It seems to me that church people don’t sing like they used to.
First, a few caveats:
- I really don’t know about churches aside from the ones we visit and when we visit we generally visit Nazarenes and their kin.
- Of course, I don’t know about YOUR church – maybe people there sing to the top of their lungs.
- And, of course, I’m not talking about YOU. You may be on the Praise Team with a microphone and singing loud and strong throughout the worship service.
Now, with all that out of the way, let me tell you what I’m seeing. We are pretty much professional church visitors through most of the year. The worship service in the vast majority of the churches we visit looks and sounds pretty much the same:
- There’s a Praise Band: guitar, keyboard, bass, drums – maybe other keyboard instruments (in interest of full disclosure, I play bass guitar whenever I am asked)
- There are singers with microphones who sing with energy
- The words are on the screen
- Everyone is standing anytime there is music being played
So far so good. We have music being played – generally well played. We have leaders who are singing out. We have the words and, most often, a repeatable melody.
But very few people are singing. Usually, the church leaders are really into it: hands and faces raised in worship. Scattered around the congregation are others who are singing along. However, they are the minority. My most generous estimate is that 1 in 10 worshipers are singing. Everyone else is just standing there.
Maybe that’s not all bad. Maybe they are carefully listening to the words, reading them on the screen and being deeply moved by it all. I don’t know their hearts and I understand that it’s really none of my business. My business is to be in the moment, turning my thoughts and spirit away from the mundane things of life and focusing on the Lord.
However, my hip starts aching after a while and it starts feeling to me like we’re saying the same words over and over again. I can’t help but wonder how much longer we’re going linger at this particular stage of worship.
So, I start looking around, being impressed by the sincerity of the folks who are, apparently, really into the worship service. But I also note that a lot of folks are just standing there like me.
I know I’m one of the senior citizens now and the old people always complain that things used to be better – longing for the good old days. I don’t want to be one of those people. I think the point could be made that people just don’t sing any more. Rather, they go to concerts, stand and listen while people on stage do the singing. I’m convinced that the concert goers aren’t there for a show, and they really do worship. Maybe when those concert goers go to church they treat the worship service as another Christian music concert. They are there to worship but not to sing.
Still, I keep going back to a worship service we attended in a large church a couple of years ago. We were near the front, center and, yes, we were standing for the whole song service. There was a Praise Band and singers with microphones and words on the screens. There was also a pipe organ and grand piano. And we were singing a 250 year old Wesley hymn.
The congregation was singing their hearts out. At first I joined in, singing bass as best I could. Then I became overwhelmed and had to stop singing. I just stood there letting the sound of all the voices wash over me.
I miss being part of a congregation that sings like that.
And, by the way, my hip didn’t hurt at all that day.