Why WOULD Anyone Sing in Church These Days?

Having been closely involved in the current, modern 'worship' culture since the 1970s, I am always interested in articles such as this one by Jonathan Aigner. This is an excellent article and it would be well worth your while to take a few minutes to read it. The full article can be accessed by clicking HERE 

Below is an extract to whet your appetite......... 

"..............See, when it comes to our sacred discipline of congregational singing, a lot has changed in our recent history.  

We began by changing our understanding of corporate worship. It’s not for the church, it’s for those who aren’t part of the church. The historic liturgy is out, and the 19th-century revival model is in. Instead of the entire service being filled with acts of worship – congregational prayers, affirmations, responses, and, yes, singing – we’ve decided that the singing alone is the “worship,” followed by preaching or teaching time (NOT worship), and then followed by a little more singing (again, worship) for good measure.  

So, while the congregation once had a vital role in the entire service, we’ve decided they really only need to participate during the music.  

But we didn’t stop there.  

At some point, we decided that corporate worship, especially the music, wasn’t about disciplined, regular reenactment of God’s story. Instead, we decided that the purpose of music was to usher in an emotional experience, a perceived intimate connection with the Almighty. Musical appeal became a substitute for the work of the Holy Spirit. If we felt something, it couldn’t just be the music, it MUST be the Spirit. (Funny how the Spirit always seems to time its biggest moves around the modulations.)  

So, while music was once simply a way to add dimension to our sacred storytelling, we began to exploit its emotional appeal, suggesting the feelings it could evoke to be authentic spiritual connection. The congregation’s work was no longer to sing God’s story, but to feel happy, jesusy feelings while music is played in their midst.  

But we didn’t stop there..............."  READ MORE

 


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57 comments

  • John Glass

    John Glass UK

    Powerful analysis Noel - I agree with so much of what you have articulated

    Powerful analysis Noel - I agree with so much of what you have articulated

  • Noel Richards

    Noel Richards

    Hi John. Thanks for your comment @John Glass

    Hi John. Thanks for your comment @John Glass

  • Ted Bury

    Ted Bury Cheltenham UK

    Much of what you have shared is true of what is happening. Many of the songs and hymns we used to sing are cast aside by the new and the trendy. I therefore tend to use my own notes and harmonise whilst singing impossible choruses, as a musician I'm often disappointed at the (as you say) songs that are really solo type which a congregation cannot properly attune to. Worship is much more than just singing with a sandwich of preaching as filling. We do need to get back to much more congregation led and based meetings. Can we turn the clock back to being less trendy and more open to God's leading in our meetings.

    Much of what you have shared is true of what is happening. Many of the songs and hymns we used to sing are cast aside by the new and the trendy. I therefore tend to use my own notes and harmonise whilst singing impossible choruses, as a musician I'm often disappointed at the (as you say) songs that are really solo type which a congregation cannot properly attune to. Worship is much more than just singing with a sandwich of preaching as filling. We do need to get back to much more congregation led and based meetings. Can we turn the clock back to being less trendy and more open to God's leading in our meetings.

  • Noel Richards

    Noel Richards

    A good comment @Ted Bury

    A good comment @Ted Bury

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    I agree wholeheartedly. Worship is a life style-- not the music portion of the service. And I would add that our God is a creative God and we are made in his image. So why would we play the same songs in the same way every week? Can we not exercise our God given creativity?

    I agree wholeheartedly. Worship is a life style-- not the music portion of the service. And I would add that our God is a creative God and we are made in his image. So why would we play the same songs in the same way every week? Can we not exercise our God given creativity?

  • Rob Barron

    Rob Barron Poole

    There is much here that I have been trying to say for years. Not sure I go along with parts of it which seem to suggest the only way forward in worship would be to get back to Hymns Ancient and Modern sung in four part harmony! However the bit I feel most passionate about is the attitude, even among church leaders, that say 'We're gong to have a time of worship and then XYZ is going to bring us the Word.' Churches should not, nay MUST NOT, have times of worship. The entire service from before it begins to after it ends IS worship or at least should be. My desire to bless God's heart in singing my worship and adoration of him should be matched by my desire to worship Him by listening to teaching on His Word that when I leave the church I have allowed the Spirit of God to make a change in me in whichever way He so desires. Matt Redman put it perfectly when he wrote 'When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come, longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart. I'll bring you more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have desired.'

    There is much here that I have been trying to say for years. Not sure I go along with parts of it which seem to suggest the only way forward in worship would be to get back to Hymns Ancient and Modern sung in four part harmony!

    However the bit I feel most passionate about is the attitude, even among church leaders, that say 'We're gong to have a time of worship and then XYZ is going to bring us the Word.' Churches should not, nay MUST NOT, have times of worship. The entire service from before it begins to after it ends IS worship or at least should be. My desire to bless God's heart in singing my worship and adoration of him should be matched by my desire to worship Him by listening to teaching on His Word that when I leave the church I have allowed the Spirit of God to make a change in me in whichever way He so desires.

    Matt Redman put it perfectly when he wrote 'When the music fades and all is stripped away and I simply come, longing just to bring something that's of worth that will bless Your heart. I'll bring you more than a song for a song in itself is not what You have desired.'

  • Michael

    Michael Leamington Spa

    As a follower of Jesus who attends church, and as a singer songwriter who has led the musical parts of the service, this is an issue that is really close to my heart. As a result, I'm careful never to brand myself as a leader of worship, or really as a leader of anything, I'm merely a member of the congregation who happens to be able to sing and play. I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of leading worship and see my role, if I have one, as bringing a gift, which adds to the church as a whole, and not any more or less important than any other role or task. I think the debate is a good one to have, one which I think enables the church to look at how it defines worship in the general sense of the term. For me it comes back to those 1st century followers of The Way, in the weeks, months and years after Jesus' resurrection. Their worship wasn't defined by how well they sang, or even how well they preached, but how they went about loving God and their neighbours. So as a lover of music, I myself find deep meaning, poignancy and essentially, Jesus, in the songs that I sing, but I'm also realising that to follow Jesus and be more like him, will fill me with much more joy, than merely singing a song to him. However, that's where it gets all the more challenging, as I grapple between using my gift He gave me, and just stepping out and living for Him.

    As a follower of Jesus who attends church, and as a singer songwriter who has led the musical parts of the service, this is an issue that is really close to my heart.

    As a result, I'm careful never to brand myself as a leader of worship, or really as a leader of anything, I'm merely a member of the congregation who happens to be able to sing and play. I've always been uncomfortable with the idea of leading worship and see my role, if I have one, as bringing a gift, which adds to the church as a whole, and not any more or less important than any other role or task.

    I think the debate is a good one to have, one which I think enables the church to look at how it defines worship in the general sense of the term. For me it comes back to those 1st century followers of The Way, in the weeks, months and years after Jesus' resurrection. Their worship wasn't defined by how well they sang, or even how well they preached, but how they went about loving God and their neighbours.

    So as a lover of music, I myself find deep meaning, poignancy and essentially, Jesus, in the songs that I sing, but I'm also realising that to follow Jesus and be more like him, will fill me with much more joy, than merely singing a song to him. However, that's where it gets all the more challenging, as I grapple between using my gift He gave me, and just stepping out and living for Him.

  • Anon

    Anon UK

    This is, of course, as with many things, so multi-faceted that you could pull an astonishing number of nuances from each argument that may seem contradictory but valid all at once. The basic premise of the piece, 'Why would anyone sing in church these days', to me, has a reasonably simple answer: 'church' people still want to. They know they should, they know it's Biblical, they know what a difference it can make, but there is also an element of it being part of the routine, what we've always done - there's perhaps an increasing loss of 'why' do we sing in church these days? We must also remember that, as the writer says, the context of worship flourishes far beyond simple singing within a service. Not only does (should?) it encompass every aspect of a service, it must pour into our lives far beyond the church doors. Helping the elderly neighbour, not having that 'one-too-many' at the bar, guarding our words and actions can all fit neatly within the context of worship should it be allow it to. This is achieved simply by doing it for God - with honouring God at the centre of each action. I digress - why would anyone sing in church these days? We've already discussed that the 'church' people do as they've always done, we should also note that the 'non-church' people often don't sing. It could be for as simple reasons as not knowing the words or the tunes, not wishing to associate themselves with the practice and the faith, or even discomfort in public singing. The latter is an alarming one, and proves that 'said' services still have an important role in worship. For the general, non-church public, there is unlikely to be a complete aversion to public singing. The Last Night of the Proms, sport chants, rock concerts and even Christmas carols give plenty of evidence to the contrary: that, in the right context and circumstance, and with an appropriate comfort level, corporate (read, congregational, if you will) public singing is as welcome to (probably) the majority as applause or holding aloft a scarf. For a cause, people will step outside of a comfort zone and walk miles at midnight to raise money to cure cancer. They will jump from the skies to pay for a child's specialist care, or run miles to keep a sports club open. When the cause is right, people respond. In most church contexts, this 'cause' is belief/faith and the response is, or should be, worship. When people waved their arms in the air as Queen sang 'We Are The Champions' at Wembley, the relative complexity of the meter was no impediment to those singing, nor was this the case when Noel sang his own 'Champion' at the same venue. The thought that crowds and congregations cannot cope with a 'song' is disproved as people singalong with the anthems of Springsteen, U2 and others, or as the crowd at Anfield, with no lead other than a CD, make their way through 'You'll Never Walk Alone' several times a season. So, to conclude that Kendrick, Richards, Redman, Smith, Hughes etc. have dumbed down church music to the point of banality is mostly unfair. Individual songs may not pass the test of time and one or two may even now be looked back upon with some embarrassment, but again, context, they were of their day and did their job in their time. Take a flick through the great hymn books of the past and you'll find plenty hymns and tunes largely lost to mainstream congregational worship - there is no greater indication of this as the fact that Hymns Ancient and Modern is still, occasionally, updated to this day. What this worship movement has done, however, is create a problem for churches who do not have a musical leader, who increasingly must be a vocalist and a guitarist. The old hymns still rattle out with gusto on an organ, but to get a congregation through, for example, 'I Walk By Faith' by a soloist banging away on a piano is - I speak from experience - hard work. Without that rhythm, and without that lead, it becomes clunky and unsuitable. So careful choice within the realms of what an individual church has available but must exercised. However, that leads on to the problem that certain songs are ruled out almost entirely. 'In Christ Alone' is a modern hymn, easily picked up by a congregation, and fits the old rhythmic meter arrangements of classic hymnody. 'I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever' doesn't, but, by leadership and familiarity, is perfectly acceptable. Other songs, while they may be dearly loved by the Church, are beyond reach. The danger is that churches are left behind. Which brings us to the 'cover band' problem. I remember years ago, when Noel first started putting on concerts with just himself and his acoustic guitar. I used to wonder why this was necessary. Most areas would probably have someone who could put on such an event, but wouldn't pull a crowd because they weren't called Noel Richards. Very few churches would have a music group that could have put on the kind of band events that Noel offered more regularly in the 1990s. However, by the same token, smaller churches, on a smaller budget, had the opportunity to host Noel whereas the full band could for many have been impractical for reasons of equipment, practicality and finance. And at the end of the day, Noel with full band or solo with acoustic guitar, me banging away on a piano, a cathedral choir and organist singing Evensong to a congregation of nought, each remains a valid act of worship if offered as such by the worshipper. There are valid remarks in Aigner's comments - for instance, in many places, we no longer particularly train congregations musically (but come on, hands up everyone who thinks your congregation would really regularly turn up for Music Theory lessons and hymn practice?). Also, we have, to a degree, stopped training musicians. However, to lay the fact that people 'don't sing anymore' - when in actual fact, many do - at the feet of the modern worship leaders is several steps too far. Part of the problem, perhaps, has been a panicked response to the experience of church decline. As a desperate response, we saw the large crowds of thousands at Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor, resplendent with professional musicians and a trained PA operative, and tried to transplant that experience into the local church which seats a hundred or so, lead by Barry on his cheap six-string and rattled out over a ropey amp. Some churches will have got closer to the 'festival' experience, and for many, it has been a model that worked, but in some ways is starting to show its age. And then, if we turn to the Church of England, we see the Book of Common Prayer. Largely written in the 1550s before being formalised in 1662, this book has passed through the hands of our ancestors and feeds into the most recent contemporary prayer book - Common Worship, launched in 2000. It is clear that the entirety of the Anglican worship service presented in these publications is prayer, Scripture and worship. All of it. There are readings, Psalms, Scriptures throughout. As I write, Gregorio Allegri's 'Miserere Mei Deus', a musical setting of Psalm 51 widely accepted as one of the great sacred choral works plays out on commercial radio - Classic FM in the UK. Such sacred choral music echoes through Britain's cathedrals daily in the office of Choral Evensong, found in the 1662 Prayer Book, and a service that traces its roots back further to Britain's Catholic past and the office of Vespers. In many places, Evensong has been sung (sometimes said) every day for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And the crux is this - often, there's next to nobody there, as far as a congregation is concerned. Sometimes literally nobody, yet the service still goes ahead. Why? Because the service, in its absolute entirety, is the act of worship, and is solely for the One who is present - God. And it is here that 'All Heaven Declares' stands alongside Allegri's Miserere. That one can hum 'All Heaven Declares' in a private act of worship at home - or wherever - and dedicate it to God, is the heart of the matter. The Heart of Worship, if you will. Why would anyone sing in church these days? Because it's worshipful to do so as a body, just as much as it is at is as an individual.

    This is, of course, as with many things, so multi-faceted that you could pull an astonishing number of nuances from each argument that may seem contradictory but valid all at once. The basic premise of the piece, 'Why would anyone sing in church these days', to me, has a reasonably simple answer: 'church' people still want to. They know they should, they know it's Biblical, they know what a difference it can make, but there is also an element of it being part of the routine, what we've always done - there's perhaps an increasing loss of 'why' do we sing in church these days?

    We must also remember that, as the writer says, the context of worship flourishes far beyond simple singing within a service. Not only does (should?) it encompass every aspect of a service, it must pour into our lives far beyond the church doors. Helping the elderly neighbour, not having that 'one-too-many' at the bar, guarding our words and actions can all fit neatly within the context of worship should it be allow it to. This is achieved simply by doing it for God - with honouring God at the centre of each action.

    I digress - why would anyone sing in church these days? We've already discussed that the 'church' people do as they've always done, we should also note that the 'non-church' people often don't sing. It could be for as simple reasons as not knowing the words or the tunes, not wishing to associate themselves with the practice and the faith, or even discomfort in public singing. The latter is an alarming one, and proves that 'said' services still have an important role in worship.

    For the general, non-church public, there is unlikely to be a complete aversion to public singing. The Last Night of the Proms, sport chants, rock concerts and even Christmas carols give plenty of evidence to the contrary: that, in the right context and circumstance, and with an appropriate comfort level, corporate (read, congregational, if you will) public singing is as welcome to (probably) the majority as applause or holding aloft a scarf. For a cause, people will step outside of a comfort zone and walk miles at midnight to raise money to cure cancer. They will jump from the skies to pay for a child's specialist care, or run miles to keep a sports club open. When the cause is right, people respond.

    In most church contexts, this 'cause' is belief/faith and the response is, or should be, worship. When people waved their arms in the air as Queen sang 'We Are The Champions' at Wembley, the relative complexity of the meter was no impediment to those singing, nor was this the case when Noel sang his own 'Champion' at the same venue. The thought that crowds and congregations cannot cope with a 'song' is disproved as people singalong with the anthems of Springsteen, U2 and others, or as the crowd at Anfield, with no lead other than a CD, make their way through 'You'll Never Walk Alone' several times a season.

    So, to conclude that Kendrick, Richards, Redman, Smith, Hughes etc. have dumbed down church music to the point of banality is mostly unfair. Individual songs may not pass the test of time and one or two may even now be looked back upon with some embarrassment, but again, context, they were of their day and did their job in their time. Take a flick through the great hymn books of the past and you'll find plenty hymns and tunes largely lost to mainstream congregational worship - there is no greater indication of this as the fact that Hymns Ancient and Modern is still, occasionally, updated to this day.

    What this worship movement has done, however, is create a problem for churches who do not have a musical leader, who increasingly must be a vocalist and a guitarist. The old hymns still rattle out with gusto on an organ, but to get a congregation through, for example, 'I Walk By Faith' by a soloist banging away on a piano is - I speak from experience - hard work. Without that rhythm, and without that lead, it becomes clunky and unsuitable. So careful choice within the realms of what an individual church has available but must exercised. However, that leads on to the problem that certain songs are ruled out almost entirely. 'In Christ Alone' is a modern hymn, easily picked up by a congregation, and fits the old rhythmic meter arrangements of classic hymnody. 'I Could Sing Of Your Love Forever' doesn't, but, by leadership and familiarity, is perfectly acceptable. Other songs, while they may be dearly loved by the Church, are beyond reach. The danger is that churches are left behind.

    Which brings us to the 'cover band' problem. I remember years ago, when Noel first started putting on concerts with just himself and his acoustic guitar. I used to wonder why this was necessary. Most areas would probably have someone who could put on such an event, but wouldn't pull a crowd because they weren't called Noel Richards. Very few churches would have a music group that could have put on the kind of band events that Noel offered more regularly in the 1990s. However, by the same token, smaller churches, on a smaller budget, had the opportunity to host Noel whereas the full band could for many have been impractical for reasons of equipment, practicality and finance. And at the end of the day, Noel with full band or solo with acoustic guitar, me banging away on a piano, a cathedral choir and organist singing Evensong to a congregation of nought, each remains a valid act of worship if offered as such by the worshipper.

    There are valid remarks in Aigner's comments - for instance, in many places, we no longer particularly train congregations musically (but come on, hands up everyone who thinks your congregation would really regularly turn up for Music Theory lessons and hymn practice?). Also, we have, to a degree, stopped training musicians. However, to lay the fact that people 'don't sing anymore' - when in actual fact, many do - at the feet of the modern worship leaders is several steps too far.

    Part of the problem, perhaps, has been a panicked response to the experience of church decline. As a desperate response, we saw the large crowds of thousands at Spring Harvest and Soul Survivor, resplendent with professional musicians and a trained PA operative, and tried to transplant that experience into the local church which seats a hundred or so, lead by Barry on his cheap six-string and rattled out over a ropey amp. Some churches will have got closer to the 'festival' experience, and for many, it has been a model that worked, but in some ways is starting to show its age.

    And then, if we turn to the Church of England, we see the Book of Common Prayer. Largely written in the 1550s before being formalised in 1662, this book has passed through the hands of our ancestors and feeds into the most recent contemporary prayer book - Common Worship, launched in 2000. It is clear that the entirety of the Anglican worship service presented in these publications is prayer, Scripture and worship. All of it. There are readings, Psalms, Scriptures throughout.

    As I write, Gregorio Allegri's 'Miserere Mei Deus', a musical setting of Psalm 51 widely accepted as one of the great sacred choral works plays out on commercial radio - Classic FM in the UK. Such sacred choral music echoes through Britain's cathedrals daily in the office of Choral Evensong, found in the 1662 Prayer Book, and a service that traces its roots back further to Britain's Catholic past and the office of Vespers. In many places, Evensong has been sung (sometimes said) every day for hundreds, if not thousands of years. And the crux is this - often, there's next to nobody there, as far as a congregation is concerned. Sometimes literally nobody, yet the service still goes ahead. Why? Because the service, in its absolute entirety, is the act of worship, and is solely for the One who is present - God.

    And it is here that 'All Heaven Declares' stands alongside Allegri's Miserere. That one can hum 'All Heaven Declares' in a private act of worship at home - or wherever - and dedicate it to God, is the heart of the matter. The Heart of Worship, if you will. Why would anyone sing in church these days? Because it's worshipful to do so as a body, just as much as it is at is as an individual.

  • Chris Peacock

    Chris Peacock Whitley Bay

    Thank you for a thought provoking article. I have thought for some time that too many songs are too complicated. Many also seem to be singing ABOUT worship, rather than BEING worship - or is this being too unkind?

    Thank you for a thought provoking article. I have thought for some time that too many songs are too complicated. Many also seem to be singing ABOUT worship, rather than BEING worship - or is this being too unkind?

  • Susan peacock

    Susan peacock Brittany usually north east england

    interesting to read the article and comments. FOr sometime now, I have not sound some of the songs at church, as I do not believe that they are biblically acceptable. our heart attitude to God should be central in all that we do. GOd does not want a church who has made worship central to all they do, He wants a church who centres on Him, worshipping as a way of life, not just something we DO on Sundays. WOrship is so much more, it saddens the me to see the way it has been pigeon holed to mean singing only. God has graciously given us life, to live for Him. All that we have, all that we are, is His.

    interesting to read the article and comments. FOr sometime now, I have not sound some of the songs at church, as I do not believe that they are biblically acceptable. our heart attitude to God should be central in all that we do. GOd does not want a church who has made worship central to all they do, He wants a church who centres on Him, worshipping as a way of life, not just something we DO on Sundays.
    WOrship is so much more, it saddens the me to see the way it has been pigeon holed to mean singing only. God has graciously given us life, to live for Him. All that we have, all that we are, is His.

  • Tony Smith

    Tony Smith Worthing

    I like to think that the role of a worship team is not just to play a few nice songs, but more to lead people into the presence of God. I alway feel that worship needs to be spirit led and you don't necessarily have to be a musician to lead people in worship. If it's just about the music then it's just a gig and nothing else

    I like to think that the role of a worship team is not just to play a few nice songs, but more to lead people into the presence of God. I alway feel that worship needs to be spirit led and you don't necessarily have to be a musician to lead people in worship. If it's just about the music then it's just a gig and nothing else

  • Paul Miller

    Paul Miller Exeter

    There is to my mind only one reason for singing and that is to produce a state of emotional awareness to get beyond the day to day cares and concerns to feel God within us God cannot see apart from our eyes nor hear without our ears or feel without our feelings so the more we realise we are God himself in action then we assume the mantle of God on Earth ( we are figuratively the Earth) The kingdom if heaven is within each of us and the more we realise that the more powerful and stable we become and therefore more able to show God in us just by the way we live every day Singing is a powerful way to access the part of us beyond the surface mind to realise we are the offspring of God and by definition God himself IS us walking talking eating cursing wounding healing and everything else that humans do in consciousness or ignorance I'm still fuming over the constant repetition of the word maranatha in the 70s since it produced a feeling in me of what's the point cos it's all gonna finish in the blink of an eye imminently It's taken a long time to get over that one but my journey has allowed me to see the truth behind the facade of religion to genuine spirituality and god consciousness

    There is to my mind only one reason for singing and that is to produce a state of emotional awareness to get beyond the day to day cares and concerns to feel God within us
    God cannot see apart from our eyes nor hear without our ears or feel without our feelings so the more we realise we are God himself in action then we assume the mantle of God on Earth ( we are figuratively the Earth)
    The kingdom if heaven is within each of us and the more we realise that the more powerful and stable we become and therefore more able to show God in us just by the way we live every day
    Singing is a powerful way to access the part of us beyond the surface mind to realise we are the offspring of God and by definition God himself IS us walking talking eating cursing wounding healing and everything else that humans do in consciousness or ignorance
    I'm still fuming over the constant repetition of the word maranatha in the 70s since it produced a feeling in me of what's the point cos it's all gonna finish in the blink of an eye imminently
    It's taken a long time to get over that one but my journey has allowed me to see the truth behind the facade of religion to genuine spirituality and god consciousness

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous USA

    Thanks so much, Anon. You've said much of what I was thinking - and so much better! It isn't about the songs in and of themselves. If we as WORSHIP leaders (because that's what we are) select songs because they're popular on the radio without examining the tools we have to lead worship (capabilities of our band/lead singer? software to project lyrics? has the congregation been introduced to the song before?) then we're not doing our job. There are plenty of songs I remember from the old Methodist Hymnal (before the UMC days) which are no longer contained in it. We've moved on from what may have been good music or theology once but no longer carries the same message. Back in the day when I sang in chancel choir I would look out at the congregation as we sang some traditional hymn accompanied by glorious organ strains and guess what? Lots of folks weren't singing those songs either. My wife seldom sings in congregation. When asked why she says that she is more blessed to hear the voices around her than to lift what she perceives as a weak an unmusical voice to join. I guess what I'm saying is let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Yes there are problem songs in the contemporary genre. There are also problem songs in the more traditional book. As worship leaders we need to examine the text for the day and spend some time searching for appropriate music which will add to the message. It is out there. Not all of it is 'Hillsongized' and much of it leads very well to congregational singing. If our concern is not to move forward, not to progress, not to grow, then let's go back... back to the good old days of plainsong and chant. Think of it! We could do away with organs and organists altogether and save our congregations quite a bit of money!

    Thanks so much, Anon. You've said much of what I was thinking - and so much better! It isn't about the songs in and of themselves. If we as WORSHIP leaders (because that's what we are) select songs because they're popular on the radio without examining the tools we have to lead worship (capabilities of our band/lead singer? software to project lyrics? has the congregation been introduced to the song before?) then we're not doing our job. There are plenty of songs I remember from the old Methodist Hymnal (before the UMC days) which are no longer contained in it. We've moved on from what may have been good music or theology once but no longer carries the same message.

    Back in the day when I sang in chancel choir I would look out at the congregation as we sang some traditional hymn accompanied by glorious organ strains and guess what? Lots of folks weren't singing those songs either. My wife seldom sings in congregation. When asked why she says that she is more blessed to hear the voices around her than to lift what she perceives as a weak an unmusical voice to join.

    I guess what I'm saying is let's not throw out the baby with the bath water. Yes there are problem songs in the contemporary genre. There are also problem songs in the more traditional book. As worship leaders we need to examine the text for the day and spend some time searching for appropriate music which will add to the message. It is out there. Not all of it is 'Hillsongized' and much of it leads very well to congregational singing.

    If our concern is not to move forward, not to progress, not to grow, then let's go back... back to the good old days of plainsong and chant. Think of it! We could do away with organs and organists altogether and save our congregations quite a bit of money!

  • Stephen

    Stephen Pennsylvania

    I agree with much of what Noel has written - and many of the comments offered by "Anon." As a classically trained musician who has served for many years directing choirs and leading in "contemporary" worship, I have seen firsthand many of the changes described in the article and comments. My two worst experiences as a participant in corporate singing both occurred while singing contemporary music in large churchesand suddenly realizing that NOBODY around me was singing! Yes, many of the songs chosen by those who select the music (be they worship leaders or pastors) are songs that were written for solo performers and are not practical for a large group to sing. To me, though, the biggest problem along these lines is the vocal range featured in the songs. In the instances cited above, the songs were presented in the same keys as the original recordings - which were too high for most people to reach, much less sing confortably. And many of the songs being presented have ranges similar in size to "The Star Spangled Banner" (an octave and a fifth) which everyone knows is probably the most difficult national anthem to sing because of the excessive range. What I have observed more and more, sadly, is what Noel described: Churches seeking worship leaders who sing and play guitar - but have no real understanding of the vocal instrument, meaning the appropriate range AND tessitura for congregational singing. One of my first priorities when preparing a new song for our congregation is to make sure the range of the song is appropriate and to put it into a singable key for the congregation. I could go on and on about other aspects of modern worship music (like the obsession with using click-tracks for every song) but I will conclude by sharing with you a statement that I have shared with our church congregation: "If you're not singing, we're doing something wrong!"

    I agree with much of what Noel has written - and many of the comments offered by "Anon." As a classically trained musician who has served for many years directing choirs and leading in "contemporary" worship, I have seen firsthand many of the changes described in the article and comments. My two worst experiences as a participant in corporate singing both occurred while singing contemporary music in large churchesand suddenly realizing that NOBODY around me was singing! Yes, many of the songs chosen by those who select the music (be they worship leaders or pastors) are songs that were written for solo performers and are not practical for a large group to sing. To me, though, the biggest problem along these lines is the vocal range featured in the songs. In the instances cited above, the songs were presented in the same keys as the original recordings - which were too high for most people to reach, much less sing confortably. And many of the songs being presented have ranges similar in size to "The Star Spangled Banner" (an octave and a fifth) which everyone knows is probably the most difficult national anthem to sing because of the excessive range. What I have observed more and more, sadly, is what Noel described: Churches seeking worship leaders who sing and play guitar - but have no real understanding of the vocal instrument, meaning the appropriate range AND tessitura for congregational singing. One of my first priorities when preparing a new song for our congregation is to make sure the range of the song is appropriate and to put it into a singable key for the congregation. I could go on and on about other aspects of modern worship music (like the obsession with using click-tracks for every song) but I will conclude by sharing with you a statement that I have shared with our church congregation: "If you're not singing, we're doing something wrong!"

  • Dave Snell

    Dave Snell Guildford UK

    Oh dear......poor old Hillsong, it's all their fault then!!! Shame the facts don't stack up as their churches (we have one here in Guildford) are full, and full of people who frankly wouldn't step foot in most other churches. And the reason? Because they are expressing Jesus in a culturaly relavent way that draws many in. By all means have organ led, choir led, plainsong led services if that's what works for your church and if that's bringing people into the kingdom then go for it but please stop knocking the churches who do it different. We are all on the same life long journey of worship, let's support each other and recognize everyone's taste in music is different. The church I play at (large Anglican) has dozens of V talented musicians and we run 4 full services on a Sunday but one of those is organ led with a traditional flavour that my e guitar won't get near and I love that we can offer something for everyone and try to be as relevant as possible to as many people as possible, hopefully a bit like how Jesus does. Xx

    Oh dear......poor old Hillsong, it's all their fault then!!! Shame the facts don't stack up as their churches (we have one here in Guildford) are full, and full of people who frankly wouldn't step foot in most other churches. And the reason? Because they are expressing Jesus in a culturaly relavent way that draws many in. By all means have organ led, choir led, plainsong led services if that's what works for your church and if that's bringing people into the kingdom then go for it but please stop knocking the churches who do it different. We are all on the same life long journey of worship, let's support each other and recognize everyone's taste in music is different. The church I play at (large Anglican) has dozens of V talented musicians and we run 4 full services on a Sunday but one of those is organ led with a traditional flavour that my e guitar won't get near and I love that we can offer something for everyone and try to be as relevant as possible to as many people as possible, hopefully a bit like how Jesus does. Xx

  • Chris

    Chris Tennessee

    I disagree, I can receive the Spirit with contemporary music as well as the great old hymns. God says to sing Him a new song. Amazing Grace was once a new song and a better song may never have been written. Regardless of the songs people sing at Church, if you struggle to feel the Spirit, you are the one that's needs to reach out for God and make that connection. God Bless!!!

    I disagree, I can receive the Spirit with contemporary music as well as the great old hymns. God says to sing Him a new song. Amazing Grace was once a new song and a better song may never have been written. Regardless of the songs people sing at Church, if you struggle to feel the Spirit, you are the one that's needs to reach out for God and make that connection. God Bless!!!

  • Phil Hindle

    Phil Hindle Taunton

    Hi Noel, thanks for posting this, it makes me feel like I am not alone! We met many years ago when you had friends in the area, The Carr sisters et al, at Taunton Baptist church. Blessings.

    Hi Noel, thanks for posting this, it makes me feel like I am not alone! We met many years ago when you had friends in the area, The Carr sisters et al, at Taunton Baptist church. Blessings.

  • Noel Richards

    Noel Richards

    Thanks. Must have been many years back :-) @Phil Hindle

    Thanks. Must have been many years back :-) @Phil Hindle

  • Sarah Crawford

    Sarah Crawford New Brunswick

    I agree with most of what you are saying but I believe that you've left out one important reason why there's less singing in the church. The Lord showed me a long time ago that it didn't matter what I sang. I was having a hard time with transitioning from old hymns to the really new choruses and there was a lot of congregational dissatisfaction as well. And I just felt the Holy Spirit saying, "It doesn't matter what type of music you sing - bluegrass, country and western, old style, new style - as long as you're glorifying Me then that's all that matters." I've never forgotten that. Now, I can worship God in whatever style that is being played and I don't pay any attention to whether they're new songs or old songs. And I think a lot of people are too busy looking at the style of music and, in the words of one sweet sister, "Bless God, sister, I don't know why we can't just sing all hymns!" God is the same yesterday, today and forever but He's also a God of variety and newness. Remember, the hymns were once "new" and had to be learned. But I think the main reason why people have stopped singing in church is the fact that we've become lazy, lethargic and have lost our first love. If we truly loved Jesus, then we would come into church, ready, willing and excited about worshiping God together with other believers, whether we know the songs or not. We'll get to know the songs after awhile if we make up our minds to. It wouldn't matter what was being played, we wouldn't be finding fault (because that's exactly what's happening) with who's playing, what's being played, whether we know the words or not, whether the song has too many verses, etc., etc., etc. I'm really fed up with all the complaining. For pity's sake, get your heart right with God, develop a real relationship with Him and worship Him like there's no tomorrow. Murmuring and complaining kept the children of Israel out of the Promised Land and it will keep us from going forward in God!

    I agree with most of what you are saying but I believe that you've left out one important reason why there's less singing in the church. The Lord showed me a long time ago that it didn't matter what I sang. I was having a hard time with transitioning from old hymns to the really new choruses and there was a lot of congregational dissatisfaction as well. And I just felt the Holy Spirit saying, "It doesn't matter what type of music you sing - bluegrass, country and western, old style, new style - as long as you're glorifying Me then that's all that matters." I've never forgotten that. Now, I can worship God in whatever style that is being played and I don't pay any attention to whether they're new songs or old songs. And I think a lot of people are too busy looking at the style of music and, in the words of one sweet sister, "Bless God, sister, I don't know why we can't just sing all hymns!" God is the same yesterday, today and forever but He's also a God of variety and newness. Remember, the hymns were once "new" and had to be learned. But I think the main reason why people have stopped singing in church is the fact that we've become lazy, lethargic and have lost our first love. If we truly loved Jesus, then we would come into church, ready, willing and excited about worshiping God together with other believers, whether we know the songs or not. We'll get to know the songs after awhile if we make up our minds to. It wouldn't matter what was being played, we wouldn't be finding fault (because that's exactly what's happening) with who's playing, what's being played, whether we know the words or not, whether the song has too many verses, etc., etc., etc. I'm really fed up with all the complaining. For pity's sake, get your heart right with God, develop a real relationship with Him and worship Him like there's no tomorrow. Murmuring and complaining kept the children of Israel out of the Promised Land and it will keep us from going forward in God!

  • Bryan Hewett

    Bryan Hewett Bromsgrove Worcs. Uk

    Worship in most Churches has lost its tru position, loudness is interperated as depth of worship, theatrical smoke rising from the back of the platform to create atmosphere demeans the true worship from the heart, middle aged and more elderly members of the congregation feel marginalised because there is no balance to the contents.

    Worship in most Churches has lost its tru position, loudness is interperated as depth of worship, theatrical smoke rising from the back of the platform to create atmosphere demeans the true worship from the heart, middle aged and more elderly members of the congregation feel marginalised because there is no balance to the contents.

  • Kath

    Kath W Yorkshire

    I do hope those who chose the music for Spring Harvest, ECG etc would read this. We have given up going after several unsatisfactory occasions when musicians merely showcased their own music which in many cases was not intended for congregational singing, and almost impossible to sing properly. Very good article. Thank you.

    I do hope those who chose the music for Spring Harvest, ECG etc would read this. We have given up going after several unsatisfactory occasions when musicians merely showcased their own music which in many cases was not intended for congregational singing, and almost impossible to sing properly. Very good article. Thank you.

  • Richard Hayes

    Richard Hayes West Sussex

    I'm spending some of my Sabbatical looking at these very issues, be good to meet up and dig deeper

    I'm spending some of my Sabbatical looking at these very issues, be good to meet up and dig deeper

  • Angie Lendon

    Angie Lendon Hull

    I couldn't agree more with this article. I am heart sick of seeing churches emulating high profile worship bands because there is an "anointing" on them. There is an anointing it's true and the reason they are going deep into worship etc is because they have found their sound instead of emulating other worship ministries. What if each region had a sound created by heaven itself that resonated with the people of that region both saved and unsaved. What if they worked on discovering the songs heaven wanted to release that will touch the hearts of the people in that region because heaven wrote those songs just for them (Zepheniah 3:17) I have been blessed to be able to teach both worship teams and congregations about releasing the very song of worship that is in them and it's been incredibly powerful to see the gap between worship teams and congregations start to close. If people want tight rehearsed music they can get it in the local O2 arena or local club. I'm all for skill don't get me wrong but skill, heart, anointing, and a passion to honor God TOGETHER is the only thing that will get us back on track. Let's write the songs for THE church and let us exalt his name together. :-)

    I couldn't agree more with this article. I am heart sick of seeing churches emulating high profile worship bands because there is an "anointing" on them. There is an anointing it's true and the reason they are going deep into worship etc is because they have found their sound instead of emulating other worship ministries. What if each region had a sound created by heaven itself that resonated with the people of that region both saved and unsaved. What if they worked on discovering the songs heaven wanted to release that will touch the hearts of the people in that region because heaven wrote those songs just for them (Zepheniah 3:17) I have been blessed to be able to teach both worship teams and congregations about releasing the very song of worship that is in them and it's been incredibly powerful to see the gap between worship teams and congregations start to close. If people want tight rehearsed music they can get it in the local O2 arena or local club. I'm all for skill don't get me wrong but skill, heart, anointing, and a passion to honor God TOGETHER is the only thing that will get us back on track. Let's write the songs for THE church and let us exalt his name together. :-)

  • Christine Silverlight

    Christine Silverlight Wellington, Somerset

    This is a very thought provoking article and raises some important issues for both the 'worship leader' and the congregation. My sense is that the whole church service is an act of worship but I would say that a good worship leader 'enables' the congregation to come closer to the throne of God. I have been in a church - and played in a worship band where the leader and one of the singers were treating the music as a performance and I had to leave the group, it was just not healthy. I have a dislike for songs that are 'performed' for the benefit of the congregation; they never do anything for me! In my current church, there is often a mix of the old and the new and I have been re-introduced to some of the old hymns. The church also involves the congregation in the whole service more often than not and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit several times, not during 'emotional' worship songs, but just during the service. I recently attended a worship event where there were many new songs that I didn't know and those attending were encouraged to dance and move about. We are all individuals and so we express our worship in different ways - we may well dance when we feel truly joyful but it has to be something that happens naturally. There are also times when complete silence is helpful. Worship bands will often continue playing - albeit softly when there's no need to. We need to be quiet to hear God speak to us! There are times when a particular song can be just right and whether the music is played on the organ, or just led by someone with a guitar, it reaches deep into our hearts and our response is one of love, for each other and for the God who created us. I was fortunate enough to attend a worship seminar type event led by Georgina Latty and came in as she was playing 'Holy, Holy. Holy on the keyboard and singing with those participating. An old hymn but it was so moving and the words were heartfelt! I guess I would sum this ramble up by saying that we do need to involve our congregations and not sing or play our instruments at them but with them. Songs/hymns need to be carefully chosen and simple enough for the congregation to sing without difficulty. The music should be part of the service and flow with it as much as possible.

    This is a very thought provoking article and raises some important issues for both the 'worship leader' and the congregation. My sense is that the whole church service is an act of worship but I would say that a good worship leader 'enables' the congregation to come closer to the throne of God. I have been in a church - and played in a worship band where the leader and one of the singers were treating the music as a performance and I had to leave the group, it was just not healthy. I have a dislike for songs that are 'performed' for the benefit of the congregation; they never do anything for me! In my current church, there is often a mix of the old and the new and I have been re-introduced to some of the old hymns. The church also involves the congregation in the whole service more often than not and I have felt the presence of the Holy Spirit several times, not during 'emotional' worship songs, but just during the service. I recently attended a worship event where there were many new songs that I didn't know and those attending were encouraged to dance and move about. We are all individuals and so we express our worship in different ways - we may well dance when we feel truly joyful but it has to be something that happens naturally. There are also times when complete silence is helpful. Worship bands will often continue playing - albeit softly when there's no need to. We need to be quiet to hear God speak to us!

    There are times when a particular song can be just right and whether the music is played on the organ, or just led by someone with a guitar, it reaches deep into our hearts and our response is one of love, for each other and for the God who created us. I was fortunate enough to attend a worship seminar type event led by Georgina Latty and came in as she was playing 'Holy, Holy. Holy on the keyboard and singing with those participating. An old hymn but it was so moving and the words were heartfelt!

    I guess I would sum this ramble up by saying that we do need to involve our congregations and not sing or play our instruments at them but with them. Songs/hymns need to be carefully chosen and simple enough for the congregation to sing without difficulty. The music should be part of the service and flow with it as much as possible.

  • Andy Petercee

    Andy Petercee Gloucester

    Articles like this have helped me shape how i form my songs. I have felt for a long time that many churches have had cover bands who then want to do their own cd and sell em and turn themselves into bands in their own right. the funny thing is, i though we were meant to have God at the centre. not ourselves. this Christian music industry is in danger of making the whole thing about us not God. If one song said anything useful it was a little known one by Ross king. it won't do well because his message is uncomfortable but its so true If we have anything that gets in the way of God, then it's an idol and we then have to clear the stage. it doesn't matter what we place there. if the pews are more important then get rid of them. if the organ is more important then it has to go. in essence. if we have to get rid of everything to make sure God is the centre of attention then it has to go. "Clear the stage" by Ross king. a benchmark to measure my worship by.

    Articles like this have helped me shape how i form my songs. I have felt for a long time that many churches have had cover bands who then want to do their own cd and sell em and turn themselves into bands in their own right. the funny thing is, i though we were meant to have God at the centre. not ourselves. this Christian music industry is in danger of making the whole thing about us not God.
    If one song said anything useful it was a little known one by Ross king. it won't do well because his message is uncomfortable but its so true
    If we have anything that gets in the way of God, then it's an idol and we then have to clear the stage. it doesn't matter what we place there. if the pews are more important then get rid of them. if the organ is more important then it has to go. in essence. if we have to get rid of everything to make sure God is the centre of attention then it has to go. "Clear the stage" by Ross king. a benchmark to measure my worship by.

  • Graham

    Graham Burton on trent

    I am glad this has been brought up. I can remember when a song was placed on ones heart and they sung to the Lord. Or the congregation would choose what they felt was on their heart and all would sing. Now it's just one big show. Satan knows how to deceive and is doing a mighty fine job of destroying churches. It's time to wake up. And any NO to all this glamour rock so called praise and worship... ooh did I forget to mention Jesus is missing from most of the songs nowadays? Also please check out hillsong and the illuminati. Together 2016 ? Please church be wary. Stay blessed

    I am glad this has been brought up. I can remember when a song was placed on ones heart and they sung to the Lord. Or the congregation would choose what they felt was on their heart and all would sing. Now it's just one big show. Satan knows how to deceive and is doing a mighty fine job of destroying churches. It's time to wake up. And any NO to all this glamour rock so called praise and worship... ooh did I forget to mention Jesus is missing from most of the songs nowadays? Also please check out hillsong and the illuminati. Together 2016 ? Please church be wary. Stay blessed

  • John

    John East Yorkshire

    Not sure that the basic premise is really true. Coming from a time when the hymn sandwich was the done thing, the churches that had good choirs were often attended by folk who wanted to hear the choir do their thing and only half heartedly join in the hymns (talking C of E). Moved on to the non conformist where I often played organ, and the congregation singing was generally not very great. (Just once when we had a Billy Graham training session with folk from different churches did they really raise the roof). So, I think that the phenomenon is nothing new. The trained choir range was far in excess of the average congregation member, and in the place I was in it was considered a bit of a nuisance if the congregation actually joined in. Quite rightly - some of today's songs are not for congregational singing, and now I lead 'worship' ( for want of a better title) they don't get include. I alter keys to make songs singable, and do away with the octave leap so frequently used in more recent songs. The response from the average congregation member is probably a little better than it used to be in either of the previous two 'old style' churches. What I concluded is that it is a heart thing. Either people want to enter into praise and worship, or they don't. We as leaders can aid and/or hinder, either we go for performance mode and maybe get the accolade of men, or worship mode and the accolade of God.

    Not sure that the basic premise is really true. Coming from a time when the hymn sandwich was the done thing, the churches that had good choirs were often attended by folk who wanted to hear the choir do their thing and only half heartedly join in the hymns (talking C of E). Moved on to the non conformist where I often played organ, and the congregation singing was generally not very great. (Just once when we had a Billy Graham training session with folk from different churches did they really raise the roof). So, I think that the phenomenon is nothing new. The trained choir range was far in excess of the average congregation member, and in the place I was in it was considered a bit of a nuisance if the congregation actually joined in.
    Quite rightly - some of today's songs are not for congregational singing, and now I lead 'worship' ( for want of a better title) they don't get include. I alter keys to make songs singable, and do away with the octave leap so frequently used in more recent songs. The response from the average congregation member is probably a little better than it used to be in either of the previous two 'old style' churches.
    What I concluded is that it is a heart thing. Either people want to enter into praise and worship, or they don't. We as leaders can aid and/or hinder, either we go for performance mode and maybe get the accolade of men, or worship mode and the accolade of God.

  • Tim Bliss

    Tim Bliss Cornwall

    This is an interesting article which has much I agree with although a few things with which I would take issue. Changing our understanding of corporate worship: Both models have value in different cultural settings. Although the ideal of the whole service being an act of corporate worship is a laudable one, we are now very much in a post-Christian culture where many, if not most of our congregations will not have been brought up in a Christian environment & will need much of what we used to take for granted to be explained to them. For many of our churches the attendance at midweek bible studies has declined for a number of reasons so the main opportunity for teaching has become the Sunday morning service. I do have problems with the concept of the musical part of the service being described as 'the worship' & although I regularly lead this part I am uncomfortable with the title 'worship leader'. For me, worship is about a life lived in submission to God, not singing a few songs on a Sunday morning. It has however, been my observation that those raised in traditions where Bible teaching is emphasised seem to have a better knowledge & understanding of their faith than those from other traditions. The word 'service' can also be problematic. When we meet together for worship are we performing a 'service' to God or are we coming to 'be serviced' so that we will perform better in the coming week? Or is it a bit of both? Music as an emotional catalyst: Here I am very much in agreement with the author of this article. Music can be a very effective emotional manipulator & is used for this purpose in film scores & television. There is a real danger of confusing emotional changes with spiritual experience & we ignore this at our peril. Performance v congregational singing. As a singer-songwriter who writes mostly performance songs but has written a few congregational songs that are used in our church, I can attest that the approach to writing needs to be different. I personally am much better at writing for myself than for a congregation. It is certainly true that many contemporary worship songs are not great for a congregation because the syncopated rhythms & sheer melodic range are difficult for a congregation to follow or manage. There are however many excellent congregational songs by contemporary writers such as Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick, Keith Getty, Matt Redman & many others (including Noel Richards but I won't mention him in case it goes to his head 😉). It has been said, and is probably true, that most people learn their theology from the songs they sing and so "We Believe" (Kendrick) & "In Christ Alone" (Townend/Getty) are much more valuable than the many 'Jesus is my boyfriend' type of songs that are much too common. There are also problems though with traditional hymns: Firstly, the archaic language of some make them rather inaccessible to a contemporary unchurched generation. Secondly (far from the beautiful, singable melodies that the author mentions) it was the rather drab uninteresting tunes of many, if not most of the hymns that I grew up with that made me long for the singing to be over & the (as I saw it then) serious business of the sermon to begin. Actually it was the traditional hymns more than any other feature of church worship that alienated young people of my generation from church services however much they were attracted to Jesus. Thirdly, the hymns that did have interesting & memorable tunes were almost invariably pitched in a key that was too high to be sung comfortably. Fourthly as many of our churches now rely on a self-taught guitarist rather than a classically trained organist, many of the traditional hymns which seem to have a chord change on every syllable or irregular pauses between the lines that defy a rhythm, can create insurmountable technical challenges. Actually the rock band may be able to cope with this but in reality only larger churches are likely to have this luxury. In conclusion, back to the question of the congregation singing, these are a few practical things that I have learned over the years: 1. Get the volume level right. If it is so loud that they can't hear themselves they won't sing. (This applies to pipe organs just as much as to rock bands.) On the other hand many people are rather self conscious about their voices and if the music isn't loud enough it will also discourage singing. I find that when sound checking in an empty church that it needs to be just a fraction louder than I think it should be. Then, when the church is full, it will be about right. (People are made of acoustic dampening material so a full church will effectively reduce the volume.) 2. Try to play mostly songs that are familiar to the congregation. This is easier said than done with the speed that new songs are being written. On a recent holiday I visited a large Pentecostal church and didn't know a single song that was used, even though I was familiar with most of the authors! I try to make a note of the songs that we use & repeat them fairly regularly but not enough to 'do them to death'. 3. When introducing a new song, or reviving one that has not been used for a while, take the time to teach it to the congregation rather than just playing through & expecting them to pick it up. If you haven't played a song for over a year, it is likely that there will be a number of people that don't know it (as our pastor has to keep reminding me). 4. Try to find out the songs that are popular with your church members & use them when appropriate. If a song has particular meaning for people then they will sing. Once you have a few people singing confidently, others are likely to join in. We have to work with what we have. We no longer have churches that are filled with people who are musically & theologically literate but we do have people from many different backgrounds who have a desire to know Jesus. If our services do not focus us on God then we are probably wasting our time. Most of those who play musical instruments are natural performers and so are most of those who speak in public like preachers. We need to submit our natural desire to perform to the Lordship of Christ so that the glory goes to Him & not us. We are to be servant leaders, He must increase & we must decrease. Our congregations need to see Jesus in all that we do. We are not there to manipulate their emotions but to facilitate their worship.

    This is an interesting article which has much I agree with although a few things with which I would take issue.

    Changing our understanding of corporate worship:

    Both models have value in different cultural settings. Although the ideal of the whole service being an act of corporate worship is a laudable one, we are now very much in a post-Christian culture where many, if not most of our congregations will not have been brought up in a Christian environment & will need much of what we used to take for granted to be explained to them. For many of our churches the attendance at midweek bible studies has declined for a number of reasons so the main opportunity for teaching has become the Sunday morning service.
    I do have problems with the concept of the musical part of the service being described as 'the worship' & although I regularly lead this part I am uncomfortable with the title 'worship leader'. For me, worship is about a life lived in submission to God, not singing a few songs on a Sunday morning.
    It has however, been my observation that those raised in traditions where Bible teaching is emphasised seem to have a better knowledge & understanding of their faith than those from other traditions.

    The word 'service' can also be problematic.
    When we meet together for worship are we performing a 'service' to God or are we coming to 'be serviced' so that we will perform better in the coming week?
    Or is it a bit of both?

    Music as an emotional catalyst:
    Here I am very much in agreement with the author of this article. Music can be a very effective emotional manipulator & is used for this purpose in film scores & television. There is a real danger of confusing emotional changes with spiritual experience & we ignore this at our peril.

    Performance v congregational singing.

    As a singer-songwriter who writes mostly performance songs but has written a few congregational songs that are used in our church, I can attest that the approach to writing needs to be different. I personally am much better at writing for myself than for a congregation. It is certainly true that many contemporary worship songs are not great for a congregation because the syncopated rhythms & sheer melodic range are difficult for a congregation to follow or manage. There are however many excellent congregational songs by contemporary writers such as Stuart Townend, Graham Kendrick, Keith Getty, Matt Redman & many others (including Noel Richards but I won't mention him in case it goes to his head 😉).
    It has been said, and is probably true, that most people learn their theology from the songs they sing and so "We Believe" (Kendrick) & "In Christ Alone" (Townend/Getty) are much more valuable than the many 'Jesus is my boyfriend' type of songs that are much too common.

    There are also problems though with traditional hymns:
    Firstly, the archaic language of some make them rather inaccessible to a contemporary unchurched generation.
    Secondly (far from the beautiful, singable melodies that the author mentions) it was the rather drab uninteresting tunes of many, if not most of the hymns that I grew up with that made me long for the singing to be over & the (as I saw it then) serious business of the sermon to begin. Actually it was the traditional hymns more than any other feature of church worship that alienated young people of my generation from church services however much they were attracted to Jesus.
    Thirdly, the hymns that did have interesting & memorable tunes were almost invariably pitched in a key that was too high to be sung comfortably.
    Fourthly as many of our churches now rely on a self-taught guitarist rather than a classically trained organist, many of the traditional hymns which seem to have a chord change on every syllable or irregular pauses between the lines that defy a rhythm, can create insurmountable technical challenges. Actually the rock band may be able to cope with this but in reality only larger churches are likely to have this luxury.

    In conclusion, back to the question of the congregation singing, these are a few practical things that I have learned over the years:

    1. Get the volume level right.
    If it is so loud that they can't hear themselves they won't sing. (This applies to pipe organs just as much as to rock bands.)
    On the other hand many people are rather self conscious about their voices and if the music isn't loud enough it will also discourage singing.
    I find that when sound checking in an empty church that it needs to be just a fraction louder than I think it should be. Then, when the church is full, it will be about right. (People are made of acoustic dampening material so a full church will effectively reduce the volume.)

    2. Try to play mostly songs that are familiar to the congregation.
    This is easier said than done with the speed that new songs are being written. On a recent holiday I visited a large Pentecostal church and didn't know a single song that was used, even though I was familiar with most of the authors!
    I try to make a note of the songs that we use & repeat them fairly regularly but not enough to 'do them to death'.

    3. When introducing a new song, or reviving one that has not been used for a while, take the time to teach it to the congregation rather than just playing through & expecting them to pick it up. If you haven't played a song for over a year, it is likely that there will be a number of people that don't know it (as our pastor has to keep reminding me).

    4. Try to find out the songs that are popular with your church members & use them when appropriate. If a song has particular meaning for people then they will sing. Once you have a few people singing confidently, others are likely to join in.

    We have to work with what we have. We no longer have churches that are filled with people who are musically & theologically literate but we do have people from many different backgrounds who have a desire to know Jesus. If our services do not focus us on God then we are probably wasting our time. Most of those who play musical instruments are natural performers and so are most of those who speak in public like preachers. We need to submit our natural desire to perform to the Lordship of Christ so that the glory goes to Him & not us. We are to be servant leaders, He must increase & we must decrease.
    Our congregations need to see Jesus in all that we do. We are not there to manipulate their emotions but to facilitate their worship.

  • Iain craig

    Iain craig Blairgowrie Scotland

    I am thrilled to be part of a congregation that still sings some of the incredible hymns of old, we do sing some of the slightly more modern songs and I hope to enlarge on that but I can't see a day when the tremendous hymns such as Great is thy Faithfulness are not sung. As far as the whole hillsongs argument goes. I agree that we have in many cases given in to the pressure to try and replicate the sounds that hillsongs produce. Bethel Music is now doing much the same thing.

    I am thrilled to be part of a congregation that still sings some of the incredible hymns of old, we do sing some of the slightly more modern songs and I hope to enlarge on that but I can't see a day when the tremendous hymns such as Great is thy Faithfulness are not sung.
    As far as the whole hillsongs argument goes. I agree that we have in many cases given in to the pressure to try and replicate the sounds that hillsongs produce. Bethel Music is now doing much the same thing.

  • Tim Nevell

    Tim Nevell Germany

    This article helped me to realise why I increasingly find "worship" in church difficult. Many new songs divide rather than unite. I've been playing music for worship for many years, and have seen that it's not the "new" that is problematic, or the "old " that unites. It's about singabitity, content, and the extent to which the songs serve the context. New songs can be liturgical AND a joy to sing. I've managed to write a couple in my time, and it's far harder than one might think. But it's a joy to see a congregation where most are singing rather than just watching. Yes, sometimes I wonder: where is the act of corperate worship in the service? Sometimes I long for a good old (not too old!) C of E liturgical service with rousing hymns to boot. Time to visit the homeland!

    This article helped me to realise why I increasingly find "worship" in church difficult. Many new songs divide rather than unite. I've been playing music for worship for many years, and have seen that it's not the "new" that is problematic, or the "old " that unites. It's about singabitity, content, and the extent to which the songs serve the context. New songs can be liturgical AND a joy to sing. I've managed to write a couple in my time, and it's far harder than one might think. But it's a joy to see a congregation where most are singing rather than just watching. Yes, sometimes I wonder: where is the act of corperate worship in the service?
    Sometimes I long for a good old (not too old!) C of E liturgical service with rousing hymns to boot. Time to visit the homeland!

  • Jim

    Jim Burgess Hill

    Rather than think of the negatives,try looking at what people as individuals go to church for,worship of course,so whats wrong with a worship band ?nothing ,it encourages young persons into church, helps diminish the myth that churches are fast becoming museums,singing praise is good for you,also if the church is 'lucky' enough to have an organist,so the traditional songs can be heard at special times ,and I dont think for one moment all band members are in their twenties,come on lets make the church family real and moving forward. God Bless.

    Rather than think of the negatives,try looking at what people as individuals go to church for,worship of course,so whats wrong with a worship band ?nothing ,it encourages young persons into church, helps diminish the myth that churches are fast becoming museums,singing praise is good for you,also if the church is 'lucky' enough to have an organist,so the traditional songs can be heard at special times ,and I dont think for one moment all band members are in their twenties,come on lets make the church family real and moving forward.
    God Bless.

  • Irene

    Irene London

    Such a good article and comments. I noticed quite a while ago many people in the congregation not singing. I am not a musician, but as a christian for over 30 years enjoyed a mixture of old hymns and modern worship. The changes over the last decade have in many places as stated above turned THE WORSHIP time into a battle of loud noise with heavy influence of drums( not wrong in themselves) into a dominance in worship, to such a pitch that perspex barries are built around them. Even being miced up, for added noise. It has all become so technical, i have sadly had to come to the place of no longer attending A CHURCH SERVICE as it has become an assault on the sences. The lack of variety and thought for differing opinions has displayed to me a lack of love in the church. With comments of wear earplugs, being most unhelpful. The technicality of some worship songs, prevents believers from being able to learn a song and freely worship Jesus. As stated above the words are often, not always, but often, about anything but Jesus. So i pray that all those worship leaders out there have this discussion, and watch their congregation and see are they involved or spectators. As commented above when a hymn or chorus that is not technically difficult, we see the whole congregation join in with gusto and sing their hearts out. That could be a clue of what really works. For young and old together as one body.

    Such a good article and comments. I noticed quite a while ago many people in the congregation not singing. I am not a musician, but as a christian for over 30 years enjoyed a mixture of old hymns and modern worship. The changes over the last decade have in many places as stated above turned THE WORSHIP time into a battle of loud noise with heavy influence of drums( not wrong in themselves) into a dominance in worship, to such a pitch that perspex barries are built around them. Even being miced up, for added noise. It has all become so technical, i have sadly had to come to the place of no longer attending A CHURCH SERVICE as it has become an assault on the sences. The lack of variety and thought for differing opinions has displayed to me a lack of love in the church. With comments of wear earplugs, being most unhelpful.
    The technicality of some worship songs, prevents believers from being able to learn a song and freely worship Jesus.
    As stated above the words are often, not always, but often, about anything but Jesus.
    So i pray that all those worship leaders out there have this discussion, and watch their congregation and see are they involved or spectators.
    As commented above when a hymn or chorus that is not technically difficult, we see the whole congregation join in with gusto and sing their hearts out. That could be a clue of what really works. For young and old together as one body.

  • Richard J Stuart

    Richard J Stuart New York

    Very interesting article but it seems blind to one group of people, Those of us who are not musical and cannot sing. I don't see anything here about voice coaches. Don't tell me I don't love God or don't want to worship him, not true. I just cannot do it through my singing.

    Very interesting article but it seems blind to one group of people, Those of us who are not musical and cannot sing. I don't see anything here about voice coaches. Don't tell me I don't love God or don't want to worship him, not true. I just cannot do it through my singing.

  • Mark Wassell

    Mark Wassell Burbage Leicestershire

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I'm currently reading Mike Cosper's Gospel Rhythms which explores the unfolding relationship between singing and worship in the Bible. Personally, I have always been reluctant to describe singing in church as worship because God wants us to offer our whole lives to Him, not just a few songs on Sunday. I prefer "sung praise". A bit clunky, I admit, but closer to what we actually do when we raise our voices together in song.

    Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I'm currently reading Mike Cosper's Gospel Rhythms which explores the unfolding relationship between singing and worship in the Bible. Personally, I have always been reluctant to describe singing in church as worship because God wants us to offer our whole lives to Him, not just a few songs on Sunday. I prefer "sung praise". A bit clunky, I admit, but closer to what we actually do when we raise our voices together in song.

  • Robin Lawrie

    Robin Lawrie Kyle

    When worship is mentioned in scripture I can't recall a lot of music being played.

    When worship is mentioned in scripture I can't recall a lot of music being played.

  • Susan alexander

    Susan alexander Hertfordshire

    So true. I love to worship but am not by any means a musician. I find increasingly that I simply do not know a lot of the new songs and while that does not make me not worship it somehow loses something as you try hard to pick up the tune. I Come from an Anglican background and have grown up with 1662 and the English hymnnal and I miss those old hymns and the poetry of 1662. But I love too some of the newer music. Why can't we simply have a mixture. There is so much wonderful, spiritual music around yet we simply surrond ourselves with what is current or the latest songs being sung at spring harvest ect. Thank you for your article, very thought provoking.

    So true. I love to worship but am not by any means a musician. I find increasingly that I simply do not know a lot of the new songs and while that does not make me not worship it somehow loses something as you try hard to pick up the tune. I Come from an Anglican background and have grown up with 1662 and the English hymnnal and I miss those old hymns and the poetry of 1662. But I love too some of the newer music. Why can't we simply have a mixture. There is so much wonderful, spiritual music around yet we simply surrond ourselves with what is current or the latest songs being sung at spring harvest ect. Thank you for your article, very thought provoking.

  • Hugh Milsom

    Hugh Milsom Blunsdon

    Forgive this trite comment but the present 'worship' music is one of the reasons why I no longer attend. Where is the beauty, the awe and the sheer profundity in this music? And where in the service is the stillness, the silence and the space to listen to God?

    Forgive this trite comment but the present 'worship' music is one of the reasons why I no longer attend. Where is the beauty, the awe and the sheer profundity in this music? And where in the service is the stillness, the silence and the space to listen to God?

  • Andrew Mayo

    Andrew Mayo Welwyn

    I did find this article a refreshing reflection in the highjacking of worship services by "bands". I spend a few months each year in Australia where I find this sad condition "in extremis" . In the worst case, know none of the repetitive, shallow choruses and cannot sing them. The worship leader leads nothing except the band - no insights, connections, prayers. As it happens the preacher is fantastic and thT's why we go. The question really, as with all communication, is "who is the audience?". If it is an evangelical rally aimed at the non believer we would have one approach. However most mainline sunday services are aimed at God's people. For them - singing, and singing meaningful words with attractive tunes, focused on the Lord and not the musicians, are key. And worship should be truly led which means much more than stringing a few unconnected songs together. So I am very much with Noel. Leadership is at the heart of all problems and my question is why so many church leadership teams tolerate and support the dilution of true worship that is so prevalent today?

    I did find this article a refreshing reflection in the highjacking of worship services by "bands". I spend a few months each year in Australia where I find this sad condition "in extremis" . In the worst case, know none of the repetitive, shallow choruses and cannot sing them. The worship leader leads nothing except the band - no insights, connections, prayers. As it happens the preacher is fantastic and thT's why we go.

    The question really, as with all communication, is "who is the audience?". If it is an evangelical rally aimed at the non believer we would have one approach. However most mainline sunday services are aimed at God's people. For them - singing, and singing meaningful words with attractive tunes, focused on the Lord and not the musicians, are key. And worship should be truly led which means much more than stringing a few unconnected songs together.

    So I am very much with Noel. Leadership is at the heart of all problems and my question is why so many church leadership teams tolerate and support the dilution of true worship that is so prevalent today?

  • Lesley

    Lesley Harrow

    Interesting points in this article and lots to agree with. My aim is to be as 'invisible' as possible and to get the people focused on God. We sing a whole range of great songs with good lyrics, new and traditional woven together and have just a guitarist, pianist and congas. Songs sometimes start up from within the congregation - great! People 'get into' the truth of good lyrics as they sing them and the Holy Spirit makes these thruths alive to them. I can see this happening on a sunday when people engage in the sings and make them their own. Worship is not just sung, it's our whole attitude to other things too: giving, listening to and reading the Word etc and it's a life-style of adoration and praise to God which needs to carry on into the rest of the week. Thank God for good worship leaders and instruments, thank God for encouraging corporate worship times which need to be 'led', but in the end I want to develop people who can worship freely whether or not they have a band/leader/instruments to lead them, so I don't want them dependent on us. They don't take us home with them and if we present 'worship' as just being the 'sunday experience' dependent on a worship leader, then we're doing them an injustice. We have voices...we can sing and declare God's goodness and faithfulness whever we are.

    Interesting points in this article and lots to agree with. My aim is to be as 'invisible' as possible and to get the people focused on God. We sing a whole range of great songs with good lyrics, new and traditional woven together and have just a guitarist, pianist and congas. Songs sometimes start up from within the congregation - great! People 'get into' the truth of good lyrics as they sing them and the Holy Spirit makes these thruths alive to them. I can see this happening on a sunday when people engage in the sings and make them their own. Worship is not just sung, it's our whole attitude to other things too: giving, listening to and reading the Word etc and it's a life-style of adoration and praise to God which needs to carry on into the rest of the week. Thank God for good worship leaders and instruments, thank God for encouraging corporate worship times which need to be 'led', but in the end I want to develop people who can worship freely whether or not they have a band/leader/instruments to lead them, so I don't want them dependent on us. They don't take us home with them and if we present 'worship' as just being the 'sunday experience' dependent on a worship leader, then we're doing them an injustice. We have voices...we can sing and declare God's goodness and faithfulness whever we are.

  • Classically Trained pop Singer

    Classically Trained pop Singer Las Vegas

    Thank you for your post!This tutorial is fabulous! Lots of great info including, Being a serious classical singer is like being a potential Olympic athlete Classical singing in concert or the operatic stage requires that a singer be in tip-top shape vocally, in order to meet the strenuous demands of the challenging music itself.

    Thank you for your post!This tutorial is fabulous! Lots of great info including, Being a serious classical singer is like being a potential Olympic athlete Classical
    singing in concert or the operatic stage requires that a singer be in tip-top shape vocally, in order to meet the strenuous demands of the challenging music itself.

  • Frances Novillo

    Frances Novillo Borehamwood

    Great article and fascinating thread of comments. I am passionate about getting God's people singing his praises and was trained by John Bell author of excellent books on congregational singing: The Singing Thing and The Singing Thing, Too. I've dedicated my working life to developing congregational singing in Christian worship and I feel really encouraged and motivated by this article to continue with the work. If you would like to learn more about improving and leading congregational song I'm leading a training day in central London on 8th October: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leaders-of-prayer-through-song-day-conference-tickets-20343696544

    Great article and fascinating thread of comments. I am passionate about getting God's people singing his praises and was trained by John Bell author of excellent books on congregational singing: The Singing Thing and The Singing Thing, Too. I've dedicated my working life to developing congregational singing in Christian worship and I feel really encouraged and motivated by this article to continue with the work. If you would like to learn more about improving and leading congregational song I'm leading a training day in central London on 8th October: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/leaders-of-prayer-through-song-day-conference-tickets-20343696544

  • Felise White

    Felise White Beckenham

    I love singing in my synagogue it is so uplifting.

    I love singing in my synagogue it is so uplifting.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous

    Interesting stuff but maybe a bit cynical. My points: 1. As a classical musician who had a Damascus rd type conversion I had both passion and training. Could I find passion for Jesus among trained musicians, organists, cathedrals, high churches, liturgical churches? Well I tried for 10 years and met a wall of cynicism. Even distain for Jesus. I think God just looked down and said "who will worship me?". The folk who responded he blessed, and they chucked out the old because of all the bitterness and control. All those fabulous traditions die a considerable death when they are in the hands of the unloving. Some would argue that the enormous difficulties Christianity faces today have come about to awaken the church after decades of lip service. I would not argue with that. 2. So the folk who responded to God in the 70s and onwards may have been more into pop music and were not that trained, but at least they responded. I would rather bin my training culturally and worship, than be strongly controlling by a man led culture. BUT I love that period when a contemporary congregation rediscover the depth of old liturgy and hymns. I love it! I have led so many congregations in different circumstances, and many really need a period of death to the old before the living memory of the spirituality (if it was lacking) of the traditional generation is dead, before they can re-discover those traditions. How many people turn away from Christianity because of unloving and ungenuine Christians? It's the same thing. 3. I do believe it's possible to have renewal and power operating through the traditions of the church but it's rare. A young friend at music college in London is currently re-discovering everything I have said so far. 4. My congregation as it happens do sing hymns and worship songs. They really sing too. I see nothing wrong with lifting their emotions in it, as the emotions fire the will, and the will pushes us into and onto God and his call. It is part of the spirits work to engage our emotions. Let's not get hung up about that. Let's not assume that is the fullness of God either. 5. In fact let's not make the mistake of the 19th century, perpetuated through the 20th century: that Jesus didn't weep, that emotions are fallen and the intellect not, that Gods purpose for us is to control and subjugate our emotions. This heresy is surprisingly still alive and visited British Christianity through the dominance of public school preachers in the 19th century. At that time across Europe, woman ("the weaker sex") were hospitalised if they were excessively emotional and music was treated with great medical distain as it led to emotion, which led to debauchery. Read about this in the history of medicine and diagnosis. Unreal. It is my considered opinion of 30 years that our emotions need redeeming not subjugating. Put simply, do not fear emotion in worship. Bless it, use it, thank God for it. Fascinating that a seat today, of the heresy I describe here, is a church that at its inception was educated to a Christian saint and the Greek god of the mind. Let's get free folks. 6. Can't resist pointing out that the guitar predates the organ as the instrument that led worship. I say this as an organist and classical officionado. Also one thing I like about a worship team is that they are a team. They can pray. When you just have an organist and he doesn't feel the need to pray and fast: o boy you are in trouble, and maybe for decades.... One amazing organist I know, filled with the spirit, led his cathedral choir into renewal. The boys learnt to wait on the Lord, to pray in the spirit and to be spontaneous in worship, including being spotaneous about what anthem to sing. That organist friend was sacked specifically for achieving this and those in influence declared that he would never work in a cathedral again. Hmm. 7. I am sad to observe that people don't sing because we no longer sing in our lives. No work song, play songs, school songs, folk songs etc... We spend our lives passively watching TV smart phones etc... We are not engaging much. In the same way education is driving us towards passing exams parrot fashion without actually processing and understanding. This is huge and teachers and educationalists the world over are up in arms about it. The battle to be an engaged people who think and act is a deeply christian one. I for one hope to live to see the fulfilment of a prophetic word in the Old Testament that says ,"the time will come again when the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous will again be seen,". I think that could look great. We would stop trying to be popular by aping the world and look quite different. Morally, spiritually, maybe even fashionably different. Medical headlines recently declared the most cancer free people in the world to be the Amish. I wonder why? I wish anyone who took the time to read this joy! Isn't Jesus wonderful! Someone posted your blog on Facebook Noel and I thought I would join in. Much love Gerard

    Interesting stuff but maybe a bit cynical. My points:
    1. As a classical musician who had a Damascus rd type conversion I had both passion and training. Could I find passion for Jesus among trained musicians, organists, cathedrals, high churches, liturgical churches? Well I tried for 10 years and met a wall of cynicism. Even distain for Jesus. I think God just looked down and said "who will worship me?". The folk who responded he blessed, and they chucked out the old because of all the bitterness and control. All those fabulous traditions die a considerable death when they are in the hands of the unloving. Some would argue that the enormous difficulties Christianity faces today have come about to awaken the church after decades of lip service. I would not argue with that.
    2. So the folk who responded to God in the 70s and onwards may have been more into pop music and were not that trained, but at least they responded. I would rather bin my training culturally and worship, than be strongly controlling by a man led culture. BUT I love that period when a contemporary congregation rediscover the depth of old liturgy and hymns. I love it! I have led so many congregations in different circumstances, and many really need a period of death to the old before the living memory of the spirituality (if it was lacking) of the traditional generation is dead, before they can re-discover those traditions. How many people turn away from Christianity because of unloving and ungenuine Christians? It's the same thing.
    3. I do believe it's possible to have renewal and power operating through the traditions of the church but it's rare. A young friend at music college in London is currently re-discovering everything I have said so far.
    4. My congregation as it happens do sing hymns and worship songs. They really sing too. I see nothing wrong with lifting their emotions in it, as the emotions fire the will, and the will pushes us into and onto God and his call. It is part of the spirits work to engage our emotions. Let's not get hung up about that. Let's not assume that is the fullness of God either.
    5. In fact let's not make the mistake of the 19th century, perpetuated through the 20th century: that Jesus didn't weep, that emotions are fallen and the intellect not, that Gods purpose for us is to control and subjugate our emotions. This heresy is surprisingly still alive and visited British Christianity through the dominance of public school preachers in the 19th century. At that time across Europe, woman ("the weaker sex") were hospitalised if they were excessively emotional and music was treated with great medical distain as it led to emotion, which led to debauchery. Read about this in the history of medicine and diagnosis. Unreal. It is my considered opinion of 30 years that our emotions need redeeming not subjugating. Put simply, do not fear emotion in worship. Bless it, use it, thank God for it.
    Fascinating that a seat today, of the heresy I describe here, is a church that at its inception was educated to a Christian saint and the Greek god of the mind. Let's get free folks.
    6. Can't resist pointing out that the guitar predates the organ as the instrument that led worship. I say this as an organist and classical officionado. Also one thing I like about a worship team is that they are a team. They can pray. When you just have an organist and he doesn't feel the need to pray and fast: o boy you are in trouble, and maybe for decades.... One amazing organist I know, filled with the spirit, led his cathedral choir into renewal. The boys learnt to wait on the Lord, to pray in the spirit and to be spontaneous in worship, including being spotaneous about what anthem to sing. That organist friend was sacked specifically for achieving this and those in influence declared that he would never work in a cathedral again. Hmm.
    7. I am sad to observe that people don't sing because we no longer sing in our lives. No work song, play songs, school songs, folk songs etc... We spend our lives passively watching TV smart phones etc... We are not engaging much. In the same way education is driving us towards passing exams parrot fashion without actually processing and understanding. This is huge and teachers and educationalists the world over are up in arms about it. The battle to be an engaged people who think and act is a deeply christian one. I for one hope to live to see the fulfilment of a prophetic word in the Old Testament that says ,"the time will come again when the difference between the righteous and the unrighteous will again be seen,". I think that could look great. We would stop trying to be popular by aping the world and look quite different. Morally, spiritually, maybe even fashionably different. Medical headlines recently declared the most cancer free people in the world to be the Amish. I wonder why?
    I wish anyone who took the time to read this joy! Isn't Jesus wonderful! Someone posted your blog on Facebook Noel and I thought I would join in. Much love Gerard

  • Gill

    Gill Cranbrook

    I too am very interested in this subject, I am about to embark on MA studies and my dissertation will concern elements of this subject, so please do send me any further information/books/studies that you have found helpful. Many thanks in advance!

    I too am very interested in this subject, I am about to embark on MA studies and my dissertation will concern elements of this subject, so please do send me any further information/books/studies that you have found helpful.
    Many thanks in advance!

  • TONY CLAY

    TONY CLAY FRANCE

    There are many verses in the old testament that talk about how God isn't always impressed with our praise and worship ...Ouch ! that must have hurt. They talk about how he can't accept praise and worship (or sacrifice of praise) because we have neglected our duty to the poor or the widows or the down trodden ..last night before going to bed I was praying and suddenly became angry with God because I felt he wasn't interacting enough with the desperate needs of people suffering in our world, I felt I had to be honest with him because to pretend to be otherwise would dishonour him. I asked (in my prayers) why do you think you deserve worship ? there is so much suffering, inequality, cruelty going on in this world at the moment ie: (10,000 Syrian children separated from their parents and wandering around Europe have gone missing recently, sold in to the sex slave trade or dead) and you God, seem to be doing nothing about that and hundreds of other issues. Then today I think about how God refused to honour his people's worship because they had been lax in their duties. Worship in Church has become a habit, like smoking or biting one's nails it doesn't do either our maker or ourselves any good. Why does God need worship? he doesn't. Why do we do it then? because it brings us closer to God and each other, it helps us focus on who he is and who we are. You don't need a worship band to do that, you don't need music at all although that may help but you do need to see that worship has no meaning if it doesn't do anymore than entertain us for an hour or two and we need to see that it isn't so very high on God's priority list .. our service to the world we live in is far more important that our 'services' in church. The worship 'stars', the people who stand up with a guitar and lead us in community singing perhaps ought to be doing their music out in the world...but cynically I would say that most of them would have difficulty getting even a pub gig. I say this not to provoke but to try and put things in context .... I can rail at God for not being as involved as much as I'd like in the world I live in, I can express my anger and frustration at this but i have to be prepared for him to do the same back to me, for him to say ' why do you spend so much time and effort writing and singing and leading others into singing songs that mean nothing to me, when you could be out there singing about things that will touch the hearts of those that are lost and confused in this world, those that have no father and mother, no home,no future, no faith and no songs. I have lived long enough to see how worship music has gone from being a small part of our religious life to becoming a big business and it saddens me. Read about the American 'worship leader' Trew Pearson and you'll begin to see how unholy the whole thing has become.

    There are many verses in the old testament that talk about how God isn't always impressed with our praise and worship ...Ouch ! that must have hurt. They talk about how he can't accept praise and worship (or sacrifice of praise) because we have neglected our duty to the poor or the widows or the down trodden ..last night before going to bed I was praying and suddenly became angry with God because I felt he wasn't interacting enough with the desperate needs of people suffering in our world, I felt I had to be honest with him because to pretend to be otherwise would dishonour him. I asked (in my prayers) why do you think you deserve worship ? there is so much suffering, inequality, cruelty going on in this world at the moment ie: (10,000 Syrian children separated from their parents and wandering around Europe have gone missing recently, sold in to the sex slave trade or dead) and you God, seem to be doing nothing about that and hundreds of other issues. Then today I think about how God refused to honour his people's worship because they had been lax in their duties. Worship in Church has become a habit, like smoking or biting one's nails it doesn't do either our maker or ourselves any good. Why does God need worship? he doesn't. Why do we do it then? because it brings us closer to God and each other, it helps us focus on who he is and who we are. You don't need a worship band to do that, you don't need music at all although that may help but you do need to see that worship has no meaning if it doesn't do anymore than entertain us for an hour or two and we need to see that it isn't so very high on God's priority list .. our service to the world we live in is far more important that our 'services' in church. The worship 'stars', the people who stand up with a guitar and lead us in community singing perhaps ought to be doing their music out in the world...but cynically I would say that most of them would have difficulty getting even a pub gig. I say this not to provoke but to try and put things in context .... I can rail at God for not being as involved as much as I'd like in the world I live in, I can express my anger and frustration at this but i have to be prepared for him to do the same back to me, for him to say ' why do you spend so much time and effort writing and singing and leading others into singing songs that mean nothing to me, when you could be out there singing about things that will touch the hearts of those that are lost and confused in this world, those that have no father and mother, no home,no future, no faith and no songs. I have lived long enough to see how worship music has gone from being a small part of our religious life to becoming a big business and it saddens me. Read about the American 'worship leader' Trew Pearson and you'll begin to see how unholy the whole thing has become.

  • Phil

    Phil York

    Some good points. Wouldn't say it was a style issue, but probably that 'we' worship leaders don't take the time to teach songs properly. Breaking a song down section by section, melody by melody, using hand gestures to show the note intervals is effective. Also I wonder if you could post some links on where these modern singable hymns and songs are to be found, so we can look beyond the charts in our song selections? Cheers Noel

    Some good points. Wouldn't say it was a style issue, but probably that 'we' worship leaders don't take the time to teach songs properly. Breaking a song down section by section, melody by melody, using hand gestures to show the note intervals is effective. Also I wonder if you could post some links on where these modern singable hymns and songs are to be found, so we can look beyond the charts in our song selections? Cheers Noel

  • Matt Parkins

    Matt Parkins York

    Go back far enough and there was a time when only the choir was allowed to sing because only they could produce something that they thought was good enough for God. The same goes for the preaching - the reformation swapped the communion table where all participate for the pulpit where one person gives us their opinion every week and everyone gets ignored. I'm not sure it's quite as clear cut as you'd like to think. To say that that intimacy with God should be dismissed in order to sing the story of God is bizarre - can't we do both? Intimacy with God is right there in the proskuneo of John 4 where Jesus adds this new thing, to lean in to kiss, to worship that was missing in the old testament. The cynicism on show in the article about a "perceived intimate connection with God" - when people use the word perceived in this context it's being outright derogatory - you're saying that people are lying about connecting with God - and that's absolutely out of order. The point you make about the Spirit touching people when the music modulates is again frankly bizarre - some people genuinely do meet God through music and that's absolutely fine and no less valid than meeting God through "retelling the story of God every week". At various points in this article you desire people to meet God through singing, different timbres and harmonies, in other words Music, and then here you express that people shouldn't be meeting God through music. You can't have it both ways - which is it !? Then a dig at worship leaders always being male - roughly 50-50 in our church right now, and I grew up with almost 100% female worship leaders. Your sexism isn't helping your argument. Then onto an odd rant about the projection of words - seriously what is the problem? People "craning their necks"? You'd prefer people to stare at their feet !? Then a rant about churches not handing out music to the congregation - really? Have you tried this? Are you going to do this? About 10% of the congregation might be able to read the music. Most ordinary congregants learn songs by hearing them a few times and then they know the songs, whether various syllables will be long, short, pitched up or down - no need for music that 90% of the church can't read. Then you got back onto songs being created for one person rather than congregations. Historically, there's always been both in the church. Check your history. Then another bizarre rant about the quality of the voices of worship leaders "wailing with reckless abandon", who "croon with a closed-mouthed tone", while you "sit and watch" - of course it turns into a performance if you're going to choose to sit and watch. "We try to sing along with his cover of our jesusy hot 100 favourites" - just plain odd. One reason that people sing much less than they did when I was growing up is that singing has disappeared from most people's lives. If you add up all the people in football terraces singing chants or anthems, together with the people in choirs, and churches, and the other slivers of life where people do sing then you'll find that the percentage of people in the western world that sing has dropped dramatically. We can complain that contemporary worship has mirrored secular song culture (albeit 20 years behind), but that might not actually be a bad thing given that so many unchurched people coming into a church service not just have no idea how to sing, but also have no idea why they would sing - its just not how many people express how they feel or how they want to say something anymore. Your solution to disconnect unchurched people from instruments and styles they're familiar with and instead give them the sheet music each week for "disciplined retelling" the story about God rather than actually meeting God, is frankly on another planet. The truth is that people with a heart for worshipping God will worship God irrespective of the form, and others will find an excuse somewhere not to - they'll point at the form and make all kinds of complaints as you have done here, or they'll consider themselves intellectually above sung worship, but the truth is it's all about the heart of the worshipper, not the form of worship.

    Go back far enough and there was a time when only the choir was allowed to sing because only they could produce something that they thought was good enough for God. The same goes for the preaching - the reformation swapped the communion table where all participate for the pulpit where one person gives us their opinion every week and everyone gets ignored. I'm not sure it's quite as clear cut as you'd like to think.

    To say that that intimacy with God should be dismissed in order to sing the story of God is bizarre - can't we do both? Intimacy with God is right there in the proskuneo of John 4 where Jesus adds this new thing, to lean in to kiss, to worship that was missing in the old testament. The cynicism on show in the article about a "perceived intimate connection with God" - when people use the word perceived in this context it's being outright derogatory - you're saying that people are lying about connecting with God - and that's absolutely out of order. The point you make about the Spirit touching people when the music modulates is again frankly bizarre - some people genuinely do meet God through music and that's absolutely fine and no less valid than meeting God through "retelling the story of God every week". At various points in this article you desire people to meet God through singing, different timbres and harmonies, in other words Music, and then here you express that people shouldn't be meeting God through music. You can't have it both ways - which is it !?

    Then a dig at worship leaders always being male - roughly 50-50 in our church right now, and I grew up with almost 100% female worship leaders. Your sexism isn't helping your argument.

    Then onto an odd rant about the projection of words - seriously what is the problem? People "craning their necks"? You'd prefer people to stare at their feet !? Then a rant about churches not handing out music to the congregation - really? Have you tried this? Are you going to do this? About 10% of the congregation might be able to read the music. Most ordinary congregants learn songs by hearing them a few times and then they know the songs, whether various syllables will be long, short, pitched up or down - no need for music that 90% of the church can't read.

    Then you got back onto songs being created for one person rather than congregations. Historically, there's always been both in the church. Check your history.

    Then another bizarre rant about the quality of the voices of worship leaders "wailing with reckless abandon", who "croon with a closed-mouthed tone", while you "sit and watch" - of course it turns into a performance if you're going to choose to sit and watch. "We try to sing along with his cover of our jesusy hot 100 favourites" - just plain odd.

    One reason that people sing much less than they did when I was growing up is that singing has disappeared from most people's lives. If you add up all the people in football terraces singing chants or anthems, together with the people in choirs, and churches, and the other slivers of life where people do sing then you'll find that the percentage of people in the western world that sing has dropped dramatically. We can complain that contemporary worship has mirrored secular song culture (albeit 20 years behind), but that might not actually be a bad thing given that so many unchurched people coming into a church service not just have no idea how to sing, but also have no idea why they would sing - its just not how many people express how they feel or how they want to say something anymore. Your solution to disconnect unchurched people from instruments and styles they're familiar with and instead give them the sheet music each week for "disciplined retelling" the story about God rather than actually meeting God, is frankly on another planet.

    The truth is that people with a heart for worshipping God will worship God irrespective of the form, and others will find an excuse somewhere not to - they'll point at the form and make all kinds of complaints as you have done here, or they'll consider themselves intellectually above sung worship, but the truth is it's all about the heart of the worshipper, not the form of worship.

  • Ade Friar

    Ade Friar Liverpool

    What is this thing called worship anyway? It's never explained. It sounds like a thing that those in the know do and do well but leaves Joe Regular sat in the seats not conected or involved or plain confused as to what to actually do. Then there is the hand raising thing, clapping thing, do you do it or not do it?

    What is this thing called worship anyway? It's never explained. It sounds like a thing that those in the know do and do well but leaves Joe Regular sat in the seats not conected or involved or plain confused as to what to actually do. Then there is the hand raising thing, clapping thing, do you do it or not do it?

  • Paul Downes

    Paul Downes Norfolk

    As organist in a small country church with a small congregation who are new nevrtheless very willing to sing, some of the modern arrangements are impossible !! Many of them have "intermezzo" accompanying bits in the middle, and the poor congregation does not know when to stop and listen or whether to keep singing with the inevitable hiaitus at some point. Hymns properly written for congregational singing should be encouraged not the instrumental "gospel band" types, which cause confusion and are generally pretty poor quality music. I have even persuaded our small lot to sing Canticles and Psalms on occasions which has delighted them !

    As organist in a small country church with a small congregation who are new nevrtheless very willing to sing, some of the modern arrangements are impossible !! Many of them have "intermezzo" accompanying bits in the middle, and the poor congregation does not know when to stop and listen or whether to keep singing with the inevitable hiaitus at some point. Hymns properly written for congregational singing should be encouraged not the instrumental "gospel band" types, which cause confusion and are generally pretty poor quality music. I have even persuaded our small lot to sing Canticles and Psalms on occasions which has delighted them !

  • Jacqui wood

    Jacqui wood Northpton

    [quote=John Glass] Powerful analysis Noel - I agree with so much of what you have articulated [/quote] A

    John Glass wrote:

    Powerful analysis Noel - I agree with so much of what you have articulated

    A

  • Jone

    Jone Montana

    Interesting article some valid points. The one thing that didn't get mentioned is that throughout history , from David to current time, our worship music to God has changed. The hymns that we charishe did not always have a favorable following. I love the old old stories and I love that I have 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord.

    Interesting article some valid points. The one thing that didn't get mentioned is that throughout history , from David to current time, our worship music to God has changed. The hymns that we charishe did not always have a favorable following. I love the old old stories and I love that I have 10,000 reasons to bless the Lord.

  • Gillian

    Gillian

    Good thing God doesn't keep score like that. I don't read music and I am one who is thankful that we don't use sheets in congregations like that. I agree that the congregation could be more involved but I imagine God's view of our worship is much more grace-filled than what was written here.

    Good thing God doesn't keep score like that. I don't read music and I am one who is thankful that we don't use sheets in congregations like that. I agree that the congregation could be more involved but I imagine God's view of our worship is much more grace-filled than what was written here.

  • Belinda Ratcliffe

    Belinda Ratcliffe Morecambe, Lancashire

    Thinking back to how I learnt hymns and carols, it was in school assembly every morning. The same ones were sung in church on Sunday, which made it easy to learn. Once this tradition was stopped people feel at a loss in church. Familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt, far from it!

    Thinking back to how I learnt hymns and carols, it was in school assembly every morning. The same ones were sung in church on Sunday, which made it easy to learn. Once this tradition was stopped people feel at a loss in church. Familiarity doesn't necessarily breed contempt, far from it!

  • Red gamers

    Red gamers

    Well singing is still an important part of our history

    Well singing is still an important part of our history

  • Paul

    Paul Bartlett Tennessee

    As Southern Baptists we sing. Our Church uses a mix of the older standards and the newer songs also. Still getting use to not having a Hymnal. Everything projected on large screens.

    As Southern Baptists we sing. Our Church uses a mix of the older standards and the newer songs also. Still getting use to not having a Hymnal. Everything projected on large screens.

  • Arlie Rauch

    Arlie Rauch Arizona

    Recently I preached (pulpit supply) two services (traditional and contemporary) for one church one Sunday morning. The attendance for each service was nearly equal to the other. The traditional sang noticeably better, though I assumed that the contemporary attendance was tuned to the type of music they were singing. Just my experience. When I was growing up we were introduced first to Christian folk music and then Jesus rock. We welcomed both enthusiastically, but we never required that the church accept them. We used them in other settings mostly. Now the situation often is that you can leave if you can't embrace the new. That is not in the spirit of what the Church is!

    Recently I preached (pulpit supply) two services (traditional and contemporary) for one church one Sunday morning. The attendance for each service was nearly equal to the other. The traditional sang noticeably better, though I assumed that the contemporary attendance was tuned to the type of music they were singing. Just my experience.

    When I was growing up we were introduced first to Christian folk music and then Jesus rock. We welcomed both enthusiastically, but we never required that the church accept them. We used them in other settings mostly. Now the situation often is that you can leave if you can't embrace the new. That is not in the spirit of what the Church is!

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