Killing congregational singing

Some of the greatest joys of my college days at James Madison University were experienced during Intervarsity Christian Fellowship’sLarge Group” meetings. God used those days to give me a glorious taste of what it meant to sing to Him. I’m a guitar player and I love to play guitar, but even more than that, I love to hear the people of God singing hymns and psalms and spiritual songs with a passionate heart and a loud voice. The Lord produced my love for congregational singing in those days. I had the great privilege and responsibility of being “song team leader” for a couple of semesters there at JMU. You have no idea how strong my flesh was prior to my conversion to Christ. I took great joy in wowing people with my guitar prowess. But God so changed my heart that by the time I moved into the role as song team leader at JMU’s Intervarsity chapter, I no longer sought to wow people and was actually uncomfortable when others tried to get me to do this or sought to do it themselves.

In an issue of The Briefing, Michael Raiter writes an article entitled, “The Slow Death of Congregational Singing.” In it, I found the perfect explanation for the work that God has wrought in my own heart over the years. He talks about the performance oriented worship that goes on in so many churches these days – where the congregation is more like an audience at a concert rather than the people of God at a worship service. He writes, “It’s time for congregations to sensitively but firmly rise up and reclaim congregational singing. We must remind song leaders (or, perhaps, teach them in the first place) the purpose of their ministry…The role of the song leader is to help us to sing, and they will know if they have fulfilled that ministry when they can hardly be heard because of the praises of the congregation filling the room.

I liken the ministry of song leaders to that of John the Baptist. They must decrease as the people of God increase (John 3:30). When the song begins, we may hear the voices of the leaders and the sounds of the instruments, but by the end of the song, it is the voices of the people of God that should dominate.

But sadly, in most churches, the very opposite is happening: John the Baptist won’t leave the stage. John the Baptist has forgotten why he’s come. As I travel around visiting churches, I’ve noticed again and again that, for all their good intentions (and the vast majority are, I believe, well-intentioned), the music teams are killing congregational singing. I know that sounds harsh, but I see it in case after case. I enjoy the sound of an electric piano, the beat of the drums, the rhythm of the guitars, and the backing of the saxes and flutes, but my favorite instrument is the human voice. Nothing lifts my soul like being a part of 50— 100—300 saints in full voice, singing the praises of God and the glories of the gospel. Unfortunately that’s a disappointingly rare experience.”

I pray that the sound of 50 to 100 to 300 “saints in full voice, singing the praises of God and the glories of the gospel” becomes the norm at our churches.

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2 comments so far

  1. Beau on

    But your greatest joy was living with me…right? Thanks for the blog. I enjoy it and your thoughts.

  2. Robin Leonard on

    Ditto Beau’s comments!
    We miss you, especially on Thursday nights!
    Robin


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