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Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

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  • Why They Don’t Sing on Sunday Anymore

    Thom Schultz

    Looking around the church last Sunday I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips. The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

    That’s been the case for years now–in churches large and small. What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

    Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

    What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street? I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

    Spectator set-up. Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event. Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience–file in, be still, be quiet, don’t question, don’t contribute (except to the offering plate), and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

    Professionalism. It seems it’s paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones. Quality is worshipped. So the worshippers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning. It’s better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

    Blare. The musicians’ volume is cranked up so high that congregants can’t hear their own voices, or the voices of those around them, even if they would sing. So they don’t sing. What would it add? The overwhelming, amplified sound blares from big speakers, obliterating any chance for the sound of robust congregational singing.

    Music choice. Sometimes people refrain from singing because the songs are unfamiliar, hard to sing, or just cheesy. Sometimes worship leaders choose a song that may thematically tie into the day’s sermon topic, but it’s unsingable. Sometimes worship leaders choose lame songs written by their favorite songwriters–themselves.

    I admit. I’ve joined the majority. I’ve stopped singing. I’m not happy about it. I know I should overcome these barriers and just praise the Lord with my very unprofessional vocalizations. But I long for an environment that evokes my real heartfelt vocal participation.

  • #2
    At my church people sing, at least when the hymn is familiar. But, we don't have paid musicians or music leader.

    It doesn't surprise me that fewer people are singing, considering that more people are attending entertainment-centered services to hear feel-good sermons about being Christ-centered.
    Comment>

    • #3
      I totally relate to the article, which I think was very well written. I was familiar by experience with much being said, other points such as Professionalism I never really thought much about but agreeing with.

      I chuckled when I read:

      Originally posted by William View Post
      What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.
      Oh, I know the feeling all to well....

      Click image for larger version

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      God bless,
      William
      Comment>

      • #4
        In some ways the Catholic Church has gone the other way - from spectator event to participation. Pre Second Vatican Council (1962-65) the Mass was in latin. Altar servers gave responses. The congregation just watched and listened.

        I think Catholic singing was very poor. Organs blared out and, when we had hymns, they were more like dirges. The Council encouraged more participation by the congregation both in responses and singing. More modern hymns were written (some of them terrible) but the quality of both the hymns and the singing has improved over the years. It depends very much on the congregation and the musicians but when there are choirs they are there to lead not to perform.
        Comment>

        • #5
          I recently watched an entertaining Sci-Fi movie, Interstellar. But, at times the music was so loud I couldn't hear the dialogue (actually, I consider music and laugh tracks added to a film an attempt to cover up inferior material). I've been in a few churches were the music was so loud that it probably discourages singing. If you can't hear yourself sing, why sing.
          Comment>

          • #6
            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
            I recently watched an entertaining Sci-Fi movie, Interstellar. But, at times the music was so loud I couldn't hear the dialogue (actually, I consider music and laugh tracks added to a film an attempt to cover up inferior material). I've been in a few churches were the music was so loud that it probably discourages singing. If you can't hear yourself sing, why sing.
            I had seen Interstellar a few weeks ago. I noticed the difference in volume between music and dialogue. That's really annoying to me. First I crank the the volume up to hear what the actors are saying, then BOOM! something in the background happens and shakes the foundation of the house through the entertainment system. The constant juggling back and forth with remote to control the volume had spoiled a movie I considered otherwise pretty good.

            Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
            If you can't hear yourself sing, why sing.
            Obviously you never heard my tone deaf singing! Actually I never sang in church before I went to a church that sang from the Hymnals. The very first time, I was moved, and found myself trying to harmonize with the congregation.

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
              If you can't hear yourself sing, why sing.
              I enjoy singing more if a don't have to listen to myself. If you had ever heard me sing you would understand why. ;)
              Clyde Herrin's Blog
              Comment>

              • #8
                There is a sound setting on most TV's and home theaters which allows you to limit the volume, compressing it to varying degrees. The more compression, the less dynamics thus the less unwanted surprises. You'll find it in your sound settings controls in the menu of your system. It is a pain, but is quite useful for movies like that one.

                Singing in church is a great joy and helps prepare the heart to be receptive to the message from the pastor. It is highly regarded by God, as stated in the Scriptures, as a means of worship.
                Last edited by Stratcat; 06-03-2015, 08:29 AM.
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