Graham Kendrick provides some excellent insight on why singing is disappearing in contemporary services.
Here’s a recap:
Issue 1: Singing has become something specialized in the church. We’re presented with vocalists who soar on high pitched songs with every kind of run that puts the average singer at a disadvantage. It’s the difference between being “sung to” and “singing with.”
Issue 2: Too many new songs. When we don’t let songs “bed in” to the congregation they aren’t retained and remain difficult to remember when singing. Be careful on how many new songs you introduce and the manner in which you do. [My note: – Because so many bands are locked into loops, clicks and the clock, new songs are often just preformed for the congregation. In our own church we introduce a new song by taking people through the verse and the chorus, repeating each so that they get familiar with the melody before we sing the song entirely.]
Issue 3: The songs are too difficult. Graham makes the point that you can hear a noticeable increase in the volume of the singing when a well know and easily singable song is offered. It’s great to enjoy all the new recordings and songs being written but when picking songs for our local church we have to ask, “can we sing this?” Is this “too complex, too high, too sophisticated?” The question goes to the reality of accessibility, age differences and ability. This is especially true when the players and singers can’t “deliver” the material in the same way the CD does. It can become a distraction.
Issue 4: We’re embracing a performance model that creates a concert atmosphere. In tandem with this is..
Issue 5: The culture of the screen. We have shifted into a mode where we spend more and more time in front of screens – phones, ipads, laptops, xbox, etc.. We expect those screens to deliver something of value to us, to provide an experience for us. Now that screens are a ubiquitous part of contemporary worship, carrying not only words but images of determined drummers, grimacing guitarists and enraptured singers, we wait for them to “do something to us.”
Graham concludes by reminding us that when we come to worship, our praise is a gift that we all bring, We don’t come to worship, we come worshiping to gather with other worshippers. It’s the body of Christ. Not an audience. [ My note: Leaders can fall into the trap of demanding that the congregation “deliver” their praise with enthusiasm to make us feel more validated. They become our screen!]
What I hear is the need for a renewed focus on God as the sole object of our worship, greater sensitivity to our congregations by making songs accessible and singable, and an honest look at how deeply the culture may be robbing us of the very real need for a company of worshippers in a local church, all bringing their heartfelt praise to God.