all my voice and heart unto the Lord, but I, like the men you observed, will only play lip service to these sorts of song services.

  • Renee Donaldson

    I invite you to check out firstnlr.com. I believe we have struck a good balance between the old and the new. Our worship team works diligently to meet the needs of the congregation, and our pastor (and pastoral team) teaches the value of younger people worshiping with older people in their way and older people worshiping with younger people in their way. Check out the website. There is hope!

  • happymoogman

    The biggest problem with the new Christian songs — and I’m sorry to
    hurt anyone’s feeling here — is that they are GENERALLY very poorly
    written. I’m a man, and when I have to sing a – let’s face it – CRUMMY
    hymn, I usually just don’t sing. I’m also a songwriter, so I know a good
    song when I hear one. Yes, the spiritual words are there, but many
    times there are presented with poor rhymes, or no rhymes at all. And
    melodicially, there’s usually a real problem — there’s just nothing to
    sink one’s teeth into. Lest you think I think ALL modern Christian music
    is poor, you are wrong. I’m a big fan of Scott Krippayne. What a
    talented songwriter and singer. And if you want to hear another GREAT
    new Christian song, go here:


    other problem is that (at least in our church) the Praise Team is just
    pounding through the songs with a nearly robotic beat. Not very
    inspiring, or enriching, spiritually.

    It’s sad to say this, but
    if we were guaranteed a place to sit, my family and I would gladly skip
    the opening rock music, and go right to the sermon. Music used to be a
    great part of worship. Now, it’s becoming a distraction.

  • greggwon

    If you haven’t see the “Produced Church” video on youtube, then you need to watch it. It is exactly how much people who’ve been involved in a real worship experience view the “worship leader” or 7/11 (same seven words sang 11 times) music delivery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4ghjPbULEU

  • Great piece David! – – – -just one more piece in a puzzle shifting towards “watching a presentation of the gospel” VS “participating in the gospel”

  • Troy Wolf

    I love to sing. I love to sing in church. I’m a 41 year old male and grew up in the church. Of all the “praise services” I’ve been apart of, I feel I’ve truly entered worship while singing only a handful of times. It’s sad, and I blame myself mostly. I’m glad to see this discussion.

    Like Mr. Murrow, I find myself singing mostly alone in a big congregation and it bothers me. In the little Baptist church I grew up in, I remember most everyone singing 4 part harmony from the hymnals with gusto. I enjoy and have been moved by all the styles of music in worship whether acapella, hymnal, or rock band. (“We got both kinds of music–Country AND Western!”)

    In my opinion, these are the primary problems:

    1. VOLUME. Wow is it loud! I have to admit, I don’t enjoy most concerts because I find them too loud. So I find a lot of amplified music to be too loud, but I am quite confident that the measurable decibel level in my sanctuary during worship is beyond the level where OSHA requires hearing protection. You literally cannot hear yourself sing. Try to sing when you can’t hear yourself at all—it’s very difficult. This is why professionals have audio monitors and/or in-ear phones on the stage. In fact, the only reason I know other people are not singing is because I don’t see them singing. I wouldn’t hear them singing anyway.

    I got a rather nasty response from a church worship pastor when I inquired about the volume level. Look, I know you can’t please everyone, and the goal of the church is not to please people, but in the areas where it’s OK to do so, you should aim to please as many as possible. I simply asked, “How many people tell you it is too loud on a Sunday morning? Now, how many say it’s not loud enough? Anyone?” Just try turning the overall volume down 10 decibels (a lot actually) and see if anyone complains!

    2. 250,000 songs! I agree with Mr. Murrow again on this one. We like variety and “freshness”, but sheesh—let’s sing a song long enough to actually learn and absorb it.

    3. A lot of those 250,000 songs are too hard to sing! If you are a trained singer (as I am), you understand that if a melody is high for a guy to sing, it’s very high for the women. Yet many of the songs we sing at church are incredibly high for me to sing–and I sang Tenor in high school and college. (I am not a true tenor, but few men really are. If songs are high for me, they are high for most guys.)

    I love the contemporary worship songs–especially the simple, easier to sing tunes. I also love hymns. The great thing about hymnals is they define the melody and 3 harmonies. For those that read music–or stand next to someone who does–you are sure to find a part in your range.

    Regarding the style of music–I think we need to remember that all worship music from earliest recorded in the Bible was probably performed in a style that was relatively current with their culture. That is, music performed with the harp was not so much because the harp is holier than the electric guitar–it’s because at that time, it was common to play music on a harp.

    I had a rare (for me) opportunity to attend a Sunday morning service in a strict Mennonite community. All the men on one side and the women on the other. The singing was acapella. You never heard a more beautiful sound or saw better participation in the singing. I was moved. I should note that I’ve also been moved to tears by an electric guitar solo during worship. Personally I am not a fan of a traditional drum set, but I recall one time when even the drummer was able to put so much worship energy into his playing that I was moved deeply.

    Volume is the number one problem in my opinion. Many times the volume alone prevents me from singing at all. I have a theory about this–perhaps the guys who run sound have been doing it for so many years they have severe, permanent hearing loss. Therefore, they turn it up to a point they think is good while blasting out the rest of us! 🙂

  • thebeardedweiss

    A thought-provoking article, to be sure. Unfortunately, the author completely ignores Eastern Orthodox Christianity in his “quick history of congregational singing.”

  • Jay Blossom

    A big issue, in my opinion: The acoustics of the worship space. In a traditional church building, the worship space (whether called “sanctuary” or “nave” or just plain “church”) is very “live,” acoustically. That means you can hear everyone singing, even if they are not amplified.

    But in a modern evangelical church building, the acoustics are absolutely dead. You cannot be heard unless you are miked. That means I literally cannot hear anyone in the congregation singing, even if they are.

    Having live vs dead acoustics is an engineering choice. Churches that want to emphasize congregational singing can do so — just replace all those padded chairs, wall-to-wall carpeted floors, and sound-absorbing ceilings with hard surfaces. Of course, your drum set (if you have one) will be way, way too loud for such a space.

  • Jamin Bradley

    While I think these are good thoughts and I’m sure there’s truth to it, I wouldn’t agree with everything you’ve said due to my own experiences. Some people care about familiarity, others don’t. There is, I believe a balance that should be held. “New song overkill” is just that: overkill.

    But in this article you said, “People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?”

    While that statement seems to make sense, I noticed something strange last month. Our worship band played a song that I had written and only the band had heard it before—no one else. And yet so many people (specifically college students) picked up on it so quickly that when people (including my wife) found out that I had wrote it, they were confused. They figured they simply didn’t know the song because those college students were singing it so loudly from the get-go. They had no idea it was the first time anyone had heard it.

    The way we do music in our churches today has definitely changed, but I think the generation who has grown up with that change has adapted to it. Those from an older generation and a traditional or evangelical church background didn’t latch onto the song I wrote as quickly as the somewhat charismatic/pentecostal-like college students did, but it still was sung and it still worked out great for worship.

    I don’t believe today’s generation cares about having musical notes to follow. They pick up on songs all the time without it. They’re driving down the road listening to the radio and before the song’s half-way over they’ve already learned the chorus and the melodies to everything. Many young church-goers today are aural harmonists—they hear the music and they know how to reciprocate it. They feel it. They don’t need the music theory portion.

    That especially hits home for me because I eventually had to drop out of my worship arts major in college partially due to the fact that I could not wrap my mind around music theory. I’ve never been good with math and numbers. But hand me an instrument and tell me to lead worship and I can do that like someone who knows the theory.

    I add new songs into our worship sets all the time. I also, however, pay special attention to those songs the first 2-3 times we play them. Some catch on with the church easier than others and those ones stay. If they don’t catch on and I don’t feel a special calling to continue playing it, I’ll put it in the pile I don’t typically touch.

  • K6pence

    Funny how God doesn’t say a lot about music in the bible. The only real
    instruction he gives is in Psalm 96:1. Sing to the LORD a new song; sing
    to the LORD, all the earth. Hear that? A NEW song. God doesn’t want
    our worship to become old and stale. Too bad all these bible-believing
    old-timers love their old-timey music instead of God’s word.

    • Lalala

      New song doesn’t mean changing with every wind of doctrine! New song means a new attitude, a renewed sense of committment to God. If you read the Bible then you’d understand that.

      • K6pence

        Ah yes, if only I read the bible. Wow, aren’t you an arrogant, know-it-all! Please tell me more about why you understand the bible so much, and I know so very little. And we wonder why the church is dieing and why men don’t sing in church? It’s because of attitudes like yours!

        The bible says “Sing to the LORD a new song”. What part of that is so hard to understand. God doesn’t want our worship to become stale! If you read the Bible then you’d understand that…. Idiot!

  • kormathaw

    It all boils down to, what is your focus as a worship leader? If your focus is to give a rocking performance, as with some worship leaders, you end up with an experience exactly like this author describes. If your focus is to bring a congregation into worship with their God, then there are many many tricks to help the congregation with any style of music, from the unsingable hymn to the hardest of rock songs.
    Some of the tricks of the trade that I personally implement.
    1. Range – There is NO “congregational friendly” range. Most women want super high tenor that they can sing on octave with, most men mid baritone. There is no sweet spot for both the average male and female voice. As such, I use E as my high point in songs as that is the high point of every hymn. People will still complain, but I will point them to the hymnal.
    2. Repitition – When a song is new, play it as preservice music, play it as postservice music, Do the song for 3 weeks in a row before giving people a break from it.
    3. Familiarity – On a week you introduce a new song or 2, make sure every other song is extremely familiar, old standbyes.
    4. Focus on singability versus how cool a song sounds when you pick it. Every song is singable, the question is how many times does it take a person hearing it before they can sing along. Many Chris Tomlin songs are singable after 1 time heard. Most Skillet songs, 70 times 7 heard. If you absolutely have to do a hard song, make sure to give the congregation their 490 times heard and be ready to hear the complaints.
    5. Drop it – If you try a song and it doesn’t work…don’t be afraid to drop it, call it special music and move on.
    6. Remember your focus and everything else will follow. Your job as a worship leader is to not be an obstical to the congregation’s worship. If you are a distraction from God, it is better for you to not be there. Come into worship in a way the congregation can follow.

  • Cornupenuria

    The minister in New Zealoand who actually did interviews with a number of people who had left churches then tallied their responses was Alan Jamieson. I read his work in 2006.

  • I think there’s a lot of right in this post and a few things I disagree with.

    Although I agree that we probably don’t coach and teach as much as we could, but to say that it’s “impossible to learn” songs is kind of a stretch. People learn songs week in and week out just fine by hearing them on tv and/or the radio.

    Granted we don’t do as much music as the local radio station or tv, but my wife hears a song one time and is almost instantly able to sing along. She is not a trained musician, has never been in music class, or lessons. She just enjoys catchy music and catches on when the music is written well.

    A person picks up the tune a lot easier if the song is not overly complex. Hymns of course lend themselves to singing because they repeat the melody lines over and over. But in the same way, the “choruses” of the 70s and 80s also were not overly complex and were very repetitive. Of course, people from more traditional backgrounds criticized them as being “shallow” and not theologically rich enough because they were simple, repetitive songs.

    We see in BOTH of those approaches the same thing, though. If the tune is repeated over and over, it’s catchy enough to be learned quickly. And if the words are repeated over and over, it’s repetitive enough to be learned quickly as well.

    Honestly, as a trained musician I balk at the idea that people need music notes to follow (as in a hymnal) to know where to sing. Most people I know that have no exposure to musical training look at the sheet music and think it looks like chaotic ants on the page.

    Anyways, I believe we should do any and everything (appropriate) to engage our congregations. Sometimes it means singing simple unwordy songs. Sometimes it means singing older repeated tunes like hymns (that are wordy). Other times it means introducing a song “choir style” – literally teaching the 3 or 4 parts people can sing (playing through them on piano or having your lead vocalists demonstrate the parts).

    I know many men who will sing when the song is right and stare when it’s not. I think it’s ok to take it song by song.

    • Todd W. White

      Russ – most everyone has had public school music classes. They’ve
      been taught that when the black do goes towards the top of the page, you
      sing a higher pitch, and when it goes down towards the bottom of the
      page, you sing a lower one. For generations people CAN and DID sing
      parts, even if they couldn’t technically “read” music.

      shaped notes, for example were developed to help people sing on pitch
      without having to read music. I have been with people who learned to
      sing using shaped notes, and most of them were dead on accurate in the
      pitch (almost as though they had perfect pitch), and were perfect on
      their timing.

      Therefore, I think it IS an issue, and,
      when you factor in the people who CAN read music and sing out, their
      singing will motivate others who aren’t as musically literate to go ahead and “go for it”.

      Oh, and a person has been they’re homeschooled, the chances they know the basics on how to read music is even higher.

      • Great points, Todd. I guess I overgeneralized. And we all can only speak most emphatically from our experience, which is where I’m coming from.

        Anyways, I’m not anti-hymnal by any means. In fact I love visiting my more traditional friends’ churches and joining in singing from the hymnal. I don’t feel any more or less “able” to worship though.

        In fact, as one who has grown up without the use of hymnals, I feel more awkward with a hymnal in my hands. But that’s my experience. It doesn’t keep me from worship, though.

        I tend to agree with the notion that it isn’t style or lyrics on a screen or music in a hymnal that helps or hinders folks from worship…but that it’s the environment created by leadership. Is worship TAUGHT? Do people feel empowered to sing their hearts out in worship? Or do they come to see a show, or to punch their weekly tickets?

        I’ve been in many churches over the course of my ministry career and sadly, many folks seem to try and encapsulate the entirety of their spiritual practice into that 1-2 hours on Sunday morning. Folks, come for their weekly all you can eat fix.

        This is not a slam on The Church. When the Church is operating as it has the potential to be, it doesn’t matter if we use hymnals, fog machines, electric guitars, pipe organs, bulletin lyric printouts, or fancy projected lyrics on the wall. What matters is that we teach and lead others to worship. And that extends so much further past the time of music on Sundays.

        Granted, as a minister who ministers primarily in and through music, I believe that corporate singing is a wonderful and beautiful expression that knits our hearts together and draws us closer to God. It is a vital part of walking in a concerted effort to live out Christianity as a collective.

        Like I said, in my previous comment, we should do anything and everything we can to help people in this time of worship. For me that doesn’t necessarily include sheet music for the congregation, but it might for you!


        • Todd W. White

          Well said, Russ – my biggest problem, though I will tell you openly that I believed that rhythm-based music sensualizes the listener, regardless of the words, – my biggest problem with what’s going on is that the people in leadership positions in the churches have been fooled (yes, I said fooled) into thinking that the purpose of music and worship is to attract the lost, and that’s just NOT the case biblically, or historically.

          Further, I believe they’ve been duped into believing the erroneous idea that the Church (read: Christian people, as well as our services) MUST become “attractive” and “relevant” to the lost world, if the lost people are to be reached for Christ.

          This is simply not true. CHRIST does the drawing, IF we lift HIM up, and He does that, strangely enough, though “the foolishness of preaching” – not music, not worship services, not praise teams, praise bands, mirrored balls and strobe lights, or anything else you want to use to try to “reach” the lost: HE does the reaching when WE let HIM live HIS life THROUGH US!

          That said, let me point out that the lost person instinctively KNOWS they need to be “changed” (as the old-timers used to call their salvation experience): they KNOW that there is something drastically WRONG with themselves (though it’s usually not in their conscious mind – it’s in their soul), and, therefore, go about looking for ways to change.

          This is why you see them piercing their bodies with metal objects, having them tatooed, taking drugs, drinking, working long hours to make money so they can climb up the social ladder – no matter HOW they seek change, the point is THEY’RE SEEKING IT!

          And – if WE, as the Church, offer them nothing more than a sanitized version of what they ALREADY HAVE, how in the earth can we honestly expect them to WANT what we SAY we have?

          Not jumping on you, brother – I’m just waxing eloquent about the whole mentality that says, “You reach young people with young people’s music, and you reach old people with old people’s music”, and, pardon me, but that just ain’t so.

          In reality, what’s happening is – and I really hope this is more often than not done without knowing it – we are sensualizing the professing Christians, and, thereby, teaching them that their walk with God is based on/closely tied to, how they FEEL, and brother, that is one of the BIGGEST lies Satan has ever fostered on mankind!

          Our walk with God is not, and must not, be based on our feelings! Our emotions are fickle, and can be tricked. They can even be perverted. And – if we tie our salvation or our walk with God to our emotions, they will drag us to death!

          Instead, our walk with God is to be built on a personal relationship with Christ through His WORD – even the Apostle Peter, writing in his 2nd letter, after having recounted how he SAW and EXPERIENCED Christ’s transfiguration, states that his experience is eclipsed by the Word of God:

          “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a
          dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (meaning no one came up with it of their own intellect or planning) “or the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake [as they were] moved by the Holy Ghost.”

          Our problem is we’re purposely allowing – yea, even causing – the Culture to change the Church, instead of the Church changing the Culture!

          And that, my brother, is a tragedy that is almost as great as a soul that dies and goes to Hell – in fact, it may almost be equal to it, in my estimation.

          End of rant.

  • Jenny Mertes

    I struggle with the “show” put on weekly by our worship team. Instead of calling the congregation to worship along with them, they give a performance. On those rare occasions when they turn the music down and invite us to sing a capella, hardly a sound can be heard – UNLESS the song is a hymn. Then, like you said, gusto!!! Doesn’t anybody even notice? Do we have to sing Top 40? Those songs aren’t meant for congregational singing, they’re meant for soloists and bands. And that’s where they should stay, in my opinion, unless I’m at a concert. Oh, and our congregation claps after each worship song – not to the Lord, but obviously in appreciation for the band. Where’s our focus? Where should it be? Sorry, I get worked up over this topic, but nobody seems to listen.

    • I struggle with the “God show” too. Thanks for your comment.

  • Mary Steffens

    I do not want a night club atmosphere when I worship..I want peace, joy and love…the good Book says, “Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD”..it does not say to get all emotionally worked up..Emotionally Jesus did not want to die, that is why he said, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”..He was moved by principal. “Beauty expresses itself in a gentle and quiet attitude which God considers precious.” 1 Peter 3:4

  • Mary Steffens

    I do not want a night club atmosphere when I worship..I want peace, joy, love..etc..I don’t want an emotional work-up in order to worship..The Good Book tells us to reason together…Beauty expresses itself in a gentle and quiet attitude which God considers precious.” 1 Peter 3:4

  • WOB

    We had a similar issue at our church. We often would begin the song service with a song that no one but the praise team knew, and you could tell that they had just learned it themselves (no eyes on the audience, everyone glued to the sheet music is usually a dead give away). Folks would stand there, mostly mute with a few trying to sing along, but not really knowing the tune. Not pretty. Our music leaders response? We’re not here so that everyone can sing songs they know, we’re here to worship God and give him all the praise. If you/they don’t know the song, then they can listen and give glory to God. Honestly, that was his answer. So we have 500 adults standing, looking at the words on the screen, but having no idea what to do with them but to read them. When you then have another 2 or 3 songs in the set that no one knows, you than have a song service that turns into a “listen to the praise team sing” service. Some leaders have forgotten that people praise God through song – primarily singing the song, not listening to it. Get a grip, guys.

    • Your music leader’s true heart was on display.

  • sdansmith

    Yes! This is true! Oh, why can’t people realize this? Not everything has to be perfect in a church service, least of all the singing. Just sing songs everyone knows! Thank you for writing this!

  • Audrey Johnson Shehane

    As a worship leader, I have several thoughts on this post.

    I Do agree that we shouldn’t do all new songs. It’s a bad idea for many reasons.

    However, doing only the stuff everybody knows is equally a bad idea. One major issue is that everybody knows different songs. And of those sings everyone knows, each person knows them with different variations.

    When Hymnbooks were in their prime, music education was more of a norm and requirement. Now it is only an option and not many people actually read music. Society changes. So must our methods if we intend to reach people.

    I think it is a shame to only worship to the songs one knows. What would we miss out on if we confine God to a handful of songs? The Bible says “His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” That isn’t followed by ‘when it’s a song I like.’

    Also, a worship leader cannot cater only to the men in the congregation. The women and children are just as important. And even more importantly, most worship leaders seek God’s will in the music they select for services.

    This blog kinda makes men sound weak…unable to read properly, unable to adjust to change, unable to learn music simply by hearing. I am a woman and the men in my church are not what you portray in this blog. Our society seems to want to make men seem weak and incapable and this post leans that way as well. That’s sad, because God intended for men to be strong and to be leaders.

    Also, I’ve seen a lot of comments criticizing worship leaders. No, we aren’t perfect…neither are you. Our mistakes are just more obvious. So many of you have no idea what it feels like to our out your heart and giver everything you’ve got in a worship service week after week only to be nit-picked by a few…and those few all want different things. It is impossible to accommodate everyone.

    All of this being said, I’m honestly not trying to be argumentative. I’m just giving a different perspective!

  • Michael Robert Cole

    Wow…I read this article and agree with what it has to say. I have also read many of the comments. How about simply getting back to the basics? Let’s begin with TRUTH and STRAIGHTFORWARDNESS. I have been away from the church for many years, about 15 to be precise. I, at one point was going to school to prepare for music ministry. I left for a number of reasons that will not be shared. One thing I saw then that I still see now is this insane “need” to create this electically charged setting that will draw in the masses. Christ spoke truth. Yes, there were miracles, but he spoke truth and it reached to the heart of the masses and they followed and listened. We today are spoiled rotten brats that have all of these electronic gizmos and gadgets and have everything at our fingertips and want everything done yesterday. Perhaps a trip and transformation back to simplicity might be what the church needs. I am not condemning anyone or any process by which Western churches are reaching out to their current fold or potentials. We are living in the last days where folks are lovers of themselves and of money and all the other issues mentioned in the Scriptures. Perhaps, especially for some of us out here more emphasis
    should be put on the simple rather than the extraordinary. No
    need for lambasting, I am just a 47 year old kid who strayed

  • rvreugde

    I’m tired of the cocktail lounge drummer being crammed into every song regardless of whether or not it makes any sense musically.

  • Kurt Knecht

    A friend sent me this article. Nice thoughts. You are a little confused about your history. There was such a thing as a vernacular congregational song before the Reformation. The Reformers didn’t invent that, they just emphasized it. In the particular case of Luther, he maintained the professional choir singing in Latin for the University congregations and vernacular for the churches away from the University. In fact, the particular genius of Lutheran worship – when they eventually added in organs quite a bit after the Reformation – was that they made room for everyone. Choirs and organs took turns doing a complex version of a text, and then the congregation could sing a more simple version. It was the Calvinists that were completely opposed to complexity and singing in Latin. Joseph Herl has done the best work in this area if you’re interested in reading. Also, you should probably read up on 14th c. music. What you have described doesn’t resemble Machaut very much at all.

  • Dawn

    I’m a woman. Having read the article, then the comments–the vast majority of which are by men–it’s apparent that the MEN completely missed the topic and intent of the article!

  • kathy bryan

    Like anything else, I don’t think you can say “most” or “all”. I know of many, many churches who do a great job encouraging people to enter in and truly worship. They do have projected lyrics and band equipment, but they also do the same songs over and over, adding only one new one at a time, so people can participate. Also, with today’s ease of availability, anyone can regularly listen to the music their church chooses to play. I think we need to lay some responsibility on these people you are talking about. Maybe they don’t know the words. They can still stand and pray. Close your eyes and tell God how much He means to you. Use this time to really worship. It’s not the words or the music or the drums or the people standing around you, though they all have their place. It’s your heart!!! What is your heart saying to your God?

  • Jennifer Anderson McMurray

    God is the audience in church worship. To have music that the congregation cannot participate in deprives the worshipper a meaningful dialogue with God in a communal fashion.

  • Knexa

    Nice analysis, but keep in mind that musical tastes in worship change with the secular culture we are born into. A lot of “contemporary” worship music is rock music and rock music is loud music. As you note, the big change happened “about ten years ago.” Now those rockers are ten years older, have kids and are hollering “turn it down!!” (just like their parents). I agree that singing is worship but so is clapping, dancing, jumping, swaying, raising hands, and simply “entering in” to praise through listening. Personally, I like the trend in worship toward the more acoustic “new grass” and “alt-folk” genres that emphasize the voice and singing in tight harmonies, a la CSNY, Fleet Foxes, etc. The Cold Play anthem rock era may be fading, which required stadium filling volume. Ultimately, its about sensitivity and listening. If the leader cannot sense that the congregation is not “entering in,” there’s your problem.

    • Lalala

      Protestants and Catholics, yes…but not Orthodox Christian, the music is the same as has been sung for thousands of years.

  • Jody Johnson

    This so aptly states what I’ve been trying to tell my family! I am going to read this to all of them. Thanks SO much!

  • Paul Townsend

    Praise and worship are two very different things . . . both require a relationship with God. Both are intimate communications with God. According to scripture, praise consists of song, music, words, and we are to do this consistently, even when it is a sacrifice. Also according to scripture, worship is not singing and such; but it is an action taken in acknowledging the Lord as our LORD.
    Worship goes beyond praise; it is an act of bowing down and honoring the
    Lord God. Worship is also an act, for example in our daily work: we serve
    others as a way of worshiping the Lord. Our very life should be an act of

    Church music has changed. Is it cultural?
    American men don’t sing. Men sing in OTHER countries, but not America. Perhaps the exposed nature of today’s style of praise music is threatening. Is
    that a real scenario? It is easier than singing karaoke. Singing with a rock
    band is not something most can do successfully.
    But the “style” of music . . .
    THAT seems to be an obstacle to many men. I don’t think that praise music of the past five years is particularly relational or as memorable as it has been.
    I am a professional musician and have sung in church choirs and praise
    ensembles for over 25 years – I have performed with Sandi Patti and Amy Grant . . . yes, things have changed . . . for whatever reasons, but certainly NOT to
    get men to sing in church.

    • Lalala

      Some of it may very well be cultural. Consider the tradition of organized pub singing in the UK . In America, no one does organized sing-a-longs in bars, if ever they did. Heck a lot of American bars don’t even do Japanese karaoke anymore. I’ve not gone to a bona fide karaoke bar in 13 years. These days, if someone sang in a bar or tavern nowadays, people would think they’re just drunk and acting out. It wouldn’t be considered appropriate behavior for the environment. So if those men won’t sing in a bar, they probably won’t sing in church either.

  • nycgirl56

    I hate these rock bands in church. If I wanted a concert with rock music I’ll go to a concert, and definitely not all that noise thing in the morning. N

  • just me

    Very good. Nice history package and blog 🙂

  • Jennie Council

    It might be that some of the men are not comfortable with the newer music in the church. Unfortunately, the modern belief is that if it is old then we must change it or get rid of it. NOT SO. My great-grandfather wrote one of the most loved hymns but it is hardly ever sung except at funerals. Still, in our church we have put up a projector screen and use a laptop for lyrics. My pastor is also quick to remind everyone, men and women alike, you only get out of a service what you put into. If you put no effort, then you get nothing out. You leave the same way you came in. Maybe, the modern church should begin to ask congregants to fill out comment cards. We are so afraid of offending someone, we will often go to the extreme of the blame game. I stan by my pastor’s words, you get out what you put in.

  • Cora Caruthers

    As a singer in a worship group I understand completely, I find simple words on a screen for all to see is all we need not the rolling video’s. after all it’s not a movie but words of a song to sing along with. If our focus isn’t on Jesus, then what is it really on then?

  • Sandy Brown

    I agree with this; however, I’d like to add one thing more; these songs have taken the place of prayer. The service begins with cheerful, bouncy praise songs, that gradually become slower, more “worshipful.” And where people used to pray aloud, the ‘music’ does that all for them. Sometimes the gradual progression of loud and vibrant to slow and melancholy songs feels manipulate and ‘canned’, not unlike the automated music one hears on the radio. And the words to the new songs are so inferior to the hymns; the words are trite and so simple a gradeschooler could have written them. And the music, too, is lame; I long for the glorious chords and poetry I used to find in hymnals. And no, I am not ancient – and my 23 year old son feels the same way.

  • John Chagnon

    In the Eastern Orthodox Churches people have been and are encouraged to sing as they can and have done so since day one (which for us is over 2000 years ago). We do, as well, have trained choirs and often those who lead the worship can be quite talented in music, although this doesn’t have to be the case. I think the problem in some parts of American Christianity these days is a flawed theology of worship. Worship is “liturgy”, from a Greek word whose forms are found in the Bible and translated “The work of the people”. What this has historically meant is that the worship service is a joint task of all the people gathered, with leaders and participants of various kinds, and the focus is a corporate effort to worship God. The various forms and structures, including the music, are to be designed to fulfill this end and the beauty, or the beauty of simplicity, they possess are to draw the hearts of those who worship towards the One who is beauty, namely God. The goal of this worship, however, in our contemporary culture, has too often been directed towards producing an emotional or conversion experience rather than being understood as purely an offering of praise to God. Worship, in the proper historic Christian sense, is not about us, our feelings, or whatever we may get out of it at all, it is about the fact that God is worthy to be worshiped and that we as human beings are called upon to do this. Interestingly enough when a Christian takes themselves, their needs, or their desires, out of worship, they bring themselves to a depth of the sense of the presence of the Holy One. The antidote to spectator worship should begins with a correct theology of worship. Teach this and implement it and in time people will understand and take place among the active worshiping faithful.

    • Lalala

      Well said!

  • VR

    The real issue is the so-called church being infiltrated by the world, the gimmickry, the contrivances of men taking the place of God moving by His Holy Spirit in the hearts of men!

  • Daniel Helfen

    When worship become Concert is where I draw the line.

  • Boisenoise

    Even when they do a familiar hymn, it’s set to an unfamiliar tune, and . . . as you say . . . no musical notes to show the way. I’ve often wondered why those screens don’t include a musical staff . . . nowadays, colored lights could even move up and down to show the path of the melody, and “reading” the music would be easier than ever.

  • Duane L Burgess

    Another reason to not attend – it’s just a concert, not true worship

  • steve howell

    Too many God is my girlfriend songs.

  • Karl Vaters

    Here’s a really easy way to strike a balance between “we can’t sing songs we don’t know” and “I’m tired of always singing the same songs”. Put together a mix of new songs you plan to introduce and play them as background music before and after services. Then roll out the new songs slowly, not all at once. If they’ve heard a song for three or four Sundays in the background before they’re asked to sing along, by the time it’s introduced as a “new” worship song it will already feel familiar and they won’t even know why. We do this in our church and it works great..

  • waltkaiser

    If I wanted a Las Vegas show I’d go to Las Vegas,
    Be still and know I am God” still applies.

  • tru24rm

    I feel that our fast-paced society has created a bunch of emotional addicts who must have sound at any/every given moment, lest they become “bored.” They come to church, then, to get their emotional crack fix/sugar rush, sans any significant spiritual nourishment.

    I, for one, don’t appreciate the rapid deep, manipulative emotional shifts they try to steer us through with their music during contemporary services. I mean, if we read a passage about grace & repentance, hear a sermon about repentance, and then sing two songs about repentance, it’s enough to cause me to think about repentance and repent if I need to do so. Closing with an altar call or an invitation to contact the pastor or whomever following the service suffices.

    I don’t need all of the extra mournful strumming and minor chord infused pseudo-somber/reflective show-off singing that they do between things (strum, minor strum, minor strum, strum, “Oh we thank you Jesus, our savior forever….” strum, strum, minor chord, “holy, holy, holy, alleluia, hallelujah, you are worthy, you are worthy…” strum, strum, minor strum, strum, strum, minor strum, minor chord “Ah-ah-men…” Major chord, sudden FAST/LOUD SONG!!!”)

    And they (the other congregants) always seem to be offended if one doesn’t dance or sing or whatever while they are doing so, as if one can’t be quiet and still before the Lord without committing a great blasphemy.

    It reminds me of the verse in which the children complain- “I have played you a dirge, but you would not mourn. I have piped for you, but you would not dance…”

    • Cal

      SO true!

    • Lalala

      Agree! Mind, I don’t knock the idea of music, prayer and worship having the capability to take a person into an ecstatic state, but if that’s all the person is seeking when they attend church, then they’re being a “bliss junkie” not actively or actually worshipping God.

  • Kirk Sheppard

    Perhaps you just attending the wrong churches. My church has new songs a lot but we are led by professional worship artists, who make it their mission to engage the congregation in corporate worship. Sometimes, though, I am worshipping with my heart and not my voice while I enjoy the gifts and talents of the musicians on the platform . . . and that’s OK, too.

  • BobbyBarker

    There are still plenty of churches that don’t feel that a teleprompter is a requirement for worship.

    • Lalala

      and if people are paying attention and not reserving their spirituality for one day of the week, the teleprompter isn’t necessary.

  • Greg Cracker Carrick

    Just read the whole article. Makes sense to me. I would add that there are people (like me) who simply aren’t into singing. Full stop. I love good lyrics, and think the older hymns run rings around modern ‘worship’ songs, but singing? A waste of my breath. People like me get put down by the seeming majority who enjoy singing, they can’t understand that we would much prefer the time to be used for decent teaching than another worship verse sung 16 times. Ho hum, let me worship by what I do, not what I sing, and bring on some meat in the teaching please

  • Gene R. Smillie

    I have always loved singing out, loudly and enthusiastically, and of course a decade in African worship did nothing but enhance and encourage that. But now, when the song leader says “Let’s sing it again!”, and “it” is some bloodless and virtually meaningless little phrase (like “hold me closer” or “I just wanna feel your presence”) that we have ALREADY repeated 4, 5, maybe 8 times, I just drop out. I can’t do it. Not only does it turn brains into soggy cauliflower, I feel like it demeans the majesty of God–about whom some music has been written that actually tells us more about him and WHY we should praise and trust him. So I don’t completely agree with the explanation provided here, that the songs are too difficult to follow. I think, on the contrary, they are too simple to hold one’s attention for more than about 3 seconds. So folks do something else with their minds while the musician goes on repeating his monotonous mantra.

  • bikemusic

    It’s not complicated, Worship Leaders. People need to sing together. If they aren’t singing, you’re not leading. Figure it out.

    • Well said.

    • worthywalking

      Leaders ought to look around to see if anyone is following. 🙂

  • Bob in Sydney

    This sparked my writing on this subject today. Thanks so much. My blog is here Bands and worship

  • Steve Lindsey

    It is not about HOW you worship, it is about WHO you worship. God is quite able to use any style of music to reach people and styles are in a constant state of flux. I lead a praise band in our church of about 200 and we have developed the only truly “Blended Service” I’ve ever seen.

    1. Opening prayer from the Pastor

    2. Congregational hymns led by one of our men

    3. Full-blown “Choir Special” directed by a lady, either traditional or contemporary

    4. Church “Welcome Time” lasts about 5 minutes and is wide open. People greet and hug each other (members & visitors) all over the sanctuary and into the lobby. The choir members go down off the stage during this time. We take the term “Church Family” very seriously here.

    5. The 10-piece praise band then comes with 3 praise songs. People are not asked to stand or participate, (the great majority do), only to turn their attention to the throne of God and shake off the world for a time.

    6. Prayer at the altar where all are invited to come and anyone can pray. The Pastor closes and then preaches an EXPOSITORY sermon. No topical messages with cute stories and “Feel Good” objectives – just the Scriptures, explained and magnified.

    It is very important to understand a few things about this very unique model:

    We do not concern ourselves with “beating the Methodists” to the salad bar or getting out on time.” If someone doesn’t want to miss “kickoff”, they just leave. Our Pastor was a missionary in Africa and, like the Africans, “We came to worship, we didn’t come just to go. Services run around 90 minutes … but who’s counting?

    We do not have a “Worship Leader.” There are different people responsible for different types of music. Regardless of what you might think, no worship leader will give the same emphasis to both music styles so, one will suffer.

    No one in the musical program is paid other than the Choir Director and ALL are
    church members. People participate because they desire to worship and see
    others give praise to the LORD.

    We do not sing repetitive choruses, i.e. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I love You, I
    Love You, I Love You, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, I love You, I Love You, I Love You.
    There is substantial scriptural basis for this out of the mouth of Christ Himself.

    We do not bombard people by continually offering new, unheard of songs. People
    cannot internalize and sing from the heart unless they KNOW THE SONG!

    Words to all songs are projected on a large screen but hymnals are available in
    the pews as well.

    The beautiful theology of the hymns is taught to our young people and the
    un-churched as we sing ABOUT God. The intimacy and closeness of the infinite
    God is relayed to ALL our people in the contemporary love songs we sing TO God.

    There is no light manipulation, lasers or fog machines. A true spirit of worship CANNOT be coerced. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to bring people … not mine. My responsibility is to be clean before the LORD and worship Him in spirit and in truth … whether others come with me or not.

    Oh, and this is happening in a Southern Baptist Church
    … so miracles really do exist!

    God Bless!

  • LarryECollins

    The BIGGEST problem with contemporary music is the RANGE. THE SONGS ARE TOO HIGH! Most of the hip young worship leaders are tenors. They sing HIGH notes with ease and expect everyone else to, also. But the preponderance of men are NOT tenors (look and see what percentage of a male choir are Tenors vs non-Tenors). So the song just gets too high, is embarrassing to try to sing and they give up. I have a worship leader friend who is a BASS and he said it’s really tough trying to lead worship. He either has to sing things an octave lower than written or he really struggles. Hymns were written in 4 parts – SATB. Men could also just sing the bottom line or they could sing the melody an octave low. What are they supposed to do on songs now? Contemporary song writer write for THEMSELVES to sing. And not all solo songs are appropriate for congregational singing. We’re not all Chris Ride, Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, etc.

  • Julie P

    I guess the part I don’t understand is – if they don’t like contemporary music – why are they at this service. There are plenty of traditional services still out there. The whole point of attending a contemporary service is for the music. If you like only country music, you wouldn’t go to a KISS concert.

  • bo the dog

    Not allowed to sing in my church.

    • Lalala

      Why not?

  • Timothy McSwain

    I’m not sure what church you go to but just about everyone sings at my church. I can’t read music, so the hymnals I grew up with made no sense. The musical notes only confused me. We do sing new songs but we don’t change them every week. We bring in a new song and continue to sing familiar songs. When that one is familiar, we bring in another new song. Our worship music stays fresh but is always familiar.

    • rwagg

      There is a solution to those who can’t read hymnal notes. It’s called…..drumroll….the friggin piano. Oh, and following those around you.

  • Sam I Am

    I am a musician. I go to church and there is no music to read. I don’t know the poor, quality songs that are being blasted out by the praise band. If I had a piece of music that I could read, then I could sing it. It feels wrong to sing poorly, when I know that I can do better. I stand there and listen. It doesn’t feel like worship.

  • your soul’s servant

    So many false inventions and definitions have crept into the worship of the … [wait for it] … SOVEREIGN ALMIGHTY SAVIOUR AND GOD OF THE UNIVERSE.

    Who is being worshipped? How is He (God is assumed) to be worshipped? What has He proscribed in His Word? Who can worship God? Do these questions not matter?

    When did worship become separated from the preaching of the Gospel? “Worship (read: show-like music) was fantastic, then the pastor gave the sermon.” If there was any preaching of the Gospel, at that. Not to mention offerings being relegated to an option, after the service, to be place in some box in a corner of the foyer. Don’t get me started re: communion.

    Why are so many “new” worship songs so shallow and repetitive? Why do I feel like I’m in a club? And can we stop the “Jesus is my boyfriend” chants?!

    Majesty, awe, respect need to return to worship, and rightfully so. Both heart AND HEAD need to be engaged. And it is not about YOU at all.

    Just my $0.02

  • rvreugde

    Guidelines for Modern Christian Worship – Hope this Helps!

    1. The most important thing about Christian worship is that it be appealing to the real (or imagined) statistically average “seeker” in your community. And just assume – without wasting time to actually verify this – that the cultural tastes, intellectual capacity and level of education of your seeker community are dumber than yours.

    2. The next most important thing is your image. Muss up your hair, don some killer shades, wear a mix of high end designer clothes and thrashed out poverty gear, maybe get some cool tattoos – whatever it takes to create that authentic look.

    3. Then broaden your music to appeal to the widest possible audience. Try and avoid specific theological or moralistic messages. The less said the better. Remember what matters in worship is not the message but the mood.

    4. And if you are performing on a Sunday morning it is important for your worship to start on time, end on time – and not take much time. Seekers are attracted to a God who is small enough to fit into their busy schedules.

    5. Never turn down an opportunity to remind the audience of your pain – whether real, imagined or purely theatrical. If you can cry on cue that’s even better. Tell some stories from your life, “I had an affair with the bass player because I was looking for the love I didn’t get as an abused child.” etc. etc. Seekers love to hear about how past suffering gives them a pass for present or future failures.

    6. When singing, try and put your mouth as close to the microphone as possible to add as much heavy, sensuous breathing to your words. Seekers really like the “up-close” feelings of intimacy with God that they get when it sounds like you are lying on top of them licking their ears.

    7. Whether or not it makes any sense musically, be sure and have a rock-n-roll style drummer accompanying every song you do. The bigger the drum kit the better. This will show seekers that your church is upbeat and relevant.

    8. Another way you can communicate “Abba, Father” familiarity to seekers is by slightly dropping and slurring your singing speech like a two year old attempting to talk to a parent. Grooming yourself like a 13 year old who just woke up after sleeping in their clothes can also help in this area. Seekers attracted to the idea of spending a lifetime relating to a God who will never expect them to act like adults.

    9. And don’t forget the eye candy. This gives the seeker dudes something to think about and stay awake while the worship team robo-trances the same praise chorus line 17 or 18 times.

    10. One the rare occasions when someone complains about the music being “too loud”, just assume that they are some legalistic fuddy-duddy. Don’t do the ridiculous thing of actually getting out a decibel meter and consulting some OSHA audio level safety chart. The idea that you could be damaging the hearing of the young people in your audience is something that should never enter your mind.

    11. Instead, just crank up the volume, flash the lights, blast the video, set off the fireworks. Think “Shock & Awe”. Ideally you want to knock all thoughts and feelings out of your audience’s brains so that you can replace it with the thoughts and feelings of the worship experience. This time tested technique of psychological manipulation has worked for cult leaders, dictators and re-education camp indoctrinators and it can also work for you.

    12. Also strive to make the sanctuary as dark as possible with as little or no natural lighting. And with the exception of the eye candy gals, make your worship team attire as dark, dull and “Gothy” as possible. This will make the worship experience more comfortable for seekers who are still (knowingly or unknowingly) involved in the occult.

    13. On all your album covers, posters, web-sites and other promotional media, be sure to do as much as you can to showcase yourself, your face, your talents and your trendy accessories. Remember if you want to make it big in the Christian music world then the worship should talk about god while focusing on You.

    14. And don’t forget, the ultimate goal in Christian worship to achieve celebrity status. Once you’re there, your personal life can be anything. A Dove Award isthe über-propitiation for a multitude of sins

    • your soul’s servant

      On point.

  • ss396

    “There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.”

    Wrong! Wrong! Wrong! Am I attending a Worship service, or a rock concert? There is all the difference in the world between being a member of a congregation vs. being a member of an audience.

    • edik415

      I’m sorry — what is “wrong” with the statement you quoted? I can’t figure out which sentence you’re referring to.

  • VAWenzel

    My mother hit it on the nail-head. She “Didn’t much care for that ‘7-Eleven’ music” (7-eleven is the name of a chain of convenience stores that may not be in your area). I said, “What do you mean, 7-eleven music ?” She replied, “You know you sing this song you’ve never heard of, that only has 7-words, and you sing ’em over and over again, eleven times.”
    Gavin Johnson and the worship leaders at Citylight Church have it right. They sing an endless list of traditional hymns that you heard as a kid (if you’re older than 30) but, with a fresh contemporary arrangement and tempo created by the genius of Gabe (one of our worship leaders) which ‘a grandfather’ like me (with an ear for good music), totally enjoys and easily joins in.

    I witnessed this myself as the worship team PERFORMED in the “Access” services – with their eyes closed – while a few joined in, others mumbled along (like me) and others texted. I keep reading more and more articles telling how this coming generation of college and young professionals as church attenders are longing for and turning back to the traditional hymns of their grandfathers, abandoning the shallow ‘7-eleven’ music of the past 10-15 years that is eroding our worship experience. “I Stand Amazed In The Presence” of this very young church (average age late twenties – early thirties) and get choked-up seeing these young followers of Christ singing out loud, absorbed in the music, and praising like they never did before. May the “Faith of our Fathers” and “Great is Thy Faithfulness”, “Amazing Grace”, “Before The Throne of God”, “Nothing But The Blood”, “All Hail The Power Of Jesus Name” — Ok, I lost control — May these great hymns be restored in our churches everywhere as they are at CityLight Church in Omaha. Thank you Gavin and Gabe.

    As a worshiper, I don’t want a PERFORMANCE (there’s plenty of good concerts out there that I can go to); I want to PARTICIPATE in corporate worship and hear the voices around me singing louder than the team on the platform.

  • Cal

    Oh, man – this is great. Here I thought my family and a few other folks we knew were alone. I miss singing hymns in church 🙁 (I have to sing them on my own, and while I enjoy that, it would be nice to have them sung corporately as well).

  • Great points. I especially like how you don’t fault new songs, but just that worship leaders need to actually LEAD. When they do a new song, just let everyone know, and then keep doing that song over the next few weeks.

    Our worship leader in our old church does this well, and he has taught the younger worship leaders to do it as well.

  • Andy

    How come no one ever complains when the organist or the pianist really goes to town on a song with real flourish? Surly they aren’t trying to draw attention to themselves or be a star, are they?

    • Lalala

      Depends on the church. In the past I’ve heard people complain about such things.

  • David Housholder

    On a recent Sunday I attended Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia Pennsylvania. I don’t know tha acoustic design of this grand old building, but singing with the congregation there is a thrill. The brass ensemble, drums, tympani, and organ are joined by the hearty voices of the congregation, men included, and fill that space with a glorious sound.

  • edik415

    This article makes some very good points. I, too, find the lack of music notation in most “contemporary” (whatever that word means…) worship services to be frustrating. Even so, I try to remind myself that “my preferred worship style” is basically irrelevant. MY preferred worship style? How about God’s preferred worship style? Now, I have no idea whether God would prefer to hear his name sung through an microphone accompanied by guitars and drums, or from the voices of a choir accompanied by an organ, or in English, German, Latin, or Hebrew…but rather than focusing on what it is about “Worship Style X” that doesn’t work for me, maybe I should spend that effort working a little harder to involve myself in the worship of God. If that means listening more intently to the first verse of a praise song so that I can participate during the second verse, then that’s probably what I should do.

  • I have really enjoyed singing in the past. I was in choir in college and we did many sacred songs. But now that you mention it …I will often just read the words overhead and listen. I guess b/c it’s like a concert and it seems like we’re in a passive role.

    I enjoy both recent music and historic music including hymns. But either way, I like more to sing to God, not sing about my feelings about singing to God, or sing about me…a lot of songs in recent times are about our response and our experience. This is fine, but if that’s all you have to sing about it uses up its fuel.

    and Sometimes the lyrics are just piss poor too, to be honest.

    Some people at my church get more wild and wave hands or bounce, but I guess the emotionalism is off-putting and I would rather spectate now. Glad you brought it up.

    I’m not sure if it really reflects some sort of problem. We change. I don’t sense God moaning and shaking his head. I think he’s gracious about it.

    I got my Masters degree in Spiritual Formation so I’ve learned that there are many things that can draw us close to God, now and historically. Actively and passively.

  • Cranios

    Anyone who even wanted to make a casual attempt to poll men when quickly find out that the reason men don’t sing is because of “Jesus is my boyfriend” lyrics. Most women aren’t nearly as sensitive to how BF the lyrics sound unless they get pretty extreme. Not so with men. I love to sing in church but I won’t sing those types of songs, fortunately my church doesn’t do them very often.

    • Lalala

      Well, this woman can’t stand those “Jesus is my boyfriend” lyrics, either. It’s an insult to trivialize Him like that. Besides, Scripture teaches that the Lord and his relationship to the church is as Husband and Wife. Says so right in Ephesians (and not in some worldly overly romantic way either.)

  • M. Miller

    When worship is precipitated by environment, worship is a contrivance. If worship is from a heart of adoration, then i will worship while shackled in a dungeon. Example: Paul and Silas.

  • David

    This post is interesting, but I think the comments are quickly turning into a brawl of classical vs modern worship styles. However, people not singing in church is not an issue with the media projector or contemporary atmosphere, it’s an issue with worship leaders not leading their congregation. The solution is simple, the author even says it in the article.

    >>>”Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now,” they would say. “We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.” That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?” <<<

    Okay, so, why can't worship leaders pick this practice back up? Modern songs aren't the problem, it's switching them out for new ones every Sunday. Why not only introduce about 2-4 new songs every year to your church, and be more selective about which ones you choose? I attend a church where 75% of our congregation is under 40 and all of them sing the contemporary songs quite loudly every Sunday. Why? Because our worship leader is very selective about which new songs he introduces, and only chooses songs with theologically solid lyrics and even then only does about 3-4 a year. Yes, we don't preform every single one of the latest hits, but we have quite a selection of modern, musically rich songs our congregation loves to sing.

    I feel the solution is more simple than many in the comments seem to see, and the blame is being shifted to everything but the worship leaders/pastors who plan church services.

    • Lalala

      Some of the blame, too, goes towards the CCM radio stations. They play all this “trendy” stuff that is quasi-Christian. Used to be religious radio stations played the time honored hymns so people could be familiar with them too. There is an internet radio station I listen to called Ancient Faith radio where they play the Orthodox hymns used in the worship services. That’s how I learned them with no interruptions in the actual worship services which is a distraction in itself.

  • Well, I guess there’s a LOT to be said for Eastern Orthodox hymns: theologically sound thanks to reliance on the Church Father’s writings, practiced and perfected by hundreds of years of singing, no reliance on instrumental music which makes it hard for words to be clearly understood, and a good repertoire of chants, a good number of which leads itself to congregational singing (such as Znamenny chant). And yes, such liturgical music can be found in English, and as Orthodoxy becomes more established, there will be an American chant, just as there is the Byzantine stile, Znamenny, Moscow school. While it is indeed true that the trend was towards the choir as the only ones singing, especially during the Imperial Russian era, today congregational singing is encouraged here in the United States.

    • Lalala


  • Lalala

    I am a woman who converted to the Eastern Orthodox church just over 2 years ago. One of the issues that I had re: actually crossing over was the idea of having to say goodbye to instruments in church. I used to be a singer/songwriter/ musician who ‘performed’ in churches at guitar masses, and I had also been involved in many choirs over the years. I thought having only vocals would be weird. Now after 3 years of attending Divine Liturgy and All Night Vigil, I wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, I can no longer stomach most of the junk that passes for church music nowadays. I find the stuff you hear on CCM stations very annoying: there’s far too much maudlin sentimental claptrap, quasi love songs and ‘pep talk/cheerleader” kinds of pop music. Can’t believe I used to think that kind of music was so “cool” and so meaningful in worship. Yuck! At any rate, I’ll take the beauty and purity of the human voice singing ancient hymns from 150 AD such as “O Gladsome Light”over the frothy pop music junk you hear on CCM radio stations any day. Seems that genre has a closer walk with Nashville than with “thee.” If I want that other stuff, I’ll go to an actual secular music rock concert. Just FTR, the male singing tradition in Orthodoxy is still very much alive and well. Just go to youtube and look for Mt. Athos and Valaam Monastery and you’ll see what I mean.

  • Dan Edelen

    To all those who claim that the musicians are only there to promote themselves, it’s simply not the case for most of the people leading worship in churches today. It really isn’t. Yes, a few people have an agenda, but as a drummer who played for years in different churches, I can say with no hesitation that remarkably few people are on the worship team to do anything but lead the congregation into the worship of God.

    The brush you are using is waaaay too broad, so please stop. Fact is, you are wrong, and you really need to stop painting worship team participants as self-centered.

    Now, is it true that there are too many songs, cycled through too quickly, and with too few helps for the congregation to learn them? Absolutely! That needs to be corrected.

    But here’s another reality: Many young people today know those songs and they don’t know the old hymns we do. Is it sad that many hymns are passing into obscurity? Yes, but it happens. Not too much music from Luther’s day persisted into the 18th century, much less the 21st. The best will survive, though.

    Let’s hold on to good Christian music with solid, edifying lyrics, no matter how old or new it is. And let’s do a better job avoiding novelty so people can learn the songs and incorporate their truths into daily living.

    But please, no more bashing of worship team members.

    • Lalala

      Speaking the truth is not bashing. The truth is that CCM has become a multi-million dollar business and there are “celebrities” within the genre, and much of that has muddied the water. I attended a songwriters conference in Hollywood back in 2007 and sat in on the CCM/Gospel music masterclass, and guess what advice was given in writing the songs “don’t be too preachy” and ‘try not to mention the name Jesus.” WHAT? then what is the point? Well apparently, if one does this the song won’t sell. So that showed me that CCM has a closer walk with Nashville than with the Lord. It really put me off.

      • Dan Edelen


        We’re NOT talking CCM or CCM superstars. We’re talking about the average musician on a church worship team.

        Please do not disparage people who spend their time leading others in singing and worship at churches.

  • Grace Miller

    My church posts on Facebook the songs we will be singing a few days before Sunday. They include links to the songs on YouTube so we have time to become familiar with them and can reference them later.

  • The experience in the Orthodox Church is quite different. Here’s an interesting article describing men in Orthodox worship. http://kenhin.es/16Zzk6j

  • Keith Schooley

    Reminds me about CS Lewis’s quote about novelty in the church service: “‘Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a
    sacrament, or repent, or supplicate, or adore. And it enables us to do
    these things best–if you like, it “works” best–when, through long
    familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and
    have to count, the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to

    It is indeed the frustration of trying to sing songs one doesn’t know that is at the heart of the dilemma. Plus the fact that so many worship leaders and bands don’t understand the difference between performance and leading worship. Whatever doesn’t lend itself to participation – instrumental solos, keys too high for anyone but professionals to sing – belongs to the world of performance, not to the world of worship.

  • bondservant1

    Part of the problem is songs that sound good on the radio rarely translate into a good song to sing along with in church. Radio used to find new songs in the church – now the church plays what’s on the radio.

  • Zan Mei

    I work with Chinese youth. Whenever I let them choose the songs, they ALWAYS choose contemporary Chinese choruses. The never choose traditional western hymns or even contemporary western choruses (and there are plenty that have been translated into Chinese). I can only assume that the Chinese-style choruses speak to their heart in a way that western hymns and choruses don’t. I love singing these Chinese choruses with them, as they tend to be rich in Bible quotes and not too heavy theologically. Most importantly, through these choruses, the youth are encouraged to participate in worship, and to praise our Lord.

  • J Star

    Well, I don’t entirely agree with this article. As you know,
    I go to one of those “hip” churches that Murrow speaks about, and most men are
    singing every Sunday.

    When Con and I started going to Mars Hill, there were
    several songs that the bands would play that we didn’t recognize, but you have
    to start somewhere right? At one time in our life, we had no clue how to sing
    those hymns. It took Con and I a few weeks to learn the songs, the bands don’t
    switch the songs out a lot and we still sing those songs today and we are now
    able to worship with those songs as well as the hymns that we sing.

    I personally think that it is a leader/pastoral issue within the church and
    just like Eric said on another post about the same subject, it is hard to
    balance it out with all the variety of people in the congregation. If you keep
    bringing in new song after new song, sure, people (men) are not going to sing
    them. Bring some good music in (and keep singing those hymns) and keep the new
    songs around long enough so that people can worship with them. The reason I say
    it is a leader/pastoral issue, is because it sounds as though they are not
    bringing in a good balance of music and keeping new music around long enough as
    well as the pastor needs to be up front worshipping and being a “leader” for
    these men who are not singing as wel as confronting from the stage about the
    importance of worshipping.

    Our church was started for the purpose of being filled by
    college aged men who need Jesus. The pastor would yell at them from the pulpit
    and the worship was at the noise level of a live concert. There isn’t so much
    yelling anymore, but the music is still loud, it is filled with hundreds of
    young men who love Jesus, as well as young women, kids, and older people who
    are in their 40’s all the way to their 70’s. We sing music that would be “new”
    to someone who as come to our church for the first time and the new music that
    is played is only music that has been written and composed by our worship pastors
    and we sing hymns as well. Besides, I
    remember as a kid being comletely bored and annoyed with hymns that are slow,
    boring, and I have no clue what they mean. This is why I don’t agree with the article and
    feel that there is a bigger issue.

  • Brian

    I have been a worship leader since my early teens…some 17ish years now. I remember as a teen not understanding when others didn’t seem to get on board with my song choices and style. I was also in a rock band. I thought church should be a rock show. In College I became so critical of other worship leaders I actually stopped leading for an entire year, realizing I needed to become humble if I was to really understand Worship. The 10 years since have been a journey to understand what God really wants of me. My concept of the role of music in Worship has changed dramatically. My wife and I are launching a second church service within out Church this spring. The band is going to be either at the side or behind the congregation. PART of the congregation. The musicians and vocalists will worship WITH the community of believers. This will be very different. I hope when we are not above the other believers they will be more connected to join with us instead of watch us worship.

  • Kristin Daniels

    I have three children. If all three of my children want to make me something or do something to express their love for me. Would I want or expect their gifts to look identical?

    My ten year old son is very academic and dislikes art. If he made me a painting, I would appreciate that he did something for me that was out of his comfort zone.

    If he chose instead to write a story for me, I would enjoy it because it was an expression of his personality. I would receive both as an offering of love.

    If my son brought me a story he wrote so that his sisters would see that he loves me better than they do. I would not consider it a gift for me.

    If my son was talented enough of a writer to make money doing it and he wrote a book and dedicated it to me because he loves me, I would receive his gesture of love. I would not complain that it was “too good” or should not have made a profit.

    If some people did not understand or like the book he wrote, my feelings would not change.

    If my son’s book inspired others to write a book as well, what a beautiful thing it would be. Or perhaps his book would inspire someone to create a beautiful painting.

    My thoughts after reading this article and many of the comments:
    A new church attender has likely not heard any of the songs when they attend their first time. I believe the key word is “balance.” By adding a new song, new comers and regulars are placed on level ground. So, in that regard it can be a good thing to have a new song. I have heard people discuss how awkward it is to be a newcomer while everyone around them knows the songs. I also believe there is something to the joy of singing a “new song” for the Lord. Sometimes, singing a new song means singing an old song with a new heart or perspective.

    Repeating familiar songs also has value. Participation often does increase as we are familiar with a song or enjoy it.. probably because humans are like that. (Don’t worry, I think God knows this.)

    No matter what style is used, criticisms can be found. No matter who is singing, criticisms can be found. Why is this? Because God chose to use a bunch of imperfect humans. Similarly, a bunch of imperfect humans critique them based on their own imperfect opinions.

    Who is to say that singing along is evidence of spiritual transformation and praise occurring? Indeed it is valuable to praise the Lord with our mouths and speak out loud of His greatness. Also, there is value in listening and reflecting on what we are hearing in quietness.

    We have a human desire to measure everything.

    What can we control? Ourselves.

    What if we say: “I will praise the Lord and bow my heart and soul to Him. I will worship him whether I feel it or not, because love is not a feeling; but, love does have feelings associated. I will strive to be genuine and heartfelt, knowing that when I feel sad, I still genuinely adore Him and I can honestly say He is good and worthy of praise. I will trust that as I strive to be real, God will use it to encourage others to do the same in whatever expression fits with the personality God gave them. However tempted I may be, I will choose not to assume that the man or woman beside me standing still and silent or dancing, is lacking any more or less than I am lacking. God sees their heart. I will correct myself. I will not criticize someone who is more talented than I am for being too showy. I will trust that God is perfectly capable of deciding that and He will use whom He pleases. I will remind myself that if I am distracted by the person singing off key and clapping off beat, I am the one who needs to learn to focus on Jesus and work through distractions. I acknowledge that life is full of distractions and I need to learn to not let them remove my focus from Jesus.”

    Let us remember that praise and worship are not only associated with music.

    As we criticize those who are praising God around us, are we not like the disciples who complained that there were other people baptizing in Jesus’ name and told them to stop. Are we not like David’s wife who was angry at Him for praising God in a way she deemed inappropriate? What about the woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet? Was the critical one the hero of the story?

    God has given us many gifts. The gift of choice, the gift of personalities,the gift of talents and skills, the gift of creative expression.

    How well are we worshiping God when we are watching and critiquing others worship?

    Praise is a response to God’s goodness and a declaration of His goodness. If God disliked variety don’t you think He would have made all plants and animals to look much more similar? If He wanted us all to like the same things, couldn’t He have given us all the same personalities, likes, and dislikes?

    How silly we all look when we tear apart the body of Christ because the eye does not look like or maneuver like the foot.

    If you want your church to be more worshipful, be more worshipful. It is the heart which should bow.

    John 17:20 Jesus prays: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

    Let us stop picking each other apart and measuring each other. Jesus wants us to be unified in our love for Him so that the world will know that God sent Jesus.

    If what others see in us is genuine love for Jesus, others will want it for themselves and will learn to express it in whatever way God designed them.

    Have you expressed love to that person who praises different than you or have you critiqued them?

    “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

    So then, let us focus on Jesus.
    Love God and love others.

  • Monte Lalli

    As a member of a Church of Christ congregation, this article certainly hits me differently. I’ve been ridiculed and made fun of for years for “not using music” (actually just not using instruments) in worship, but when the only “choir” is the entire congregation we don’t encounter this problem at nearly the same extent. Another difference in almost every Church of Christ: we participate in communion every Sunday.That is not to say we don’t have our own issues to deal with.

    It never ceases to amaze me how often visitors will say, “Wow! Your [church] singing is amazing!” I’ve visited other congregations that have the “rock band” worship leaders and experienced worship, but mostly I agree with the tenor of this article – most people were just standing there listening. Please understand, I’m not condemning the activity – unless it really is preventing participation in the act of worship.

  • Joe-Juli Isaacs Batchelor

    I am a church music leader who has come from a more hymn-singing background to a more P & W, although we are more blended at our church. I like a lot of what hymn-singing has to offer, familiarity being one of the main things, great lyrics and musicality being others, but the question is why did most churches venture away from the hymnbook to the worship band with smoke, lights, and screen? It was largely because the hymn singing that was done did not move the singers spiritually or emotionally… it was usually pretty somber, routine, and traditional, generally seen as lifeless to those who are wanting music that moves them emotionally. The phrase “ushering us into God’s Presence” comes to mind. No one would deny that in our current generation, music is very personal. Young people identify themselves with a certain genre of music that affects multiple areas of life. How do they identify or connect with hymn singing the way previous generations have done it? The music of the past is seen as impersonal and liturgical, not emotionally rich. People want more connective relationship, not traditional religion. Culture sees the language and music of hymns as coming from a by-gone era (18th to mid-20th century). It is not contemporary and fails to connect with much of today’s culture. I am not in full agreement with these notions of hymn-singing but just trying to answer the question. Singing from a hymnbook can be worshipful and connective … And I will say that singing too many of the newest Hillsong, Gateway, etc. songs is a great way to get the congregation quiet and disconnected just as many say hymn-singing does. They won’t sing what they don’t know. And there is so much theology backing up congregational singing, worshiping as the people of God. Attending a concert veiled as a worship service has weak theological underpinnings to me. So worship leaders have to avoid the temptation to do latest and greatest every week. Choose songs your congregation (not just the band) can handle, do a new one occasionally, and do lots of known songs, including hymns.

    I read an interesting article in a worship leading magazine about some other factors that can get your congregation to quit singing. Amplification is one. When the band and stage singers are very loud, the congregants cannot hear anyone around them. They actually can only hear themselves if they sing at all. That will cause them to quit singing because they may like the worship team’s nice harmony and vocal quality more than their own voice. Decreasing the volume may help congregational singing, turning performance to leadership. The tendency is to turn sound up to increase the concert-like quality and the emotional response. We want to fill the room with the high quality music when you see this in church, you listen to the band. You don’t usually join in like you would in a rock concert. And the other issue is lighting and stagecraft. When you darken the room, you are featuring what is lit: and that is on stage. Add smoke and lights and you have a great show that everyone wants to watch. Congregants are more likely to watch the featured band and expensive stagecraft as observers, not participants. So the suggestion is don’t darken the room if you want people to sing. And simplify.

  • Galen Goodrum

    I am tired of the “traditional” vs. “contemporary” discussion. The author does not enjoy contemporary worship. He says so in his first paragraph by his subtle labeling of the church as “one of those hip, contemporary churches” and then goes on to say “smoke belching” and “lights flashing”, which are not literary words of grace. If you love hymns and traditional, then just love those and do them well! If you love the contemporary, then just love those and do them well! If you love contemporary, then find a church with good teaching and contemporary worship and go there. If you love the traditional, then go to a church with good teaching and traditional worship. Let each one do his/her style and do it well and in a way that honors our Savior, Jesus Christ. There are people who will be reached by hymns and a more traditional environment and that is awesome and there are people who will be reached by a contemporary environment and that too, is awesome. There is no need for us to criticize one another. Such generalized and stereotypical comments like “worship has become a show” or “that’s old and stuffy” need to stop. Neither is helping the church, and to the outside world watching us, it gives them all the more reason not to come.

  • “Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.”

    This is the most succinct summary of “Christianity” in the USA that I have seen.

  • Alec Haapala

    It is a concert, not a worship service.

  • Gregory William Harold Roberts

    perhaps Christians should listen or familiarize themselves with new music when there not a church instead of listening to secular music. Then they wouldn’t have to struggle on Sunday.

  • CW

    I’ve read through most of the comments, but maybe I missed a few. I find it interesting that most of them are about what we like and dislike, what feels good to us. By the comments I read it would make we think that the Bible has nothing to say about what God wants.

  • Babs

    Well being a worship leader I couldn’t resist commenting on this subject. As I read the comments, I could not identify with them, because this does not happen at our church, in fact if the team could stand behind a veil we would. I don’t think the problem lies with the music or the band, but with the leader. My prayer has always been & will always be that they see Jesus on that stage not me. John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease. This is the plea of the team. I pray the Lord give me the songs to sing & the words to say. So I fear that if you are feeling this way about your worship leaders, they are having issues in their life with the Lord. If the attitude isn’t, it’s all about Him, there en-lies the problem. The attitude of the leader usually reflect the attitude of the team. If someone were to be on the team that had this problem, I would talk to them & ask them to pray about this and give them scriptures to help them. If the problem persisted I would ask them to step down until they can work thru this, & refer them to counsel with our Pastor. So you see because of how I believe I would not tolerate something different on the team. We all work together for the further ushering of leading people into His presence to worship the Lord!

  • donevanson

    Tolstoy’s Father Sergius struggled with the question of whether he served God for the love of people, or served people for the love of God.
    As a choir member of my church, and a member of a non-denominational male “gospel” choral group, I similarly reflect on that question as I participate with either group.
    Following Vatican II, my church choir moved from the rear of the church to the front of the church. While I use the choir position from the front of the church to attempt to share my personal enjoyment of praise through song, hoping to pass that expression of praise and its enjoyment to others, I also oftentimes wish that the choir was back to being in the back of the church, since I am concerned about the “showman” aspects of expressing my enjoyment.
    As a member of the male chorus, I don’t have those concerns when our performance is in the context of just that, a performance, with the mission of supporting vocal praise. However, the group oftentimes augments church services, beginning with a prelude of selections, and then participating in the service music. I don’t mind the prelude so much, but do have concerns about participation in the service music, usually from in front of the gathering, with our showmanship on display. I particular dislike this display at Catholic Masses, likely deriving from my personal preference for preserving and enhancing the solemnity of the Mass.
    So, I stuggle on with Tolstoy’s question.

  • Avniel

    #amen, If you are attending a talent show church, you are better off staying home and listening to K-Love

  • Chris Foss

    The real problem here is that the songs projected on the wall are Pop, and thus carry copyrights. Every time they are sung, BMI, ASCAP, et al deserve a royalty. People listen to Christian radio, and hear these songs there, and they are nice, so they want to do them in church, too. But by doing so, they bring the whole American for profit popular music system with them. The songs in the hymnal are totally folk. Some of the songs in there are still under copyright, but this is paid in the purchase of the hymnal. Folk music is the music folks make themselves. That is why the singing is so much more lusty when the singing is out of the hymnal.

  • Causal

    If the only real opportunity that Christians have to participate in the life of their church is in music and giving, then isn’t there a larger paradigmatic problem with the way our churches organize and conduct themselves?

  • Chris Butler

    My take on this — and I know some will disagree — I very much dislike the contemporary music that is done in churches today. I don’t like contemporary music in general, so any attempt by the church to make the music more hip, more rock style is not going to be my style…….and it’s especially out of place when the stage is filled with boy band types with bleached blonde hair…..most men will NOT connect with that.

    I’m old enough to remember when music in church meant old style hymns like Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art……I liked it, and it put me in a more spiritual mood.

    This new stuff does NOTHING for that, at least not for me. To be quite honest, it’s so LOUD I have no choice but to cover my ears to protect my hearing.

    I’ve had conversations with other men who feel the same way, although they aren’t very vocal about it.

    Churches need to recognize that, but it seems they are averse to what men want.

  • “Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering.” Why is communion not a weekly thing? I love that all the churches I have ever attended do it every week. I know that doesn’t fix the music problem but it does give another action during the service…and it focuses completely on Jesus.

  • Matthew Caldwell

    When we worship, it’s a gift to God. We (the Church) are the choir. Let’s participate and be the choir, not hire a choir (band) to the worshipping for us.
    Understand that I’m not against a band or choir. I’m against relying solely on the band to do the “worshipping.” We are the body. Let’s all worship in song together.

  • brisonc3

    The other issue/problem is that so many “contemporary songs” are overdone, played excessively on Christian radio stations and then sung in church. At some point many get sick of those songs just from overexposure. Many popular songs from Chris Tomlin come to mind, “Splendor of the King(how great is our God)” is one that is way overdone. Just after it’s release, “I Will Rise” was being played every 30 min. on the local, Christian stations and the pastor of the church I was attending at the time demanded the praise team learn the song. I’m sorry, but it was too much. I came to hate that song. Many songs by Paul Baloche are the same. So many worship songs in church coming from the Christian Radio top 20 or top 40. It should not be that way.

    My rule is, if it’s being played on the radio, keep it out of church for 2 or 3 years then add it to the church worship list once it has been replaced by another list of Christian radio pop hits and the previous song is a faint memory. That song again now has meaning and is something to meditate on, without having to go home and hear it played on the local Christian radio station 3 or more times in one afternoon.

  • Simple solution: DO the songs often enough to establish familiarity. Then leave the criticism (and your armchair) at the door.

  • Brian Bell

    Thank you for the article. I believe that you have found some of the truth, but have missed the reason for my decline in participation. Here is the cause of my fall in enthusiasm for singing: #1. Repetitiveness. The songs led repeat the same phrase over and over and over. Yes, some of the old hymns had repetitive choruses, but in-between there were verses of 4 or more sentences; and 4+ different verses per song. We need to worship God in body, mind and spirit. I feel that my mind falls into neutral with so much repetition, and certainly my mind is not worshiping at such times. #2. Emphasis on self and feeling. Many of the songs presented focus on either how the singer feels. Yes it is good to praise God for his blessings and exalt him from the mountain top. But it is equally important to sing of Gods grace and sustaining power when we are in the valley of shadows. But even more important, IMHO, is to sing of the various aspects of God (power, grace, love, justice, patience, etc.), without necessarily from the perspective of how it directly effects us. #3. Lack of scripture in the lyrics. Many of the old hymns were drawn directly from or paraphrased from scripture. Again, it seems as if the majority of the current praise songs focus on personal feeling, that I feel that we are failing to take advantage to further write the word of God on our hearts. Thank you for taking the time to read this. Again, this is just my personal perspective on the issue.

  • Karla Holton

    A prevailing critical spirt in the comments seems rampant. I don’ t want to judge other’s worship or be judging whether the worship leaders are there for show. We all need to pray for sweeter spirits and kinder hearts. May God be blessed by all our worship…no matter if it’s just vocal singing, a piano or worship team or whatever. May God soften our critical hearts and bring unity within our diversity.

  • Sandy Hess

    Years ago, we started a “song of the month”. A new song is introduced, and sung each week for a month. We have learned over a 150 new songs this way, and learned them well. We have no praise team. The songs are in the bulletin or the hymnal and not on a screen. The focus is on corporate singing and this approach has been a blessing to the church body. It is a joy to hear men and women sing out each Sunday from my vantage point at the keyboard.

  • Guest

    Wow, I can just see the character of Christ coming out is so many judgmental comments. No wonder so many are turned off by Christianity when they see Christians being so critical. harsh and myopic. Who are we to look into someone elses heart and say what they do or sing in worship is not good? Find a church you are excited about worshiping with and let others do the same, however that looks.

  • Magsparker

    Where is your sample data for making this assessment? – “It happened again yesterday”? I have attended quite a few churches over the last 6 years and I do not find this to be the case. In fact, I just visited a very traditional baptist church in Texas that still had hymnals in the pews, collecting dust, songs projected on the screen, avg age of men in the audience would have had to be 60 and guess what … they were all singing (even the ol’ man in front of me who just wrapped up a convo with his pew mate on TCU football). Love this all encompassing opinion. I grew up singing from hymnals and I would say the songs were more complex than they are today. I would think men would love the simplicity and repetitiveness of the praise music. By the way … in the ’70’, sitting in a church pew, I rarely saw men singing in the churches I attended. I guess I grew up in the stoic times. Now I see men raising their hands, clapping, etc. “Oops it happened again”. 🙂

  • Mandy Janson

    Wow, I can just see such Christlike qualities in a lot of the posts! No wonder there are so many people who are turned off by Christianity with the judgmental, critical, myopic approach to other’s worship practices. Find a church you can worship in that you are comfortable with and let others do the same and stop judging other people and churches that you don’t even know. You don’t know their hearts anymore than we know yours.

    • crashtx1

      My thoughts exactly.

  • Tom Sullivan

    Our church continues to have a choir with both men and women, young and old. We love to praise the Lord with psalms and glorious singing. As for men in our church choir, they are wonderful to hear. We are a reformed independent presbyterian church that worships the way it should be done.

  • Kyle Bridgman

    Be careful not to lump all Christian churches together. There are still churches that do many of the things you have suggested. Introduce music. Limit the number of new songs so that people can worship through the singing without having to worry about getting the song right. Another good solution is to use the song of our faith that are known pretty well and sing them with a modern accompaniment. If someone is concerned about being able to sing along, then there is a problem. Worship leaders are there to accommodate and facilitate the time of worship through music. Anything that causes people to stand and do nothing is a detriment.

  • Pastor Payne

    Maybe Just Maybe it is the songs. Maybe just maybe men don’t like to sing love songs to Jesus, because it makes them very uncomfortable. One of my friends calls them Jesus is my boyfriend songs. Let me put it this way take a lot of the songs and replace the name of Jesus with bill or tom and you would have? look at the words to many popular worship songs how many of them could be just regular pop songs if you took the name of Jesus or God out or replaced them with a another name? now try that with A Mighty Fortress Is Our God! many many of the modern worship songs speak nothing about the redeeming work or the glory of God in them at all. I am in no way saying we need to just sing the hymns of old but why not pen new songs the make much of God and his Leadership and of his Glory and Sovereignty that are very explicit in Christ’s atoning work. then lets see how many men sing on on Sundays.

  • Diane Durham

    I hear an awful lot of complaining and blaming, but no personal responsibility for how things are in YOUR church. Worship is what YOU make of it. It’s not about who is on ‘stage’ or who is behind the pulpit, it is about YOUR personal experience with God. If your experience is lacking, there is no one to blame but yourself. Worship happens when YOU open YOUR heart to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to create in you that connection that unites you not only to Him, but to your brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s easy and safe to blame the worship leaders or the praise team or the pastor or the fella next to you or the lady singing off-key a couple of rows behind you, but the real truth is that only YOU can create worship and only YOU can destroy it. I love most types of music….old hymns, standards of the faith, praise music, rockin out worship music…it all can be evocative of real worship if I let it be. Conversely, it can remain but words on a screen, or in a hymnal, if I refuse to make the effort to worship. Stop watching the people beside you, in front of you, behind you…focus on HIM and YOU. The people around you are not responsible for your worship or the lack thereof…YOU ARE.

  • Maybe you’re just going to the wrong church. Our church is absolutely nothing like that. We have a thriving, growing congregation without all the showiness. Yes, we sing contemporary songs, and yes our teams are very talented. But our entire service is about worship – not just the singing portion. We worship God in singing, in giving, in serving, in studying His Word and learning to be more like Him. And lest we be too quick to judge what other churches are doing, let’s take a look at our own hearts to be sure we aren’t guilty of the things we are accusing others of.

  • This article’s main point seems to be that men don’t sing songs they aren’t
    familiar with. While that may be true, it is true for all people, not
    just men. Secondly, this truth (that people are more likely to sing
    songs they know) didn’t just start happening when lyrics could be
    projected on a screen, as the author implies. It’s always been that way.

  • Sharon Watkins Plemons

    I could not agree more!!!!!

  • Ed

    I’ve heard it said once…”It’s no fun being responsible for the depth of my walk with Christ”. I apply it here…”It’s no fun being responsible for the depth of my worship in church”. We all make choice. I choose to worship through hymns each Sunday even though it’s not my cup of tea. Our Senior adults choose to worship through contemporary worship songs even though I’m sure they’d rather not hear a band. We worship because we want to. Prison didn’t stop Paul from praising God. It’s time we grow up and stop giving excuses for short attention spans, lack of genuine passion for Christ, and pride that keeps us from freedom of expression in God’s house. I’d like to blame the music for the lack of men singing. More so, I think it’s weak will.

    Great article with helpful insight. Printing this off to share with my choir at church. Guess which section has the smallest number of singers….tenors and bass 🙂

  • Guy New

    Maybe you are in the wrong place…The men have no problem singing my church and I cannot say many of the churches I have attended have that problem.

  • Michael

    The pre-Reformation history here is quite inaccurate. The laypersons participated deeply in pre-Reformation services from the earliest times straight through to the Reformation (responses, chants, etc.). Also, the professional musicians were of a completely different sort. They were actually creating something beautiful. Like creation, beauty can be simple and complex. Untrained laypersons cannot reproduce this complex musical beauty. Modern “worship” bands do not recreate beauty. The nearest they approach is the cliché ethereal keyboard/guitar mix that demands emotional responses. Anyways, most of the article is spot on. Not only about lack of participation in musical worship, but also in the rest of the service.


    I think there are those P&W people who do as you mention here and that is sad. Still there are those who are seeking a way to include the older and the younger members. Lets face it you and I may like peace in the valley or one of the other old hymns but the younger generation needs a sound they can own also. For me I’m ok with the younger music but please throw in some good ole hymns and let the whole congregation sing.
    As a man I have to admit my tenor voice has dropped over the years and I now sing baritone and sometimes bass. This modern music is written in keys comfortable if your a 20 yr old tenor but not if you’ve dropped into baritone range. Maybe modern writers could write a few more sing along songs in moderate keys everybody can sing in. I’ve been a pro musician for 40 years so I have no issue with selling cd’s after service or even during special events how else are we going to hear the new music enough to know the songs? There are always opportunities to put on special programs or do a set of special songs during a service, but it would be nice to get to sing again in church. Oh and for the record I am pretty sure God is applauding both the hymns and the special music when it’s about him and we should too. It’s time to be a happy church 😉

  • Scott Norvell

    I haven’t read all the comments (414 as of this post) but has anyone considered that many of the songs that are sung in church are in a key that is difficult for men to sing in? Sometimes I have to really strain to sing. I try to drop down an octave to sing comfortably but the ranges of some of these songs combined with key these songs are sung make it nearly impossible. It adds meaning to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

  • Paulb

    Even when the band’s hearts are truly about worshiping God and not themselves, they tend to pitch the songs, familiar or not, way too high. At a Promise Keepers event in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the band played well, like a band, but they pitched the songs low for the men. The singing was incredible! It can be done!

  • Leah Carlton

    It is IMPOSSIBLE to please a church full of people with preferences. I can’t believe God is pleased with people not trying to engage because “waah, I’ve never heard this song”. New Christians haven’t heard ANY of the songs. No one knows any song until they’ve heard it a few times. Instead of making it about what we like, and what we are comfortable with, how about making it about being together, in love with God, and growing and learning something new that sends a sweet aroma up to God? How about if every Sunday morning we say, “Lord, I am going to worship you with my brothers and sisters today. If I don’t know a song, I will listen to the words with my hands and face raised to you, and I will capture the words in my heart and pray that you are glorified”. How about if I don’t make it about me and what I like? God would be pleased with that, I know.

  • Norm Griffith

    It’s not what I think or what any man thinks it is that God is worshipped. If true prayer and then listening to His response is followed then as man we are doing all that He expects of us. It’s when we choose the music that we like, that all the debate and problem arises.

  • Rick C. Mathers

    I have been leading worship for nearly 20 years now. I am also a professional vocalist who has been doing rock shows for 35 years, as well. I know the difference between what is appropriate for church and what is not. It’s not that difficult folks. When leading worship, the focus is on the Lord, and when singing in a club, it’s about the individual (or the band). If musicians can’t differentiate between the two, then they have no business on a church stage or altar. As for men not participating in congregational singing, that’s pretty simple too. If they don’t know the song, they won’t sing it. That is why I keep my worship chorus selection to about 40 songs, repetition is the key!

    • Thanks Rick. Great comment that really sums it up.

  • Ando

    I disagree that familiarity is the key problem. It’s the lovey dovey lyrics. We went from Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” to “Jesus, What a Beautiful Name”. Gimme a break! I’d join in the singing, but I refuse to sound like a pus, and re-enforce the stereotype that Christians are wimpy, emasculated men with soft spoken voices. I’ll take my songs with some theological relevance, not a bunch of cuddly, romantic rhetoric!

  • Chris Gunn

    Why is everyone arguing about what music is better and what church is more right in their attempt to share in praise and worship? When your focus is taken off of the music itself: the words on the screen, the pitch of the note, you’ll find that you won’t be distracted by the things that take your eyes off of Christ. You should be focused on Him and have your eyes on His, not worry about the length, sound, age or presentation of the songs used in your church. Hymns are great, choir is great, modern is great, long and short songs are great! As long as I am able to go deeper than before and bring myself to a more humble place than before, I am in a great place!

  • Jack McKee

    To see one or two events where men, for whatever reason, did not participate in “worship” does not mean that singing is going out of church. You have made a generalisation using one or two events! The fact is real worship, that is not just about relevance, but is about authenticity, and congregational singing, is alive and well in the modern church. It certainly is alive and well at FIRELAND = Lighting a Fire in Ireland through Worship and the Word. New Life City Church, Belfast.

    Jack McKee

  • Michael O’Keefe

    “Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church”

    This is not true. While it is true that the texts were in Latin, many of those texts had simple refrains, so that those who attended regularly could easily pick them up. You see this same technique used at Taize today. They would also sing folk hymns in the vernacular before Mass, during processions, and during the recitation of the Divine Office aka The Liturgy of the Hours. We know this because of the HUGE collection of them from the period preceding the Protestant revolt. Blessedly, Canon Law is available online, for free, so that you can check for yourself that congregational singing was never forbidden by the Catholic or Orthodox churches. True, congregational singing in the west took at upturn post Luther, but that was inevitable because the choirs previously populated by vowed religious were either executed away or their monastic life was made illegal, ending the choir.

    • There are differing opinions on this. Many scholars I’ve read believe that congregational singing was discouraged in the early 1500s. It might not have been outlawed, but it was no longer customary in many Dioceses.

  • Josh

    Maybe write a new post about how men aren’t listening to worship music that has been written in the last five years. Worship with “rock bands, lights and smoke” may be about “Them” but worship based on what YOU’RE familiar with is based on…well, YOU!

  • Josh

    Has anyone ever tried to worship or do anything contemplative in a room lit with fluorescent lights? How about a room with no light? How about a room filled with lights pointed at one thing? Lighting can often times lead our attentions and focus our vision. Lighting in church is done simply to create an environment for the listener, signer, viewer, contemplator, meditator, prayer, etc. Lighting works best and is most poignant when working off of particles…ie fog or “smoke” as many of you refer to. Lighting, “smoke, and rock bands are simply being used to create a certain environment for the worshiper to engage. If it’s not something you’re into I’m sure there are plenty of churches in your area that don’t utilize creative means to draw your attention in. Oh wait, you shouldn’t have to have your attention drawn in to worship through ulterior things such as lighting (and fog)? Oh but you want the entire setlist curtailed to songs you are familiar with so that you can be lead to “sing” and then an hour later you are lead to scream at a television as men throw a football around to each other?

    Men, your worship will be known by the things you give priority to in your life. Where this article is flawed is that people in general have forgotten and abandoned the idea of worship through music in the church, this is simply a cop out to make us feel okay with the fact that we’re complacent. Men have the tendency to cover up our short comings with excuses. Be a man and own the fact that you just don;t want to keep up with the times. If you REALLY have an issue I’d hope that you could approach your worship pastor rather than take your complaints out on the rest of us.

  • Jefferson

    Our old hymnals, which more often then not sit dusty under the seats while we sing the praise and worship fluff, had four parts; a man could chose a range that suited his voice. Now – those days are gone. everyone sings the same part, which is often best suited for female voices or men in falsetto.

    I remember vividly the first time I attended a church with a large professional band; there was a young woman singing a song about what God had done for her, and it was basically a show-and-tell, as her outfit was more inline with a Vegas show and left little to the imagination. While her show-it-all outfit really was pleasing to the eye, it left the mind in a state that was not conducive to pure thought and worship.

    I enjoy the odd praise and worship song, especially more so when driving, but when in church and desiring to worship, I much more appreciate the older hymns.

  • Scott

    This is a thoughtful article. However, I think that there is need to travel around the US and see different outcomes. I’ve been in both kinds of churches in the past 2 years. There are churches that may even have a small selection of songs they repeat over and over, yet people do not join in to sing. Then in contrast – I spent a year at Hillsong NYC. While they have songs that repeat, they continually introduce new songs, yet everyone joins in to sing and worship. So much of the difference in how the church approaches music. Is it for performance excellence without engaging the congregation? Or, is it that the music tells the story of the journey of the congregation? In the later, you’ll have no problem getting people to sing because they connect with the expression of worship. It may still be excellent music that changes continually – but the church has come to engage in the story being written.

    • Hillsong is not a good comparison. Hillsong was built on music. People come to Hillsong churches specifically for the amazing music. They offer the world’s premiere church music training program in Sydney. They even have “song” in their name. So naturally they are going to attract a room full of enthusiastic singers.

  • Dan Bellamy

    This article offers some worthwhile insights, especially in the glimpses of the historical church. However, I’m not sure his analysis of the historical situation has led to an accurate understanding of our current situation. I sit in a “traditional” service every Sunday and men’s mouths are equally silent. I’ve also witnessed services that have a great variety of newer and revamped music with people passionately worshiping through song. The causes are likely different among different congregations.

  • nocalls

    The rocky music is difficult to sing to. The tunes are not memorable, and the lyrics are not edifying either. Only the “worship leaders” can sing that stuff. So the rest of us just listen.

  • Steve Arbanas

    Like all blogs there are some truths, however these seems to be a biased opinion, based on experience at a specific church. It is important to have familiarity in order to sing along with any song. The artists that are creating the new songs today, have many new and old Christians excited about singing at the top of their lungs. Visit a Passion conference, Youth Specialties conference or any of the evangelical conferences today and the singing will amaze you. God is not dead and His music has not been written, it is being written and will continue to be written long after we are dead. I imagine we won’t go to heaven singing the songs of today, but we will worship the creator with songs we’ve never heard or imagined. If you don’t like the music of today’s worship leaders, no amount of repetitiveness will cause you to sing.

    • I must again make the point that a Passion Conference is not a valid comparison to Sunday morning worship. Passion attracts people who love group singing. When you go to a Passion Conference you know what you’re getting – a state-of-the-art Christian rock show led by amazingly talented musicians.
      Comparison – hunting and fishing is becoming much less popular in the USA. Licenses are way down. But you can walk into any Cabela’s superstore and say “Wow, hunting and fishing are alive and well!”

  • scouch

    This is so true and worse is the fact that they put the Scriptures on the screen so people leave their Bibles home.

    • scouch

      Visited a church that did this a few weeks ago and the statement from the platform was “If you have your Bibles”. It use to be “Take your Bibles”!

      • crashtx1

        But how many of those people read the Bible any other time? If you only carry it to church then that is as much “show” as what many on here are complaining about.

  • tarfan53

    My dad called today’s music 7-11 songs — seven words sung eleven times.

  • Lynn Mossburg

    It’s such a tightrope to walk as a music minister.You want to help the people expand their ability to be free in worship,yet,the comfortable hymns and songs are important
    too,as not only do they know them,but they are ususally connected to familiar memories and such. it’s like comfort food-tomato soup and grilled cheese- and you try to slip in just a little at a time the newer stuff. BUT,is the flip side the way to go? Full tilt if that’s your style and they will follow? only God can lead congregation by congregation

  • mccsmagistra

    When “worship” becomes a baptized version of American Idol or America’s Got Talent, it trains the congregants to be passive and man-centered. Worshiping God (which includes the preached Word and prayer) is serious business and should be taken as such. It is a means of grace by which we grow in our faith in and reverence for a holy God.

  • John Tillman

    I disagree with the assertion that “everyone” sang with gusto in the church of our youth. My family (all musical) did, including Dad, me, and my brother, but we were the exception among our friends. Most of my best friends and their dads did not sing in the congregation, unless they were choir members who had walked down to sit with family after the “anthem.” And SBC congregations were pretty “strong” singers in the 80’s. When I look around my modern, rock and roll, style church (that I happen to work at) during worship, I see, what looks to me to be a similar proportion of singers vs non singers as in the churches of my youth and college days. The other point I would raise is that making new songs of praise is admirable and good in and of itself. And providing those songs to the congregation in a format they can listen to is (at least at our church) a part of encouraging congregational singing. Also, our band usually does announce “this is a new song” and encourages the congregation to sing. Generalities and observations are not data. So my observations don’t really bear any more statistical weight than yours, but from what I see, this so called trend is a myth.

  • michp
  • “Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering”

    Um… The sermon? Just saying.

    • How exactly would one participate in the sermon? The occasional “Amen!” or “Preach it Brother!” is not exactly what I call participation. It certainly doesn’t model the action orientation of Jesus.

      • Listening.

      • crashtx1

        I am curious, when Jesus preached, what sort of action occurred by those in attendance?

  • Chrissy Kirk Banks

    I have been saying this for YEARS! The songs we used to sing became our “Friends” and so familiar to us that we would sing them at home all the time. Now, you sing a song for a month and the worship director thinks it’s tragic and he thinks he must introduce a new song or we’ll get bored! I HATE that. I want the songs we sing to become my friends and sink into my memory. Many of them are based on scripture and I loved that I used to know so many verses this way. Now, not so much!

  • Jared

    The Problem isn’t the music or the rock band. I think the problem is much deeper than that. Why on earth would you go to church on a Sunday and worship God, if he isn’t object of your worship rest of the week? Are we fooling ourselves so much that we blame it on the music? Having served on a worship team for 20 years, I know that it isn’t about me. Our objective isn’t to receive glory, praise or attention. I doubt any of those famous people you mention any differently.

    The problem is focus of our worship. Quick history lesson. God saves people from Israel, and shortly after the red sea Moses travels up a mountain. When he comes down the people are worshiping golden calves. We are not so different from them. We praise God in the moments of victory in our life, but offer our worship to other things throughout our life as well. Money, job or careers, promotions, family, toys, and whatever else. We are created and designed to worship, it is part of our make up. If we aren’t worshiping God well it is likely we are living in idolatry worshiping something else.

    Furthermore, I disagree with author that singing is somehow a sign of whether or not we are worshiping. I agree that its not the best point, but to simply discredit a person’s worship because they aren’t singing is missing the point of worship entirely. It has nothing to do what is on the outside, but on the inside. I would counter that by saying that often times our outside is a reflection of our inside, but you get the point.

    Lastly, if musicians are being worshiped rather than God, it is likely not the musicians fault. Somewhere in the leadership train, often times senior pastor, things have gotten off course. Things within a church always flow from top to bottom. If majority of people aren’t worshiping God and projecting it to musicians, leadership needs to step up and lead the way. Demonstrate what real worship looks like, talk about it. Only way for something like this to change.

  • Shaun Groves

    I don’t know what you’re basing many of these assertions on. Personal experience alone?

    I’m a touring musician traveling 90 churches every year for the last 13 years. In addition, I’m the volunteer leader of worship leaders at our small church outside of Nashville. Without proper research we’re left with your experience versus my experience.

    My experience is quite different from yours. It is fairly standard, in my experience, to add one song to a church’s “catalog” each month. That’s not 250,000 songs. That’s 12 new songs each year. It’s also very common, in my experience, for churches to sing at least one hymn every week. It’s also my experience, having grown up in church, that men are far less likely to sing than women – regardless of style. The deacons stood on the front row of our little country church dead faced and silenced when I was a kid.

    I have another less subjective theory about why men in America don’t sing. Not just today but throughout the history of our country. I have a degree in music composition with an emphasis in ethnomusicology – the study of a culture’s values, history, philosophy and their impact on music.

    When a nation is newly formed, arts are usually the practice of women. Men are needed for labor – in America’s early days most jobs were agrarian. So it is the women who play the piano and sing for amusement. Musician isn’t even a paying job in new nations!

    It takes generation after generation for men to move into the arts – it is a luxury for a society to have paid male musicians and painters. America is still young and many men here still don’t see music as a masculine pursuit. It’s just not manly to sing.

    But if history repeats itself that will change, slowly, over the next hundred years.

  • Sigmund Stengel

    The concert format has come into the church.

  • DanVincent

    I remain convinced that male participancy has declined greatly since the advent of the tenor/low alto range that worship “leader/performers” choose. Worst offenders… Chris Tomlin and Israel Houghton. Yes, it may best fit their range, but only tenors and low altos can sing along. Leaders need to sing songs in singable keys for average voices (basically C to C). That will do wonders to boost participation.

    • fbcmusicman

      I totally agree! I am a minister of music and I sing the bass part with the Singing Churchmen of Oklahoma . I do have a pretty good vocal range, but I cannot sing with any length of time in a contemporary service without resorting to singing a bass line.

  • Allan Dudley

    those “Old songs” were holy spirit inspired…like you admit in your story .. new stuff has come in …in the form of internet and t.v ..radio..etc
    His word says do not be conformed to this world … but to the renewing of your mind .. you want to renew your mind with love songs written to Marry-Lou …taken and rewritten to worship our Heavenly Father …???!!!

  • crashtx1

    I’m not going to read all the comments because most will come down to a question of style. If you like no instruments, then you will probably say that is the only way it should be, or if you like hymns, then that is the only way. I grew up in a traditional church that loved and respected the hymns, and I always cherish that time. But the teaching was dead as were the spiritual lives of most of the people. Don’t confuse style and preference with substance or have a bad case of “old days” syndrome.

  • Avery Spangler

    So basically….. we can’t learn-from, participate, and worship God while watching, in silence, someone else use their amazing gift for Him in a spectacularly produced way… and furthermore JUDGE that their heart is to receive praise for themselves? …. Interesting.

  • Avery Spangler

    … In addition to my previous post… This post might should be labeled “Worship leaders need to pick songs everyone knows every sunday please and thank you.” What a boring and un-creative un-changing un-growing God we have!! I’m sure there was a good amount time where no one knew hymns even with lyrics right in front of them. How fast do you learn a Michael jackson song? How dare you limit creation.

  • Ben Vincent

    I hate contemporary services. Why? Most of the songs are poorly composed. Church has become amateur hour. The songs are both too simple and repetitious while also having difficult note and octave changes.

    I go to my Church’s earlier traditional service all I can.

  • Ceannaideach

    Great post. One major issue that is not addressed: about 10-15 years ago, “worship leaders” stopped using songs that were written to be sung by the congregation and started using music that was written by and for some pop artist. The songs have too wide a vocal range, the rhythms are complex and change on every verse, and they tend to be oriented to how Christ intersects with the writer’s existential angst. People just give up and watch.

    • Thank you. I agree – the focus is no longer singability – it’s performability.

  • Thomas E. Daubert

    What I love about the “old people” hymns (I’m a Gen X person) are the complex melodies and the sheer poetry with rich theology. I don’t even mind singing some of the choruses and praise songs. One of the issues I have with some of the really new praise songs (<20 years old) is the lack of style and poetry. There was a running joke about 7-11 songs (7 words sung 11 times or more) that seems to have a ring of truth to it. Melodies seem to be limited to guitars playing G, D, and Am chords with the token praise drum beating in the background. In an interview, a rock star once said he loves writing songs about God, but that Christian music of today seemed like "knockoffs of U2." The other thing I notice is the message seems more focused on me and my relationship with God and less on the majesty and grandeur of God. I mean, compare songs like "How Great Thou Art" with something like "Heart of Worship." OK, I'm sure I'm going to get a backlash of negativity, but speaking as a man, I'll continue to sing songs that lift up my God and Savior. However, some of the new stuff just doesn't do anything for this old person.

  • AmericanPatriot

    If you do not like the music in your church while most others do, then simply find another church. No one church is going to be everyone’s idea of “perfect”. By the way, Church” services were initially about opening and reading the word of God, and the teachings of Jesus, not about the style of music or the “order of worship”, those are not the emphasis. Music has become an integral part of what most consider a “church service”, when in reality, fellowship and biblicly based preaching should be the focus.

  • Phil Burkhart

    Unfortunately, it appears that David Murrow has presented a biased view
    based on his apparent personal tastes in congregational singing and lack
    of holistic historical study. Congregational singing prior to the
    Reformation stretches far beyond his depiction of professionals singing
    in Latin. Go to the Old Testament and move forward through history to
    see the progression to see how it got to that point prior to the
    Reformation. It was not always in a foreign language by professionals.
    It is true that the Reformers sought to return singing to the people and
    emphasized personal worship and the printing press was a great
    invention to increase public participation in worship and help spread
    the Gospel. However, projection screens, worship leaders starting three
    years ago to bring in new worship songs every week, and failing to teach new songs is not an accurate portrayal of
    the realities of worship leadership. At one time the hymns that are
    dearly loved were new and needed to be learned by people and were
    introduced by worship leaders. Then Bill Gaither and Jesus Movement
    songs came and a new wave of tunes needed to be learned. With the
    advancement of technology and the Christian music industry came a new
    wave of song writing and resourcing for the church. All of these songs
    reflect the times they were written in and some were easy and some were
    challenging to learn. There are hymns with bad theology and lyrics just
    as new songs today. And it is equally true that there is great theology
    and inspirational lyrics in them as well. The bottom line is that David
    paints a picture to support his observation that men may not be singing
    in the church as much as they once were. Are there other factors that
    contribute to this than just modern worship music? I believe so and this
    article needs to reflect the depth of those problems. Otherwise, it
    just serves as divisive propaganda for church people looking for information to support their personal preferences.

  • David W. Gill

    This is a great post, important to provoke this discussion. First of all, many (not all) of these new songs are forgettable and unsingable. They appeal to the song leaders but if they came on the radio we would sprint to change the channel. No groove. Second, the song leaders with their hand held mikes are performing not leading. They close their eyes and bellow out the melody into the mike instead of singing a counterpoint in between the lines to lace it all together; same for the musicians, heavy on the melody, disappearing in between the lines. The traditional (and some contemporary) African-American churches is where you can still experience song leaders and musicians who “get it” — that God is the audience and we the congregation are a choir singing to him. Of course it would help if the pastor understood this and taught it.

  • faithnxs

    Oh phooey! How powerful a platform this is for condemning others. This cast such a negative light on many who are honestly trying to make a difference in the church and it isnt easy to stand before a congregation which may be full of cynics and try to find the one thing or song that influences them to do what they may be afraid to do anyway. Try it. So every one and every church that uses contemporary music is selfishlessly seeking fame and fortune rather than praising God with their gifts? Anyone who writes or records a worship song is ill-motivated? Somebody better tell Bill Gaither and Guy Penrod they are shamefully using the name of the Lord for their own gain. Heaven knows only good christian folks listen to gospel music. Their emotional response and dancing is inappropriate right? Pretty dim view of people and the effort. Sure there may be instances of this but this is painted like it’s everywhere and everyone.

  • Wayne King

    As a senior I am expected to complain about the contemporary music. My concern is for the young that have yet to experience rough times. During rough times scripture speaks and hymns of the faith minister.

  • Steve Hartog

    I tend to stay away from “I” songs or “Me” songs and on songs that talk about God’s Grace and Mercy, Creator, God of Peace and love… Ect. One new song a month or every three week ok is fine with me, however, when you sing 7 songs 11 times in the same day it doesn’t make people “Men or Women” into the presence Of God. Good luck! Worship starts on Monday and Sunday or corporate Worship is an overflow of your personal Worship with God on Sunday. I believe in a blended service with a contemporary format and bring out the pipe organ from the keyboard or some good old acapella with no band. Worship is not an emotion or a feeling but a privilege and and an honor to give him the glory and praise He deserves! God will give you all you need when you truly Worship Him!

  • Eddie

    Sorry, I don’t agree with this post. We do rocking contemporary Christian services and the men sing along as do the women. Yes the key is familiarity, but our congregation doesn’t know many of the original Hymns anyway, so using them to somehow build familiarity as is suggested by the author doesn’t make sense. The songs we play during worship are repeated in background music across the building, in between services and at events. You can also hear the songs on the radio in some cases and we offer links on the website to them. People know the songs and the words on the screen keep it together and memorable. Hymn or not the purpose is praise and worship. The band who plays might get some local stardom as a result from being seen on stage week after week, but I’d call that familiarity more than stardom. Our team is friends with each other and do community events with our church and outreach ministries together and build relationships outside of the worship team atmosphere. We’re in bible studies with fellow congregants and deliver food and benevolence or work the pantry all seperate ministries with different bodies of people. People on our team are rockstars at being servants and that’s what they’re known for. We do hymns our way as well, but I’m not sure they are more well received than the other stuff. I must say, there was a moment where our leader stopped singing and the just let the congregation take it this past weekend. The whole place was glorifying the Lord with all their hearts. It was one of many throne room entering moments. The focus was not on the stagefolk at all.

  • Chad Thompson

    your absolutely right. plus the peeps who move the slides dont advance to the next verse until AFTER the first word of the next verse has already been sung, so its like youre playing catch up the whole time. its FRUSTRATING!

  • Aaron Goeke

    I have been to hundreds of Contemporary worship services in dozens of different denominations and venues, and have never seen a smoke machine (actually they are fog machines but who is counting) used in a worship setting. For that matter, I have rarely even seen light shows used, with the exception of an extremely large gathering or youth event. I think the descriptions of contemporary (whatever that means, since it means something different in every church everywhere) worship services are often greatly exaggerated in order to create a more effective strawman argument by those who hate or fear any divergent form of worship. That way it is easy to jump to the music, as if music is the only variable in worship or society over the past 500 years. It is true that men often do not sing in church (with certain important exceptions I will get to later). The same men will likely not sing at a karaoke bar or even at a concert unless it is loud enough for them not to be heard. You know where they will sing??? During the national anthem, at their high school reunion when the alma mater is played, and when they are putting their kids to sleep in their beds. Why? because in all of these places their identities have been forged and tested and the people with whom they are sharing the moment have gone through that forging with them. There is no fear of judgement. There is a known and common purpose. Their is a sureness to who they are in that place at that time. So why was it that, in many cases, men used to sing in church? Probably many reasons, but among those reasons is that, this was at a time when churches were far more often the centers of social, political and community activities, and men often felt as much at home at the church as they did in their houses.Once again, it was a place where their identities had been forged and affirmed. Are there churches where men still sing? You bet, and on both ends of the worship spectrum. They are places where men’s identities are affirmed and forged and where they know they will no more be judged here than they will at their daughter’s bedside when they sing the night time lullaby. Sometimes this sort of worship environment is done in a negative way where men feel comfortable in their church because they haven’t welcomed anybody or anything new into the church doors for 35 years unless it was born into the group, so there is nothing to shake up their comfort zone. Other times it is done in a very Scriptural way where men feel comfortable because they are not only welcomed into the doors, they are made a part of the body in which their identity is affirmed through relationships built in and based on Christ and His word. You want to see more robust worship? I propose that the more deep and honest and challenging relationships we intentionally craft by welcoming people into a worship setting where no matter how things get shaken up (worship styles, cultural infiltrations, church politics etc.) people are sure of their identities and unity in Christ, the more men we will have singing, and praying and leading. Changing music is easy. Loving people, that’s where the real work is.

  • Kay Medford-Kammerdiener

    I am a professional musician, trained in music since I was nine years old. However, since the “music” has been put on the screen, there have been many times that I cannot sing along with the “hymns” because there is not a musical notation on the screen, just the lyrics. Also, if I am unfamiliar with the song, I cannot sight-read music notation that is not there. I am forced to stand and listen while the few who already know the song sing it for the congregation. This is frustrating for a person who is a professional vocalist/pianist/teacher of music, to not be able to sing or participate in the musical worship. So many of the “7/11” songs sound so similar, and are not songs that have a memorable melody or lyrics so that one cannot retain them without endless repetition, and that makes it difficult to learn. I wish that the melodies were presented in notation, along with the lyrics, or that the hymnal was used again. I love to worship God in the music, but I feel cheated of that opportunity when I am unable to follow along with the “praise team”.

  • Joe Bava

    I have served as a worship leader in the contemporary worship movement for almost 20 years now and it is my experience that Familiarity is the key to creating an atmosphere that promotes congregational participation. If you are trying to worship with songs that you people do not know they are hard pressed to participate. Even though most worship music is fairly simple and intentionally repetitive It is essential for the worship leader to do a good job of scheduling so that the congregation has a chance to learn new material.

    I have worked at my current church for 5 years and in that time our master song list has grown to almost 200 songs. The important word to take away from that statement is GROWN. I started with a set list of less than 20 songs. These were ones that my musicians already knew and we worked on only those with the congregation for the first year. The next year we added 20 more and each year we learn some seasonal material that retains the essence of it’s original traditional predecessor but with a more modern instrumentation or vocal arrangement.

    I have learned that if you want congregational participation you have to teach and move slowly enough that people have an opportunity to learn. Your song selection should be both contemporary and accessible. I find many of the worship songs we use on our local christian radio station. I also encourage my church family to listen to christian radio and bring me suggestions. This gives them a buy in to the worship experience that is incredibly useful.

    If you want your congregation to participate in the worship process, you have to engage them in the process. A big part of this is performing music that is accessible and from my experience the most important element of this is FAMILIARITY. Worship is not about doing something for them it’s about doing something with them. Engage your congregation and encourage them to participate by making it easy through building familiarity with the songs you are using in worship.

    Blessings < Joe Bava
    Freedom Community Church
    Fruitland Park, Florida

    • Thank you Joe. Familiarity is so important. A wise music leader will slowly grow his list – not switch out every song every week.

  • Leslie Sjolund

    I want whatever gets the young people to church because they are the future but for me, i love all the new praise music but I struggle to sing it because I sing harmony (alto) and there is no music to follow and the melody is simply too high for me…I don’t see why it would be difficult to put the music on the screen as well as the words…plus I learned how to read music at a very young age from the hymn portion of the service and I know a lot of people who did and I am grateful for that.

  • Bradely Mayfield

    Personally I think the Praise and Worship era is no longer modern. I think a truly progressive church would be one that stripped away production elements and felt more organic. I live in Seattle, which is one of the most progressive cities in the world (microsoft, amazon, starbucks, boeing, ect) and yet is one of the least churched cities too. You would not believe how many church planters move here from the Bible belt, coming from churched culture lands, and try to emulate the Praise and Worship style service (i am including the sermon in this) and fail. Pastors are also guilty of wanting the spotlight. They have their twitter feeds and instagrams and chase followers. This next generation doesn’t want the Hollywood church full of production and “serve me” programs. They want to know deeply who God is on a real and personal level. Praise and Worship style service has become the “traditional” service of our generation. It is the dreaded comfort zone of church culture that is the real problem. My church did an experiment with 40 unchurched people and we tried the praise and worship service. Not only was it extremely awkward (stand up, sing songs you dont know/believe in, sit down give us money, listen to this guy tell you what to do with a Bible on stage) but people didn’t understand any of the reasons we needed such things.

    • You’re reading my mail, Bradely. I’ve been a Christian almost 40 years and I feel the same way.

  • Stella

    I think if we are going to judge worship music and that of others especially of people like Michael w smith we need to stop. Worship music is for God and if someone felt compelled by God to do it a certain way that is for them. The only people we should judge in this is ourselves. Otherwise we are no better than those we judge. This is whole conversation saddens me to think that Christians spend this much time ripping apart their current day worship leaders and movements. There Are plenty of awesome anointed worship leaders right now in this current day that are doing it for God with the right heart and people are drawing near to God and signing with them as a congregation.

  • ImReady

    I have been playing guitar in Church for many years. I have always tried to hide while playing! I find the most inconspicuous place on stage so sit. I never stand, and for the last few years, I was sitting just, sort of, behind the piano, usually there’s a bushy plant somewhere in front of me, and my music stand is a good hider too! I have NEVER wanted recognition or praise for my service to my God. I do NOT want the glory, absolutely despise the clapping. Now, I play in a praise band, a larger church, my electric guitar, a bass guitar, piano, electronic drums, and about 6 singers. After every song, people scream and clap, and it just turns my stomach! I don’t look up, don’t smile, nothing. I do now want their praise. NEVER. If I receive my glory from these people, if I enjoy the praise, I will have received all the glory I ever will for my service. I want to receive all my rewards when I meet, face to face, my Savior, Jesus Christ! Isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?

  • Jennifer N Roberto Juarez

    Maybe part of the problem comes from the people in church not listen to Christian music outside of church. Those who join in so easily to a hymn may also sing as enthusiastically with a Katy Perry song. Perhaps the masses would be more familiar with newer contemporary worship songs if they tuned their radios to that instead of Miley Cyrus. As with all things, no one has all the answers, but I think people open up to worship more when they saturate themselves in it as opposed to dipping their toes in on Sunday mornings

  • DrJimMBrown

    My problem is that the sound system has the volume up so high I can’t hear myself sing let alone the people standing around me. Singing might improve if the electricity was off.

  • Joe Phillips

    Yes, the problem is the rock band, and the lights, and the smoke machine. People aren’t stupid and they feel it, even if they don’t know it. Church has become another cheap, vaudeville production. There is nothing “god” about it. It’s crass, crapulous mimicry of pop-culture and it isn’t as good. It’s boring. It’s asinine. It’s pointless.

  • jdavis27107

    In my past ministry experiences I dealt with many of these issues. I believe it starts at the top. I worked for a pastor in my last church that was more interested in running for office than getting his people to the right place with God. We had a tremendous band, tight praise team and awesome choir. This pastor wanted me to make 120 country white folks sound like Fred Hammond’s choir. It did not matter that some of the hired musicians were playing in clubs on Sat night, as long as they made him look good. I told the people I loved them and stepped down. The people in the church are not the audience, GOD IS. When we sing and play like we are standing before the throne of God, then God turns to the Holy Ghost and says now, God minister to my people. We are the vessels but GOD IS ALWAYS THE SHOW! or that is how it should be.

  • Michael Patrick King

    When a men’s chorus from the newly-liberated Ukraine toured the United States in 1989, they revealed that in their country ONLY the men sang. There were NO instruments and women did not sing in church. Although these were ordinary men, without any extraordinary musical training, they sounded like the choir from an opera house! Their worship echoed off of the walls and vaults of our sanctuary as though amplified.

    When I attempted to organize a choir in my home church, not a single man wanted to participate. Even the Pastor said, “You wouldn’t want to hear ME sing!” Jesus said, “If you won’t praise your God, the rocks and the stones will cry out!” I’m now waiting for the “rock” concert to begin!

  • I think the lack of singing can be due to a number of things that can grieve the Spirit:

    1. The preaching is not that which works to convict souls of sin, of
    righteousness and judgment, as we see in Acts, thus resulting in
    conversions – and an outward manifestation of that inward work:

    He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay,
    and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a
    new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and
    fear, and shall trust in the Lord. (Psalms 40:2-3)

    2. New songs are constantly introduced, and or those which are never song enough so that the congregation has learned them well.

    3. The singing is interspersed with announcements, taking prayer
    requests, etc., so that as soon as the congregation begins to get in the
    spirit of singing they have to switch gears. Some of the best worship i
    have known was in a street mission with a pastor and his guitar, who
    just closed his eyes and sang familiar (which become familiar by enough
    repetition) worshipful spiritual (not hard rock) songs straight thru for
    about 45 minutes.

    4. The music done more like a performance than a communal worship. The focus is often on a band that is high and lifted up.

    5. The music too loud and rockish, and or superficial. After leaving
    the RCC, in which the priest would exhort us, “sing like Protestants”
    (to little avail, unlike the charismatic groups) I spent a number of
    years in a fund. Baptist church, which sang well, though problem #3
    hindered it.

    And those old time hymns! I still have an old baptist hymnal and know
    many, and i have said that if you had to save 3 books it would be the
    Bible, a hymnal – and your address book!

    But the #1 problem is a worldliness, grieving the Spirit ourselves,
    not exalting the Lord in our hearts, and thus a lack of a heart to sing
    as we should, which i too often am guilty of.

  • Thomas J.Stratford

    Exactly, the church I quit attending was just another formula based service. First a near deafening blast of some unknown contemporary Christian music, along with the usual “we want to be a megachurch” lights, glitz, and smoke machine nonsense. The if that’s not bad enough the sermon, which was provided by a “guest” pastor { a circuit riding marriage therapy minister hawking the $40 per head marriage repair get together later in the week } which was only focused on married members, and a request for lay people to take a short course so they can be volunteer marriage consultants for the event, as the church and the “guest” pastor gets their cut. Needless to say I’m done with the money machine churches, and am seeking a good old, pick up your sermon book, and turn to page whatever, and sing along church instead.

  • David Océan Babin

    i do not see this as the problem at my church Yes, the worship sounds like a soft pop concert and i can see the worship leader looking at the others when something is going a bit off, so i can feel he is actually not worshipping either. My problem is that the songs ARE the same each week, especially one song he has killed it for me. The biggest issue is the lack of lyrics in which are actual worshipping. They repeat the chorus a hundred times (that is a figurative hundred because it is only about 80 times) for each song. i often laugh when the worship leader says “Let’s sing that line again.” Didn’t we just sing it 40 times. i disagree with this article. The problem is the rock band, the lights and the smoke machine. Today’s worship leader is nothing more than a clown in the circus.

  • Catmiel Hozan
    • Notice the men sit separately from the women. Creates a “men’s choir” effect. Men don’t compete with the women. Thanks for sharing the clip.

  • Mary Gaut

    There is so much to be said for congregational singing. In my church, if we introduce a new hymn we make sure the choir knows it. We play the tune all the way through. It usually works. But we don’t introduce new stuff every week. Community is based, in part, on tradition.

  • enrique

    Yes, it has become a show and so I stopped going to church as they not only wanted more money but did NOT help the needy. I drive an old van (1978) and the pastor drives a new model car.

  • Shelia Bumgarner

    As someone who sings, not everyone has a voice for rock songs and no one likes to sing in a manner that is not comfortable. Grew up Presbyterian where the men in the choir dropped to one man, but then again the choir dropped in number. As a Quaker, if one is lead to sing most of the time all join in.

  • Maralind Krejci

    It has always struck me as more than coincidental how Gospel Songs were
    gradually replaced with what is described as “Christian Contemporary”
    songs and it was done almost painlessly – one could hardly tell it was
    even happening – sort of like the “frog
    in the pot of water”. Now one has to really search for a church that
    sings good ole “Gospel Church Songs” or watch “The Gaither’s” on TV.
    It’s as if the Christians had all of a sudden risen above singing or
    listening to Gospel – that singing the Contemporary Songs meant their
    church was progressive and “keeping up with the times”. I just remember
    growing up with the Gospel singing and seeing how the annointing of God
    could be felt in the songs, how people would get blessed and the power
    of God would be so strong that people would be “slain in the Spirit”….
    it’s years since I’ve seen any annointing on that level. Could it be
    that this has been & is a conspiracy of the Devil to keep people
    from feeling the annointing of God from the Gospel Songs in the Church
    services ??? Just sayin’……..

  • Maralind Krejci

    I remember when you heard the music and tempo, you just “knew” it was a
    church song and you didn’t need to hear the words…nowadays you have to
    listen for the words to find out if it’s a church song cause most of
    the music would lead one to believe it was a worldly song.

  • ambrs57

    Add to this the extremely annoying trend of dimming the lights during worship until the atmosphere is more like a club or a concert than corporate worship. This bothers me on three levels: 1) as a musician who frequently plays with our worship team, I want to be able to see the faces in the congregation and have a sense that we are all participating together, not that I am performing in a show, 2) as a worshipper in the congregation I want to be aware of the presence of those around me, both visually and acoustically. The darkness creates an atmosphere that isolates us from one another and focus attention on the stage, reinforcing the idea that we are just a passive audience, 3) as a theologian and seminary professor I am disturbed at the theological distortion of what worship is that this atmosphere creates. God is the audience, not the congregation. We do ourselves a great disservice by creating the atmosphere of an audience at a modern rock show in our services. This does not encourage robust congregational singing, but rather an attitude that we are there to be entertained.

    I`m all for the use of contemporary music, but agreed that the focus needs to be on participation in worship, where the body is focused on the Holy Trinity and those on the stage are facilitators.

  • Techietexan

    Horse-hockey. It’s about the leadership of the church. Attend a church that emphasizes active, heartfelt worship, and the congregation will display the participation you are looking for. I’ve seen a new worship leader come in and have everyone suddenly singing to God with all their might, and I’ve seen them do the opposite. You’ve got good-old-day-break-out-the-hymnal syndrome.

  • Justin

    My first request is that the lead singer(s) and band sit off-center. That alone will remove the “self/man centered concert” feeling. The band and lead singers should be singing to God not to the congregation. In the past, choirs didn’t take up center stage, they sat off to the side or behind (and above) the congregation and sang towards the altar; front and center should be reserved for God.

  • Alison McKay

    I, a woman, know too what it feels like to stop singing. When they amplify everything so much as I can’t even hear MYSELF, why bother? No one will notice and no one seems to care. The guy up front is doing it all and showing off. The rest of the congregation are surperfluous!!

  • spcgrs

    Q: People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune? A: Just like the secular world does when they hear something new on the radio they hum along !!! Congregation’s also have the words it’s not THAT difficult! Besides the Bible exhorts us to sing new songs unto the Lord so “man-up” and stop complaining.

  • T.G. Blankenship

    How did this jump from Christians singing to men singing? I didn’t catch the connection. I also don’t understand how it is any different for women (who also give to the offering, identify as “doers”, and are familiar or unfamiliar with the songs). Maybe this just doesn’t resonate with my experience of congregations across the U.S. or my experience with me and women. It certainly doesn’t resemble my current congregation.

  • Jared Jenkins

    The problem is that we have been asking the wrong question about music. For too long we have asked, “What do I like?” What I like may be very dangerous. The question we need to ask is, “Does this song mirror the attributes of Jesus Christ?”

  • I’m not sure this is such a gender-specific thing.
    Either way, I guess I should thank God that my church (where I lead worship) is in no danger of becoming a highly polished show any time soon. Being dorky and authentic really has its benefits.

  • Michael Hargett

    It’s kind of the same dissatisfaction as watching the Dove awards!!! lol (Is it for God’s entertainment, or ours???) These mega churches, with the smoke and lights where they make more of decibels of Christ than deciples! So many have become a church that relates to man with little instruction of how parishioners should relate to God… They have become churches of much entertainment, and little in sustainment in fostering their people… So sad.

    Trust Me!!! I’ve been saved for more than ten minuets, with four pastors within two generations of my family, one of them a pastor who retired with over forty years out of the Nobelsville, IN. Church of God (Anderson Convention.) I know what a healthy Church looks, tastes, and smells like. Enough said.

  • Michael Hargett

    It’s kind of the same dissatisfaction as watching the Dove awards!!! lol (Is it for God’s entertainment, or ours???) These mega churches, with the smoke and lights where they make more of decibels of Christ than deciples! So many have become a church that relates to man with little instruction of how parishioners should relate to God… They have become churches of much entertainment, and little in sustainment in fostering their people… So sad.

    Trust Me!!! I’ve been saved for more than ten minuets, with four pastors within two generations of my family, one of them a pastor who retired with over forty years out of the Church of God (Anderson Convention.) I know what a healthy Church looks, tastes, and smells like. Enough said.

  • Richard Spratt

    There are 2 problems with many modern churches:

    1) Most modern worship songs are pitched far too high to a man. Even those written by male singers. The songs are written for women to sing. You can’t expect the uncoached male singer to reach soprano E or even higher. If you want men to feel involved in singing worship in church you need to start writing songs that we can sing. Until then stop whinging that men don’t sing modern worship songs.

    2) The focus all too often seems to focus on the worship band who have been put centre stage with all the lights on them. Move the band to the side, put the altar and cross in the middle, change the lighting so that the band and congregation have the same lighting. Then we can all focus on and worship the cross and God who made it all possible. After all men are doers and they will only do what they can see, so they won’t worship a folk band but they will worship a God that they can see.

  • gideon

    I disagree with most of this article. I do agree that part of the problem is familiarity, but why does that mean we have to go back to hymns? And why does that suggest that new songs are a negative thing? First of all I praise God that 250,000+ worship songs are being written and and performed, this means that people are using their gifts to worship God. If we were to only sing hymns until Jesus get’s back we’re not promoting creativity, and we’re not letting a new generation bring the song they want to bring to God, and when they do we act like it’s not good enough or doesn’t stand up to hymns because they’re so “theologically rich”. I like hymns, but I definitely don’t think they should be the only songs we sing. You talk about an “obscure latin dialogue” but frankly people don’t use the same dialect as we did when these hymns were written. Again, I’m not saying we X hymns, but hymns all the time doesn’t solve your problem, especially with people in my generation. If the problem is entirely familiarity, then why is it only men who aren’t singing and not women? I think that means part of the problem is a heart problem, not the songs we sing. That said I think a solution to the familiarity problem would be in not introducing new songs every week, but pulling from a pool of about 20 songs, updating that pool slowly over time. Another solution is in the creation of the songs. Many worship programs at schools teach, when writing a song to use familiar language, to use lines and words from other songs, and as we know, many of them use the same chords/progressions. As far as the instruments go, as long as they know how to play them, the worship band should be able to play whatever they want, because that has nothing to do with the congregation’s participation, which is what this article is all about.

    • Ragg Mann

      I couldn’t agree more. There are many churches in my community to choose from that will accommodate everyones style of worship. I will not diminish or cast down another’s differing means of worshipping and praising God and bringing us all closer to Jesus Christ and is based in a strong scriptural doctrine. If I feel the spirit, I will sing strong and loud, whether it be an old standard Hymn or a contemporary praise and worship song. Mind you, it may not sound good to you, but I’m not singing to you, I’m singing to HIM.

  • Lee

    Great hymns of the faith, and even familiar choruses, whose melodies and words you carried with you out of the service and through the week, seem to be things of the past. Unremarkable melodies and repetitious phrases that the worship band seems to get into, along with the few congregational singers who apparently listen to Christian radio endlessly, have taken over. And, thus, gone too are the reminders of scriptural truths and great promises of God contained in the words of those familiar tunes and songs. How often do you find yourself humming [and contemplating the words] of the catchy band melodies compared to the great hymns and familiar choruses whose content are basic Biblical truths, uplifting promises, and calls to holy living?. And for those who enjoy “four part harmony”, projected words elicit little enthusiasm or response. And how does this impact first-time visitors unfamiliar with “what’s in” this month?

    That said, I AM glad we don’t sing all 4, 5 or 6 stanzas of some hymns ad nauseum, or those whose archaic language may make even the message seem out-of-date.

  • MB2007

    Here’s a brief article: When Was The Instrument Of Music First Introduced Into Christian Worship? by Brooks Cochran Memphis, Tennessee
    Some may find it to be interesting.