- Worship has become about a performance.
- The songs are too high and complicated to sing.
- I prefer the older hymns. And hymnals.
- I prefer the newer songs. And projectors.
- The music is too loud.
-The music isn’t loud enough.
- The room is too dark and the lights are too bright.
- The room is too light, I’m too easily distracted.
According to various blog and Facebook posts this last week, these are some of the reasons given on why there is a decline in congregational singing in our churches. There is definitely a contingency of people who are pointing their finger at the modern worship movement and calling out its flaws in an attempt to answer the question “Why does there seem to be a decline in people singing in church?”
And I must admit up front, I have thought about this question a decent bit over the last couple of years as well. At times I have noticed a decline in singing in the church, and quite honestly, there aren’t many things that sadden me more. However, I have currently come to a different conclusion than some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. (I say currently only because I think our thoughts are never to be concrete, rather, always evolving and improving) And while I am certainly not trying to discredit everything that I read this week, because much of it was well thought through and written, I do want to offer a different answer to the question.
Why do we gather?
I believe that the answer to our question is as simple as answering the question “Why do we gather?” If our answer to this question is centered around any one of us, then all of the excuses above are completely valid. I’m guessing you see where I’m headed with this. Although we could get very detailed here, the most simple and central answer to the question “Why do we gather?” is “We gather for God’s glory”. When exalting God is the central reason we gather, something amazing happens, unity. We are unified not because we all look alike, like the same things, and agree on everything. Rather, we are unified by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and united to exalt Him.
When I look at the Scriptures, worship (including congregational singing) seems to be a pretty simple concept. It tends to go something like this. . .”In response to all that God has done, the pinnacle being the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, offer all of yourself to him as sacrifice of worship.”
When we look at corporate worship from this point of view we see that congregational singing isn’t fueled by personal preference, it’s fueled by the grace of God. We don’t sing because we love the songs that are chosen, we sing because God chose to send His Son to die for our sins. Worship is not “good or bad” based on how much we like or don’t like it, our worship is good only because God sees it through the perfection of Christ. Me choosing not to worship through singing has less to do with what the church is doing wrong and a more to do with my heart being selfish.
At our core, we all want things done our way. Corporate worship is no exception to this. But worship doesn’t fit inside the box we try to create for it. Worship is much bigger than any one of us. It’s cross-cultural, includes all genres and ethnicities, and it is not confined to what we imagine it to be. You see, worship becomes a difficult subject only when we pretend it should be done a certain way.
When we show up to church we must remember just how much we all need Jesus. As soon as we forget the immediacy of the Gospel, we begin to think that church services are about us instead of God.
In closing, I believe that there will always be tension in the “how” of worship. But, that tension should never keep us from giving the “Who” of worship the glory that He is due. Let’s lose the cynicism and gather to worship unified by the Gospel and united for His glory. And for crying out loud, sing!