Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship

on June 11 | in Feature 2, Participatory Worship | by | with 547 Comments

Spanish: 9 Razones por las que las Personas No Cantan en la Alabanza

Chinese: 会众在敬拜中不唱诗的九个原因

Russian: 9 причин почему люди не поют на прославлении

Ukranian: 9 причин, чому люди не співають під час прославлення

Worship leaders around the world are sadly changing their church’s worship (often unintentionally) into a spectator event, and

Before discussing our present situation, let’s look back into history. Prior to the Reformation, worship was largely done for the people. The music was performed by professional musicians and sung in an unfamiliar language (Latin). The Reformation gave worship back to the people, including congregational singing which employed simple, attainable tunes with solid, scriptural lyrics in the language of the people. Worship once again became participatory. The evolution of the printed hymnal brought with it an explosion of congregational singing and the church’s love for singing increased. With the advent of new video technologies, churches began to project the lyrics of their songs on a screen, and the number of songs at a church’s disposal increased exponentially. [1] At first, this advance in technology led to more powerful congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators). What has occurred could be summed up as the re-professionalization of church music and the loss of a key goal of worship leading – enabling the people to sing their praises to God. Simply put, we are breeding a culture of spectators in our churches, changing what should be a participative worship environment to a concert event. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess. Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess. Click To Tweet I see nine reasons congregations aren’t singing anymore:people are not singing any more.

  1. They don’t know the songs. With the release of new songs weekly and the increased birthing of locally-written songs, worship leaders are providing a steady diet of the latest, greatest worship songs. Indeed, we should be singing new songs, but too high a rate of new song inclusion in worship can kill our participation rate and turn the congregation into spectators. I see this all the time. I advocate doing no more than one new song in a worship service, and then repeating the song on and off for several weeks until it becomes known by the congregation. People worship best with songs they know, so we need to teach and reinforce the new expressions of worship. (more)
  2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. There are lots of great, new worship songs today, but in the vast pool of new songs, many are not suitable for congregational singing by virtue of their rhythms (too difficult for the average singer) or too wide of a range (consider the average singer—not the vocal superstar on stage).
  3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer. The people we are leading in worship generally have a limited range and do not have a high range. When we pitch songs in keys that are too high, the congregation will stop singing, tire out, and eventually quit, becoming spectators. Remember that our responsibility is to enable the congregation to sing their praises, not to showcase our great platform voices by pitching songs in our power ranges. The basic range of the average singer is an octave and a fourth from A to D (more).
  4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.  If our music is too loud for people to hear each other singing, it is too loud. Conversely, if the music is too quiet, generally, the congregation will fail to sing out with power. Find the right balance—strong, but not over-bearing.
  5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment. I am a strong advocate of setting a great environment for worship including lighting, visuals, inclusion of the arts, and much more. However when our environments take things to a level that calls undue attention to those on stage or distracts from our worship of God, we have gone too far. Excellence – yes. Highly professional performance – no.
  6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing. As worship leaders, we often get so involved in our professional production of worship that we fail to be authentic, invite the congregation into the journey of worship, and then do all we can to facilitate that experience in singing familiar songs, new songs introduced properly, and all sung in the proper congregational range. (more)
  7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody. With the availability of so many new songs, we often become haphazard in our worship planning, pulling songs from so many sources without reinforcing the songs and helping the congregation to take them on as a regular expression of their worship. In the old days, the hymnal was that repository. Today, we need to create song lists to use in planning our times of worship. (more)
  8. Worship leaders ad lib too much. Keep the melody clear and strong. The congregation is made up of sheep with limited ranges and limited musical ability. When we stray from the melody to ad lib, the sheep try to follow us and end up frustrated and quit singing. Some ad lib is nice and can enhance worship, but don’t let it lead your sheep astray.
  9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation. We often get caught up in our world of amazing music production and lose sight of our purpose of helping the congregation to voice their worship. Let them know you expect them to sing. Quote the Bible to promote their expressions of worship. Stay alert to how well the congregation is tracking with you and alter course as needed. (more)

Once worship leaders regain the vision of enabling the congregation to be participants in the journey of corporate worship, I believe we can return worship to the people once again. Nine Reasons People Aren't Singing in Worship Click To Tweet Worship leader, are you connecting with the congregation? Click To Tweet

Are you experiencing STYLE conflicts in worship? more

[1] see David Murrow’s excellent post, Why Men Have Stopped Singing in Church.

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547 Responses

  1. Jonathan Jensen says:

    I left a church because the contemporary worship team composed of 3 women sang songs no one knew….danced and it looked more like they were getting their performance fix on more than edifying the congregation or Jesus. Christian Karaoke

  2. Darrell L. Jordan says:

    The reason that the { Worship Service }, has deteriorated, is that Most churches have Allowed { Contemporary } so called music to take over ……… The older generation – { if they are Honest with themselves }, do NOT care for that Imitation music… It does NOT sound good…. It is NOT a joy singing, nor making music for, and most sound the Same……….. It does NOT have TRUE Anointing…….. Therefore, the people sing from their MOUTH, Not from their HEART…… { Thus, No True WORSHIP }…………… Most members would Never say anything, because they do not want to hurt anyone’s feelings…………. It is TIME for the people to rise up and tell the leaders to get back to the Original music Inspired by God, and put in the Books, for congregational singing, if they want the Spirit to Really move again……………… I am 66 years old, and have been playing music, and singing in church – { for God } – { Not to put on a show } , all my life…………… I have NEVER felt any anointing from that contemporary stuff…………………. If I visit a church, { trying to find somewhere to go }, I am disappointed, and frustrated, when I have to Endure the – { so-called song service }, and I am NOT really wanting to stay to hear the preacher………………….. Everywhere I visit, has that Junk…………………… That is the REAL reason why people are NOT singing in church anymore !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! P.S. If anyone know of a church in the Ark/La/Tex area, that does NOT have contemporary music, PLEASE let Me know…………………… If someone contacts you, it is Ok to provide My email with that person……………. Thank You……

  3. Sammy says:

    I am a worship leader and professional musician. I’ve been leading contemporary worship for over twenty-five years. Before you pick one song for your worship set, you should know the main focus of your church. Does your church have more of an evangelistic emphasis or do you focus on discipleship and deeper life? In most cases, it’s some percentage of both. I love a deeper worship experience myself and can handle many new worship songs, but what does it communicate to the unbeliever that may have wandered into your service? This question really needs to be addressed at the highest level of leadership in your church before you play one note. You may find that your worship philosophy is totally out of line with what your particular church is trying to accomplish during the “worship time”. As a worship leader, you may find out that you have been trying to accomplish a level of participation that the leadership doesn’t even care about.
    I’m not talking about style, volume, quality, or A/V support. All of those decisions should be decided after the “alignment” of your individual church’s direction and philosophy of ministry happen.

  4. ks says:

    First we need to ask ourselves this:
    What is worship and why do we need a “team” to show us how to do it?

  5. Patty Reed says:

    Would love a copy of this with the comments.

  6. allen says:

    One reason not stated is that most worship music these days is not all that good; while the music is done @ my church, I read my Bible unless a good song is being sung.

    • ks says:

      That’s what I did too. I found it a great time to allow Holy Spirit guide me through the Bible. Holy Spirit taught me much in that environment.

  7. Erik says:

    I think one major reason (thee main reason?) people don’t sing in church is lack of desire to worship God.
    If God asked me to sing gangster rap (my least favorite form of “music”), would I do it? Yes, because God asked me to.
    If God asked me to lay down my life to bring the news of Jesus to the next person, would I do it? Yes, because God asked me to.
    I appreciate all of the reasons given above. Many of them are probably true. But the deeper problem is when people don’t love God with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their heart and with all their strength, they find many “reasons” not to do the things God commands us to do. And even though the reasons are true….we’re still disobeying God’s command.
    In the end, who cares if the music is loud, or high pitch, he worship leader “ad libs too much” or whatever…. ??? Nail your excuse to the cross of Christ and worship him with all your might, as King David danced before the Lord with all his strength.
    Side note: I’m sure the martyrs who were executed for their faith were not particularly happy about having their guts carved out of their living bodies and being burned alive either….but rather than write “9 Reasons Why People Won’t Martyr Themselves”….they just DID IT. Does that make any sense?

  8. Roger says:

    Spot on! Nothing worse that the WL asking everyone to stand “to worship his/her singing” and then nothing happening that the common person can sing oor even knows! Why are we standing? No hymns, no anthems of faith. NOTHING that matters! Might as well sing “We are the Champions” as a so called worship song. Every tenth song mentions satan or the enemy. You cannot worship the one true living GOD and mention the evil one in the same song!

  9. Kevin says:

    10. Develop a theology of worship. The Bible actually tells us to do that.
    As a corollary, 11. Quit equating singing with worship. (This means quit calling the person(s) leading singing, “worship leaders.” Prayer, the reading of Scripture, preaching, confessing, and giving are all worship too.

    • Michael Golightly says:

      Couldn’t agree more. The first time I heard someone described as “worship leader “I expected him to do just that and was confused when someone else led the Worship and the WL led the music!

    • ks says:

      “Worship in spirit and in truth”?

  10. George says:

    Congregants will follow anointed worship leaders and their team when he/she/they sincerefully worship God and not just perform while they are on the podium. Pastors have a lot to do with true worship, he/she should be a visual example and teach atlest few times per year on worship. The congregation is not to be blamed.

    • OmaTrisha says:

      Amen! I have been involved in worship ministry for almost 50 years. Those responsible for the musical portion of praise and worship and are deeply in love with Jesus tend to lead better then those who are putting on a production. The congregation can sense where your heart is, and they will follow where you are leading. if you are truly seeking the face of God and coming before the Throne to praise and worship Him, the people will go there with you. If, instead, your goal is to put on a fancy show, you will end up with a bunch of spectators. I personally know worship leaders who are nowhere near as musically talented as others, but their congregation doesn’t seem to care because these people love Jesus so deeply that you can’t help but worship when you’re around them. Worship isn’t just singing or what happens on the platform. It is a lifestyle and an attitude. You can spot a true worshipper a mile away because they’re not as concerned with what the other people in the room think as they are about getting intimate with God. While I don’t mind using some contemporary music in the worship service, we need to not totally limit ourselves to what is popular on the radio today. Many old hymns are heavily anointed and were written during Dark and Dangerous times. They speak to the hearts of people. We need to not totally abandon the older songs in favor of catchy tunes that most average singers can’t follow, anyway, because of the range required and the complexity of the lyrics. The songs that tend to stick with us are the simple ones, both in melody and lyrics. they are the ones we find ourselves humming as we go through the day, often not even realizing it. Lately I have struggled to find a church that isn’t so consumed with doing the latest and greatest hits and doing it as loudly as humanly possible that they forget about the people they are supposed to be leading into the presence of God. If the music is so loud you can’t even hear yourself sing, more often than not you’re not going to put forth the effort to participate. There is nothing like the voices of 200 people raced together in worship, with all the harrmony, devotion, and love for God mingling together. if your ears are ringing because the volume is so loud it’s making the building shake, and you can’t breathe because of the fog machine, and the “worship team,” many dressed like they just rolled out of bed and threw on whatever was laying on the floor next to them, is more interested in performance and putting on a show than bringing people into God’s presence, you’re going to have a harder time worshipping. It’s a distraction. It takes away from the Holiness of God and turns it into a concert. It becomes more about the people “leading” than about Jesus, what He has done for us, and who He is. Unfortunately, in this area as well as in many others in the church, we have become so influenced by current society that we have forgotten our purpose. We don’t preach on sin any more because we’re afraid to offend people. most new churches don’t have crosses because they don’t want to offend anybody. We tell people to come as they are, and then we neglect to tell them that in a personal relationship with Jesus, you can’t stay the way you are. The very nature of God changes us if we are intimate with Him. Our goals are different. The way we live is different. The way we relate to other people is different. Church has become just another social club. We aren’t any different than the world. We embrace homosexuality, transgenderism, fornication, living to excess, greed, consumerism and materialism instead of preaching the Word and educating people on why God calls us not to live that way. I personally know people who call themselves pastors but have divorced their spouses simply because, “we grew apart.” Commitment doesn’t mean anything any more.
      The problem with contemporary worship is only another symptom of the illness pervading today’s Church — you cannot serve God and continue to do the same things you always did, but the church isn’t preaching that any more. They are so concerned with numbers and dollar signs they have forgotten we are supposed to be different. You get lost in enormous megachurches where you could literally fall off the face of the Earth and nobody would know…..where pastors live in multimillion-dollar houses in gated communities, drive Bentleys, and own private jets, while members of their own congregation can’t pay their rent or feed their kids. We have lost sight of our first love. We need to return to the basics.

      • OmaTrisha says:

        Sorry for the typos. I missed a few speech-to-text errors when proofreading my reply.

      • Pat says:

        WOW! After reading your view of the ills of all the churches, it supports a reason or the desires as to not go to church at all. Who wants to attend church at all with all those problems!? However, there are some really God-fearing churches in existents. Can you point to that and win some of the readers to that hope. 🙂 Peace

  11. JSue says:

    I’m so grateful God simply tells us to worship Him and not HOW to worship Him. No where is it defined. It is simply “worship the Lord your God”.

    Isn’t that what all of those who have commented are actually expressing. I love all these comments. It is so encouraging to see the passion. Who says The Church is dying?

    Great post. Lots of food for thought. Thank you for the inspiration.

  12. Steve Edwards says:

    First let say that I love God with my all, but I have to say I dread going to “church” on Sunday mornings. I believe we have taken worship and made it about us and not God. We worship self with personal preferences, comfort and security. We spend more time standing and sitting than kneeling and going. Most folks believe worship starts and ends in the sanctuary, but truly our worship must be never ending. It must continue beyond the walls wherever we may be.

    Church leaders concentrate on attraction or even preservation so much that much of our resources and energy are so depleted that appropriate discipleship and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves is neglected. We use the worship service to practice these two things that we honestly believe we have done our do diligence for yhe Kingdom and our effort is complete. Jesus never told us to build His Church or a church, but His Kingdom and He will build His Church.

    I truly believe our worship, whether in song, sermon, praise, prayer, fellowship, food, to mention just a few, must be done in away that not only engages the Church, but encourages them to seek more of God and to take it beyond the walls. I hear many share their church, denomination, does and don’t’s, but not God Himself. Maybe we assume that’s what we’re doing, but I believe this is one of the reasons why we have folks jumping from church to church and our churches are weak in their walk and worship.

    We as the Church need to take back worship and make it about God, not the tools of worship (i.e. music, band, lighting, Pastor, sermon, building, programs, etc.). Make corporate worship simple and about what pleases God. Let’s refocus what corporate worship should be and design our worship time around God and not our preferences, comfort and security. Sorry to say, but sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t sleep in on Sundays.

  13. Barbara says:

    AMEN to this article a thousand times.

  14. I feel like this article is completely once sided. Therefore, as I talk about this is some sweeping generalizations, please have a little grace with what I’m talking about. That being said;

    I’ve been a worship leader for 10 years in both black and white churches… and this is mainly a white American cultural problem… The reason “white people” don’t sing in church is because they don’t sing anywhere else in life as a response. Conversely, in African American culture, there is a ton more singing in church, and a ton more singing in every day life. I’ve been having this argument for years, and if any of the arguments in this article were right, there’d be a shift back to printed music, or quieter music, or one of the litany of things this and a million other articles have written about.

    It is not in the execution at all: its all cultural. Example of white culture singing… the hymnal is filled with drinking songs turned into church hymns; everyone knew them, they used them in daily life, and singing was culturally acceptable. Today, it’s not… and if you listen to any birthday celebration, the singing of happy birthday is in 20 different keys, sad sounding, and generally disdained by most people. White American culture does not corporately sing…

    Now place that same “white” congregant that stands and does not sing at all in your service, into a black service, where the sound system is deafening, the songs are completely unfamiliar, and the male worship leader ad-libs the song in a range that goes from bass to contralto… that same congregant, more often then not, engages in worship because the culture is accepting and expected.

    Its a cultural thing. And until “white” culture starts corporately singing in the home, at the bar, on dates, at graduation, at funerals, etc; you will not see people singing in church.

    • Stella says:

      I disagree. I am white, and sang for 8 years on a worship team. The church sang, period. The music was intended to be sung by the congregation, was not too loud, and was very worshipful. I do not find that in my present church. It is deafening, no one seems to sing (not a good key for the congregation usually) so we don’t have the experience of hearing others singing. It is totally different from what I experienced a mere 2 years ago in my city 2 hours from here. I wonder if this change is to appeal to the younger people.

    • Mario Smith says:

      I agree with much of what you are saying sir! Having been in the ministry since the late 70’s and being involved with leading, singing and/or playing for worship AND having been the pastor of a few churches [conservative and Pentecostal] for most of the time I agree wholeheartedly with what you say.

      In addition I served as the assistant pastor/worship leader and then the senior pastor of a church in Louisiana that was ½ White and ½ African American, what you say about culture is very true.

      There is a freedom of singing expression in churches that are of mixed cultures – the church we now attend [I sing in the worship team Sundays and lead on Wednesdays] has white, black, Hispanic, Philippine, and several other cultures involved. Many of those cultures incorporate singing in daily life so when we gather to sing and praise we can “raise the roof”!

      I encourage the people within the congregation [via email and through a new members class I am privileged to teach] to sing the scriptures! There are many, many songs, hymns and psalms that incorporate the Word and it is a great way to praise the Lord.

      I would see all people in every situation, every station of life, every culture [let us endeavor to change the “white” culture so that we do not feel shy about singing!] singing whenever and wherever they can!

      As the Word says, “Making Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;”
      Ephesians 5:19

      • Phillip Lake says:

        This article was originally about the pros and cons of the “new age” church music but somehow it turned into a “White folks don’t know how to sing” forum. I respectively beg your pardon, but I do not see any need whatsoever for us to “…change the white culture…”. I sing Classic Country, Gospel and Rock n’ Roll. I guarantee you I have no problem getting the “WHITE” people (young and old) to sing along in all 3 genres.

    • Bev says:

      Those same caucasian people have no problem raising their voices during a sports event. Perhaps the worship experience requires a very personal expression from an intimate relationship with God. American caucasian men, as a rule, seem to have difficulty exposing their inmost feelings. My sons were taught by their peers in the youth group it wasn’t macho to sing. Sad.

    • DONNA says:

      Well, while I respect your experience as a worship leader, I cannot fully agree. It IS in the execution and NOT all about culture. In the African American musical tradition, singing has always been part of our culture; we sang at church, at home, in the fields while working, and we sang to communicate. White people DO sing in their churches, but it isn’t as deeply rooted as in the African-American tradition. And the worship styles vary between the two cultures.

      Now to execution: it doesn’t matter whether the church is Black or white. If the Worship Leader doesn’t engage the congregation and let them know it’s okay to sing, it’s okay to participate, and they are invited to partipate in the worship experience, then they will think they are just supposed to sit and enjoy (or not) a Sunday morning concert. Invite them to sing, provide the lyrics, and play songs in a key that makes it easier for them to participate, and they will.

    • jim smith says:

      ive never seen drinking songs in a church hymnal, if they are in yours youre in a bar not church

      • Linda says:

        I have read that some hymns from many hymnals were adapted (perhaps the melody) from drinking songs. Can’t vouch for the veracity of this. I think you would have to go back and check out the origin of each hymn. However, can’t imagine Amazing Grace being sung in a bar. Not all hymns have good theology…nor do all the modern worship music which I find to be very “it’s all about me” in nature instead of giving praise to God.

        • Tony Mowrer says:

          Tunes for many songs used in worship did come from a variety of sources. The tunes were popular songs at the time and lyrics were easily changed. One of the most striking examples of this is the “Passion” hymn, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.” Bach harmonized and used it in his “Passion According to St. Matthew.” It was not new at that time, however. The original song was titled “My peace of mind is shattered by a tender maiden’s charms.” That is just one example. There are others. Since we don’t know most of the originals, this makes little difference as we worship today.

      • Ed Kidgell says:

        Many of the older hymns were adapted from drinking songs of 100-200 years ago. No wonder you’ve never heard them.

    • Phillip Lake says:

      Sorry to disagree. I have been singing for several years. I am a baritone/bass singer and have played in 3 different bands. I was raised on the Baptist Hymnal and I do agree that a lot of those songs were in a high key, but a lot of them were not. I really do not agree with the old Country Gospel Hymns being bar songs turned into church songs line of thinking. That is what our song leader says about the real gospel music that came from the hills of VA, TN, KY, etc.. I tried my level best to be a part of my church’s choir (I tried for 3 years), but the music has ALL gotten to the point that they are rock songs, with a rock praise team on the forefront of the stage (usually the pet pick of the families with the most money) and the choir is just a backup singer. With these rock band mentalities the church does not even need a choir because you CAN’T HEAR for the volumes of the praise team. I do not even care to get to church on time to be involved in the praise music. It is a 100% accurate assessment in saying that the people do not even sing anymore. It is nothing but a 3 to 4 song rock performance. Most of the music comes from Hillsong and their musicians and they are strictly rock bands trying to appease the young crowd into attending church. I do my singing in other places and I stick with the good ole gospel songs and newer country gospel and I guarantee you that people (young and old) sing along with the songs.

  15. Daniel Tilbrook says:

    Worship shouldn’t be portrayed as singing loudly or even well! Worship is about the intimacy with God, connecting to Heaven and drawing down his presence. I do not think that there should be fancy lighting or visual masterpieces as they are simply not needed. If you are focused on how nice the lights look, you are not worshiping. My church in Manchester, UK, doesn’t have fancy lights or expert musicians, in fact the worship team is crammed into a tiny corner to the side of the church not on the stage at all. Worship shouldn’t be a spectacle to admire, I don’t think that you need music or to even sing at all to worship properly. I am training to become a worship leader and I hope to bring people into God’s presence using the tools that are necessary, whether that be new or old songs, scriptures, and the Holy Spirit guiding me where do direct the congregation.

  16. Christine Olfelt says:

    Please cite your evidence for your statement that people aren’t singing any more. That has been my impression but I am wondering if you have any data. thank you

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Sorry, no empirical data,just lots of observation by me and many others.

      • Eldie Wood says:

        I’ve found the best worship team simply disappears and leaves you talking to God. I think prayerlessness is at the heart of this issue.

    • Sara says:

      I have stopped attending church altogether solely because of the music, and I know many others who feel the same way. In addition to the reasons listed above, how many timse can you chant “you are my king” before it becomes a vain repetition?
      Of course I could sneak in after the music portion to hear the excellent sermons, but I’d feel like a creep. So I just stay home.

      • Vicky says:

        I would encourage you not to let the music keep you away from a beautiful time of worshiping the Lord and growing in your knowledge of Him. Also, let it not keep you away from fellowship with other believers. Look for ways to encourage and love others in Christ and let them encourage and love you. You are not a creep to just go to hear the sermon – it is good to grow in our knowledge of God and be changed by Him and His Word. If possible, in love, make a few song recommendations to the song leaders and pray that they would consider them. Pray for your fellow believers. The Lord is strong and mighty. Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)
        20 “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

      • Jerry says:

        While out of town a couple weeks ago, we attended a well known church (large also) and the music was so loud and strong, I felt dirty all over and we actually started to leave. I prayed God would give me enough “Grace” to endure until the message. I had never in my 50 some years of being a Worship Leader had this feeling in church. Their music was so repetitive and non-sense I could hardly stay there. I wondered “Is this what churches are coming to?” I hardly ever get to be out of pocket to attend any other church. This was unusual for me and my wife. Terrible experience. God help us if this is what’s out there for our coming generations.

    • MRDunbar says:

      My sister and husband are pastors in Missouri. Their congregation is small. Their worship music comes from Christian radio top 40. They love the music, I find it distracting. There was nothing familiar in their choices, the words were projected in beautiful scenic photos on the screen, but there was no musical notation to show me where my voice needed to go next. The songs presented were certainly heartfelt when written, but very repetitive. I long for “A Mighty Fortress” or “Amazing Grace” to raise the hearts and voices of His people.

  17. Greg Devine says:

    Worship isn’t just about singing: you can use silence powerfully to worship,prayer is a form of worship, the Lord’s supper is a powerful form of worship etc.

  18. Peter Carlson says:

    This COULD be more anti-Catholic, but it would probably have to have a picture of people burning Pope Francis in effigy to get there.

    “Pre-Reformation pew potatoes”? This shows both a startling lack of knowledge about the church in the late medieval period, as well as a total buy-in of all of the protestant propaganda that’s been spewed at Roman Catholicism in the last five hundred years.

    Your assumptions about singing are in many cases correct – it is your underlying assumption that singing equals “good” worship that I find problematic. I have participated in worship services that were completely silent, in worship services that were all music, and in worship services that focused entirely on the spoken word. And I have felt the Divine Presence in all of them.

    Make a case for singing – as a professional singer, I applaud such efforts. But please, don’t tell people why their worship is “wrong” simply because it doesn’t fit your taste, or because others are uncomfortable singing the tripe (okay, here’s my bias at work) that passes for worship music today. And don’t make the case based on centuries of anti-Catholic bias.

    • I was coming here to make much the same comment.

      Worship before the Reformation was definitely not a “mess”; that’s a very poor (not to mention offensive to Catholics) choice of wording. The emphasis in the Mass is on a different act of worship, so naturally singing was not so emphasised before the Reformation.

  19. Michael says:

    There are a lot of good points in this article. I think that this applies really well to European-rooted churches, who have been somewhat trained generationally this way. The whole cultural expectation is, “Show me exactly what I need to do to participate in this congregational form of worship”. I think the rules change a bit for some of the predominantly Hispanic, African, or black American-rooted churches. It is a completely different culture of expectation. A congregation member doesn’t necessarily need to know a melody, or specific rhythm, or the words of the song to participate in a time of corporate praise, adoration, and worship. They just know that “This is the time to Praise Jesus, and I am going to join in the throng because He is worthy, and nothing is going to stop me from getting my praise on.” You just open up your mouth and speak, shout or sing praises to Jesus, and lift a joyful noise – clapping your hands, dancing or whatever. Could reason #10 for not singing be that they don’t have the gumption or training to express praise to Christ in the assembly of the saints due to ancestral/cultural nurture?

  20. Peter says:

    Many people (including myself) don’t like singing.

    And since so many new choruses have “Jesus is my boyfriend” lyrics–wrap me in your warn embrace, etc.–or just stupid lyrics like the river is flowing as the fountain wells up and I’m drowning in the sea of your love as the Spirit rains on me,” etc., I suspect even those who like to sing have a hard time voicing such foolishness.

    • Michael Harvey says:

      Way more fundamental, it seems you all tend to limit “worship” to singing in a congregation. Worship encompasses the believer’s entire life. A believer in Christ worships as he or she works, drives, shops, gardens, paints, teaches, sells cars, or prays. Defining worship so narrowly tends to raise “worship leaders” to a sort of status that seems too self-important. I thoroughly appreciate and admire the people who lead God’s people in corporate musical worship, and I sing (though not so skillfully); and I appreciate the points made in the article, but I encourage my brothers and sisters to have a broader view of what constitutes worship of our Savior and Lord.

      • Joel says:

        Yes, and yes! Might I add that even this article shows some of the problems found in worshiptainment. They still refer to music leaders as “worship leaders.” While music is PART of worship, too many think music is the SOLE aspect of worship. So we worship when we sing… so they are worship leaders. Many church goers now think that we turn on and off this “mode” of worship based on whether we are singing or not. Every part of the service, and even before and after the service, is worship! Taking the offering, delving into God’s word, communion, prayer, bearing one another’s burdens…. this is all worship. The music leader is not leading in these things.

    • Ani says:

      So true! Thank you for voicing the opinion of a majority of us!

    • Arlene Candy says:

      I agree. I feel very uncomfortable singing a song to Father God that has lyrics I would sing to my husband or boyfriend.

    • Paula says:

      Praise the Lord!!! There is someone on the planet like me who has major issues with this issue!! Only yesterday I was chatting with a pastor and I told him the same thing! Rarely do we sing about the blood, the cross or hear the name of Jesus in songs. I am a worship leader and I am grieved at the nonsense my pastors have allowed to permeate our worship. I wonder how God feels.

      • Valerie says:

        I believe all of church has changed. Besides our congregations singing becoming unsingable, pastors are starting to talk in a points system speech, such as 10 points to a better life, 5 points to realize your potential. Nothing has changed about the way we are going to Heaven or hell and people still need to be told how to get to Heaven. I actually miss the hell fire and damnation preachers and the old convention songs.

        • Jerry says:

          “Church” is no longer what it’s supposed to be. As I read comments, at least there still remains some folks with common sense about music in churches. I agree, we have become a “Spectator” attending church people. The so-called ‘Music” isn’t music at all. Same stuff you’ll get at a rock concert. No difference.

      • Paula F says:

        I agree Paula! This is exactly how I feel about this issue!

      • Glenn says:

        Be the change. If not you, then who?

      • Stella says:

        Totally agree with you, Paula.

      • Jim says:

        My guess is that he is blessed by any and all worship. Be it by the mouth, foot, or arm of the body.

    • Linda says:

      It’s amazing how many songs are put up there with no scriptural basis. And I can walk into a Baptist church, pull out a hymnal, and sing whatever is sung. In many of the “slap the music up with no notes” services, I have to hear a few verses before the tune catches on enough to sing it. (That is, if you can hear the tune over the throbbing bass and drums.) Here’s an intersting site for evaluating lyrics:

      • Stella says:

        Re the throbbing bass and drums. My husband and I actually wait til the singing is over because we get awful headaches from the music that is way too loud. I have sung in church for years in a choir then on a worship team and the off the chart volume is so unnecessary, along with the smoke and flashing lights. Rather than drawing people into worship, I think this stuff is a turn-off……unless perhaps one is way younger than I. When they offer earplugs you have to know the music is too loud.

      • Herbe says:

        Many of the songs in a large church where I have attended, are what we call “contemporary.” They are sung with 4 to 8 singers on the platform; the congregation is encouraged to stand (for approximately 45 minutes). The lyrics are projected on big screens, some having about a verse and a half, which repeated over, and over, and over, at times for as long as 15 minutes. (LET ME QUICKLY EMPHASIZE HERE, if the Holy Spirit is in THE music service, this is an awesome reason, and we are most blessed. Please know that I am just asking for a few familiar gospel songs, included with the contemporary ones. However, I do look forward to familiar gospel songs with a soulful message, and easily sung.. God bless our church services meant only to honor and praise HIS PRECIOUS NAME!!!

    • Alan says:

      Right on and the thing that makes me want to put a gun to my head is the repetition of the same lines over and over again, and again, and again (fade to nothing)

    • Kenny Hendrix says:

      exactly right– too many Jesus is my lover songs for men to participate in.

    • Bobbi says:

      There is a chorus that sings “Jesus is my boyfriend”???? A new low

    • Joy says:

      Just in case you’re concerned about “voicing foolishness” let’s take a good look at the psalms – especially the one she to do with longing and fountains and water. In many Psalms David seems to passionately “long” for God. Let’s not be scared of intimacy with God – it’s scriptural “As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you,…” Just because kids are using today’s language doesn’t make it less meaningful than it was when the Psalms were written. Many kids desperately want to draw close to their Creator God and Savior Jesus and he is ok with them crying tears at His feet like the woman who did while Pharisees looked on in disgust. Is it ok to desire your Creator with desperation? YES because He is worthy and he knows our hearts – when we are silent and when we sing “foolish Psalms of longing”.

      • Daniel Tilbrook says:

        Joy, you are right. If that’s how people feel why can’t they declare it. Many (But not all…) worship songs come out of the outpouring of the creators heart so why should we be criticizing their god given inspiration.

  21. #11 Many contemporary songs — and some older ones as well — are not written for group singing. They are instead structured like pop songs to be performed by a band, while the spectators are invited to sing along if they choose. Good congregational hymns are essentially folk songs, with easily vocalized intervals and rhythms. The late, great Pete Seeger was the master of teaching a thousand people to sing they didn’t know, and within minutes had them singing in multiple part harmonies. The Scottish church musician John Bell does a similar thing when he conducts a music workshop. My observation is that many “worship leaders” really have no clue how to lead a congregation — they may sing lead, but they can’t teach and expand the music they’re performing. Here’s the test: figure out what would have been different about the worship service had there been no congregation present. If the answer is little or nothing, well, Houston, we have a problem.

  22. Of course, those only count AFTER the first two (so those are actually #3 through #11)…
    Here are the actual #1 & #2:
    1.) The average person in your congregation doesn’t really love Jesus enough to want to sing. They’re simply “religious”, & not “in love”.
    2.) Proper Biblical expressions of worship are not taught or modeled regularly by leadership.
    Now, if those two points AREN’T relevant, & people aren’t singing, then your points apply. But usually it’s one of these 2.

    • Gin says:

      Are you being sarcastic in your “#1”? If not, you’re being awfully judgemental, “Saint”! That statement is just ridiculous, stupid and very non -Christian! Maybe you don’t love Jesus enough!?

    • Jeremy Wilkerson says:

      Well, judgemental or not, he has a good point. We like to point to the songs or the leadership, but the truth of the matter is… to participate in worship you have to be willing to actually PARTICIPATE. It’s been my experience as a worship leader of 20 years, that, in general, people don’t come to worship really ready to worship. A lot of times they come because that’s what they do on Sunday mornings. But they don’t necessarily anticipate worship of an almighty God. Let alone, prepare their hearts to engage in that type of interaction. I’ve heard it said this way: “there are 3 things in life that near impossible – you can’t climb a fence that’s leaning toward you, you can’t kiss a girl who’s leaning away from you, and you can’t speak to one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs if you don’t open your mouth.”

      • MARCIA WEBER says:


        • Bill Richie says:


        • Linda says:

          Amen Amen. AMEN
          Thank You❤️

        • Lucy Mauterer says:

          I don’t sing well. I would sing to my children. They would say, “Mommy, please don’t sing.” Then I sang to my granddaughter. She would say, “Grandma, please don’t sing.”

          I feel intimidated by others singing in church. I sing when I am alone in the car. It’s funny, because I sang alto in an a capella group in high school. I can read music. Hymns in church often make me sad because they often choose ones that nobody knows and the singing is thin. On those Sundays that we have traditional well-known hymns, you can tell the difference. The singing is with gusto and much more emotional.

          Also, I am Episcopalian and similar to Roman Catholic in the liturgy. We sing chants that have been sung for hundreds of years and everyone knows them. I don’t think Protestant churches have these beautiful songs of worship. We have services where there is no singing at all. Our evening services are musicless and I love the solemnity of those services. So many beautiful ways to worship the Lord. But it should be all participating and not a show put on while the majority just sits passively.

  23. Rebekah Marks says:

    Reason #10: Most new songs are just stupid–singing about self in a boring pattern that repeats to infinity. I don’t sing songs I don’t like because my heart is anything but worshipful at that point.

  24. Robin Smith says:

    Our church had a choir with matching robes and it was awesome. Then they went to a worship team of four to eight singers.. Now they have a band (which I am a part of) because the pastor wanted to move the singing from the stage to the congregation. It has worked out well. We have around 500 each Sunday and the singing is real worship. I love it. And did I mention it was awesome?

  25. Charlie Goad says:

    Worship at many churches today has turned from worship to entertainment.

  26. William Chitwood says:

    I want to add a comment. To stare at a screen and not have the music and words in front of you doesn’t give a person much of a desire to sing. The reason for that is because the lack of music doesn’t let a person know when to go up or down. Also, to have words flashed on a screen seems so haphazard. I also agree with the nine statements that have been posted in this article.

    • Mike Pietranczyk says:

      I used to be of the same mind, until we put the music on the screen. We soon realized that the dots and lines may as well have been Greek as few in the congregation read music and you can fit only very little on each slide. (The up and down argument doesn’t stand up because the melodies occur in *time*, not vertical space alone. The non-reader can’t quantify duration often so whether they see a pitch higher or lower on the staff, they have know idea when to move. ) Thus the worship leader needs to be clear about the melody so the tunes may be well-learned over time by rote. I should point out too that the vast number of hymnals published prior to the 20th century did *not * have printed notation. They only had hymns ( by definition, the text only) and the title of tunes to which the hymn text could be sung too. (which is why today’s hymnals contain a metrical index.) The singer didn’t need the mission, only the tune name, i. e. HYFRYDOL, to know what melody to sing the text with put before him/her. Further, let’s not forget our magnificent repertoire of the African-American Spiritual. This body of work was certainly passed down from generation to generation by oral tradition. Eventually it was transcribed but not without several variations depending on which hymnbook you were using and in what part of the country.

      So- text only on the screens? Works if executed properly.

      Note I’m an organist by trade with post-graduate training as well as a published choral composer. I’ve spent my life and church music, but I realize that there are different methods for obtaining the same goal. It just requires good musicianship.

      • Paul says:

        I have hymnal song books written before 20th century and they have both words and music on the same page . The worship leader job wouldn’t be so hard if they let those few in congregation who can read music know where to go lead others around them .

      • Amos says:

        The fact that there were people who were able to function musically with only a hymn tune tells us that they had in their culture an expectation that people PREPARE so they know what they are doing at worship time.

        The approach we have today is almost passive, as if worship is something that happens to you. We are just simply wrong. We need to return.

    • Melissa H says:

      Most people can’t read music either, so I’m not sure that having sheet music or hymnals is the solution either. Not having any musical training myself, when I have sung from a hymnal having the notes above didn’t help me a bit.

    • Annette Cook says:

      I agree that not having the notes in front of you makes it difficult to learn a new song. I am a music teacher so I DO read music. The church was the birthplace of many people learning the fundamentals of reading music. The argument that people don’t understand the notation so we don’t need it, is like saying they can’t read so we don’t need the words. You neeed to look at it and practice. BUT, even if you don’t give the congregation the written notation, the song needs to be TAUGHT to the congregation by rote before you expect them to join in. AND if you are going to project the words on the screen, please know to change the words to the next phrase in a timely manner, NOT TO WAIT UNTIL YOU HAVE COMPLETED SINGING THE FIRST PHRASE UNTIL CHANGING TO TGE NEXT!

      • Amos says:

        You are so right,Annette!

        The article seems to paint a dim view of the musical ability of the congregation, but the truth is that congregations are different. Some have built a culture of singing well, and reading music… or at least knowing their part.

        When a leader strays from the hymnbook with words of music, it means that these strong singers have to “dial it back” a bit as they figure out the unfamiliar words and pick through the harmonies in the new arrangement.


    While I agree with your comments about contemporary music and the lack of congregational singing, I disagree with your statements about chant in the church. As a Roman Catholic, I remember chanting at mass – every one knew the words and one only had to look at a missal to read the easy translation. Even modern Catholics know some basic chants, (the Our Father) and the Catholic Bishops in the US are encouraging a return to chant because it is a part of our heritage.

    Chant actually solves some of the problems you mention in this article: Everyone in the congregation knew the chants – in fact they were familiar world wide, they were very suitable for congregations and large groups, they weren’t too high and they even set a mood for worship instead of entertainment. You might want to listen to some chant CDs before you discount them so readily!

    • Lucy Mauterer says:

      I am Episcopalian and we also use chants. You can go to any Episcopal or Roman Catholic church worldwide and know those tunes. I went to a parish school and my favorite memories are being in chapel with my little white veil on, singing the chants. It is truly beautiful.

  28. Tracy Nikkel says:

    This is absolutely true on all points!! It amazing how the atmosphere of the worship shifts when we insert a hymn that everybody knows well into a string of contemporary worship music. People relax & sink into the melody like the arms of an old, beloved friend! People sing with confidence & passion like you never hear with even the most beloved contemporary worship song.

    His point about singable keys is also apt. As the music librarian, who is responsible for setting up the worship music for the worship teams from week to week, I struggle to get worship leaders to understand this. It works both ways. Not only do people struggle to sing in keys that are too high, they often struggle with keys that are too low.

    It depends greatly on the range of the leader. Most leaders give littel thought to how the key they choose will affect the congregation they’re leading. As long as it work for them, they’re good. The truth is depending on your range, you can count on at least half the congregation to be of the opposite range persuassion from you. Your sopranos & tenors will bottom out around the A below middle C. Your altos & basses, will top out around the second D above middle C. You need to watch both your highs & your lows. Stay as much as you can between that high D & the low A, & everybody will be much happier. But getting worship leaders to be that considerate of those they’re leading is proving to be a challenge I’ve nearly given up on.

    The other thing I’ve wondered about is this:

    What would happen if our worship teams functioned like small groups? What if they became part of each other’s faith journey & they coloborated on the music they choose to lead from week to week. Rather than the worship leader just throwing a list together, & everybody gettting together for an couple hours on Saturday to work it out. What it their song choices came out of their journey with God & with each other. What if the worship leaders job was to nurture the gifts on his team & use all the people he has available to him to their fullest potential?

    Furthermore, I am not a pop music fan at all. I never listen to the radio. I hate just getting up the there & playing the top 6-8 worship songs because they’re the “in” songs right now. I think great music is great music whether it’s 5 minutes old, or 500 hundrend years old. I want to say something specific with the music we choose to use. Not just entertain or tickle the people’s ears with pretty sounds. But I’m just the keyboardist. I just fill in the string/pads or whatever the “in” term for the position is. I never have a voice in the song selection. It’s like that worship leader is the star of the show & I’m just there to back him up.

    • Kathy P. says:

      Amen! A song leader needs to be familiar enough with music in order to pitch a song correctly; most of the time that is the key in which it was written. The congregation we last attended, before we moved to another state, the leadership stated that only one no more than 2 pop songs could be used in one worship assembly. That was great.

      Sadly, not everyone who has a good voice is a goo song leader.

    • Carolyn says:

      Just want today I agree with you 100 percent. I hit every point. I try very hard to plan and direct meaningful music services that everyone can participate in and truly lead in praise and worship. But it’s easy to become discouraged when others don’t seem to “get” your passion for worship music. It seems they just as soon randomly sing a verses 1,2 and 4 of a familiar song or two then get on with the preaching so they can go home and eat lunch. I pray people can again learn to worship God who is do worthy of our praise. Thanks for your comments.

    • Regan Wieland says:

      Preach it! : ) I was for years on a praise team that did indeed function much like a “small group”. Your assumptions about the resulting unity and cohesiveness are exactly correct. We actively studied leading congregational worship, closely observed what did and did not work on Sunday morning, prayed together, laughed together, cried together, and then worshiped together. It made a huge difference.

    • Kimberly says:

      Tracy, I don’t know you but reading your response was difficult because it sounds like you are struggling with the leadership of your team. Please, let me encourage you to pray about your feelings of being the “backup” to your worship leader. There is a seed of resentment there that is not good for you or your team and will cause problems if not dealt with soon.
      In Christ.

  29. Derin Brooks says:

    This is so very spoteth oneth! Thanks for articulating this so very well! I was blessed to read it, be reminded and be affirmed in the direction and vision for worship in our church. I was also blessed to have one of my team members send this article to me to affirm their appreciation that we are paying attention to these things. Thanks again for your voice of encouragement and challenge!

  30. Tony Pero says:

    I agree with so many of these! I think in order to combat them, its important to understand at least some of the reasons why they happened.

    From my perspective a huge reason modern worship has taken the direction it has is what happened behind the scenes in the music industry in the late 90s and ’00s. Prior to that, congregational worship resources were written and recorded with the church in mind. The production of CDs was a byproduct of these resources.

    There was a clear separation between inspirational performance artists like Michael W Smith, DC Talk, Steve Green, Sandi Patty, Steven Curtis Chapman, the entirety of what we labeled CCM, really, and worship leaders and worship songwriters (and the organizations who published their music). People like Paul Baloche and Ron Kenoly, and organizations like Integrity Music, Maranatha music and the various choral companies existed for a different purpose than their inspirational counterparts.

    That demarcation no longer exists. During the music industry’s massive mergers, all of these companies were gobbled up by Sony/BMG, EMI, Universal and Warner. So, instead of a small company with a mission to resource the church, these publishing companies and distributors were now divisions of large, global multimedia companies with the same mission as any other division; making money for shareholders. What these companies brought in in income supported their small staff and roster of talent just fine; now that pie had to be sliced 10,000 extra times. That change in reality led to finding worship songwriters who could function as artists, and arrangements and recordings that made the artist sound as good as possible, so more people would buy the CD. This all was happening during a major disruption in the entire music industry, with digital downloads becoming a reality, and margins per CD sale decreasing by an alarming amount. Resourcing worship in the church became one small part of a marketing strategy to promote the artist and sell records, instead of being the primary function of these companies.

    That being said, there are MORE resources than ever being produced for us to use. But we need to be more mindful about a) what we choose and b) how we adapt them for congregational use. We used to just be able to take a song and do it exactly as the worship company released it. It was designed with the congregation in mind. That is no longer the case in almost every single instance. As was pointed out in the OP, songs are arranged and written to showcase the artist’s talents. The vast majority of the congregation is not talented enough to sing the song as it is on the radio. High keys are only one symptom of that particular problem.

    I’ve heard a number of defenses of higher keys and volume over the years. I’ve even given some defenses for them, especially volume. I had one worship leader tell me he didn’t understand why his congregation wasn’t singing along, and I brought up volume and songs being too high. His defense was “I was just at a Tomlin concert last week, and it was louder and higher than anything we do, and everyone sang along and worshipped!” I asked him how many people in his congregation he thought would attend a Chris Tomlin concert. Maybe 20%? Worship concerts are filled to overflowing with worship leaders, worship team singers, and other musicians. The average person at a Tomlin concert is far more musically inclined than the average congregational member. Many of them can harmonize by ear, so if its too high, so what? They’ll sing something lower. They came to a rock concert, so guess what? They are completely prepared for volume. They’re also younger than the average congregational member by about 25 years.

    The other defense I hear is that there are plenty of hymns that are just as high and the melody is just as complicated as anything modern worship gives us today. And this is very, very true. Just look at the 1991 Baptist Hymnal and compare the keys to the 2008 Baptist Hymnal. Many, many songs have been lowered a half step, or even a whole step. But that misses the point. Our culture was more musically literate for the vast majority of the time when hymnal singing was common. People could read music and sing the lower, simpler parts if a song was too high, leaving the melody for the really good singers. That’s not the case anymore.

    Tony Pero
    Minister of Music
    Sandy Plains Baptist Church

    • Dodie Price says:

      I just wanted to tell you that the people really sing at my church, Free Chapel, in Gainesville, Georgia! It was one of the things that really drew me there! It’s a large church – we have 1500 children per service alone in KidPac, but it’s the most hugging church you’ve ever seen. We have an awesome pastor, Jentezen Franklin, who still uses the KJV. We have three other campuses that are also almost as large as this one, and we go to 125 countries around the world each week. But in our hearts, we’re still just sinners saved by grace who are happy to have found the Lord. Come see us sometime.

    • Melissa H says:

      I disagree with the comment about the Chris Tomlin concert attendees. I would say the majority of attendees at his concerts aren’t involved in music ministry. He’s a well known artist who’s played often on Christian radio. My kids even sing his songs in children’s church. I’ve been to his concerts and the majority of attendees are younger than 50. The reason less than 20% of my church would be in attendance is because 80-90% of them are over age 60. That percentage might be true in a lot of other churches, too.

  31. Victor G says:

    ‘Concert culture’ is also a reason. Worship leaders attend popular concerts or watch DVDs and try to mimic them in Sunday worship. There are actual sessions where the only components are music and song, the worship leader doesn’t utter a word in between!

    Church worship is different, worship leaders need to connect and engage more to encourage people to sing along and participate.

  32. CoraH says:

    I am a member of our churches worship team. We mix traditional and contemporary music in our worship. And, we’re not about the people on the stage, we are about those in the congregation. Leading people into worship is far different than “performing” worship. God tells us to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord. ALL the earth”. God doesn’t expect “professional singers”, nothing is more pleasing to the Lord, then the worship of His people. He doesn’t care, if you can sing perfectly, or you can’t carry a tune in a bucket. All He wants is our Praise and Worship unto Him. “BE
    THANKFUL unto the Lord and BLESS HIS NAME, for the Lord is GOOD.” That’s all it is, really, about. Blessing the Name of the Lord and being THANKFUL for every single breath, comes from HIM. Blessings and Peace to you all.

  33. Greg says:

    What if your church has a ton of old songs that the keep playing but, it’s a different set of old songs almost every week.
    I feel like this church doesn’t want to do new music. The majority of the people in this church are in the worship band, that is, there are more people playing than there are in the pews.

  34. Shannon says:

    I don’t sing in church because I don’t sing, period. Hymns are the reason I stopped going to church. Hell has few tortures worse than listening to dozens of untrained singers sounding out elevator music. I went till I couldn’t take it anymore, then left.

    And let me repeat: I. Don’t. Sing. I don’t like it. I’m not good at it. If you expect me to sing at your church, don’t expect me to be there. Period.

    • Kal says:

      You can still worship without singing. Praising Him and praying during the songs is worship too. I believe God would rather hear a voice in true worship than voices raised to be heard as great singers.

    • Lucy Mauterer says:

      You would love evening services at my Episcopal church. They are lovely and solemn and no music. Much prayer and quiet praise. I don’t like to sing anymore so often go worship at these services.

  35. Allen says:

    I stopped going to church last year. I was going to the Mother Church of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA. and I couldn’t help but wanting to stand up and scream ‘HE HEARD YOU THE FIRST 50 TIMES! HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK GOD IS?’ ‘LIFT HIM UP X 50’ …REALLY? i understand it depend on age, and/or what you know from your childhood. However, the congregation at Calvary is about 50% 45 year old plus.

    One sunday morning the group on stage were playing contemporary praise music and the congregation of about 600 could barely be heard. I don’t remember why, but all of a sudden a different leader got up and led the congregation in an old fashion hymn, I wish I could remember the name. The entire congregation began to sing this hymn, load and joyously…young and old. What’s not to get here? OK youngaters, I get it, but the churches are ingnoring the blessings and traditions of ‘Love lifted me’ type songs.

    • Monica says:

      Your pain is noted. Thank you for verbalizing my thoughts. Maybe there is a smaller church that would love to have to you that might not have the super worship going on and on and on. Sometimes the music in my church is so slow and want to yell, “hit it.’

  36. Judy says:

    It has become increasingly harder for me to worship in song at our church. When we first came to this church, they were singing off the wall with all the contemporary songs plus one hymn. With the changing of pastors, we sing all contemporary songs. We have hymnals in the pews but they are not getting used. We have a praise band and they play and sing loudly. There were complaints so they changed to ear pieces and at first it helped but now they are becoming louder. They did have worship leaders who were good singers. Now the worship leader does not sing as well and drones. Now they have recently turned down the lights in the sanctuary except the ones on stage. They gave the reason when asked so that people could read the words on the screen. Nope…I could read the words just fine with the lights up. I suppose they will take out the hymnals next and get rid of them saying we don’t need them.
    Come on churches! Give us back our spiritually rich hymns that not only appeal to our emotions but to our spirits as well!

    • Lola says:

      I can understand continued use of the hymnal, but you say it’s rich worship, and I disagree!! Songs like “Holy Spirit” and “Lord I lift your name on high” THOSE are worship songs. I just had this conversation with someone else in the church. He said if it’s not in the red back hymn it isn’t worship. I would never want to remove them completely, but I don’t understand how our older generational wants us to raise ours hands when we sing page 333, but sit there disgruntled and angry when we play Holy Spirit? I’m not saying you’re like this, but it just confuses me. I’m trying to lead worship at our church. Our first worship leader literally sang the hymns every service the key they are written!!! You know how high that is? Now I transpose it electronically and the piano player has a FIT every time. It’s been challenging and I cry about it plenty. It hurts when you can’t do anything right. I can’t play the hymns In a normal key, and if I play anything other than hymns it isn’t worship. Please don’t let your opinion get in the way of true worship. Do try and open up and listen to the words. Not saying you’re in the wrong, but you sure sound like one of those grumpy complainers I hear from every Sunday.

      • BRANDI says:

        Lola, I say this in Christian love. You are saying that Judy may be letting her opinion get in the way of true worship, but it seems you may be doing the same thing. I agree with you that we should pay attention to the words of the songs/hymns. I will also say that very few of the contemporary songs teach as much as the older hymns about the character of God and what He has done for us in the atonement. Many of them are human centered rather than God-centered. And I’m not old.

      • Jill says:

        Okay I’m going to give my opinion. All I know is that the older members of our congregation don’t sing at all when contemporary music is sung. The comments I’ve heard from them is the music is too loud , seems more like a performance, and just ignoring all the hymnals in our pews. I’ve even asked the worship leader if we could do one traditional service a month with all hymns, but that’s been awhile back and I don’t even think he passed it along to the other worship leaders because I haven’t seen nor heard anything about it. Out of respect for the older members of our congregation, I think they could at least try it out. And I also get tired of having to repeat the same song over and over and over again. We heard you the first time!

  37. Judy says:

    I attempt to come into church late so I don’t have to worship with the singing. I find it so irreverent. For me, something is disturbing about seeing people up on stage—I feel like it becomes all about them…many times the women aren’t dressed modestly so I am embarassed when I bring a guest particularly if they are from another culture. I’m not a prude. It’s just very hard to be focused on Jesus when people are 1/2 unclothed. I also don’t like the hype that follows much of the music in evangelical circles. So, I’m one of those who actually has to fight against not wishing we had no singing. I find it hard to worship in a rock concert atmosphere. God seems silly for me in such an atmosphere. I remember as a child loving choirs and seeing adults in choir robes. Something seemed lofty, dignified, God-honoring about that. I’m not trying to be old fashioned either. Just voicing the views of someone who can’t relate to the current informality of worship. I also find many of the lyrics disturbing; plenty of words about humans, emotions, longings…almost like chanting some weird mantra…..very little about the attributes of God; his omniscience, omnipotence, grace, mercy, loving-kindness.

    Like · Reply · 6 mins

    • sanyo says:

      I agree with you. When the worship leader shows up at a funeral with shirt and tie and then comes Sunday morning in his old jeans it tells you who has earned his respect more. It all comes down to respect. When you go to a hospital you can’t tell the nurses, who used to appear so sharp in uniform, from the visitors. They do not want to sing about the blood anymore either. I am fine with mixing hymns with chorus’s but they are starting to drop all hymns. I guess it shows that I am getting old. I am sure if they were to told Jesus is coming today they would dress fit to kill. Well, Jesus is coming today so………

    • Carol Gilbertson says:

      My first thought upon reading your post: Find a different church!!

    • Jason says:

      Your pastor would probably love to hear your input. Before you consider departing, go see him and articulate your concerns. You shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed about your church.

    • Mark Zabel says:


      many of the CCM songs are called the ‘7 11’ songs…7 lines repeated 11 times.

      • Betty Crowder says:

        Have you ever listened to Handel’s Messiah? Talk about repetition. And his music has survived for centuries!

  38. Nick says:

    Frankly I do not like singing as an act of worship. I suck at singing. I would rather worship in other ways. As it has probably been stated I most enjoy the expositing of the Biblical Texts and the application and conviction of the Holy Spirit. I also feel this whole “singing thing” is probably being blown way out of proportion. I really wish talented folks who writes these articles would spend more time doing productive things within the body… sheesh.

  39. Don says:

    So many comments are focused on music. Music is NOT worship. Music is part of worship, but it is only a small part.
    Further more, it appears that many are focused on worship as some part of the Sunday experience inside a building. Worship is much bigger and should be part of our daily lives.
    I encourage those of you who are pastors to refocus your Sunday services and teach your flock about worship, what it really means, what each person can do to worship even when no one else is around, etc.

  40. Joel says:

    I was fortunately raised in churches that included a broad variety of music, music styles, with participation of many, and all ages. Church was a great place to let kids perform in public and develop their God given talents. What a great way to worship God. I have visited several churches in recent years where the music is dominated by the Worship leader and/or the praise band. We sing pathetic droning song after non-musically inspired song, that go on for ever – as people go into a trance like state. And of course, these drone zones are often at churches that bought into the fad of changing your church name to supposedly a more relevant name. And often these churches have bought into other not so great fads. Thankfully, we were exposed to everything from opera singers, to barbershop quartets, to folk type music, classical, various contemporary styles and etc, at church. I have found something quite interesting in the past few years. I play in a brass group and perform in many different churches including many denominations. It seams that many liberal churches have the most enjoyable music, and have become more generally conservative, or so it seems, versus churches that were formerly conservative that have gone of the deep-end musically and are being sucked into every fad and “Christian” celebrity that comes along -and in my opinion the music reflects the falling away.

    • Hollis caravetta says:

      I was a former worship leader…a long time ago and boy, have things changed!
      Worship is now performance or entertainment based and only the worship team- who practice the new songs- really get to know the songs.
      I can add a few other reasons why people don’t sing as much:
      1.Songs used to be direct quotes from scripture so it was a win-win situation. You sung scripture and it got inside of you where you remembered it easier than trying to memorize words..
      2. Songs today are often based on love themes or emotion and may have the guise of relating to scripture but really are far from it, wordy, and impossible to memorize With the frequent “new” tunes coming in and so many songs sung, you never really get the words into your spirit.
      3. A long time ago, even the one in the congregation with a terrible voice, if they were anointed at that particular time, could feel free to start singing out and the congregation would join in BECAUSE WE ALL KNEW THE WORDS!.
      4. When only the “good singers” can lead with a song when under inspiration, it says to the congregation- don’t sing if you aren’t incredibly talented! That is a huge joy killer for many.
      Today’s churches have people sitting in a theater atmosphere which gets people sleepy and lazy! Why stand if you can lounge and groove?
      I think the churches today do not offer the freedom to have a song from here or there in the congregation. Years ago it was led more by the Holy Spirit and with far more reverence. That too sadly is missing.

      • D. M. says:

        We (as musicians & song leaders) have to remember it’s make a joyful noise with our voices & play skillfully with our instruments.
        I see the benefit of simple melodies with scripture in the worship services. At our church, everyone is in the worship service, from baby to senior.
        (I play violin & sing, my husband is the main wotship leader at our church.)

      • Cameron says:

        Honestly I could not disagree with you more.. I don’t know how old you are, I am 19. I don’t think that the “older generation” understands that times are changing, and changing rapidly. Do you not think that it was different back when your parents and their parents were younger? To think it was the same is pretty absurd. Now just assuming the worship leader/team is worshipping truly and honestly, their sole purpose is to help guide the congregation into worship and lead them to the foot of the cross. What you may think is “just a show” to them may be “appealing and leading these people to christ”. And to be completely honest as a member of the congregation, your job isn’t to judge the leaders on stage about how they are doing. It is to come in and surrender your heart to God through praise and song.

        email me if you would like to talk more. i love having conversations like these in general to help wrap my mind around everything as well. @

        • Mark Zabel says:

          Cameron, you would be surprised how many young people like the traditional old hymns. One of the reasons stated is, ‘I heaqr this stuff all week. Godly music should be set apart, much more rverent.”

          • Mark says:

            Mark, I can’t disagree more! What is Godly music? (vs. ungodly music)? All music is a gift from God, whether or not you or I like it is irrelevant! Don’t forget, once upon a time all these “Godly” hymns were “new”, people actually had to learn them.

      • Mark Zabel says:

        Hollis, Rich Mulins once said CCM does not belong in church.

  41. Ardis says:

    I hate going to a church where the are singing all NEW songs! There are hymnals in the pews, but the don’t use them! This is not a popularity contest to see who can come up with the most new songs! Church is a place to come and worship A God that is familiar with us! And if we can’t be familiar with Him through the music we sing, something is lost. I agree with the article, new songs need to be introduced slowly, over time, with the words AND music written and placed in the congregations hands, so that they can LEARN the song properly! Just to spring a new song on a congregation, with no musical notes to follow and learn, is wrong! I need to KNOW whether the song goes up, down, sideways, notes being held or sped up, whatever the case may be! I hate having to just stumble along! For visitors just coming to the church, they might like the song and wish to have a copy of the music to take with them! I am posting this in the general comments also!

  42. Karen says:

    Thank you for this article. Oh for a Reformation without all the excommunication and persecution.

  43. Will haddock says:

    There is no right and wrong way to worship. Worship is different for different congregations, cultures, ethnicities, and even sub-cultures within the local church. It’s amazing to me that any form of worship someone is not accustomed to is automatically labeled wrong. For 30 years as a pastor of large and small churches, ministering across the nation and around the globe, in every culture imaginable, this has been a constant argument. And always from those who do not like someone else worship. Mainly churches larger than theirs and predominately younger in demographics.

    There is nothing wrong with people singing, there is nothing wrong if they don’t. If your church is growing, then you should always have a large group of people who do not know the songs and are not singing. They are called New Converts. The problem I have observed over 30 years is the people who complain one way or the other, usually have no interest in reaching people different than themselves. Thus justifying their laziness by complaining about the music because it might actually attract someone different than themselves. I am pretty sure Jesus doesn’t care what or how or when we sing as long as its worship.

    What’s funny is, during the time of Jesus and the apostles, it was very common for people to vocally participate during the spoken word or preaching, yet most pastors would have the ushers remove anyone who verbally participated in their sermon other than to give them accolades. A growing New Testament Church should be full of people on any given Sunday who are not singing because they do not know the words. Or we could use secular music for them, if engagement and participation is the goal. Better yet how about finding music that is relevant to the culture your congregation fi ds itself established in. You might like it or you might not. Fact of the matter is its not about you or me. Its about using worship as a tool for discipleship and worship to Jesus.

    Elder Christians love to complain about the churches catering to the unchurched, new disciples, or younger generation. But I have noticed that same generation of Elder Christians do not mind being the ones catered too. Maturity is more than just any generations traditions. It’s also, largely, most importantly about winning the lost and making disciples. Now that’s a conversation worth having. Nine Reasons No One Cares About Doing What Jesus Commands Us.

    • Kim Ball says:

      When I was a new convert, at 42, all I wanted to do was sing… It was a glorious way to honor the God and King I had always rejected. The Bible teaches that God’s people live covenantally, marry, raise children to be Converters, sing and worship in the way God designed, not whatever/however makes them “feel” good… Hymns of loudest praise and hymns reflecting the Church militant, always moving from infancy to maturity… Taking dominion for God.

    • Ed the elder says:

      “It’s ok for people not to sing.” Uh, no. It’s not ok for God’s people not to sing during worship. The purpose of worship is to worship. I’m not autocratically saying that everyone has to sing every word, but refusal to worship God is not ok with the Lord. We are commanded by God to worship Him. We must worship Him. He must be worshipped, and although He has angels who do so non-stop eternally, we are likewise to worship Him whether we feel like it or not. What you and so many modern christians fail to recognize is that worship is about God, and what He is rightfully due from us. Its not about how we feel, or what we get out of it. This article is very right on from a worship leaders’ perspective because it presumes that God should be worshipped by his people when they gather. That is correct and Biblical. “Jesus doesn’t care what we do or how we worship” is not Biblical. We have a Holy God, who is deserving of our reverence and attentive worship. He is worthy of our full attention, and worthy of whole-hearted, enthusiastic worship in song, and in word. When “worship” consists of people performing, showing off their vocal or instrumental prowess, trying to garner praise and attention for themselves instead of glorifying the One God, then they are glory-robbers, selfishly serving their own interests instead of looking to the interests of others, and not giving Almighty God his due. I think when you get to heaven you will discover that your laissez faire attitude toward worship will not be the norm in eternity. The purpose of the article is that worship leaders are to facilitate the corporate worship of God’s people. Pretending that the Word is silent about this, or leaves this open to whatever interpretation or practice the worship leader espouses, is definitely error. Take the time to do an in-depth study of worship in scripture, and I think you’ll draw some different conclusions than what you’ve stated.

      • Ardis says:

        Thank you!

        • Rob says:

          Hi Ed,
          In reading your response it appears to me that you presume to know far too much. You cannot know why one person is not singing. You cannot know that another person who is providing a brilliant musical offering is doing so for their own gratification. You are judging these people.
          Your statement, “What you and so many modern Christians fail to recognize is that worship is about God…” is deeply offensive. Why do you presume to provide this instruction to people you have never met?
          This statement, “It’s not ok for God’s people not to sing during worship” is far too sweeping. There may be a number of legitimate reasons why people aren’t singing including the best one, “I’ve never attended Christ’s church before.”
          “I’m not autocratically saying that everyone has to sing every word, but refusal to worship God is not ok with the Lord.” You appear to believe not singing = refusing to worship God. There is a huge range of reasons why people don’t sing. Certainly one of them might be they refuse to worship God, but how many people attending church do you suppose fit that description? If they refuse to worship God, their church has a much bigger problem to solve than simply getting them to join in the singing.
          Your response to Will Haddock was judgmental and un-loving, Ed.

          • Ben Jones says:

            I agree. Someone once said that we never lie more than when we sing in church. The last time I checked lying is still a sin. Would any Christian in his or her right mind purposely and knowingly sin while participating in a worship service? I certainly hope not. The popular worship song “Burn For You” has the lyrics “I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything, at any cost for you my King.” Really? Anywhere? Anything? At any cost? While I love my Savior how many of us are willing or even able to fly to Siberia on their own nickle to present the gospel to the Russian people there, for one thing who has that kind of $$$ and do you speak Russian. Another is “One Thing Remains” with the lyrics of “Your love never fails, never gives up, never runs out on me.” Repeated ad nauseum way too many times. Another is “Jesus, We Celebrate Your Victory” with the lyrics “And in his presence our problems disappear.” Oh how I wish that every time I come into His presence all my personal problems would vanish, my unsaved son would receive Christ, my neighbor’s cancer would vanish, my friends ALS would be cured but alas all stays the same. Lastly my favorite “How He Cares” with the line “So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss . . . ” Ugg, I suggest a lyric change to that one!

      • natalie says:

        What if someone has severe social anxiety/ self esteem issues? I struggle with social anxiety everyday. Sometimes its a struggle to go to church at all because I get anxiety being around large groups of people. It may sound silly to you but for some people its an actual psychological issue. I don’t usually sing in church because I’m self conscious and shy. Its just my personality. Should I just not even bother showing up to church at all? I may not sing in church but that doesn’t mean I don’t worship God. Sometimes I get on youtube and listen to Christian songs and will sing along when I’m by myself because I’m more comfortable that way. Does that mean that the way I worship is any less meaningful? I used to go to a church where it was common for people to sing/clap and even dance; One lady in particular, who was known for being very boisterous during worship, decided to get up in front of everybody one day and started to accuse people in the room of worshiping “halfheartedly”. Who is she to judge how anyone worships? She doesn’t know whats going on in someone’s mind and heart, only God does. Personally, I think people like that should spend less time looking around the room, looking for people to pick on and more time focusing on God. Hes the reason we are supposed to be there.

      • Jason says:

        Could you defend your view on regimented singing as worship from the Scriptures? Please make sure that the context matches what you think it means. I’m just curious why you think that it’s not alright to abstain from singing.

    • Mark Rindal says:

      From a former pastor;

      You make a good point; err, great argument.

      From experience ~ more folks would read your comments if they were more succinct. Your point can be made with less ink thereby enhancing the reader’s focus.

      In Love, Retired pastor …..
      …..and gospel artist in the 70’s with 371 solo concerts in Baptist Churches nation wide.


    • Ardis says:

      I hate going to a church where they are singing all NEW songs! There are hymnals in the pews, but the don’t use them! This is not a popularity contest to see who can come up with the most new songs! Church is a place to come and worship A God that is familiar with us! And if we can’t be familiar with Him through the music we sing, something is lost. I agree with the article, new songs need to be introduced slowly, over time, with the words AND music written and placed in the congregations hands, so that they can LEARN the song properly! Just to spring a new song on a congregation, with no musical notes to follow and learn, is wrong! I need to KNOW whether the song goes up, down, sideways, notes being held or sped up, whatever the case may be! I hate having to just stumble along! For visitors just coming to the church, they might like the song and wish to have a copy of the music to take with them! I am posting this in the general comments also!

    • Joel says:

      The new music is in keys that are minor, more difficult to sing,

    • joe justice says:

      I disagree, there is a right and wrong way of worship. There definitely is a variation in worshiping the right way, and a variation in worshiping the wrong way across cultures, places etc. the point here is that the choice of songs and the way they are introduced does not promote the worshipful or praise spirit previously known. Music is a significant part of inviting the holy spirit into seems to me your 30 years as pastor taught you to be a very compromising , people-pleaser and i wouldn’t be surprised if you have a big church but with no spiritual growth because ANYTHING GOES IN YOUR CHURCH since you say there is no right or wrong way of worship. New converts hunger for the right way of worshiping and the trend at the moment is leaving a lot of people unfulfilled.

    • Gina says:

      Bravo! I love your points.

    • Gina says:

      Well said. Great points!

    • Mark says:

      Spot on Will!! I feel the Church has missed the boat for centuries…’s not about us! It’s about reaching those who don’t know Jesus, however that may look. (And with Jesus it’s usually pretty messy).

  44. Diana says:

    First of all, we should be there SELFLESS. The point is to gather with like believers to worship our Creator. Why does everyone think they have to have a rock concert production with the big “look at me- how talented I am” attitude? Every church I have set foot in this past decade has blown my ears, bored me nearly to death, and kept me from looking to my Savior with worship! I am literally afraid to even try another one. What happened to singing the scriptures? What happened to singing songs we all had memorized? Nothing is as simple–no, sadly it all has to be a big showtime. I haven’t found the Spirit in this worldly rock show. If you want to blast your eardrums out, do it elsewhere! The last church I attended had earplugs available on the greeting table. Even with those in place, the volume level was so loud it was literally painful! I couldn’t stay in the building, and I had no problem hearing everything from outside the closed doors. Needless to say, I won’t be going there again!
    Like most everything else–we need to live in a balance in the middle, not on the extremes.
    Sadly, this is more than just an issue of the style of music and volume, it’s a spiritual problem. When the hearts are right with the Lord and seeking Him first, there will be worship led by the Spirit of God that needs no leader up front showing off. (Oh, to find such a church again!)

  45. sarah says:

    I hate live bands. Hate them hate them hate them. I always have. Probably because my granddad has been in the symphony for as long as I can remember and I grew up listening to classical music and attending wind symphony concerts. I also do not care for modern Christian music, among several other types of music. It’s dull. I know, I suck. That’s just my preference, and I choose to worship according to my preference and what makes me feel most connected to Christ. These rock concert church services and “worship teams” just don’t do it for me. And maybe that makes me a terrible Christian, to say that some church services are better than others. But I think you have to find a place that meets YOUR needs and allows YOU to grow spiritually, and not every church can do that.

    • Nick says:

      Think this is a huge problem with our worship culture as well.. It’s al about me and what I want. I don’t like worship teams – I just want that Tomlin song from 2001 every Sunday – etc. Worship should be upward focused, not inward.. Vent done.

    • Lee says:

      Singing in the bible was often a spontaneous act of praise. Singing in church services is a scheduled, rote activity. I don’t always sing in church just like I don’t always sing at other times when I want to worship and praise God. Because someone has picked a group of songs to sing during a worship service, does not make it necessary for all to sing. If we sing with just our lips are we not clanging bells.

  46. Petri says:

    You bring your life of worship to church.
    If there is no worship of God outside of church there will be no worship of him inside church.

    • Jehu says:

      This is true and one of the most important things about worship or church that I have read today! Fully agree.

    • Paula says:

      This my dear Petri is the crux of the whole matter. If you are not living a lifestyle of worship Monday to Saturday then it is virtually impossible to offer up true worship to God on Sunday. Singing, dancing playing musical instruments – these are all ways we outwardly demonstrate what is in our hearts. God alone knows when what we do lines up with who we really are.

  47. NatanElias says:

    The music is TOO LOUD!
    It’s all about the amplifiers.
    And the performers.

    • Dennis Borden says:

      I think there can be a balance in praise music and hymns. I go to a church where it is all praise music and I deeply miss the great hymns of the faith. Many of the lyrics of modern music seem to have little meaning, it is all about the sound and the beat unfortunately. When we used to sing hymns the words were so meaningful and the power of the songs brought conviction. Many churches have sought to follow the world with more noise than understanding and appreciation of the words expressed.

    • Dennis Borden says:

      Plus, what is it with singing the same stanzas over and over again. We sing songs 4 or 5 times before moving to the next song. What is the significance of doing that? It gets boring and I cease to even notice what I am singing after a couple of times.

    • Kay says:

      As an interpreter for the deaf one must really think about the lyrics in order to properly interpret them. There have been many times a hymn would bring me to tears. However, I have yet to get any feelings at all from the lyrics of a modern praise song. But interpreting the same phrase over and over and over and over and over again begins to confuse the deaf person. Any day I prefer to interpret a classic hymn. So much thought and feeling went into writing those hymns, it’s a shame we seem to have abandoned them for volume, pop, and flash.

  48. Colon says:

    At my church which is VERY YOUNG, I believe everyone participates. We are loud, energetic, and very sincere. I am almost 60 and this is the best church I have ever been involved in. Our church teaches the importance of Praise and also Worship using the Bible. We also teach that a normal Christian is a radical Christian. We evangelize, live seperate from sin as much as possible, and we are a very big family loving and caring for each other. I love being a father and a leader to these young adults.

    • Colon, it’s awesome to hear what you are doing in your church. Great that you are attracting the young people, young people don’t have as much of a problem with the music as older people. I am 54 and pastor a small church in a small town in New Zealand. I have also been a worship leader for many years and I can attest to what Kenny is saying. As with Suzanne’s comment below – and Matt Redman’s classic song about it – we have redefined worship to mean ‘singing songs to Jesus (the quiet ones, ‘cos we all know the loud ones are praise and the quiet ones are worship). This is not Biblical worship. Thank God that there has been a change in the last few years in what we call ‘worship’ songs and they have come again to focus on our Lord and God and not what one Promise Keepers speaker used to call the Jesus-is-my-girlfriend songs. Biblical worship is to present our lives as a daily sacrifice. I would have a good look around next Sunday morning and see who is really singing, who is really ‘worshipping’. Many people can enjoy singing songs to Jesus and yet completely miss the point.

    • Jo says:

      I know that worship leaders may not agree with this article but for the lay person standing with the rest of the congregation, I agree with what the author is stating. I have been in church services almost 50 years and the trend of worship, especially in large churches, is resulting in a very structured spectator event. I see that the Holy Spirit has no room to move while the worship is going on. The focus is on the stage presence of the worship team and worship leader. I’m not saying that this is fact for all churches but for the most part in the DFW area I believe this is exactly what is going on in churches. There was a time when the worship leader let the Holy Spirit lead and the worship was true and pure. Once the control is given back to the Lord and not held by man will this change.
      I went to a church in Texas. It was led by men who understood that they were second and the Lord was first. The worship leader understood that the Holy Spirit may take the worship time in a different direction. The worship leader let the Holy Spirit lead and sometimes we would just have worship. It was powerful. The Holy Spirit flowed during that time. There were signs of Him in those services. Then a new man came to lead that congregation. This man took control and things changed. This new man grew the church. He changed the name of the church, he changed the location of the church, he changed the make-up of the church. The church grew from 800 to 3000. On paper it looks like this is a successful Holy Spirit driven church but in reality it is a man driven church. Sure there are great activities, a big stage, lots of colorful lights, very loud music, but the deep connection with our Lord Jesus Christ is lost for some.
      Being a worship leader is a selfless job. You have to be flexible. They make way for the congregation to enter the Holy place. It is a very important job. So for a lay person talking to worship leaders. Take this article to heart. Sing songs that we know, Sing songs that are simple (we are not professional vocal performers), Sing songs that are in the majority range (dumb it down some), Turn that amplifier down (It’s not all about the amplifier), STOP performing, Engage with the people in front of you, Get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit lead.
      I respect worship leaders. I would not want their job.

      • Rohrback says:


      • Ann says:

        I am the song leader without any instrumental backup in a very small church. I prayerfully choose the 3-5 songs for each week, according to: the minister’s sermon topic if known, the church season, which hymnal songs haven’t we done recently, which songs do I LIKE to sing, a song someone has requested, and which songs is God leading me to. Sometimes I am amazed how well a song will lead into the sermon, sometimes someone will tell me later how much they appreciated a particular song…it’s all God taking a hand in my job, and I love it!

  49. Suzanne says:

    I’n concerned that worshop as mentioned here is simply music. There are many things included in worship and music is just one. Also it’s insulting to 1500+ years of worship before the “reformation.” The word liturgy means “the work of the people,” so it’s obvious you didn’t really do your homework in researching. I wonder how the early church did it so effectively and the entire ancient world was converters?? Wonder how they did it without all the round, lighting, key changes, arts, and worship leaders?? Hm …maybe they actually relied on the Holy Spirit?

  50. Stephanie says:

    I worship in a congregation that does not use instruments. We do not have any of the problems mentioned in this article. While there may be someone that does not sing for whatever reason, sore throat, cold. It is obvious that everyone is expected to sing. We sing old hymns and new contemporary songs. Some of the contemporary songs have been changed slightly to make them more appropriate for congregational singing. We once had a power outage during worship and the worship service continued without interruption because everyone knew the songs well enough to continue singing. Singing is not about how well the music sounds, it is about praising and worshiping God. However, the more you sing, the better it sounds. Because everyone sings and knows the songs, songs are sung in four part harmony which sounds beautiful even without all the instruments.

    • Engela says:

      I also belong to a church where instruments are not allowed, but for my husband and I, who are both musicians, this is a problem, as the song leaders are not good song leaders, although they do their best of course. Often the song is started to high/low, phrases are shortened, etc. The congregations tries to follow, but basically the singing is poor. We find it difficult that, according to our church, musical instruments are not allowed during worship!!!

      All you need is a piano/keyboard/organ so that ALL people can follow the music. We have tried going other churches, but then we end up with the big noise factor!! I am sorry to admit that this is making us hesitate going to church, but of course we can still worship (without being in a church=building)

  51. Mike rodgers says:

    I get it. There are times I don’t sing at church. Working for a gospel artist full time, I hear the songs. There are times I have to say, I wish the tempo was more upbeat. One slow song after another is not my thing. And before you jump me for it not being the tempo but the words. I agree. That brings me to the other reason I don’t sing, I get into the hymns of the past. Old Rugged Cross, When we all get to Heavan, on Christ the Solid Rock I Stand, songs that have a way to touch me. The new songs are now being written with meaning now. Before now, to me, the were 7-11 songs. Contemporary artist are writing meaningful and deep songs that are touching lives today.
    As a church, as a Christian, we need to stop saying things like, if it’s not contemporary I don’t like it. If it’s not traditional I don’t like it. If it’s not southern gospel I don’t like it. What we need to do is support all Christian music. Just because we don’t sing it, doesn’t mean we don’t like it

  52. Dan says:

    I appreciate many of the ideas in this article, I would like to see a sister article about the responsibilities of the congregation in engaging and “trying”. This article lays the burden squarely on worship leaders and fails to account for the possibility that the people themselves might at times be resistant, prone to spectate, judgmental, overly analytical, hair-splitting, entertainment-oriented, etc. Paul and Silas worshipped in chains. Surely the members of our congregations can find a way to overcome such tribulations as not knowing the songs they’ve made no effort to listen to beforehand or such afflictions as the key of E major.

    • Naomi Haynes says:

      Many of the new songs are totally new to me and we have no tools with which to learn them. Words on a screen mean nothing without being able to see the printed notes, so I, along with 75% of the worshippers just stand there til the performance at the front is over. I, personally, have never seen anybody moved to shout in worship with a song that they don’t know the words.

      • Wesley Groleau says:

        I also find it hard to learn a song if I can’t see the notes. But we should both remember that the notes are meaningless to most people—including some of the musicians. And with some of the new songs, it is difficult to obtain sheet music. It might be convenient, though, if those who can sight-read were able to obtain sheets for the new songs that are planned.

        • Ellen says:

          It was in visually following the words with the notes while hearing the singing and instruments that I learned to “read” music. Something I would never be able to do today in churches with no hymnals. I see the present trend as a loss.

          • Mary says:

            We have done a great disservice to all when we removed the hymnals, even a “non musical” (?) person can follow that notes go up and down, and see the idea of the timing.
            I too learned about reading music from following along in the hymnbook. Now we have taken that learning away. It was an “extra” benefit!
            After chemotherapy I found music gave me a very physical nervous
            reaction. All music and PA systems. One day I was in a restaurant, enjoying the music. The manager came by to check how everything was. I smiled and said how much I was enjoying the music, and lately I just found it seemed to wreck havoc with my nervous system.
            He replied “Ahhh . .Many who come here say that, for the music. . . . .it is my sound system. A good analogue one, and it is not digital” Bingo . . .I find that if a regular piano, organ, violin, guitar, anything that is NOT digital is being played I love the music and find it joyful. As soon as it is all digital my nervous system makes it very difficult to sit still and I can only think to “flee” From stores, churches, wherever. I can no longer shop or concentrate on anything but “flee”
            Could some complaints here simply be a result of actual physical disabilities? I know younger people that wear ear plugs to church for this reason. They feel it affects their nervous system and want to leave, it is such a strong reaction. I can feel this in any store PA as well, it is not a spiritual thing, it is a physical thing.
            So sad. Perhaps a mix of instruments would help. But I now understand that this is my problem, and so I don’t go to church anymore where there is electric piano, electric guitar, and sometimes more than one. It isn’t because I don’t like it, it is because I physically cannot take it. I stay home and listen to hymns where there is a grand piano (not digital) It has become my church. So sad. I long to be able to be a physical part of the church community. I too, as above, am thankful for You Tube and the Christian content I can get there. But, it isn’t the same as being in a building with all singing together!
            Perhaps some research could be put into this. My hearing technician told me that they have people every day come in for the same reason, and that it is a measureable “sound tolerance” problem. Please don’t be too hard on the older folk in your congregation. Perhaps think of ways they too could be included. I am not saying that chemotherapy has this reaction on all, but I could enjoy the music more before I had to be taken off one of the drugs because of the effect it had on my nervous system. I just didn’t put the two together for awhile.
            1 in about 5 or less will get cancer in their lifetime. How many folks in the churches are struggling and being blamed that they are grumpy and old and judgmental. Perhaps this is not at all the reason.
            Would you say such a thing about someone who was disabled in any other way? Please be kind to your prayer warriors and often those who long to be a part of the entire church, and find themselves alone and don’t understand fully what could be wrong. I believe most everyone in the church would be appalled if they found out one day that there was a physical reason and would regret hurtful judgements from both sides of the matter. That said I do love the hymns that are singable, memorable, and concentrate on the attributes of God.

    • MzEllen says:

      Here’s the thing. If the music is too high – it doesn’t matter how willing, non-judgmental, etc…I CAN’T sing along.
      If the “leaders” go off and do their own thing and I CAN’T follow, I can’t follow.
      ” Surely the members of our congregations can find a way to overcome such tribulations as not knowing the songs they’ve made no effort to listen to beforehand or such afflictions as the key of E major.”
      Here’s the thing. If I’m not psychic and they haven’t told us what songs are going to be sung, it’s really hard to put the effort into listening beforehand to unknown song.

    • Edmund Fragante says:

      I think there is a lack of teaching in the Church about worship, and what it means. A Word study of the different meanings of praise and worship in the Bible would help the congregation a lot…then we would know the reason why God is worthy to be praised.

  53. Sheila says:

    As I was reading this article, I was somewhat shocked that there has even been any type of study of a person or a mass of people’s Worship to the Lord. I love the Lord and I Praise Him in my car, I Praise Him here in my home. I know that my opinion isn’t anything important, but isn’t Praising and Worshipping the Lord about Him? Yet, He is so awesome that He blesses us while we Praise Him and it has been my experience that in the darkest times in my life, if I began to Praise Him He blessed me with Peace and so much more. And He moved in my situation. Which is a reminder of the Apostle Paul’s account of him and Silas praising the Lord while in prison and they were set free by the Lord’s angels. Which brings me to my opinion. Regardless of what type of lighting you have, what type of songs you sing, what type of technology is used, etc., that it is an individual decision to Praise and Worship Him. After all, we were created to Worship Him. Maybe there are some people who just aren’t comfortable displaying their affection to the Lord, or Praising Him in public. The Holy Spirit abides within us and leads and guides us. With all that I just wrote, I would like to end with this: We are to Worship Him PERIOD! And one more thing, He created us all with free will so if someone doesn’t want to Worship Him and Praise Him during a church service, then that is their choice and it shouldn’t be up to a church or any organization for that matter, to try and figure out what can be done to get people singing.

    • Linda says:

      Your comments seem to be about your own view and experience of worship. What about those who need help and guidance into worship? Also, this article is about congregational worship, not individual, and in my opinion and experience as a,worship leader, it is absolutely correct in every point.

    • Jerry says:

      , I would like to see a sister article about the responsibilities of the congregation in engaging and “trying”. This article lays the burden squarely on worship leaders and fails to account for the possibility that the people themselves might at times be resistant, prone to spectate, judgmental, overly analytical, hair-splitting, entertainment-oriented, etc. Paul and Silas worshipped in chains Surely the members of our congregations can find a way to overcome such tribulations as not knowing the songs they’ve made no effort to listen to beforehand or such afflictions as the key of E major……Typical response from and egotistical arrogant narcissitic so called worship leader. There is no evidence in NT of any office called “worship leader” It is just a man made position where by one who thinks he or she is special can display their talent. What they are leading is not worship anyway, just a performance.A

  54. Pastor Wynn says:

    Amen & Amen! I especially loathe the fact that worship has been turned into a “spectator” event, rather than a “participator” event. We forget that worship is something we do, and not something we view.

  55. AJ says:

    I grew up going to a Baptist church. When I was in junior high the music minister told me – in front of the whole youth choir – to simply lip sink the words and that my singing voice was truly a joyful noise. Now as an adult 1. I don’t sing EVER – 2. when I attend church, I arrive after all the music is finished (come just in time to give my offering and listen to the sermon). Yep, I pretty much hate all music now.

    • David says:

      Aj, I was so sorry to here what that person did to you at a young age. First, they should have not spoke about something they didn’t understand, such as PEOPLE and voices evidently. Remember that God has given us all beautiful voices to sing his praises. And he blesses us with his understanding not the worlds understanding. Try again to sing for HIS GLORY and not for those around you and he will give you back the musical compassion which you had. God Loves You as you are! “Give all your worries and cares to God , for he cares about what happens to you” I Peter 5:7 NLT

    • Ian Holland says:

      AJ: This happened to me in public school and I never learned how to sing, and walked away from music. The tongue truly is a cutting sword!

    • Steve says:

      AJ that was a terrible thing to be done to you or anyone. Just remeber a lot of us can’t sing (me included)
      I had a worship leader that said GOD gave us the voice and when singing praises to him he makes people hear what he wants to hear and all the praises to him are beautiful and that includes mine and your voices. When we all stand with him in Heaven we will sing praises and guess what he will be the worship leader and everyone (me and you includer will make a beautiful sound.

    • Rohrback says:

      I can so relate to being told don’t sing…I was told at age 9 I was tone deaf. When I got saved in 1987 I would sob during worship because I yearned to sing to my Lord of my love for him. My pastor found out about it lovingly told me SING ANYWAY that God gave me my voice and he loves ME AND MY VOICE I started out quietly singing but got braver as time went on . If music gets quiet I do single very quietly but I still sing. One day it hit me…they were wrong! I can’t be tone deaf for if I were then how come I can tell when others are off key or not. I learned in can’t carry a tune and that’s OK. Do I wish I had a singing voice? Of course I do for I’d love to be able to spontaneously sing out…I guess I said ALL that you say…SING! Let your expression of your love for him out… God inhabits the praises of his people and you ARE HIS PEOPLE

  56. Anna says:

    My problem is not knowing the song. Too many new songs I just do not know

    • Teri says:

      I doesn’t matter what you sing, if you don’t have the anointing and glorified presence of God. Forget it. The days of not allowing the Holy Spirit be in control of worship is over. Churches will just be singing songs, and God will not be involved.

      • Jerry says:

        if you don’t have the anointing and glorified presence of God. Forget it. …Sounds good but what do you mean, Every born again child of God is annointed!!!! 2 Corinthians 1:20-22English Standard Version (ESV)
        20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. 21 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.[a]

  57. Amen to most of what has been said. LOUD not automatically mean worship or engagement. Most church “professional” leadership in music and other areas assume that the “current style” is the only way to sing or express enthusiasm. (Loud, repeating constantly, with certain words yelled or thrown in) A congregation wants to appreciate participation and respect/decorum in any service. Contemporary “style”music often leaves two thirds of any congregation out in the cold. Traditional music can be blended but most “blending” today means eliminate the original tune, wording, and delivery. A variety of music can be achieved when all understand the motives of each other. Again, LOUD and jumping up and down does not mean that is the only way to worship, if that indeed is worship. Certain traditions are to be enhanced with enthusiasm added in full measure. “New” and “Different” are not necessarily “worship.” A good choir with a good director can introduce many variations and the congregation will follow if they are treated with respect and their “style” of music is also appreciated.

    • Chas says:

      Charles’ contribution brings to mind something that I used to find very inspiring. It was an 80+ year old West Indian lady who used to shout out in worship, both in tongues and in English. Unfortunately for us we lost her to death, but she will be there in Heaven worshiping God!

    • Mary says:

      Our church has two services … first is “Traditional” with music from the Hymnal. Mostly elderly attend this. Others attend first because of an activity or work coming along before second service is completed. Second is “Contemporary” with music on the screen and lead by a band. I am elderly but love this particular service. I love the songs from the Hymnal, but I love the spirit the Contemporary service seems to have over the Traditional. Never worry about your voice, good or bad. Our Pastor says the Lord loves to hear us sing His praises and thinks all of our voices are good.

  58. Chas says:

    Someone in the responses touched on the thing that is often missing in so-called worship music – the adoration of God! Many of the songs are more about the people who are singing than about God. Some of them leave me so frustrated, because they do not let me express the way that I feel about God. If we are to take on these new songs, they must express the greatness and love of God. One example from the past is ‘How Great Thou Art,’ and rather more recently, ‘How Great is our God.’ These two really touch the parts that many songs miss.

    • Sing2God says:

      I am SO with you on this! I’ve been a vocalist/worship leader for most of my life. The church I’ve been attending for the past 16 years is contemporary and quite often pretty loud. While there are a myriad of viable discussion points in response to your excellent article, I agree that the too often focus is away from pure worship of God. I don’t really care to stand up and sing about my struggles, I can articulate that in my prayer journal or in the shower while singing. A song that has “i”, “me”, or “we” in the title is my first red flag. In saying that, I do understand that within a message series, there is generally a theme that needs to be address through the music and often those songs are speaking to those specifics. But at least one or more of the songs each service should be pure worship in nature. Besides the two you mentioned, one that always makes me want to drop to my knees is “The Great I AM”! When we’re in front of the congregation, leading others in worship, there is nothing more pure and beautiful than a song sung in complete and sincere worship of the King! I LOVE to imagine all our voices joining together with the angels in heaven and making a sound ‘as loud as rolling thunder’!

  59. Dwight Hasbrouck says:

    Just my 2 cents here. I began drum study in 1968-78. I was very lost at the time. I had high hopes of going pro and had the skills to make it in the world of secular music. Messy family situations caused me to give up playing/studying the drums. Jesus touched my spirit in 82 and His rescue of me was right on time. God opened a door of opportunity in 92 to drum for His glory & purpose. He taught me much about music both secular & spiritual. I did a major house cleaning and removed much of the music that I fed on when I was lost. 92-08 were awesome years of being blessed by God in allowing me to participate on 11 worship teams that presented pure worship. Pure being defined as being well focused about & towards God. Songs that invited/inspired the congregation to participate well in a true worship demonstration. Very sadly not seen to much these days. Bottom line is that there is not really any quality teaching going in most churches about music and or true/pure worship. I began teaching worship drumming in 94 to present along with teaching about media. Things really improve when wisdom is shared with others who really have no clue about a topic. God looks at the heart and desires that ALL who profess to be connected with His Son Jesus in a personal relationship to be fully surrendered in all areas of their walk. 2Timothy 2:19 is my favorite scripture that sets the standard for us to be following. There is no room for performance worship in a church setting either. All who are called to be true worship leaders and ministers need to be well focused on what God has to say about what we feed on. Garbage in garbage out. No room for the gray area. god spits that out. My advice is that a worship team must be well connected with each other and their lives transparent to each other as well. A worship leader NEEDS to really know his team members. God gave me a very simple and applicable system that works well to accomplish this task. WTC= worship team clean. Once a team and its leader are on the same sheet of music the power of the Holy Spirit will flow through each person on stage and then flow out to the audience offering encouragement and inspiration to all who are in that place of worship. I have seen this take place first hand when I was doing prison ministry. Beyond amazing. Prisoners being touched, healed and encouraged by God in many ways. Gods best to you all. JOHN 8:51

  60. angie says:

    These are all valid points. Sometime though the reason is because praise time feels more like a funeral service than jubilant praise. In our church most of the hymns are from 60’s through 80’s and they are the slowest tempo songs in the book and they intentionally slow the tempo even more. It is highly frustrating. I love the old traditional hymns (Amazing Grace, etc) just pick up the tempo!!

  61. Zach says:

    I believe that the lyrics are simply not true of everyone there. Often, people are hesitant to admit it, but they just are not humble enough. More often than not, when I attend church, people are not “considering the lillies of the field,” but focusing more on the style and social aspects of their fellow attendee. This attitude tends to rub off on elements of the service itself. People are focused on the wrong reasons for being there in the first place. I believe that God is more concerned with our understanding of His word than whether or not we sing songs. Furthermore, in order to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”, the ritual and schedule, not to mention, size and income of the church (note, income OF THE CHURCH, not the individual) are less important to Him than the solidity and validity of what is being taught.

  62. Richard Cook says:

    I am a catechumen in the orthodox church. ALL we do is sing. And chant. Its beautiful.

  63. johe says:

    We need to return to the Hymnal. I haven’t really sung since we abandoned, totally, the hymnal. I know a lot of people who feel the same way I do but don’t want to say anything. We really need to address this issue before it is too late. There is a lot to say about using it in our worship services. It teaches us to read music. The hymns have wonderful scriptural meaning. I am not saying you should abandon pop songs, but include hymns, sung in the traditional way, as well. I feel like I am going to a rock concert every Sunday. And I’m not that old.

    • Nathan Sieg says:

      I can appreciate you stance and I too like hymns, but isn’t that just picking one style over another? Saying I like hymns more is no different than a “younger” person saying they like contemporary worship music more. Or having a preference of guitars over organs/piano. That’s all style and it has it’s place. At one point hymns were contemporary and 50-100 years from now Chris Tomlin songs will be “hymns”. By definition a hymn is a religious song, completely devoid of musical style so technically modern worship songs are hymns.

      The emphasis needs to be on the lyrical content of the music. Just because something is labeled Christian or Worship doesn’t mean it’s good…or true. There is a lot of lyrical fluff out there but there are some hymns that use terminology that people today would have no clue what it means. So how does that affect their worship? How can they be genuine if they don’t understand what they’re singing…modern or hymn?

      I visited a church that used an ipod for worship songs b/c they had no band. The pastor’s view was if the congregation couldn’t worship with an ipod then they can’t worship. Again making it about style or the lack of band/piano/organ presence.

      Will will whole hardheartedly 100% agree that there is a trend of rock show worship sessions. I’ve been a part of those on both sides and I don’t like it. If performance outweighs authenticity there’s a problem. Not to say I couldn’t worship to loud music, I am a metal guy at heart, but I don’t need guitar solos or tons of vocal ad libbing. The focus is changed at that point to a more “hey look at me!!” situation rather than looking for the Spirit. I am 35 and I think my generation and those coming up are seeing how disingenuous rock show musical worship is, or can be. There seems to be a movement to more muted musical worship sessions, a more trimmed down version. And again…that’s that not always the answer either.

      The fact of the matter is this has always and will always be an issue. Different people lead to different approaches to worship and honestly no one….no one will get it right. The only hope is to be authentic in leadership and that will cultivate authentic worshipers.

      • Rick says:

        Amen to Nathan. I have come the conclusion that if you can only worship the Lord with one type of music (within reason) it is your lack of spirit. The old hymns are beautiful and full of theology. The new contemporary music is uplifting and spirit filling. We use to have two distinct services at my church and it was awful and very divisive. We now have one service. Yes it leans contemporary but we sill have at least one hymn per week with the Worship Band and the organ always plays softly during communion on communion Sunday. It is the best feeling I have every had in worship.

    • Jay says:

      Whoever entitled the new system? Worship is not just trying to follow instruments which are too loud trying to get people excited. Worship come from the heart, from the individual, not from some group on stage performing. true worship comes from more Bible and less non musical noise.

  64. Jim Wrenn says:

    The presentation of a “new” song is one area I give a lot of attention, because our goal as Worship Leaders is to help lead our people to engaging in the worship experience. How can a congregation join in singing a song they don’t know? On a snow day recently, I watched a very well known ministry’s service. One of the Praise Team members said, “We have a new song for you. Stand and join with us as we sing.” Huh? I’ve found it helpful to use a “new” song in other than congregational settings first, such as having the choir (if you have one), Praise Team, ensembles or soloists sing the song as a “special”, offertory or something like that. Use it on several occasions so that when you put it in your set list, the folks will be more able to engage.

    • Cheryl says:

      I worship in a congregation that only sings Accapella. So, the question you raise about how is a person going to sing a song that they don’t know really does not exist for us. We have never used any instrument other than our voices, our children learn from a very young age how to read music. We always sing 4 part harmony. It really does not take very long either for our new members to learn to sing, they get a lot of practice every week. This past Wednesday evening at meeting a new song was introduced that only 4 out of 25 people knew. It had 4 verses and by the third verse almost everyone was singing and carrying the tune. When the words and the musical notes are provided people do learn to sing.

  65. Mike the Tuner says:

    It is sad that the singing portion of many worship services are nothing more than glorified karaoke. They sing words on a screen of songs they hear on Christian radio, which is really all that karaoke is. Reason 3 is also a biggie, especially when the worship leader himself can struggle with the high notes. My late mother, rest her soul in the arms of Jesus, kept saying that the people have to be able to sing it, and if it was too loud that she couldn’t even hear herself sing, let alone everyone else, that’s where she drew the line.

  66. Kelly says:

    As a choir member since 1958 (!), my knowledge and love of the hymns has been my strength during horrible times. Another benefit of singing hymns introduced me to my neighbors – I love to sing hymns while I mow the lawn 🙂

    I was uneasy but cooperative when successive choir directors increased the number of praise tunes, grudgingly putting in one hymn per sermon to appease the blue-haired set. When our last 20+ year old director began choir practice one evening by telling us we were worshipping incorrectly, then producing a textbook workbook page to prove it, I got up and left. He and I had a meeting about it, resolving the matter somewhat.

    The last straw was watching the preacher’s wife doing figure 8s with her hips, eyes closed, and clapping her hands way above her head..
    Lest you brand me old-fashioned, I am a former professional actress/dancer who has seen many forms of “normal and relevant”.. My point is that church should at least remain a sanctuary from all the societal stuff.

  67. Alicia says:

    Something else not mentioned is that music leading has many times been handed over to the armature band guy who plays guitar and a handful of chords but doesn’t read music and has had no training on leading anything.

    I find bands are alienating = too loud, they are the center of the focus (all about them), songs not appropriate or hard to sing, Songs that are full of LA LAs and whoa whoas and ooo ooo oos. Time for youth group and not Sunday morning.

    At some point many churches stopped hiring professional musicians that can lead choir or an orchestra/band of the people in the church. Instead they found a guy who can sort of sing and knows a handful of guitar chords and a few musicians. Voila – a band is formed. Singing corporately has been turned into a concert and musician worship takes place instead of Jesus worship.

    I have seen a new Christian who was on fire for God put in a place of leading singing but his lack of understanding of it all lead to really bad song choices lyrics wise, him singing everything in his key (high tenor) and it was a performance.

    Just because it is on the radio does not mean it is congregational singing because it moved you personally nor is it some great inspiration from above. Sometimes it is just someones story – fine for a concert but not church.

  68. Sandy Heisey says:

    In addition to all of these excellent reasons, with which I agree totally, even the position of the singer is all wrong. Being a singer, it’s difficult for me to “stretch” my neck to read the words projected on the screen, unless I want to sit way in the back of the church. We do, in our church, have printed sheets with the lyrics for those who either can’t see the screen or prefer having a copy to hold. I really agree with the “learning” the song first before including it regularly in worship. Our Praise Team has already rehearsed the songs and know them, so they’re ready on Sunday morning, but the congregation is getting them “cold turkey” and that makes it more difficult. Also, I know it’s important to attract young people to church, but it’s disrespectful and just plan rude to disregard the older members, who, after all, are the backbone and the founders of the church. Also, I’m not sure those more mature members aren’t that comfortable standing for three songs in a row. either. You can’t cater to one group and forget another.

    • Marianne Wrisley says:

      I totally agree. They sure don’t care about us older folks anymore and it’s a bit disrespectful.

    • Mike says:

      It is often assumed in churches with contemporary music that their congregation listens to the local CCM station where they play the new tunes, and thus they already know them. NOT necessarily so…where do you think the members get the political talking points they repeat in Sunday School???

  69. Joe Wingard says:

    In my experience worship leading for the last 15 years there have been many times when the congregation simply stares, like a congregation of mannequins. I think it would be beneficial to have an occasional sermon series on the importance or worship, the importance of praise. Pastors need to step up to the plate and teach the congregation. The Pastor is the primary worship leader whether he/she thinks so. The congregation takes their worship cues (engagement) from the pastor while the music is going on.

    • De says:

      I am praying for you. Your words sound a bit prideful (I suffer from this sin myself, so I feel slightly justified in calling it as I see it) and somewhat resentful. Was the congregation like mannequins because it was a new song, or too high or too low, or a difficult rhythm? Sometimes I don’t sing along with our praise team/band simply because I’m just too busy enjoying the music and worshipping! Placing the blame on pastors alone is unreasonable. If you label yourself worship leader, it’s just as much your responsiblity. The importance is not on the act, but on Who we worship. Pastors and worship leaders are called to direct the people to Him, then worship and praise will naturally follow.

      • Don says:

        Dear DE, I think you should concentrate more on praying for yourself. You seem to be seeing your own vices in other people. That you are prideful does not make you an accurate judge of others’ pride. Joe is simply speaking from a worship leader’s perspective, just as you spoke from a congregation member’s perspective. I have been a worship leader, a pastor, and have also been part of the congregation. Several times the worship leader is left frustrated as the congregation just does not respond, even when they all know the songs. People often come to church with so much burden, and it may take time to tune in to worship, but sometimes the people just don’t cooperate with the worship leader. Even the pastor sometimes fails to respond. That is what Joe is saying and using the mannequins example is not abusive. It was meant to be humorous and I actually laughed when I read it. You mention that you don’t sing along with your worship leaders because you are busy enjoying the music. Just imagine if everyone in the congregation decides to do just that! And I can’t see how he is placing the blame on pastors alone. Did you really read his comment? He is just saying pastors should teach the congregation more on how to participate more. You started with saying that you are praying for him because he sounds prideful. That comes off as self-righteous. If you were praying for him, why would you tell him and let the whole world know? Just do it in private of you are sincere! I think you are projecting your own faults to Joe.

  70. Evan says:

    The sentiment “The Reformation gave worship back to the people” assumes several things, not least of which is the extremely popular but shallow modern notion that worship only happens when people sing songs.

    Further, music is an art form. All art forms are culturally informed. Each generation or group brings its own cultural lenses to the table. This spells communication breakdown. No way around that. Church music will always be too loud or too quiet or too high or too low or too lame or too progressive or too old or too hipster for somebody. Such is art.

    That said, the job of the worship leader/pastor is to lead/pastor the gathered church as best as he/she can by the power of the Spirit. This means relationships. I resontate with the #9 in the OP for sure. The rest feels like the venting of a recently frustrated reformed purist. We’ve all been there! (except for maybe the reformed part)

  71. Ryan says:

    I would add a tenth reason. We are a culture that values expertise and delegates tasks to trained professionals. This has led to a population of self-conscious people who think if they can’t do something on a professional level then they shouldn’t do it in public. This also contributes to church members who think they can’t share the Gospel because they aren’t Bible scholars, so they leave evangelism to the paid professionals.

  72. Steve hartog says:

    I agree 100 percent with those nine reasons. My key in planning a worship set is called something for everyone. I love the blended approach using CCLI’s top 100 songs and hymns. I feel if you are going to teach new songs to the congregation they must here the song at least twice prior to the week they learn it. Maybe it is a choir special or an opener then you teach it. Think about it.. The praise team has to go over it several times before they can effectively sing it with excellence and it is not fair if you pull it out of a hat and have them sing it first show. I believe it the becomes a distraction during the worship time and can come off as a concert. Remember, variety and style is a sign of a great blended service. I have been a worship leader for over 20 years now and have led all types of services. Traditional, contemporary, country, southern gospel, ext… Yes, blended is my favorite however repetition is the key in all those types of genres. Don’t think you burned out a song because you practiced it 50 times when they only sang it 5 times. Know your congregation!!! Keep record s, attempt to keep things thematic with the sermon, make sure your words and keys match correctly or make a tasteful transition between songs but Do Not preach a sermon! Mostly, listen to the Holy Spirit and ask God to speak to you on what song He would like you to worship Him with before you even start to plan. Use your gifts to the best off your ability so that you can give God your very best because He deserves nothing less! Last thing.. Make sure that all your band and singers smile, look at the congregation and train them the songs well enough so they can enjoy the presence of the Lord. Others will seen them worshipping and let’s face it. It is contagious! Be Blessed!

  73. Michael says:

    It’s really (sorry) larger then the professional worship arts, it’s the whole professional church leader, the professional leadership. The generic professional pastor for all departments. You somewhat qualify some as sheep, this is sad. Sheep should only be that for a time, but to be encouraged, and taught to serve, not to be served by a professional class. The professionalism in the church (“Church” which is a organism) has become a huge rut. Christian articles, and mag. have been overflowing with this same topic you now write. You have hit the nail on the head about the music I must say, it’s become to difficult for all.
    Lord bless you.

  74. Becky Buhman says:

    “Worship” leader is a misnomer, and you argued it correctly, however, it is definitely NOT worship the way “worship leaders” are doing it. We need to add worship back in with our wonderful hymns. We don’t know everything in this present time, though we think we may be smarter than the church leaders of old. They in fact were obviously smarter, because they got results. We’re too busy entertaining.

    • Keith Haines says:

      I agree with the 9 reasons as to why people fail to sing and I feel it goes a lot deeper than that. Singing is a part of worship only, not the whole of worship. Worship is a lifestyle of the Christian who loves the Lord; who loves to commune with Him and be with His people. Worship ‘leaders’ are, in many cases, song leaders and music directors. They play/teach/lead the music part of worship today instead of leading the people into true worship in Spirit and Truth. The heart filled with the love of the Lord comes to worship with reverence for the Lord and none for men. S/he comes with an excess of joy or, even, travail, outpouring at times, for God while discerning those around them. They can’t really be lead like sheep. However, when that sort of leading is provided, unfortunately, I feel, the less mature or new children in Christ are taught to become reliant on that style of ‘worship’ and rarely participate… until they realise that worship is Life in Christ and not just music, no matter how important music may be in it’s right place.

  75. Danna says:

    I am blessed to have the opportunity to serve the church God called my husband to plant in many ways, among them as a member of our worship team. While I respect the author’s opinion, I agree wIth Scott Ivey’s comments. I grow weary of stylistic “worship wars”. When we build our churches upon the bedrock of prayer and create opportunity for the Holy Spirit to move in our midst, changing lives one by one, then we may actually become so overwhelmed by His weighty presence that we cannot utter a sound at all. 😉 Until then, as we worship, as “lead worshippers”, we encourage our congregation to do likewise. We are BLESSED at our church with a passionate, Jesus-chasing worship leader who by God’s gifting actually embodies the ideal of the author’s article. Thank you, Scott, for reading between the lines as you did to paint the bigger picture. It was freeing!

  76. Neal Glanville says:

    This is an interesting read but some of the comments below are even more interesting – Particularly Scott Ivey’s comment.

    I am a pastor in London, England and particularly have oversight of our worship team.

    I think this article raises some interesting points and they are things we as worship leaders should definitely be aware of and navigate but I think I would agree much more with the views of Scott Ivey.

    Take the discussion around what key we are using our songs in. Hay I have been in times of worship where the leader is singing in a range way outside of my own, whether it is a Chris Tomlin singing in the heavens or A female lead and Im singing ultra low…. never the less I worship – what definitely does not aid me in worship is watching a worship leader try and sing a song outside of there range – Again whether you can hear there voice breaking as they tear there vocal chords or there singing a song in such a low key its boring and lifeless.
    Worship leaders, sing in a key where you are comfortable and can actually lead from! If you are not comfortable then you won’t be able to lead affectively.

    My only other comment is on introducing new songs… Again I think Scott Ivey’s comments are helpful. Agree with your leadership what a healthy balance of new/old songs looks like – This can change in seasons btw. The strength of your musicians for instance can affect this. In our current season, we introduce a new song every month in general. But Scott is right, teach them properly – Some songs require more walking through than others. Also be sensible in what other songs you cushion around the new ones. When I teach a new song I put incredibly simple well known songs either side it… But be wise with the songs you choose… Choose songs that are manageable for your team and your congregation.

    As I say this article is helpful to raise questions and be aware of some things but be careful – One size doesn’t fit all. This article may be true for the church of the writer but my experience has lead me to believe more along the lines of Scott Ivey.

    There are so so many factors at play when we think of a time of congregational worship… If only our church congregation could turn up every week, utterly on fire to sing and dance and exalt our God but they don’t… People come from busy, crazy, hectic and often messy lives and they need to be engaged with and lead and often reminded of the truth of the bible – Who God is, whats he’s done, who we are now through his sacrifice. Engage your congregations, lead them, take them on a journey every time you lead worship of discovering more of God’s love, grace and majesty.

  77. Scott Ivey says:

    So, I’ve seen different variations of this blog post over the past several months, and I guess I’m ready to stop ignoring it. I’m a full-time worship pastor, so a lot of FB friends or concerned members will forward me the article in a confused “I read this, so it must be true… but… what?” kind of way. They’re confused because it is in direct contrast to the experience we have every week at church. I don’t have any doubt that there are churches who are having a lot of trouble with passionate worship, and lack of participating congregants. I do, however; think that the “9 reasons” are a naive and extremely broad diagnosis for the modern Church’s passivity in general. I can say this confidently, as our church sings… and we sing loud.
    So, I thought I would take a little time to share my opinions… That is all they are. I’ll say, before I start, that I do agree with some of the actual bullet points to a… point. Some of the beef I have with the article is the apparent… almost (dare I say) arrogance that some seem to have found in using a personal and touchy, trending topic to steer people who don’t know any better than to listen to only one point of view…. Ok… Here we go…

    1. They don’t know the songs?

    If this is true then you may be leading too many songs… Not too many “new” songs. A consistent flow of new songs is a great way to bring fresh acclimation and adoration to God. What I mean is too many in a single service. If you only have enough time allotted for your music to sing 4 or 5 songs “as recorded”, then cut one or 2 of them, and take some actual time to teach and learn the new ones. For us, 3 is a great number. A new song is not always included in our set, but when it is… We spend about twice as much time digging into it… By the middle of that song, it is almost always sung the most passionately. The following week, we sing it again as a part of the set… They know it fairly well, and we only extend it if it needs it. After 3 weeks, it is a part of our catalog, and we’re most likely already teaching another one. It’s exciting.

    The other problem that could be happening is that you don’t have the talent on stage to help create an atmosphere of worship. That may sound harsh or fake and plastic, but it’s very true. If ANY of you went to, say, a leadership conference and the worship was lead by a tone-deaf screacher, then a distraction-factor has been established. This can (and will) cause every new song (and old one) to transform into something to tolerate for 5 minutes instead of something to help them engage in communication with their Savior.

    2. We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing?

    I agree with this one. If you are singing a top 40 radio hit, then they will bob their head, and may even recognize them, but some of those songs are just difficult to follow. We rarely choose songs that aren’t “all-skate”, and when we do… it’s purposeful.

    3. We are singing in keys too high for the average singer?

    This one actually makes me laugh.

    There’s usually a good reason that songs a recorded in the chosen keys… Because the singer is able to achieve “excellence” in that key.

    I heard a joke once that went something like “3/4 of a worship leader’s time during the week is spent on changing keys in Chris Tomlin songs.” That’s funny because, of course, Chris Tomlin has a high range, and worship leaders believe that this is why people don’t sing when they lead his songs(it’s not, by the way) Chris not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    Phil Whickham not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    Lincoln Brewster not only has a girly, high tenor voice, he is also one of the most effective worship leaders of the modern era. He doesn’t change his songs to more manageable keys when he leads, and we all sing loud.
    There are so many more… I think there is a pattern here…
    In my opinion, the only time you should change the key of a song to be more manageable is when the leader of the song has a hard time singing it. If someone from the stage can’t reach a note, then that whole “distraction factor” has come back into play. In the same way… If a leader has a natural high range, and changing to a lower key steals his “umph”, then the potential moment has been robbed of excellence… (distraction).
    I will often tell people to sing, and sing loud… I have even called out friends in the congregation from time to time to say… “See, Eric is singing, and he can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Church… it’s not about you harmonizing with your neighbor, or hitting every note perfectly. It’s about you pouring your heart out to your Savior, and He tells us that it is a sweet, sweet sound in His ear. This may be the only place you ever hear that said about your singing, so take advantage… Eric knows what I’m saying. Now, let’s sing together, and lift up our God!” Their inability to sing well has become a teaching point, and a new comfort level has been established and even encouraged.

    4. The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.

    Good! I’m not singing to them. By the way, most people don’t want the person next to them to hear them… That actually keeps them from singing. I’ve had more than a big handful of people tell me that they love that they can come together with the Church and sing with abandon to God because they didn’t feel like they could at their last church… The music is powerful, and only God can hear them. I remember growing up in a very traditional church, and there was always that one guy who sang 10 times as loud as everyone else (usually in some operetic-esque manner). I would giggle, my mom would shush me, and then giggle a little herself. (distractions) There is no perfect volume, and I’ve come to understand that “too loud” means different things to different people. Sometimes volume can be distracting when it’s low, and sometimes when it’s high. We’ve managed to dial in the right levels that seem to set the right environment for our congregation… 88 to 93db for us.

    5. We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment?

    Musicians are performers. They use their talents as worship. Guitar solos are worship. Fiddles and drums and harmonicas and mimes are too. (yes… mimes). A sound man who makes it sound incredible is worshiping. The guy who takes pride in creating a visual environment with lights and smoke does it for God, and he is worshiping. The person communicating the message is worshiping too, and he took lots of time to make his (or her) points relate in a way that is relevant… There is a true art to that as well, and he is not only worshiping he is also performing. When we complain about it being a performance environment, we’ve missed the point entirely… It’s not about making it all about performances and the experience. It’s about making every experience and performance about God. If we’re afraid to do our best and shine where God has blessed us, then I would say we’re not truly worshiping to begin with.

    6. The congregation feels they are not expected to sing?

    I agree. You are the lead worshiper, so lead by example, and invite, invite, invite… lead, lead, lead.

    7. We fail to have a common body of hymnody?

    I view this with having about as much sincerity as the “book of common prayer”. I realize that liturgical practice can have profound meaning, and deep emotional response at times (usually when used to emphasize a point, not to BE the point). It’s just that it steals away creativity and relational value, and adds religiosity and confined structure. Church isn’t about having fun, but it certainly isn’t about celebrating our boredom with contrived tools that we’ve developed to make sure things become more predictable.

    8. Worship leaders ad lib too much.

    These really aren’t 9 different points. This is kind of like a sub-point. It could’ve been included in a couple others… I digress.

    I agree… If they are ad libbing.
    But where in the world have you been going to churches who consistently do this enough for it to make your top 9? I may have heard one worship leader ever who thought he was on American Idol. I just don’t see this as being that relevant. I could be wrong though.

    9. Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation?

    YES! This, in my opinion, should be the entirety of your post. Number nine. This is the biggest problem. A worship LEADER shouldn’t be leading if they don’t know how to lead. Engaging is a giant part of that. Points 1 though 8 could all fit inside this one issue. Get rid of your charts on stage… If you can’t play without them, don’t lead until you can (harsh?) Talk to the congregation. Teach the songs. Plan your transitions well. If you raise your game and realize that you are performing for HIM, and teaching others to do the same, then true worship will happen (even with a lot of new songs) I promise.

    • Ginny says:

      THIS! This response is fantastic. Thank you so much for posting it. Above all, it is about heart and I think you captured that well with your response.

    • Josh Berry says:

      I think you bring up some very interesting points here Scott. I do have a few questions, if you wouldn’t mind maybe taking a look (or if anyone else has some thoughts).
      With regards to new songs, what do you think is an effective way of teaching new songs? I’m not talking about the simple songs, that can be learnt by listening to the worship team play them once, but some more complicated songs. Things that spring to mind are anything with call and response, or one particular example (which I would love to introduce at our church but have no idea how to teach it) is You Are Holy, we the 2 different parts of the chorus sung simultaneously.
      Whilst it isn’t one of his 9 points, you say you’re a pastor, so I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this. Do you think there is a place for a “behind-the-scenes” worship leader? I greatly enjoy, and get a lot out of picking songs, working with whoever’s speaking, practising through at home, working out what could/couldn’t work, but I don’t yet feel like a great, or the most confident on stage leader, but too often it feels like whoever is doing that behind-the-scenes stuff also has to be the person doing the on stage stuff?

      • Scott Ivey says:

        I think what you are referring to as a “behind the scenes” leader is what I would call a music director or a creative director.

        A lot of larger churches have entire teams lead by a MD and while their job is to choose, chart out and in some cases, prepare the band, they are rarely the one presenting the material from the stage. It’s a system of playing to everyone’s strengths instead of bogging one person down with the weight of everything that has to take place in a service. I take on both roles by choice. One of my favorite aspects of implementing what God wants to do from the stage is seeing how the Holy Spirit guides and prepares those moments in advance. I love being used in that capacity.

        As far as introducing more difficult songs to the congregation, I would think that it falls in line with the concept of not ever speaking over someone’s head when communicating… What I mean is that scripture tells us to speak plainly so that everyone can understand the message. When it comes to songs that we expect a significant participation to happen within, I think we should choose songs that are easy to sing. It’s that simple.

        Now, when highlighting a point of a message, or accenting a feeling, or blessing a congregation with what God says to us in His Word? Then, I think the weight of responsibility is no longer on the leader to be a good “teacher”, but instead a good demonstrator. When I sing a song like that, then I honestly don’t expect anyone to sing, but rather to listen. Some churches have liturgy that is read altogether as a congregation. Most of the time, though; there’s a message, and God just wants you to listen. So… In the end you want to say that you’ve done all things with excellence, so never choose a song that challenges you beyond your abilities to pull off with any sort of grace… Like I said in my initial response to the “9 reasons” article… Anytime I choose a song that isn’t singable, it is always purposeful, and we don’t do it all the time… Only on special occasions.

        I hope I even came close to answering your questions?

        Let me know. God Bless!

        (ps… where are you from? I can nearly hear the accent with your usage of “whilst…” and “practising”. :))

        • Josh Berry says:

          Thanks for your response. That’s all very helpful and I’ll try to bear it all in mind.

          I’m actually from Yorkshire over in the UK, but I try to use relatively formal English in writing.

    • Stark says:

      To your 3rd point about keys, and the joke “3/4 of a worship leader’s time during the week is spent on changing keys in Chris Tomlin songs.” Often worship leaders may be able to lead singing and play piano, but the dominant instruments in contemporary worship are guitars and many worship leaders know little or nothing about guitar theory and make poor choices of song keys without consulting the guitarists. For example, one thing that worship leaders often do not consider is if the song is playable or even sounds good in a certain key. Often a song that is originally in the key of A or B can be moved down to G and maintain the original chord shapes and sounds, instead of changing to F and forcing the guitars to use bar chords or capo’s which don’t sound as good as the original chords. A change from the key of G to F will destroy the finger picking patterns of a pretty acoustic song. Yes, worship is not for the worship band but for the congregation, and ultimately for God. But we destroy the beauty and playability of too many songs by changing to keys where the instruments can’t produce the original sound. Also, the congregation is not made up only of bass and alto voices, and likely has a good representation of tenors and sopranos too (who may have difficulty singing lower keys). I want to bring God the best sounding worship music possible. He is worthy of that.

    • Donny says:

      Agree whole-heartedly Scott. I consistently see 25-30% of the congregation participating. These are valid points. And maybe there should be a #10. Style, for some folks, P&W music is simply not a style that floats their boat and will never work for them. I like your points about vocal range, singable for one is not singable for another. I believe there is no such thing as singable. Making the melody too dominant is a major turnoff. Music is intricate and that is what makes it beautiful. Hearing a group of singers all sing unison comes across as very mediocre.

    • Drew Howe says:

      Scott, I love your response and the approach you took with it. I too am a worship leader and read many of these types of articles. I find I get more out reading peoples posts than I do the actual article. Yours was meaningful, thought out, honest and funny without being the judgemental finger pointer that these blogs tend to be full of. I can tell by the way you chose to address your thoughts, that you undoubtedly use the same approach with your life which I would hope spills out into your leadership. Loved reading it. Thanks for sharing. Would love to connect sometime outside of this blog post and share ideas. If not, that’s OK. Either way, be blessed and keep up the good work. 😉

    • Ed says:

      Got to say.You really tick me off. Especially, about songs being too high and it makes you laugh. You 20 somethings with the fairy tenor voices and gee-tars whining think you have talent. You instead have a case of narcissism. Guess what junior,, you are to lead the congregation into the Holy of Holies with their mouths filled with praise, and if you sing in the stratosphere for your own comfort you are missing it. And the congregation of worshipers become immediate spectators. Smarten up junior.
      You probably encourage the congregation to break out in praise after your solo rendition and can’t figure out why spontaneous praise doesn’t happen. The atmosphere of worship has not been created and received by the people and will not be available at your urging junior.
      if I sound somewhat curt it is because you asked for it. Make your gifts of song an offering and allow the congregation to also offer their song with all their hearts with the voices that God has provided.

  78. Stephanie says:

    Well here is my rant…I will understand if you delete it…in response to people/congregations not participating in worship…zero sympathy from me! I think they are being so disrespectful to the church they are in, to the worship leader, etc. Do you yell at hockey games? Do you sing the national anthem? Do you sing/cheer at sporting events? Do you sing in your car when traveling? Would it kill you to take your hands out of your pants and show some life? We sing to commercials, Disney songs, pop culture tunes, etc…YOU have no excuse as far as I can see!

  79. John Radice says:

    “Worship is moving to its pre-Reformation mess”. What ridiculous and ignorant propaganda: an insult to 1500 years of sacred liturgy. That was the worship which created a Christian culture, which integrated personal, social and sacred life together. Have the ‘Reformers’ anything to equal that? They were stalking horses for the triumph of materialist and secular attitudes which we are reaping now so bitterly in the complete disintegration of personal, social and sacred life

  80. Jon Jordan says:

    I think this has bigger implications that we would realize. If the local Body does not feel engaged in the worship and sees it as an event versus a group/family experience then they are more likely to disengage from serving their local body and community at large. When we create that non participatory atmosphere it spills over into all areas of how the Body functions.

  81. Keith Roman says:

    A big factor you are missing is the fact that nowhere else in American society are people asked to sing out loud in front of others, except maybe the national anthem. People are socially ostracized in every other situation for singing out loud, because that has become something that professionals do.

    Also, Christian radio is purposefully targeted toward soccer moms, so they are the only ones familiar with the songs. When you bring those artless wonders into the church, no one, especially men, knows or likes them.

  82. Mark Simpson says:

    I think you missed a tenth reason. Multitudes of Americans that go to church are religious but not saved. They have never met or been transformed by Him. When this happened in Scripture, people fell to their knees, they thanked with tears of joy, and they sang.

  83. Ron Kegley says:

    I understand the reasons listed, but it falls short of biblical instruction, in my opinion. I’ve been re-reading and meditating on Psalms recently. I haven’t read where it says to sing the same songs over and over. Rather, the psalms instruct us to sing new songs and to …. SHOUT WITH LOUD VOICES!!! Now, if the idea of congregational worship is to lull us asleep, as it has for generations, then ok. But the author of this article admits we are “sheep” and well, sheep need to be led. Now, I will strongly agree that there are many, many inadequate worship leaders who are pre-occupied with the production value of their song sets, but that should not limit the new expression of what God is doing through new songs. The psalmist says “he has given me a new song” and songs are purposed to be shared. Hymns and spiritual songs from the past are good and have strong doctrinal importance and value. We certainly don’t want to lose their influence. With that said, ALL hymns and spiritual songs, no matter how long they’ve been with us, we’re once “new” music of the day. They were not instantly recognizable as part of our musical heritage. We are in the midst of a spiritual re-awakening influenced greatly through the new melodies and rhythms and lyrical content being birthed today. These songs are just as important now as the “new” hymns composed in 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Why are congregations not singing? I point you to the vast majority of pastors who fail to embrace the passion these songs envoke. Walk into your average mainstream church where modern worship is being offered. Are these pastors singing? Are these pastors responding to the Holy Spirit? Are they connecting with their congregation? Pastors are the chief, lead worshipper. Congregants take their cue from their pastor. If their pastor is fully engaged in worship, congregants will take notice and follow. My wife and I have been visiting a church for several months. The worship team is soundly tight, not showy, and they fully engage the church through worship. The best part of it — the pastor, a man in his late 50s, a man who has pastored this same church for over 25 years — this man of God is in a world to himself during the worship set. His eyes are closed, both hands are raised above his head, and he…he is jumping up and down in place lost in his own worship service. He is sold out, and his people notice. I kinda get the feeling that no matter what songs are being sung or how they sound, he would display a similar pattern of worship. The point is, worship is a matter of ones heart. If you can’t get fired up singing “Our God is greater, our God is stronger, our God is higher than any other”, then you won’t be impacted by the power of great anthems such “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” either. Churches need more pastors to fully sell out and be unafraid to lead their people in prostrating themselves before God in worship. Oh, and one final thought, the worship and preaching at this new church we are visiting had impacted me more than any church I have ever attended — they feed and are influenced by one another and co-exist and collaborate together like I’ve never seen. That is what is needed. Don’t get distracted by the whims and opinions of those who don’t understand that’s it’s not an issue of music styles, it clearly is an issue of the heart. Modern worship is speaking to whole new generations of seekers and also those left marginalized over the last few decades. Do not throw cold water on what GOD is doing. (I apologize for the length of my post, but I get really frustrated when consultants offer their opinions on how I should and should not worship. It’s like listening to my music minister father stuck in the 1970s all over again. Sigh.)

  84. Matilda Harris says:

    I agree with most of your article. As far as the songs for worship and the congregation not being able to sing the words, I believe it to be the leader not being able to sing it, and not being skillful enough in that area so the congregation can follow and sing too. The Bible uses the word “skillful” when it comes to worship. ( I Chronicles 25:7) I think the Leaders should go before God and really search their own hearts if leading worship is where God is calling them or are they leading because of family or they want to be noticed.

  85. John says:

    Wow, this definately shows different strokes for different folks. We are currently looking at a second service at our church and have struggled with these very things. I believe you have to start with why you are even in a worship experience to start with, before you can develop a good service. So many times the very points that have been made here hides the fact that God loves any and all praise/worship that may happen in his name. I pray we all find the answers that please him in all we do, regardless how loud, high, low or entertaining it may be!

  86. At our church on Sunday people sang loudly. There were 38 people that responded to a spontaneous call for baptism and were dunked in their Sunday best. There was life change and celebration of Jesus and tears of joy as eternal trajectories were changed and the kingdom was advanced. All this happened, not because of following these nine conditions (we actually broke most of them), but because God is moving.

    Candidly, I’ve had multiple people share this blog posting with me and ask for my feedback. I’m a worship leader so it makes sense I suppose. But the things that I question about this article is why there’s a need for such dramatic and unfounded conclusions (like the simple assumption that people are no longer singing and that there’s a decline in church music at large) and the need for such a heavy-handed photo attached to it. I mean really… duck tape? 🙁

    Without digging into all nine points, I’ll start by stating that worship is a response. It’s rooted in our identity in Christ, and, as Harold Best describes it in his book “Unceasing Worship”, it’s an outpouring. The implication is that one must first be filled in order to pour out. So if the average church attender walks in without already being filled, they have nothing to pour out when we gather to worship. Jeremiah 20:9… if we’re filled, we cannot help but let it out. Ps 95 also describes passionate, dynamic worship. One of the words used there literally means it’s so loud that it evokes “ringing”. Music should have moments of peace, and also moments of proclamation.

    The very first point made implies that just because new music is being produced at an accelerated rate and also in more localized ways (i.e. more churches writing their won songs) that it’s a bad thing. I wish I had time to sit down with everyone over a cup of coffee and show why it’s actually a GOOD thing, and how the technological revolution should help people know the songs better, not prevent them from it.

    Last thought for now: music is not just a means to an end. The implication in this blog is that the sole purpose for music is to get people to sing, and that’s not only Biblically unfounded, it’s also a low view of music as sacred art. Sacred art itself is to reveal the glory and grandeur of God. Steve Turner, in his book “Imagine: A Vision for Christians In The Arts” makes the case that our music is often “insipid and uninspiring” … how does that reflect the awe, holiness, and inspiring nature of our God? I have little fear that our music be so difficult that people have a hard time following along… my fear is that our music is done so poorly and with such drabness that God and all of His creation yawns at it.

    Let’s be in tune with then needs of our people, hold a high view of God, and create music that moves people deeply. There’s no one-size-fits-all model, so let’s only loosely hold these nine considerations he points out, friends. <3

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Micah, thanks for your comments. You have shared some great thoughts.

      I agree wholeheartedly with your third paragraph. I speak to this point often.

      Concerning new music, I am a STRONG supporter of using new music in the church. My point is that some churches inundate their congregations with too much unknown music such that the people quit singing because they don’t know the songs. I have attended many worship services where 75%+ of the songs were new to the congregation. The singing struggles in cases like that. I have a link to an article that talks about this in more detail with point one.

      Also, I do not believe the “sole purpose of music is to get people to sing.” I did not mean to imply that in this post. However, music is certainly a tool that helps people actively participate in corporate worship. The nine points I raised here were targeted specifically at the times that worship leaders are seeking to involve their congregations in singing. There are many reasons beyond these nine why people are not singing, as you so well pointed out in the third paragraph, but the target of this post is to confront bad practices of worship teams that are seeking to lead people in singing, and so often failing to do so.

  87. huibert de boon says:

    our church still has a good mix of congregational singing and I have been in churches where they put on a performance and it is so loud it hurts my ears. I love to sing but find it difficult to sing to music that loud. also often the performers will apply there own beat and rythem to a song you thought you knew. it is a good thing we have enough churches that do teach gods word that we can choose a church that suits our style of worship.

  88. T.K. Goforth says:

    This is what I have been trying to say for years!! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

  89. Danielle D says:

    You forgot one….some people don’t like to sing and wish it wasn’t always a part of worship.

  90. Jaimie says:

    Thank you for taking the time to think about the different aspects of corporate worship, and how to lead effectively and help others to worship. I respect your thoughts and suggestions and agree, generally, that what you have offered can only help. However, I don’t believe this is the key to seeing those not in the worship “team” sing more. There is certainly a definite distinction between musicians who lead, and those who follow… scripture reveals this. David had an anointing to play the harp so that the demonic influenced Saul was encountering would flee him, which they did. I believe that we are ultimately not responsible for congregation members singing or not singing. We have the responsibility to influence and lead, but the individual will make the final choice. It all comes down to how much oil we have. Is the lamp in our heart burning with plenty of oil? In other words, are we connecting with and encountering Jesus throughout our non-Sunday church lives? When we arrive together in a corporate worship meeting, are we waiting to ride someone else’s coat tail to enter into the presence of God? Or, are we taking the prompting of the worship leader, and with our own free will choosing to step into worship by faith, regardless of our feelings, emotions, or the little distractions around us? I fortunately come for a body where there is more than one worship leader, and there are multiple different teams that lead for every service throughout the week. So as a worship leader, if I am not scheduled for a particular Sunday, I am certainly out in the congregation singing out and passionately givin God glory and praise as a “team” member not on the stage.

    He is worthy of it all. When we have that revelation, and the oil of our intimate walk with Jesus is burning, we will be able to push through sludgy atmospheres and press into worship without a ceiling.

    Blessings and love!!

  91. the reason people aren’t singing in church is a thankless, selfish heart condition that misses the redemption of the very soul. I read articles like this on both sides of the equation and find them very decisive. A church member posts and other members see (plus the worship leader) and passionate division happens. And on both sides of the issue are falsehoods.
    Scripture never deals with keys and how to methodically lead worship so traditional and worship bands draw lines and prepare for holy worship war.
    I am a worship leader and also the lead pastor of a baptist church (rare I know) and just wish the issue would be handled appropriately. Someone who truly understands the gospel and what has been done for them will not be able to keep from singing. I lead with guitar some rocked up praise and hymns in another service with piano and organ and trust me when I say that their are people who don’t sing in both and music is not the problem. As for ad libbing, I think this may be some of the problem with mainstream baptist worship. We are so afraid of breaking from structure and a leader worshipping before the Lord apart from the script. I’m in FL so maybe shouldn’t have commented, but a few of our congregation posted and wanted to know how I felt. With due respect to the writer, this is divisive. This article is dealing with issues from 10-12 years ago in the worship war era. Please as a leader in this field I urge you to stand accountable to bring unity and not 9 reasons that have nothing to do with the heart. Love to all:)

  92. Chad Meadows says:

    What’s interesting about this article is that not one of his points is backed up by scripture. If we are basing our difficulty in singing to God on our own personal preferences then we have completely missed the point of worship. Although I understand some of issues of struggle for people in these areas, I see no scriptural support for any of these claims.

    • Lyn Jackson says:

      Bit hard to do, Chad, seeing that the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about keys (Hebrew music was differently structured anyway) or electronic sound systems and such. It does have something to say about worship teams though – like Asaph’s (1 Chronicles 15-16). Their job was to lead people in worship, not sing at them. The Bible also contains the Hebrew people’s “hymnody” – the Psalms. Many of them begin with “Sing to the Lord!” – an injunction on everyone to join in. I’m with Kenny on this. If the congregation is not singing with gusto (if slightly out of tune – who cares?) then the worship team has not done its job.

  93. Glenn Johnson says:

    I agree with all 9 points in this article. Would just like to add that performancism seems to be taking over “corporate” worship. Remember this one thing….Music(instrumentalists and singers) are supposed to compliment the message, not the other way around. So much for rock concert mentality.

  94. Amanda Davis says:

    What important insights for Worship Leaders to keep in mind. Thankfully I attend a church who balances all these things well. Weekly I leave with my spirit refreshed because of having sung & proclaimed together with the whole congregation, the praises of our God. Also, I am challenged by sound biblical teaching. I appreciate that our worship leaders & pastors take seriously the planning & preparation of the worship service, because our God deserves the best we have to offer.

    Having just read again this morning Jesus’ messages to the 7 churches in Revelation 2 & 3, I would like to submit another reason people are not singing. Jesus commends the Church at Ephesus for many good deeds, but then reproves them because they have lost their first love. Good deeds minus love equals nothing in God’s sight. Good deeds done in love & in response to the great love we have been given is living a life of worship.

    Remember the expressions of first love? When you could not wait to be with Him, to hear His voice & to tell Him how much you love Him? There was no holding back! Such passion! Oh to find the words to tell Him how much I love Him! Has our love grown cold? (Hint: It’s not the fault of the music style.) We have allowed our love to grow cold & we need to remember our first love.

    1 Corinthians 13 tells us that whatever we do, MUST be done in love. We use this passage to talk about love in a variety of relationships, but in context this passage is talking about our corporate worship services. Whatever we say & do….worshiper, worship leader, pastors, must be done in love.

  95. Rick Owen says:

    Good article. Unfortunately, many church meetings today have turned into CCM concerts with a keynote speaker –– truly a spectator event.

    We need to return to New Testament simplicity, Christ-centered participation (by the whole body), and Spirit-driven service to God and His children.

    More thoughts here:

  96. Carl Nelson says:

    When you can’t tell the difference between a worship session, a night club, and a rock concert, something is wrong. Worship is the only thing that God gets out of a “service”, and when we make it about performance, it is like eating the sacrifice off of the altar. Flashing lights, smoke machines, booming bass… too much for me. Give me simple worship songs that can also be sung in a small group, that are attainable by average people, that call the heart into a love relationship with the Father.

  97. Jim says:

    Personally I would never go to any church that called me a “sheep”. I’m not an animal! Maybe that is your problem.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      I am sorry you are offended, but the Bible uses the imagery of sheep for the followers of Christ multiple times. In this case, it was merely an analogy of the untrained, average singer who follows closely the direction of the shepherd (lead worshipper).

      • Abraham says:

        You are too kind to respond that comment.

        However, the commentator’s inability to understand your usage of scriptural imagery reminds me of another important part of the Reformation’s impact on singing in worship amongst the Calvinist tradition — exclusive usage of the biblical text in the lyrics of the hymn. Not quite sure if it is a reason why people in the pews aren’t singing. BUT the lyrics of many of the weekly top 40 of praise music are not bringing the congregation closer to the words of the sacred text.

        • And I think it’s pretty insulting to assume that the average person in the congregation is “untrained” and has no musical ability. Voice and instrumental lessons were a standard and valued part of my upbringing, as they were for most people I knew. Hymns are a beautiful expression of worship that allow a congregation to join together in four-part harmony. Contemporary worship songs are flat and uninteresting to me because of the lack of musical complexity.

          • Colt says:

            Loved the article and I feel like most of the points are spot on!

            Scrolling through the comments, it has been interesting to see all the different experiences within worship. I for one, am thankful for the variety of expressions that church services can display. From the piano-only congregation to the rock band, God has gifted musicians with many talents to be displayed for HIS glory. Not everyone is going to view your idea of worship as the best form.

            I relate more towards one style over the other, but it is refreshing to go to a different church and seeing a different style resonate with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

            But hey… what do I know. I’m just one of those average (or if I’m being honest… below average) sheep that can’t carry a tune in a bucket.

            Kenny, thank you for searching deep to find the best way the church can worship God. I pray He blesses your services with the right balance so that He is most glorified!

  98. Diana says:

    That list is just the beginning. More is learned from the comments. Personally, I quit the church years ago over music. Every time I’ve been to another one it has been the same agony. I didn’t go there to attend a rock concert with ear shattering volume, smoke, lights, and whatever other distractions can be thought up to bring attention to oneself. I just wanted to function like the early church. I must wear ear plugs in every place I’ve gone. I’m bored with the boring moronic songs that have no message and just does nothing but hinder me from worship of my Lord and Savior. I used to play a woodwind until I realized I needed to be singing (confessing God’s Word) to Him, so I quit playing and only sang. Singing scripture is the best way to memorize it. When the time comes we can’t have bibles while we’re in prison it would be very valuable to have the Word in our hearts (where it should be now).

  99. Edward Rudd says:


    You hit the nail right on the head with these 9 reasons. The trend going back to “concert style” worship is hurting participation greatly.. And the whole point of worship is to participate!!

    I recently stepped down from being a vocalist on the worship team at our church because of at least half of these reasons.

  100. Brian says:

    In the main I agree with this. I was part of the 60’s development of outreach via music and drama and believe that this is still valid, but the growth off (to coin a phrase )’ worship festivals & concerts’, is rather worrying. I know several of the current well known pan church worship leaders, and know there hearts are for Jesus and the Gospel, but am concerned that the distinction between worship leading and performance has become blurred. Yesterday I watched a video of a Christian music event and could not decide if the performer was leading worship or just performing! He and his band had been flown over from USA for the event. Toward the end we came to the conclusion that the ‘congregation’ was worshiping the performer rather than God!

  101. fred says:

    As a typical every few months attendee, It has never been made clear to me why singing songs is as important as learning the actual text of the bible and essential doctrines of salvation. We call concert time “worship” but even when I was attending more frequently, I rarely felt as fed and impacted as when scripture was taught. And I don’t mean a couple bible versus surrounded by the Pastors life experience puffed up by empty platitudes. I mean, what is the doctrine of Justification and how is that different than Sanctification? What’s the point of singing happy songs from the heart if our heart is believing in some sort of works based salvation which is no salvation at all? Might as well be singing from a Mormon hymnal book at that point.

    • JulieN says:

      Scripture tells us to sing! “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Colossians 3:16) Note that it’s teaching “one another”, not a one-directional teaching relationship. There are three types of music, but all are to teach and admonish each other as well as be to the Lord. Teachers know that music lyrics are often better retained in our memory than plain speech.
      I saw a secular news article recently that said the quickest method of making friends was to join a singing group. Doing an activity in unison with other for an extended period of time puts us in harmony (pun intended) with them, not only syncing physically but emotionally and mentally. God knew this long before researchers figured it out. He wants to make us a unified spiritual family (Ephesians 4:3-6).
      He created music; He sings over us! (Zephaniah 3:17)

  102. Info says:

    I appreciate this article. I am weary of the “concert” experience that is purported to be congregational worship. It has become so extreme in one church I know of that they hold late comers back and wait to seat them until they won’t interrupt the “performance”. When Worship “Pastors” put career first, the end result is plastic for believers and for seekers. I encourage a back to the basic approach.

  103. Cariskel says:

    Excellent article – I completely agree with every point.

  104. Bimpster says:

    The church I attend and are a member of suffers from “blended” worship. Always hymns, always a “team”, code for band… On occasion “The Choir” will contribute during the offertory or some other appropriate time in the service. The big guy likes to change things up evry so often. I’m one of the former choir members, team singers and soloists. For reasons I won’t get into here, I now only sing hymns from the congregation. And only those hymns with biblically accurate lyrics. My convictions about music in the church are considered radical. I refuse to sing Christmas hymns due to the fallicy of the man made holiday worshiping the event of the Nativity and not the Messiah. Today it should be more about His second coming and less about his first. At least the Bible seems to make a bigger deal about it in my opinion. Anyway, people will sing what makes them “feel good” about themselves and their soft relationship with their good buddy JC. Half heartedly raising a single hand and the obligatory toe tapping to represent their dance before The LORD of hosts. The claptrap being produced by today’s weak Christian artists is more about selling their rights by a CCLI publishing house than honoring God. I’d rather sing next to a woman who has had throat cancer and is praising God in a harsh and raspy voice than next to an opera star who sings about the days of Elijah. Singing is important but not as important as knowing Christ and him crucified.

  105. Betty says:

    to be completely honest this is just a list of excuses for people who are not motivated of themselves to worship. Since when has worship ever been about you? When you make it about you these are the types of articles that make people feel like they have a valid reason to leave churches oh dear me the music just wasn’t too my liking blah blah blah. I get so fed up with these selfish me me me types in church

  106. Dicky Carter says:

    Definitely true in my great church. In general, I find the older guys tend to be worship leaders, the younger to be performers. Modern churches prefer the younger performers because the focus is on seeker sensitivity towards a younger audience.

  107. Sylvia says:

    Amen, to who ever put this together. The hymns we use to sing were inspired by the holy spirit, now what happens with the new stuff it causes the holy spirit to be quenched.

  108. This debate reminds of that joke ‘what’s the difference between a terrorist and a worship leader? – you can negotiate with a terrorist. The real problem is the problem that has plagued the church for millennia. Despite its best efforts the church always takes on the values of the culture around it. Our culture is very entertainment oriented. Both worship leaders and worship followers expect something concert-ish at church. The followers expect to be entertained and the leaders expect some of the payoff due entertainers. This is not because either are deliberately evil. It just seems reasonable. We should remember this when we judge Christians of other ages for the things they did. It seemed reasonable to them. Someday another generation of Christians will judge us and say “how could they turn the house of God into a ….”

  109. R. says:

    I understand many of the points- however I cannot get past the statement at the beginning of the article of worship being “for the people.” Worship is exclusively “for” God. Whether you have congregational led singing or a full worship band, the individual is responsible for his or her own heart. If you spend your time during worship criticizing how everything is done, you are wasting time that should be focused on worshipping God.
    There are many different styles of worship- and I believe that if man’a heart is pure in it, than it is acceptable to God. Man looks on the outward appearance but God looks at the heart. Though different forms of worship appear very different, it’s all the same to God- where is your heart?
    And as a side note- instruments were specifically requested and instructed in the psalms for the music leaders. So instruments are certainly an acceptable component of worship.

  110. I agree with most of the comment, cooperate worship is very important and we must all endourver to encourage that.

  111. Lynette Sloane says:

    Loads (probably everyone) sings at my church, and by that I mean that they worship. My only ‘problem’ is that the songs are set to low for me, but that’s because I’m a soprano. Our worship music is set perfectly for the average singer to reach and the melodies aren’t too complicated.

  112. Ivy Conner says:

    The writer nailed it … ALL REASONS ARE TRUE …Let’s all sing, see James 5:13 …. SING Psalms…NOT play them. … ISN’T THAT INTERESTING!

  113. Emily says:

    I literally couldn’t disagree more. This article takes ALL responsibility off of the congregation.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Thanks for your comment, Emily. I do not disagree with your inference at all. As I wrote about in other posts, personal worship is a prerequisite to corporate worship, and we as worship leaders cannot force someone to worship. People have to have that 24/7 relationship with God and come expectant to times of corporate worship. We can, however, set an environment conducive to worship. Unfortunately, as this post points out, we as worship leaders can do things that get in the way of helping people voice their worship to God. The purpose of this article was not to determine who is responsible for people worshipping (the congregant vs. the worship leader) but rather to point out what we as worship leaders often do (perhaps unknowingly) to be a barrier. Unfortunately, the nine reasons I highlight here are seen far too often in churches throughout the world.

  114. Jeanne says:

    I would add a number ten to the list and this is more of a cultural thing than a decision made by church leaders. People don’t sing in our culture in general anymore. We are a consumer/spectator culture. People divide themselves into singer/performers and non-singers. Neither churches nor schools provide children with training in choirs the way they used to, most people don’t know how to read music, much less sing in parts. People are self-conscious and everything we do has to get posted to you tube. We don’t have the experience of singing as a process and not a performance.You mentioned a regular range being from A-D but that is actually quite low. Most people have notes above D but do not feel confident using their head voice because they have never been encouraged or trained to do so unless they were identified as singer/performers early on. I agree with the poster above that singing is not always worship, but it is a powerful doorway to worship, especially when we join as a corporate, fully engaged, humble body to do so. It is a shame that for so many people that door has not been opened. I would like to see churches do more work around equipping people to sing as a spiritual and worshipful practice. Church liturgy is the work of all the people not the performance of a few.

    • Jeremy says:

      This is not accurate. When was the last time you were at an actual concert? Secular, Christian, doesn’t matter. People in the crowd will sing along with the same songs sung on stage as the songs they sing along with in their cars. It always amazes me when I am at a concert that has no intention of letting the attendees be heard, that thousands of attendees are singing along anyway.

  115. Mark says:

    Songs too complex or vocally challenging will lose many people. But, songs that are too simplistic seem to lose people too.

    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.
    Repeat the phrase.

    I see people dropping out after the first few times. Seems like there is probably a good balance to be found.

  116. Barbara says:

    I find this to be true in many churches except for the Churches of Christ. We sing acapella, so there’s no chance of being drowned out by a band. Depending on the church, you will find traditional, contemporary, or a mix of music. Our worship leaders do add new music, but usually make an effort to teach the new songs to us.

  117. Sandy says:

    Our church stopped having a choir and never had a praise team. Congregational singing is the focus. Over the past several years, the congregation has learned well over one hundred new songs well. There is a “song of the month” which is introduced on a Sunday night and then sung every Sunday morning for at least 4 weeks. All songs are printed in the bulletin or are sung from the hymnal. We do not have a “worship leader”. The music director selects the songs, runs them by the pastor (the true worship leader), and one of the men in the church leads the congregation each week. God has blessed us with some strong, beautiful voices and keyboardists, plus a couple of instrumentalists. There is nothing like hearing the voices of the congregation heartily praising their God.

    • Jasen says:

      Choirs and praise teams are to be used to encourage the congregation to worship. There is nothing wrong with skilled musicians using their talents to lead others in worship.

  118. Gene says:

    Most Churches now give you the aura of a Rock Concert that is geared toward a sensual experience rather than giving to the Lord the Worship due his name……… this is the number 1 problem.

  119. Wayne says:

    Not sure if this has been mentioned, but it feels like a lot of contemporary worship songs have been written for soloists – not the music, but the lyrics. I feel for some reason that the words for many worship songs seem to be ones written for an individual to sing – the words are from an individual perspective. Corporate worship songs, when done well, allow the congregation to sing songs without feeling like they are singing someone else’s words (against their will).
    Hope that made sense.

    • Darrell Stewart says:

      I agree. Congregational singing should be focused more on God himself- his attributes, his power, his glory – and less about the writer’s personal musings or experiences, since all of us cannot always identify with a writer’s very personal expressions. The idea behind corporate worship is just that – ‘corporate’ worship, drawing all the worshippers in, and not simply providing an outlet for a performer’s or writer’s creativity or self-expression.

  120. Kate says:

    I am Catholic. When I was little everyone sang. Now it is like a spectator sport for most. Except they are just watching a priest and the music leader. I suspect that people don’t feel like they don’t really feel like it and are a bit lazy. In a catholic setting the songs are mostly always the same. Although I do agree on the pitch part. I often feel that I either have to drop too low or squeak my way through.

  121. Barbara Jennings says:


    —Many modern worship song are self focused rather than God focused
    ( “I” and “me” appear in the lyrics repeatedly)

    —–Theologically weak and badly written

    —–So loud from the front it excludes the congregation rather than includes

    • Jacob says:

      Yes, I agree with that wholeheartedly. Some of the songs we sing sound like pitiful self-help pep talks. Another problem is all we sing about is God’s love–90% of the time. We don’t sing about hell, wrath, blood, soldiers, etc. because the church has become to squeamish.

      You made a great observation. The number of times “I,” “me,” and “my,” appear in our songs is ridiculous. I wish Christian songwriters would be more diligent to stick to Scripture.

    • Jason says:

      I can look through any Christian hymnal out there and find just as much narcissism as any “contemporary” song. Also, I am constantly having to adjust the wording of hymns to be theologically sound. There are some hymns that are so theologically bad that they will never be sung by any congregation that I am leading.

  122. Too many points for me to intelligently comment on them all, but one really struck me: We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.

    A church service isn’t a performance. It’s true worship of God by the people.

  123. tim says:

    Okay this is going to be a long reply, before I start I am writing this sincerely having thought and sought a lot about this stuff. I am merely sharing my thoughts and adding to the discussion. I am happy to be wrong if that is indeed what I am. However, if I am wrong please be gentle with me.

    I enjoyed this article. However, I do feel the need to add a little. We call the part of a Sunday service where we sing worship. I find that a bit difficult as worship is something that happens in someone’s heart and often there is no external authentic evidence of worship, only some faint indications. There are many reasons why people will sing in church but not all of them are worship. I have heard, and have probably even said myself ‘the worship was good this morning’, but what does that mean? The worship isn’t for me and the production values of the music have little bearing on whether it is good worship, because the music isn’t for me and it isn’t my place to decide if it is acceptable to God. In the end God looks at each person’s heart and decides is it is acceptable and if it is worship. I think that sometimes we worship, worship. Which is a pretty dangerous place to be.

    Also to get this in perspective, in the new testament I don’t see the type of ‘worship’ we are talking about. I don’t even see mention of musical instruments (please correct me if I am wrong). I do see the act of offering our bodies as worship, and that worship is something that happens ‘in spirit (much debate there) and truth’. Yes I do also see ‘each on’ brings a psalm a hymn and a spiritual song to a gathering, but I don’t see the office of worship leader.

    I don’t think that music and singing is bad but I also don’t see it as being the only expression of worship we should talk about and indeed I see the emphasis of the new testament stacked more in favour of worship being more than singing. The sheer weight of new testament (which I am presuming should be our model for modern church life) scriptures seems to indicate worship being more that singing. My point is that singing and music are definitely not worship in my opinion, they are merely a potential (often not realised potential) for the expression of worship. A worship that is happening deep inside someone and that could as easily be expressed in an act of obedience (Jesus mentions this all the time in the book of John) or kindness or as much in a heartfelt tuneless prayer, than it is in a singular art form such as singing and music.

    I hope this is coming across humbly and sincerely and NOT that I want us to stop singing. I really want to be a worshipper and to truly know God, and I appreciate anyone who wants to help me uncover what that really means. I guess I am saying is let’s not just get caught up in singing, let’s get right into the nuts and bolts of what worship is and how we can expression that worship in whatever, art forms, acts, obedience’s and heart attitudes God wants.

    • Matt says:

      Just to explain a bit, your definition was correct until you said that there is no outward expression of worship. There is an outward form, we just give it a different name. Praise. look up the seven? hebrew words for praise and you will see that each one is a physical symbol of the worship going on in our hearts. this might help a bit

  124. Linda Messinger says:

    I believe the most important reason has not been mentioned….Whether you can read music or not, when you can’t even tell when the song goes up or down because you just see words on a screen, you can’t sing alto, tenner or bass unless you just make it up by ear. I miss that alot! There’s nothing like 4 part singing on hymns.

    • Sue says:

      I agree! I miss that a lot. I hate it when there’s a new song and no clue about how it goes. There’s such a difference between a hymn and a “worship song” that was written to be performed by a band, and not by a congregation.

  125. Al Liberio says:

    The term “worship leader” is not Biblical and causes division in the Body Of Christ. The Bible has two terms that I have seen, “musician” and “head musician”. It is the Holy Spirit that “Leads us into the all truth”. Yahshua is our “Captain of our salvation.” Putting individuals under the title of “worship leader” is a false elevation and does harm to the person with undue pressure and no ability at all to lead anyone to worship God. The title also implies that the rest of the brethren need someone to lead them in worship and they will automatically rely on this one person, and may resent the “worship leader” for failing. There are just too many things wrong with the term. As Peter penned by the Holy Spirit: ” Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” – 1Peter 2:5 and also: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;” -1Peter 2:9 All the members are royal priests and have the the ability to praise God. The “worship leader” already lives within each of us. Let us no longer address the musicians with this false title.

    • Rachel says:

      I have heard and like using the term “lead worshiper” rather than “worship leader”. We should not have a higher “place” in the church because we have musical talent/gifting. We should humbly worship, and lead God’s people in worship.

  126. Cynthia says:

    We need to get back to MORE EDIFICATION and LESS ENTERTAINMENT! Meaning we, as true believers and servants of the Lord Jesus Christ, need to concentrate on pleasing GOD in our worship and teaching instead of entertaining man!

  127. Louis Hevia, Worship Leader says:

    I believe there is a 10th reason for the decline of the worship experience in churches for the past decade or so. Too many pastors are eager to have a young worship leader just for the sake of their youth. Ther is nothing wrong with a young worship leader IF they are well discipled by a seasoned, gifted and effective worshipleader. Too many gifted worshipleaders are not given the opportunity to serve the body because they are considered ‘too old’. Pastors deny their congregations a more meaningful time of worship when they take that point of view. 2Timothy 5:22 tells us not to lay hands on anyone too soon for this very reason. We wouldn’t dream of replacing a senior pastor because he was ‘too old’. We consider his experience and Godly refining an asset. It should be the same for worshipleaders as long as they are effective.

  128. Ole Anderson says:

    Different strokes. Personally I am the tech leader and I sing in the choir and do solos (over 40 years now). We have a 24 channel sound board and 4 amps, and a video screen but the music is never too loud that you can’t hear the person next to you singing. I have been in churches (with smoke, lights and a band) where they project words on the screen, but then play so loud with huge sets of line array speakers you can’t even hear yourself sing, and I can sing loud. At our church we have a blended service where we mix hymnal songs with more contemporary songs, but we have no band. A miced piano,a keyboard and a small pipe organ, all get used during most every service. We might have 7 or 8 songs projected on the screen any given Sunday with a choir to help lead the congregation (ave attendance 140). I agree with most of the premises put forth by the OP, yet understand the need to provide full blown entertainment by a band just to fill the seats with young (by age and at heart) folks that otherwise wouldn’t attend a more traditional service so they are there for the Message. And who says you can’t worship without singing?

  129. Nic says:

    Great points here, i still think you have to be careful either way you pull in this case. Pushing too hard into the future and contemporary style can definitely leave half a congregation behind.
    But trying to ‘restrict’ or regiment worship style can have the same negative effect.
    This is just as common a problem, the body is made up of different parts and due to this, some want organisation and familiarity, systems and structure etc. others want new perspectives on a walk with Christ, and fresh approaches, cool music and melodies etc.

    No matter what, due to taste and preference, there is only a couple of songs that are really safe to play in church (amazing grace, I have decided to follow Jesus etc.) but there will always be those who don’t know the songs/don’t like the style. And there will always be those who are bored with the same song they have been singing for 3 years.

    Too much pain and arguing happens over this topic.

    However, I do 100% agree with the first comment on this blog,
    Main point missing is this:

    It’s all about Jesus. Above all systems, lyrics, traditions etc, no matter how familia you are with the songs, and how scripturely based the lyrics, if the family isn’t there to worship God, a redeemed people coming together to glorify their God, if the band isn’t their to worship God, then it’s going to be dead, and people will sing half heartedly like you see often. We can blame it on anything we want to. Sure I could make a list. But if Jesus isn’t the centre, what are we wasting time for singing songs we don’t really know/like.

    If you are saved by Jesus, and his grace, and mercy and justice, and you have taken that gift and are running with it, ANY song that glorifys God will be on your lips and you will sing with Joy.

    If your not singing out of Joy for the love of our saviour, what are you singing for?

    Just some thoughts.

    If you want to chat with me about this give us an email:

    • Ole Anderson says:

      One more thing: Proper acoustics encourage singing. An acoustic and sound consultant explained to us that carpeting soaks up sound and if you have a hard floor in the seating area folks will be able to hear each other better and being able to hear those around you will encourage more singing. Venues designed for loud sound levels generated by speakers and the band typically want a fairly dead room, so they are fully carpeted.

  130. Lindy says:

    New music isn’t an issue for me. It’s the one or two, or three words top songs and chorus phrases that are repeated 20 times ad nauseam that drive me to silence. It lets the director/singer do a lot of performance vocalizing. The lyrics don’t have a gospel message – that’s hard to do in three words such as hallelujah, oh-ohh, and ah-hh. Where did all the gospel song writers go.

    • Judy says:

      We recently had quite a discussion on this matter in church. There is nothing wrong with most of the “new” music but much of it is not suitable for congregational singing. You can’t sing if you don’t know the song. I agree that new songs can be added but should be done like one at a time and sing it for several weeks so people know where the melody line is going, what the rhythm is doing and learn the words. Constant new pieces do not encourage this. It also helps when you can hear what is going on and not so loud that you can’t hear anything. Also the repetition of words and phrases get very boring and sounds more like “vain repetition”. The music is so important and allows the congregation to participate and can be a real dividing threat if not handled correctly. Music does not have to be fast, loud and difficult to be considered suitable music. We must also remember that there is a place for quiet, searching music.

  131. Sara says:

    I think one point is missing. if we are worshipping, we are worshipping GOD and Jesus throug the Holy Spirit. Everything should be focused on this. When the worship leader and the whole group Knows exactly on WHO is the focus of the time they have to manage, and they know how to manage with the presence of God, in my experience every mouth should shout and sing to the glory of God.

  132. Joel says:

    These are good thoughts. I’ve been a worship leader for 10+ years and have had to learn this stuff the hard way. This should be added to “things to learn from worship ministry school.”

  133. gail jacobsen says:

    Us old folks don’t like the contemporary stuff they call worship music and if we want real church they make us come to the early service. I am retired and I don’t get up to be anywhere at 8:00 a.m. Let them young folks go at 8:00 and we’ll stay at 10:00. This is one of my pet peeves. Music is a ministry, not entertainment. All that repetition, over and over. One of my former pastors put it best, God is not deaf nor does he have alzheimers.

  134. William Woods says:

    I totally agree with your 9 points. I also have seen the sad regression from a less professiona grass rootsl type expression that I became involved with in the eighties to see worship evolve into something more packaged and performance based. More concerning is the mimicking and celebrity image identity being projected that promotes and produces self worship rather than God worship. I still wish to worship no matter what’s being protected on the stage out front, but it sometimes becomes difficult when you’ve thrown up in your mouth.
    Just one other thought do you think it would be more effective to help the worshipers if the worship team were not Centre stage?

  135. Seck says:

    I’m 56 years old. I remember the older people, as well as the younger “more spiritual” people, making these same “points” back when “Kum-ba-yah” was all the rage. And frankly, some group probably made the same kinds of arguments regarding Gregorian Chant back in that day. For those who actually worship – they know that music is merely one of many vehicles to assist in – not be – worship. If the music at your church gathering place isn’t up to your “standard”, and thus somehow prohibits your ability to worship – then go down the road a half mile and see if you can fit in there. I’m a music major…a cellist…and I have never attended any “church” where I thoroughly enjoyed every musical “offering”. By the same token, I’ve never attended any “church” where my worship was somehow “blocked” (unless, of course, I blocked it myself – by refusing to worship). There is so much more that could be said in response to what I personally consider the drivelish nature of most everything I’ve read here – but I’ll end with just one more. By many of the “standards” spewed out in previous posts, David’s worship in the Psalms must be virtually revolting for all of the clamor, dance, and repetition. Back at the beginning, I referenced the “younger ‘more spiritual'” crowd. Well – I was one of them. And years latter, I’ve discovered that God is no more present in the red hymnal than the green hymnal than the blue hymnal than the Gaithers than Tomlin than etc. Music is a vehicle – nothing more and nothing less. If it’s your hang-up where you’re at – move…not a big deal. It’s only a big deal if you remain discontented, ungrateful, and a divider where you are now. Find a place where you won’t feel compelled to complain. And… Good luck with that.

    • Boyd Jahnke says:

      Your rant would be more useful to us all if you had addressed at least one of the nine points made in the article. It is easy to fling unsubstantiated accusations of divisiveness and character deficiency at the author without examples but it is hardly helpful. Dialogue requires that you actually engage what someone has said ~ someone like the author of the article on which you are commenting.

      • Brendt Wayne Waters says:

        Oh, puhleeeeeze. The vast majority of the comments on here have nothing to do with the subject of worship, but are simply tired old arguments elevating personal taste to the level of spirituality. At least Seck’s comment addressed something in the same time zone as the OP.

        • George Jenkins says:

          Boyd is right on……………..too much self-gratification and not enough addressing the issue. I don’t notice any comments in the article about psalms or Gregorian chants(essentially straw men put up by Seck); but I suspect the latter were not designed for people who being encouraged to take part in the service………or even read the Bible, but if chants turn Seck on he can get a CD. Even though Seck considers himself a “more spiritual” person, telling people to go somewhere else is not really what a spirit filled person would do. A spirit filled person would want to bring people in.

  136. Elizabeth says:

    Find out what the origins of church gatherings are before deciding that the sermon is the most important part. You might be surprised.

  137. Elizabeth says:

    I’m wondering who decided that the sermon is the most important part of a church service. Really, have you ever wondered or found out what the roots of the church service are? It’s not subjective, nor is it something to be based on what your pastor says, that he heard from another pastor that he heard from someone else etc.. People should bother to find out for themselves where the worship/church service or gathering came from originally.

    • Mike says:

      In the early church (as it is today in liturgical congregations), neither the singing nor the sermon was the most important part. It was the Eucharist (communion, Lord’s Supper, pick your synonym). Singing was something akin to sung prayer to prepare for the Eucharist. The sermon took the place of importance during the Reformation with a new focus on the Scriptures. It has only been since the 60s that the music has been raised to its level of attention.

  138. Andrew says:

    nothing about the sound guys/girls ? there job to mix and get the lvls just right

  139. Chris Haight says:

    One of the other issues that goes unnoticed is that many of the new contemporary worship songs are penned by those who do not hold an orthodox view of the Person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, what we are often forced to listen to in orthodox evangelical worship is penned by heretics and some of us in the crowd know it and refuse to sing.

  140. Cliff Bell says:

    I first read this article translated into Spanish. I affirmed many things I had believed for years but had not heard anyone say. Of course, you brought out many more excellent points. I love it so much I shared it with those who follow me on Facebook throughout Latin America. In less than 24 hours it has already been shared from there over 100 times, and has been seen by another 7,000 people. I was happy to find the original article in English.

    Thank you for helping the Church get back to worshipping the King they way He desires to be worshipped – in Spirit and in truth.

  141. Judy Gyde says:

    That was an interesting article. I would also add that sometimes people don’t sing because they are self absorbed…not focused on Him, not engaged in the process of giving Him their all. Singing to The Lord is to worship Him. Worship isn’t to be about us but about Him. Maybe we can only offer a joyful noise, that’s OK. Why not bless The Lord by singing from our heart as He desires we would. The Psalms reveal interesting insights on this matter: Psalm 33, 47, 95, 100, 149 &150, just to start with. My personal favorite worship song is 10,000 Reasons by Matt Redmond.

  142. Long time church attendee says:

    I would want to shout hallelujah, and as a Southern Baptist, I have never raised my voice in church. This is probably the first thing I have ever commented on.

    A friend of my mother’s (now 90) called them 7-11 songs. You sing seven words 11 times, but now they are 12-24.

    I never sing in church, and I grew up singing — that’s the only place I can sing because I am so bad, but I used to think that I gave a new meaning to making a “joyful noise unto the Lord.” Now I get to church in time to hear the preacher, and I am not alone.

  143. Vanessa Chetty says:

    My husband and I are Pastors of a local church. I lead worship and I consider it great joy to part of a team that has dedicated their lives and time to create a “platform” for the Word of God to be preached. We are certainly not entertainers or ego driven in any way as we know that the demand for a righteous lifestyle is more important than the expression of music and song. Corporate worship should be a culmination of private worship which comes from a personal relationship with God. A heart connection to the Father is far more important than singing or dancing. The temptation for worship leaders to become entertainers is very real until they realise that they can be replaced. The song becomes an expression of what your heart feels toward your Father, to me that is True Worship. The objective of church gatherings is the Word God . worship aligns our hearts to receive the Word. Be blessed. Vanessa South Africa

  144. tiki says:

    I think church now is too focused on worship and not focused enough on teaching. I recently left a church because they increased the worship time to 45 minutes every Sunday. I found it to be too tiring every week to have 45 minutes of worship. Also, after the announcements and a couple extra’s like a baby dedication, it was almost an hour. By the time the Pastor got up to speak I mentally checked out. I really didn’t find it worthwhile attending there if I wasn’t getting anything out of what the Pastor had to say.

    • Debbie says:

      I have to totally agree with you! 45 min.of music plus the announcements and things is way too much!!!!! Teaching of God’s Word should be first and foremost!!!! I go to a church now where the pastor teaches for an hour breaks for 20 then teaches 45 more min. in a second session!!! I LOVE IT!!!! It’s like going to seminary!! He teaches from the original languages and verse by verse!!!! You don’t find this kind of teaching anywhere any more!!!!! An old saying goes….”As goes the pulpit….so goes a Nation”!!!! We have a Nation in decline because we have lost our thought!!! Hosea says….My people suffer from lack of knowledge!!! and the shepherd of the flock is to blame in a church….the people are starving and they are still being given milk!!!! They can’t grow and mature!!!

  145. Malcolm says:

    I studied at a college of music. I’m also a music worship leader. To be honest, it’s not often the first helps you with the second! However, studying the history of music over the last 2 millennia has shown me something that’s relevant to this issue. Music used in church worship is constantly going through a cycle, whereby it begins very simple in format and essentially grass-roots led, then gradually increases in complexity and thus becomes more and more exclusive (i.e. led by trained or experienced musicians) until at some point there is a counter-reaction to return back to simplicity and congregation-led worship again. A classic example of this counter-reaction occurred with the rise of Lutheranism, when hymns such as ‘A Safe Stronghold’ reclaimed the place of congregational participation. In my own time, songs used in worship in the 60s and 70s were generally of a very simple nature and easy to pick up and sing. Some of them, to be fair, were also rather banal and corny! As a teenager growing up in the 70s listening to rock, I and my friends used to long for the time when ‘Christian’ music would catch up with secular music in terms of skill and style. Well, now we have it. The songs we hear on CDs and dowloads today could rival some of the world’s most successful bands. Unfortunately, what we’ve now lost is the common touch. If history teaches us anything, it’s probably time for a counter-revolution.

  146. Frank Byers says:

    Hey guys sorry for the delay. Life never slows down no matter how much I try to make it!! I will answer each of these with a short answer however I have a much longer version for this article is great for the rhythm of my heart. My replies are based on My Part. Gods Part, Their Part.

    1) They don’t know the songs. I agree many times the congregation will not know the songs. It is my job to introduce them to new once while also using the familiar ones. No one can sing out to something they don’t know. (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) They also have to want to know the songs. If they just hear the sermon on Sunday and do not get into the word through out the week the want grow to know Christ either.

    2) We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing. This is subjective to each person. Every style of music has songs that are heard to sing to. It is my Job to set those moments up as clear as possible that there is not expectation to sing. Some people will stand and sing no matter what. ☺ (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)
    3) We are singing in keys too high for the average singer. Songs are written for a reason, and many times if you change the key it will take away from the blessing in the music. Some churches only have a male leader. Well what about the women their choice key is different than ours. Any time I am leading I will always share the stage with a female, and will not lead all of the songs if I have other male leaders. I do process the key of the songs based on what key is best for the leader.
    (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) By me not leading all of the songs this allows for a divers time of singing praises.
    4) The congregation can’t hear people around them singing. This part is really a personal preference and a tradition that some churches have giving up themselves. I have learned that no matter how I set up a song for the perfect key in some settings the room fears what the person next to them thinks more than there heart before the LORD. More Ashamed of being heard than they are ok with standing alone it what should be a “safe place”. Have you ever been to a secular concert where those who are in attendance make it clear that they want to be there? No matter how LOUD or who is watching them you will hear the room sing every lyric to every song. WHY? Because they have chosen to do their part, and learn the songs even making up words they don’t know. Finding joy in just letting go and giving that artist all that they can. Those same people will walk into church and not open their mouths. My PART? GODS Part? Or THEIR PART? The truth, our music is not louder the heart of the worshiper his weakened. I don’t show up to be heard, and if I let the thought of hearing others inspire me ( and I will say it does when I do hear it☺ ) the my muse for worship is defiantly off track. WHY? (BECAUSE WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)

    5) We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment. I truly believe this one of all is at times a big joke. What has turned out to be cool and open doors to allow men and women to use their gifts that the world appreciates we like to say it’s just a show. It takes talent to create moments with in the arts. I am sure not a person sits backs and complains about the building they are sitting it calling their house of worship. Please remember a talented; person who loves design took time to use their gift to create that building. From the blandest church building to the most contemporary design an architect got to show off what they could create. When you think about lights, video work, and all the things that fuel the above statement you forget that is someone’s worship, and offering back to bless. It was never apart of the church at one point but neither were microphones. RIGHT? (BUT WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.) I love that someone wants to use their gifting for the local church.

    6) The congregation feels they are not expected to sing
    I know for me that I have to always work on the clear expectation. Once a DNA is set it takes more work to get the room to stop singing or to start. No matter what the churched person cannot walk in with the mind set we all know the expectation. It is our job to lead on and off the stage for the seeker or lost person attending a service.

    7) We fail to have a common body of hymnody. I make sure to repeat songs as often as I can and fuse together many for the overall time of praise. The work that I put into the flow of the songs always helps with the outcome for my soul and those in the room. The lack of knowing a tune will always be an issues for someone or lost people are not being invited to church. If that’s the case we should not even talk about the music we have bigger fish to fry ☺.

    8) Worship leaders ad lib too much. The weight on the person on stage as turned the congregation into lazy little robots. You will hear people only from certain church styles say I cant follow the leader some times. I do believe we should be mindful of this! For some churches it does not matter because the room understands their DNA and style. For those who have seen the shift of this there are a few key reasons why. The room does not fill themselves with these songs throughout the week. They complain about following you because they are lost. To me it is the same as not knowing where a book of the bible is and the teaching pastor as you to turn there. IF you are in the word you know where to look if not do you get mad and say hey preacher man you are hard to follow how dare you ask this of me. Those who are in there word find it and can keep up. We along with many other churches post links to our worship set on our site so that people can go and download and learn the songs.

    9) Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation. I will say that so many worship leaders get lost in their person time of worship when on stage. Eyes close 4th wall up them and the Lord. The problem with this is clarity of why we are doing what we do. It helps to fully understand just how impactful or time before the LORD is and can be. When coaching worship leaders I remind them that you want people to see and hear the truths and convictions of your heart. Open your eyes and connect. We have a message and it is the most important message ever. When is that last time you saw a well know artist singing there message with their eyes closed the entire song? You will not because they want to clearly welcome their fans into that moment with them. It is like magic to see a major artist perform and sing lyrics that you may even have a hard time singing, but they draw you in or turn you off with the delivery of their song. There is nothing wrong with being confident in your gifting. We have to teach our point leaders, that being confident in your message is key on and off the stage. If the teaching pastor taught the whole sermon with his eyes closed what would you think about him? BECAUSE WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG.)

    Most of this blog post is missing the main point that was once held by the church.
    WORSHIP IS MORE THAN SIGNING A SONG. Worship is a life style. Worship is offering everything you have to GOD. We have lost the focus on our gathering time to be solely about God and it is now about how can I be filled up. This selfish heart is what allows the enemy to help the room see all the things they don’t like and why it is ok for them to not participate. It may be my job to lead you in songs, but it is my calling and Gods will for me to serve those I am “leading”. I look at each time of praise as a worshiper worshiping. I to can’t spend all week away from the Lord and then expect radical things to happen on Sunday morning so why is it ok for the congregation to? The Lord is with us every step of the way. We have to acknowledge him to experience him. SIGNING LOUD MEANS NOTHING WHEN YOUR HEART BEATS TO IT”S OWN RHYTHM. It should be an overflow not always a pick me up. In the old days the power did not come from the hymns, it was that people lived in the WORD. Lets focus on how often we are in the word and not how loud or much we sing. The music portion of worship is meant to be the under score to the life devoted to worshiping GOD 24/7 not Day 7 / 45 min.

    • George Jenkins says:

      You should not have apologized for the delay. You should have been even more delayed and taken more time and actually thought about what was written. It seems you were so interested in self promotion you overlooked what essence of the article……..reasons that people don’t sing as a congregation. For all your words, you may have felt you justified yourself by dumping on the people and blaming them; but the point is to get the people to sing……….not to make you feel good. I am a soloist. I sing mainly at seniors homes. When I go to church I want to be taught and join everyone else in singing a few songs in unison. I don’t need even 10 minutes of concert singing to help me pay attention to the sermon. If I want concert singing there are always CDs.

  147. Daniel says:

    Appreciate the article Kenny, but you’ve clearly not done the research… The NCLS surveys and my own for my phD show ppl are actually very engaged with (which includes singing in) corporate worship… But nothing like playing to the fans… This is actually more of a generational issue than a congregational song style issue. Check my articles in worship leader mag, if your looking for the facts 😉

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Good to hear that you have more favorable data. My observations come from multiple site visits and discussions with many others who all agree this is a real problem. The viral nature of this post indicates that it indeed hits a nerve today. I didn’t make this stuff up.

      • Johanna says:

        You did an excellent job. There is no need of a PhD to see this, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit who leads us to all thruth. Thank you for this excellent article because God is tired of the show. He wants and deserve genuine praise. God is the same yesterday, today a d forever. People is forgetting to who is the glory and sometimes we see more a show to glorify who is singing, and not to glorify who deserve all our praise …our Savior and Lord! Thanks again!

  148. Chris Dollinger says:

    Great article – I totally agree with these 9 points. Thanks for putting this out there

  149. Greg Huguley says:

    Or, people could actually worshiping during a song, I personally don’t sing along sometimes because I’m praising and talking to God during the song.

  150. Josh says:

    First off, let me say that I appreciate the thought out in to the original article and I agree with much of what was said. There are certain things we should always be mindful and/or weary of when planning our worship services.

    Now, with all due respect to the original poster, and all the above comments – this kind of theory and debate, to me, only emphasizes the hypothetical “Drive-Thru Worship/Church” idea. The main thought behind that is that everyone wants to order something different for their worship experience. Some want to sit and listen, some want to participate; some like it loud, while others prefer more quiet; and some want atmosphere or ambiance, yet others may find it distracting. The use of new media (i.e. music, video, sound, lights) to enhance worship is a great thing, but agreeably can be overproduced and distracting… but some may want precisely that. It’s all personal opinion, and who’s to say what’s right or wrong? What’s completely unacceptable to someone may be just want someone else it looking for. Is God going to judge them based on their preferred style of worship? Or is He simply happy that they are worshiping Him with all their heart, no matter the media to get there. As some have said before, it all boils down to the heart of those worshiping. Sure, as church leaders we can try and find a happy medium of all the things mentioned above, but no matter the choices we make on how we present our worship, there will always be some who want it differently. That’s just human nature. What made me excited to worship may be the exact opposite of the person standing next to me on Judgement Day, yet again, I don’t think that’s going to matter to God.

    I grew up in a Church of Christ congregation which, stereotypical of that organization, was fairly traditional and conservative. Since I was able to talk, I fondly remember singing the old songs from the hymnal, which still mean a lot to me now. 30 years later, I’m now part of the leadership planning for that very same church, but today our worship is much different. We went from a single song leader at the pulpit, to a praise team (4 part harmony), to a praise band. We have one service that utilizes the musical style worship, and another that utilizes a cappella style worship. Both are attended and received well by our congregation, as some prefer one style over the other. I know we’re by no means different in doing this than so many other churches, and in fact, we’re behind the times in doing so. When we finally decided to incorporate an instrumental worship service, it was mainly due to the concern of our church elders leadership that we would lose too many of our youth to more contemporary churches.

    Ultimately, what I think this debate boils down to (which supports the idea of the “Drive-Thru Worship”) is – how are we able to attract people to want to worship and have the best experience they can, which (hopefully) brings them closer to God. I like to think of it kind of like fishing – since we are fishers of men. You can head to a lake to do some fishing, and chances are if you’re like me, you’ll bring several different styles of bait. You can do all kinds of research and read up on the fish you’re hoping to catch, see what they like, how they are responding to certain types of bait, etc. You’ll then try your luck casting out with what you think will be the best bait to catch the most fish. Good old fashioned worms can and still do the trick with some fish. Some fish respond better to the expensive, flashy lures. A lot of it also comes down to your skill of fishing in general. In the end, all you want to do is catch some fish, and does it really matter what bait got them to you?

  151. Phil Wilhelm says:

    I agree with Bill Worley except for one point. We don’t have a church band. We don’t have a church organ. In fact, we only have our own voices, and they sound just fine in four parts. We do, however, have the occasional voice that wants others to know how powerful they are, but that doesn’t happen very often. Come, thou Fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing thy grace, sounds great without an organ or band.

  152. Morgan Williams says:

    Two weeks ago, I attended an Episcopal church in town that was new to me. The pipe organ was just restored. It was a large Hook and Hastings organ that was to be played that afternoon at a concert. As the organist played the hymns, I did not feel much like singing because no one else was singing, and I felt that I might drown out the organ. The organist was not playing loud enough and did not demonstrate the organ’s ability to lead in singing. If I had been at the console, I would have given it much more punch. Who would want to sing when played in this manner?

  153. Alvin Robb says:

    WELL ! All kinds of opinions.
    The fact remains that each person singing must make the words meaningful, from the heart. Think what you are singing and make the words your own.

  154. Fred wilson says:

    I’ve been doing church music a long time. I have a full music education. I fully agree with the 9 reasons. I will add that in many churches music is for entertainment and feel go with minimal if any worship value.

  155. Donald Livingston says:

    1. Generally speaking, music making today making is about singing along to a recording, not making music as a group. People don’t know how to corporately own their music making.
    2. Music making is expected to be performed for people, and must be seen to be a performance. Litmus test: if the group performing (whether it’s praise band or soloist or children’s choir) has to be “up front” and can’t fulfill their duties from a balcony, it is not music for corporate worship. It’s a performance for the sake of entertainment.

  156. hannah says:

    Actually, the Reformation gave the Word of God to the people. Worship was what came out of it – because people understood it, they wanted to praise God for all His wondrous works.

  157. J. Watts says:

    If I hear the term “Worship Leader” used, I know immediately to avoid that church. There is no such thing. The pastor, elders, choir(s), accompanist and others are all, in their time and throughout the service, leaders of worship, but to have one person (who is NOT the pastor), designated with that title tells me immediately that things are on the wrong road in that place. Add other words such as “stage” and “auditorium”, and you just seal the deal. Sanctuaries are not, not NOT places of performance and thus DO NOT have stages or auditoriums. Ever. If you use that vocabulary, I know exactly what the mindset is in that “church” and will know to avoid it like the plague. And “praise band” – we won’t even go there.

    • robert king says:

      There is a story I heard during music history class that has stuck with me for many years. There was great criticism of a new director of music many years ago whose music by many was considered the devils music. They could not understand how the church elders could allow such a musician to take holy music for the purpose of worship in the Lutheran church and make it so UNGodly.

      I used to have a copy of this story, but, probably lost it during a move so no longer have it.

      This criticism was directed toward the newly appointed organist of the Cathedral in Leipzig, none other than J.S. Bach.

      Our church has wonderful christian musicians and we have several >worship leaders> all of whom present the Gospel in a respectful, holy spirit inspired way from the ‘stage’. What happened to PEOPLE are the church? The ‘church’ is not the platform or the sanctuary or the auditorium, it is the people.

      Different denominations have different names and titles for positions within the church structure, you surely cannot tell me you “judge” a church and its “chiristianity” on labels??? I have learned in my last 60 years God wired us all differently and this is why we have different church’s and different ways of worship.

      Lastly, who are you to judge, I thought was God’s job.

    • Peter says:

      Try a one year worship leaders course and you may feel both humbled and overwhelmed by the feeling of responsibility to facilitate worship.

  158. Brian Mansfield says:

    some songs only work when sung in an American accent!

  159. Annie Mcintyre says:

    another reason:
    The congregants are too busy drinking their coffee, eating their muffin, and enjoying other foods allowed in the meeting room to be able to shut out the world and allow the HS to move them in worship and singing. And any singer knows that food and drinks except water are not conducive to the vocal chords singing clearly.

    • Dan Marty says:

      I figured if I scrolled down these comments far enough I might find a comment like this. I think the table ministry used in our creative worship service has contributed greatly to our sense of community and corporate worship. (We combine seating around round tables with rows of chairs so that each can sit as they prefer.) I think it also helps us attract a broader spectrum of people to our congregation, welcoming to those in needs of food and those with other special needs not entirely comfortable in pews. The Holy Spirit is still invited and quite welcome. And, frankly, after nearly six decades of singing (and directing) in churches, I much prefer a good cup of coffee to a glass of water. I actually have the most trouble with the communion elements, but nobody is going to keep me from taking them before sharing a table song! Peace.

  160. Ginny says:

    I agree with everything you said. This is pretty much a nuts-and-bolts approach to why people don’t sing, and you’re exactly right. What I don’t read is anything about letting the Holy Spirit guide in both song selection and in the actual time of singing. Where does God really fit in to any of this? Some of the advice would work for business situations etc. One thing I remember about growing up in church was that during the music the Spirit of God would be so real. And just a few years ago I heard a choir sing such a powerful song, it felt like the roof of the church opened up to heaven – not like a big rush of emotion, but in awe and quiet wonder that God had come so close. That’s what I treasure and what I long for – the Spirit of God, not theatrics and performance.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Thank you for your comments. This post was not intended to be anywhere near exhaustive on the topic of leading worship–just wanted to hit a few things that I see happening so often in churches today that are hurting worship. I certainly teach the importance of seeking God in planning and leading worship. I do feel that you can grow a large “church” today totally void of God’s Spirit. Sad to see. You might be interested in this post: What Happens to Your Order of Worship When God Shows Up?

  161. Tom says:

    Some great points made in the article, but isn’t strange that there is not one mention or example of a “worship leader” within the New Covenant context? I think we have moved very far from how the early church functioned. The model we are used to today is not working and is well past its sell by date!

  162. Tom says:

    Some great points made in the article, but isn’t strange that there is not one mention or example of a “worship leader” within the New Covenant context? I think we have moved very far from how the early church functioned. The model we are used to today (in most part) is not working and is well past its sell by date!

  163. Elizabeth says:

    referring to church goers as pew potatoes and sheep in the way that is written here is disrespectful to them. I agree with many of your points in this article, but you don’t have to be so rude.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      I certainly meant no disrespect for church goers. This post is intended to open eyes of worship leaders who do a disservice to the “church goers” by not engaging them in participative worship . I use the words, “pew potatoes” to show the parallel of engagement to “couch potatoes” when we merely sit back to be entertained. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  164. Anna says:

    Drives me crazy when verses or choruses are repeated. Once now and then is nice. any more and I stop singing.

  165. Herman says:

    Oh I don’t know… hard is it to sing along with the same songs you hear on the Christian radio Station………

    I prefer hymns remade….like In Tenderness……abound in us…..etc.

    although, Chris Tomlim does writes some pretty good corporate worship songs……..more than he does radio type worship songs…
    I prefer songs that speak to worshiping Jesus rather than making me! feel all good about myself ….
    many songs sung in Church are all about how good we feel about worshiping……easy to make it about us and not Jesus

  166. Cindy says:

    I find that most songs for me (the typical second soprano) are limited in range, going across the voice break repeatedly, and are not melodic. Great melodies, regardless of how much they move around, are what the church sang for ages. If a note was too high, people dropped an octave. I also feel that the loss of a hymnal or video showing the actual notation has hurt us – people don’t sing parts any more. The songs don’t lend themselves to that anyway so they might be too high for men who are reduced to singing only the “melody”. Three or four part writing lends itself to beautiful harmony which is why most choirs use it. Regardless, people aren’t going to sing if all they hear is a drum.

  167. CeeCee says:

    It makes me said that The name of Jesus isn’t site a single time in this article. Worship is a lifestyle, and songs are a vehicle to transport what’s in the heart to an outward expression. Perhaps if people are not “participating” in worship, there might be heart issues at the core, or perhaps some people simply aren’t expressive in that way. If I went to a church whose form of worship was only dance, I certainly would not be participating, and not because I don’t appreciate it, or love Jesus, but because that really isn’t my thing. I think song is one medium of worship. There are many others. Service, Encouragement, love, prayer, quietness, and most specifically loving like Christ. Blessings to you all!

  168. Gina Ayliffe says:

    My husband and I just returned to this area after being gone for 16 months. We grew up in traditional churches but have really come to appreciate contemporary worship music and very much enjoyed the interactive worship/singing at our interim church. So we were kind of taken aback by the change in music at the first service we attended at our old church after our return. It was a concert, a performance, so loud that if the people around us had been singing we couldn’t have heard them. There were spotlight solos with applause, and that was the only interaction between the performers and the audience, and, yes, I know what I just said. I agree with the reasons in this article. There is really something missing in the service now. The congregation has been banished to the darkness of the auditorium and the roles of spectators. It’s sad. And not just for us.

    • LindaSDF says:

      Applause? I grew up being taught that applause is not appropriate to a worship service, and I still feel that way. We don’t applaud anything in our chapel. Anywhere else in the building is ok, but not where we do our formal worship.

      Worship services should be simple affairs, with hymns that everyone can sing, with hymnals with the notes and everything.

      And remember, that David said to make a joyful noise unto the Lord, but nothing about having to be in tune!

      • PaulaMarie says:

        We have applause in our church but it is giving Praise to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and our Pastor always clairifies that is who the praise and Glory is intended for…for Him, not the singers. So saying applause doesn’t belong is a bit far out there if you don’t understand why there is applause in the first place. The Bible clearly says to lift our hands, sing songs, make a joyful noise, give thanks and praise to the Lord our God. Just thought I would give my thought on “generalized comments without the facts. God Bless.

  169. Luke says:

    “At first, this advance in technology led to more robust congregational singing, but soon, a shift in worship leadership began to move the congregation back to pre-Reformation pew potatoes (spectators).”

    So if I’m understanding correctly, technology led to the worship leader shift that is now causing churches to miss out on congregational singing?

    Look, these are fine tips and congregational singing is quite biblical and should be a sought after trait of any church. But technology isn’t the culprit. It’s ego, it’s lack of training from churches or Sr Pastors but it’s not technology. Professionalism has been around long before modern technology and isn’t the only fly in the ointment pushing worship leaders toward performance and away from congregational singing. A huge choir up front with a grand piano and no technology can be performance driven and stifle congregational singing.

    I’m all for the 9 tips and likely a few others that might help bring back congregational singing, but let’s not blame the wrong culprit.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Sorry this was not clear. In no way do I intend to suggest that technology is the problem. “A shift in worship leadership” began to make the change, not technology. I am a major proponent of utilizing technology in the church so we can speak in a language our culture understands.

  170. Miles says:

    This is a solid list, I appreciate the focus on the purpose, whereas many articles like this can tend to focus on style or a bias towards certain types of songs. We could probably add ease of the song itself to this list. My church introduces a new song maybe once a month, but our worship leader usually does a great job of introducing it and making any notes we should know about it, but even more importantly, the new songs are usually very simple to learn. We typically sing hymns, so when our worship leader introduces a new one (and yes there are such things as new hymns), we may not know the words, but the tune is always simple enough that you can literally sing along for the first time because each verse uses the same tune. But whether it is a hymn or not, as long as the song is simple to learn (which doesn’t mean that the words need to be simple, just that the rhythm of the song can be quickly learned) the congregation will be more likely to sing.

  171. Jeremy says:

    I suppose since this is a Baptist publication (Baptists just adore their carpeting), it’s understandable that this EXTREMELY important item was left off the list:

    #10 – Worship spaces are not being built with the right acoustical properties for mass congregational singing. Wall-to-wall carpet, other soft surfaces, and absorptive “panels” on the walls does not a favorable environment create.

    All of those things contribute quite directly to the congregant being self-conscious about singing. There’s a reason people like to sing in the shower — because it sounds better than it should!

    The worship space is no different. The sales force of these acoustic “treatment” companies is quite the racket. In 2014, there is no acoustic in which an EXPERT-designed and installed PA system cannot project the spoken word to offset the reverberation that is ideal for music and mass singing. Preachers in the largest of cathedrals can be heard just fine. Your 500 seat sanctuary is not the exception to the rule.

    • Alan Munshower says:

      Yeah, but….those great acoustical spaces, like the old European cathedrals are not made for amplified instruments or drums. You can’t have it both ways. Either you make a space that the modern worship band(re:guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, can play at a reasonable volume in OR you make a space that’s great for “singing in the shower”. Its very tough to do both. Cue the acoustical treatment company….

  172. Ian says:

    I don’t sing in church, because I don’t sing period. It’s not an apathy or disrespect thing, I just don’t sing.

    • Luke says:

      Even when it’s requested of us in Scripture? Psalm 95:1-2 That’s kinda like saying, “I don’t love people in church, because I don’t love period.”

      • CeeCee says:

        The word “sing” in that passage is the Hebrew word Fut, which means, “to emit a tremulous and stridulous sound”, which is basically a shrill scream. It’s not singing as we would think. I’m not sure many church’s scream these days:) It’s all about a heart positiion:)

  173. Worship Leader says:

    If you stop singing because you don’t care for a certain song or style of music, please leave the church. You are doing more harm than good. You are obviously no longer lost because you have heard the gospel, you are rebellious. If you had any idea of how great our God is, it would be hard to keep from singing! “Even the very rocks would cry out!” The American church is far to consumed with pandering to seat fillers. The body would be so much stronger if we could “spew out” the lukewarm. “Christians” who refuse to sing because of worship styles are in insult to the Body, and blaspheme the sacrifice that Christ made.

    • Andrea says:

      Wow. This is harsh at best. The piece above makes some really great points about the “average” worshipper’s abilities. For some, singing out loud, even in worship, is a very learned action. If I had read this as a new believer, I would have been afraid to walk into any church and sing. May I suggest that you check your own heart before you speak so strongly (and errantly) about others and their motives. It is the Lord who judges what is in a person’s heart, not us. Maybe the 13th time the chorus is repeated or the note played over, and over, and over, and over again like we’re at someone’s performance instead of music as a catalyst for worship has something to do with those unmoving lips. Tone it down, Maverick. He knows your heart for Him, but His heart for others is not nearly this hard.

      • Julie says:

        I agree with you, Andrea. She was very harsh in regards to what she said about people who went into the church. I would not feel comfortable sitting next to her and would have to ask God to forgive her and her bitterness.

    • Carol says:

      OH my goodness! Where is the love of Jesus in this comment?! My husband is not a singer either but that doesn’t make him a lukewarm Christian. Please take step back. Look at scripture and see that we are supposed to meet and love people where they are at even if they are a seat filler. At least they are there!

    • Karl Marx says:

      Wow! you can see that this person have no love in his heart. This person reminds me of our leader in the pulpit that keeps on reminding it’s congregation that “If you don’t like the church etc. etc. etc. then you are free to go to and find another church” or another favorite quote of his is “God is top priority, his family is the next and the church and its members are the last”. I pray that all Christians here especially the one’s in the pulpit will experience God’s grace.

      • Aaron says:


        I do not know your pastors heart, or the way in which he says the things you quoted him saying, but the sentiments are correct. The church in general is pandering to the “Christian consumer.” The Gospel is offensive, therefore we are called to be as loving and graceful as possible. But we cannot neglect the full truth of the gospel. God is love, but he is also holy, holy, holy. We cannot come to Him without repentance and choosing to follow Him. And instead of trying to keep people, we should love people, which means teaching the gospel, not just acquiescing to their preferences. But all of this in love.

        Secondly, your pastors priorities are dead on. The best way to love and lead my church is to love and lead my family well. That means being available to them and having boundaries. There is a never ending supply of needs and emergencies from people in the church. My family has needs too. And the best way to love and lead my kids is to love my wife well. When they see me loving her, they feel safe, because things are in the right place and their parents love each other and will stay together, protecting the family. And the best way to love and lead my wife is to love God more than anything else. But all in love, not anger or defiance.

      • Catholic says:

        There is only One Church. Will we be divided into different denominations in heaven?

    • Austin A. Preston says:

      Maybe you need to read and absorb the meaning behind #9. Obviously, if you truly feel this way, you are not, and maybe never were connected to the congregation. A worship leader needs to be more than a “my way or the highway” driver. I would also suggest a serious prayer meeting before stepping back into the role of a worship leader. Thank you!

    • Shane says:

      Worship Leader, Elders are not born, they are Discipled. If we turned away every lukewarm Christian based on our personal, and very small view, of who a christian is, we would have NO Elders in the church. We would have no pastors. We would have no congregation. The purpose of Christ warning us against being lukewarm in our faith was not to turn people away, but to challenge us! So if you see a lukewarm christian, it should bring you to a place where you want to disciple them, to challenge them, not turn them away from the church. However, for those individuals serving in a leadership role in the church, the bar should be set a bit higher because we lead the body of Christ. A role that we are GRANTED, and OFFERED, and BLESSED, and CHARGED with by God through those who appointed us. You may need to take a breath and reflect on why you serve Christ and His people before next Sunday. Above all else, I believe that this is probably the unlisted #10 reason. We have lost touch with why we serve in the church, and lost sight of one key word in that phrase, “serve”.

    • ISeeWhatYouDidThere says:

      I’m really hoping your screen name points to your post being a sarcastic one, but I’ve heard this kind of talk enough to think that you are one of the folks who actually feels this way….and that’s very sad.

    • Linda says:

      Thank you, thank you, thank you, for your insightful article! My husband and I have been discussing the same thing but you said it so much better. I find that signing hymns and choruses while harmonizing and listening to my fellow worshipers around me gives me an opportunity to praise the Lord and prepares my heart for the sermon. Singing meaningful lyrics that are based on Scripture helps me remember Biblical truths. Singing songs that were written by authors who were in the midst of pain and disappointment, reminds me of the sufficiency of God’s grace.
      However, extremely loud, difficult to sing, or repetitious music does not have the same effect. All the worship team has to do is turn the house lights up, open their eyes (it is not more worshipful to sing with closed eyes), and look at the congregation. If many people are not singing, are wincing, and/or looking puzzled take the hint.

  174. Karen says:

    I agree with many of the comments above. I would ask the reason for the repetition of choruses. I love to sing – I too love the old worship hymns and don’t think we sing enough of them anymore. If I like the song, I join in. If I don’t like it so much, I join in. It’s not about me. Worship is praising and worshiping our Savior. I believe the music should be an extension of the message. It’s somewhat arrogant to think that only the old hymns are worshipful.
    But I don’t understand why choruses have to be repeated over and over. I counted once whatever song we sang the chorus was sung eight times – sometimes loud, soft, slowly – it became almost hypnotic.

    • Keith says:

      I grew up in the church, my father and two brothers are pastors. I could have commented on just about everyone’s views. Karen I could not agree with you more. It almost seems as if there is this specific amount of time for singing and preaching. Regardless of how much content is developed that x number of minutes needs to be filled. Candidly I got so sick of it I don’t even attend church anymore. That said, 3 people, without instruments singing Amazing Grace or a similar hymn brings tears to my eyes.

      • Dan Marty says:

        Keith – I pray that you haven’t stopped attending worship simply because one church repeated too many choruses or failed to prepare a service worthy of your participation. There must be some place you can find. Go look for a church that sings the great hymns, with or without instruments, whatever. Your community is out there. Just don’t stop worshipping.

    • Dan Marty says:

      Karen – I so admire your willingness to join in, even when you don’t care for the song. Because you know it probably has meaning for someone in the congregation or it wouldn’t have been selected. As to why some choruses are repeated over and over – some people just can’t think of anything else to do but annoy people who don’t care for repetition. Wait – just kidding. Seriously, I ask you to consider the last phrase of your comment. Not unlike some ancient chants or reciting the rosary, repetition of some praise choruses leads some congregants to a higher meditative and worshipful state – a feeling of the presence of the Holy Spirit. While I recognize that it may lead others only to an agitated and irritated state, (and that there are limits to how many times you can repeat just a few words before losing most of the congregants), I ask your understanding that, like the song you sing that you’re not so fond of, a repeated chorus or two might also lead to someone’s deeper praise and worship of our Savior. Peace.

  175. Tee Bowers says:

    I think that churches need to include some of the hymns into their worship, find songs that match the upcoming message and when singing a praise song, STOP REPEATING the chorus over and over and over again! The hymns will attract those who grew up singing them while the younger Christians will enjoy the new praise music, possibly causing both to enjoy the time of worship together! My husband and I tend to quit singing when the chorus, whether praise song or hymn, is repeated more than twice! Also praise teams need to learn how to enunciate better. I cringe every time I hear: “How GRAY is our God!”

    • Julie Pallas says:

      They’re probably just mimicing Chris Tomlin’s enunciation: “GRAY”, “CRAY” “REY” – they’re all in there. Maybe he got bored with the repetition, too, and had to change it up a bit to keep himself awake!
      JK, of course.

  176. Ranath says:

    Worship leaders ? what is worship? is worship only singing and shouting? We worship also when we pray, give our offerings, read our bibles and listen and respond to the sermon. Do we name the person that lead us in these areas of worship, “worship leaders”, no.
    So why do we name person that lead us in singing, “worship leaders”
    I think a more appropriate name is lead singers.
    Can anyone tell me what is” praise and worship” considering that we should be worshiping for the entire worship service.

    • Robert says:

      I am a worship leader/pastor. I take that role very literally. I plan every aspect of the service as an act of worship. You make a great point. When we go through the motions of the “worship” service, we fail to help lead our congregations in worship. Every aspect of the service is planned as an act of worship. Anything less of my efforts would does not honor God or help my congregants. I’m not just the person who leads singing. I’m not saying by that in many churches that this is not the case. I’m sure in many churches you have “song leaders” that make up a larger group of individuals that lead worship.

      At my church, we have prayer before the worship services with everyone involved with the worship service. From me to our praise team, pastor, ushers for the day, to our sound & lighting technicians and Visual technician, we all play a part in leading worship. There should be more of this line of thinking in every church.

      What you write about is something that I have worked hard to create in our church. I have found it easy to do this since we were a new start 10 years ago when I came onto the pastoral staff. It seems to be more difficult to create that kind of mentality in a church that is set in their ways, in a rut. Thank you for sharing and encourage you to voice your opinion in your church if this is not how things are being done. God bless you.

  177. Scott Vann says:

    I am fortunate to attend a church with great praise & worship, so I’m not an unhappy worshiper by any means. That said I would make a couple of tweeks if given the opportunity.

    1) Turn down the house volume just a tad. I love hearing the congregation lifting their voices and that is frequently masked by the band. 2) When you introduce a new song immediately follow it up with a tried and true standard that everyone knows to get them back into worship mode. New songs have to be sung a few times before they move from just words to being a part of our worship.

    Last year I had the opportunity to visit Brooklyn Tabernacle. Not sure what to attribute this too – maybe the unique acoustics of that building. They have a lively band, and a great choir, but during praise and worship the congregations voices filled up the place. It was glorious.

    • Robert says:

      Scott, you’re 100% right about the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Amazing. I will say that as a worship pastor, it is difficult to know what’s too loud from the stage. I actually wear in ear monitors. So to your first point, I’m blessed to have an amazing sound engineer. That person makes all the difference. We work hard to find the right balance of the music with the praise team vocalist to the congregation. There are a lot of factors that make that dynamic change every week. I have to depend on my sound engineer to make those changes once the worship has started. The worst thing that can happen, as is the case in so many churches, is having some “running the soundboard” that is there to mute the right person at the right time.

      To your second point, you are again 100% right! I use new songs in a couple of different ways. If it is an upbeat song, I’ll introduce it during our fellowship time for the first time. Then I will use it again in the same place before I make it a sine we use for corporate worship. If it is a slower worship song, I’ll use it during the act of worship of giving tithes and offerings. Again, I’ll use it as an offertory before it becomes a part of our corporate worship. By then, the church has heard that song at least twice. If they go back and watch the worship service online, then they heard it again. This makes the worshipper more comfortable with that new song. You make great points!

  178. Aaron says:

    I have mixed feelings about this article for a few reasons:

    First, I can understand the author’s perspective and I agree with the 9 points. But maybe there should be ten points or more, because something is missing. In our church we sing from the hymnal 100% of the time, and still about 1/3 or more do not sing. I think something else must be going on.

    Secondly, I do feel like we are missing something when we do not even try to sing any contemporary worship songs that are suited for corporate worship. There was a day when every song in the hymnal was “New” and a congregation had to decide to try it.

    Older folks and younger folks need common ground. I hope we can find it.

  179. Matt says:

    This is a great article and I completely agree with the author. There’s a lot of wisdom in those 9 points.

  180. Tedd says:

    The most serious problem I have with the singing is how the worship leader keeps inserting comments into the songs. “Come on, sing it out.” “Sing this next verse with Amy.” And, even though the words are on the screen, he repeatedly tells us what the next phrase is.

    There’s a lot of phrases that he adds to indicate agreement with the words just sung. Song “We love You, Lord” Worship leader “Yes we do!”

    I’ve gotten to the point where I count the number of times he inserts himself into the singing. It’s usually around 25 times during the singing. (One song had 27 interruptions.)

    It is almost impossible for me to focus on the singing anymore. It feels manipulative and I’m getting whiplash from just beginning to hear/sing/get into the song and be jerked back to the stage to hear the worship leader’s new idea or comment.

    It doesn’t make any difference if it is traditional or contemporary. When we do a traditional hymn, there are two additional distractions. They are usually sung at about 6/10ths speed and most of the time somebody has added some sort of new chorus or lines.

    • Matt says:

      great comment: completely agree

    • Tina says:

      THIS! This drives me crazy. It is not necessary for the worship leader to tell me the words to the next line when they are on the screen! Just sing, please!!

      • Kathryn says:

        While I mostly agree with you that it can be irritating, I just want to point out that sometimes it may be habit. 15 years ago when we didn’t have a projector and my pastor would be leading the singing, he would often say the next phrase of the song so that people who didn’t know the song could sing along…now, he still does it, but it’s probably habitual. I also have blind friends who obviously can’t read the screen, so saying the phrase is helpful for them if they’ve never heard the song before.

    • Mary says:

      This is an interesting comment. I am a music director at a church where I lead traditional as well as contemporary music. I grew up listening to tapes of Don Moen telling everyone what the next line of the song was. My brother and I made fun of that practice and giggled endlessly at the Integrity/Hosanna albums, although we actually enjoyed the songs themselves. I hate talking during songs, so I never chose to do it myself – I figured the words were up there on the screen, so read them! But I recently found that apparently there are people in the congregation who were not sure whether they were always supposed to sing or not and needed the encouragement of the words so they’d know, YES, WE WANT YOU TO SING WITH THE BAND (Despite the fact that we tell them to sing with us each week). It does seem to help bring them in at the right time and encourage them to sing.

      I personally STILL hate doing it (I feel ridiculous and condescending), but I will continue, as I believe one of my purposes is to encourage congregational singing, not congregational observation.

    • Luke says:

      While some leaders can get into overkill with how often they insert themselves, it’s often those very insertions that are helping to encourage people to be a singing congregation. Speaking the verse just before it starts is a way of helping people know when to come back into the song. Points #6 and #9!

  181. Bill Worley says:

    if churches aren’t including the great traditional hymns in their worship, they are forsaking some rich and beautiful worship music. Moreover, unless your entire congregation is brand new young people, you are ignoring parts of your body by ignoring music that truly speaks yo them. There should be room for both.

    I think some places have strayed perilously far from being worship bands, to just being bands. Our corporate worship time should be about uniting as brothers and sisters to glorify and praise our God and our Savior. It’s not about your cool licks and fancy vocal runs. It should be about experiencing life around the throne of our Heavenly Father.

    • michael morkert says:

      Bill…you are missing the point…whether it’s the traditional hymns or a new song it’s the heart of the worshiper and NOT the style. I feel the same way as this article…I hear these words too many times…”put your hands together” and “let me hear you”…while these are mean to encourage participation they do little or nothing to create the heart of worship.

      • Mary says:

        Michael – I get what you are saying, but I think the struggle of the worship leader is that we aren’t sure how else to get people to participate…so we issue these statements because we don’t want it to be just the band singing.

        It seems very necessary to encourage people to sing because there are many, many folks that tell me they like to come and “be entertained” at our contemporary service. I am horrified by these kind of statements and feel that I must do SOMETHING to remind them that we want them to participate. The effort behind it is meant to get them to not only sing, but that the act of singing these meaningful words will touch their hearts and prepare them to hear the message and Scripture of the day.

        Having a “heart of worship” is a personal choice by each individual. The band certainly can’t “make it happen”. But I do think that people appreciate having a leader encourage them. At least I hope so.

  182. Kelli Arrowsmith says:

    I was very sad when my teenage daughters who attended church with myself and my parents helped teach Sunday school and started a youth group in our church and were even on the church council had never heard “Amazing Grace” until they attend a funeral. I got an old hymnal and played “Rock of Ages” “the Old Rugged Cross” “onward Christian Soilders”. They hadn’t heard any of these.

    In our efforts to include “new” music, my daughters had been deprived of the classics.

  183. Morgan says:

    I can’t remember the last time I went to a concert (Christian or secular) and didn’t sing out loud, raise my arms up high, tap my feet, and be joyful with those around me. Knowing that, I have a hard time believing congregations aren’t singing because worship leaders have made it into a spectator event. Music by it’s very nature is far from a passive, spectator experience in any context.

    The same applies to “singing in too high a key.” I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, but that doesn’t stop me from belting out every note in the above-mentioned concert atmosphere or in my car or in worship on Sunday.

    If congregations aren’t singing along it’s because individuals have become passive in their pursuit of faith or have never been taught how to worship. Church leaders, not just the worship team, should be teaching and leading by example for how to openly express your love for Christ. Church leaders should also take a moment and look around at who is just showing up on Sunday and who is living Christ out loud beyond the worship experience. Only then will we as a people be able to compile a true list for why people aren’t singing in worship and create an actionable list to inspire our services.

  184. Bob Cox says:

    I try to never comment or re-post to articles like this, I know we are suppose to re-act, think and process before we do respond to such challenges. But… The first reason that comes to me for people not singing in a worship service is very simple – THEY DON”T SING! Even in traditional service – THEY DID NOT WANT TO SING! They didn’t even open a hymnal. Now they come to a band driven service and surprise they still don’t want to sing.
    Yes to all comments concerning performing music, but I do remember my traditional services we had offertories and special music, by the choir or a soloist.
    One of the goals we set for our service was to sing songs that every one can sing, watch keys (not to high or to low), songs that the words fit the message of the day, songs that people might hear on the radio (yes – if they listen to Christian radio).
    As worship leaders – we should react to the congregation, if they are not feeling the music, we must change, adapt, over come, be mindful of volumes, lighting, keeping an eye on everything… Worship leading is an organic position that we must allow the Holy Spirit to move us to worship together, flowing in to the congregation, causing unity in His presence.

  185. Curt Z says:

    I would like to know why worship leaders say verses right before we sing them. I can’t stand it, it distracts me. Who is this for? I just wish we would sing hymns mainly, I sing louder and more with God in mind honestly when I am comfortable with a song. And when somebody is NOT blurting out upcoming words out of rhythm.

  186. Worship of God is a priviledge that we enjoy and use what we feel is
    pleasing to Him. The music would surely be a part of selecting the church where we are choosing to worship!

  187. Don Ekstrand says:

    Excellent post. Thank you. I’ve read several blogs expressing concern over the current direction of worship music, and you are the first blogger to point out that many songs are pitched too high for the average singer in American churches. I completely agree.
    You also mentioned volume as an issue, and as someone with mild hearing loss and as a music teacher who depends on his hearing, I am very bothered when churches turn up the volume to a level that when sustained is proven to cause hearing loss.
    I would also add to your list some things worship leaders would do well to consider:
    1. Tempo — most worship songs now are sung in an extremely limited range of tempos, about 72 – 80 beats/minute. It gets monotonous when almost every song week after week is the same tempo. When we want to celebrate our life in Christ, can’t we sing something that moves about 120 or 144?
    2. Phrasing — a common idea seems to be that to add emotion and the possibility for reflection during singing the tempo needs to be slowed down even more. What happens is that the average singer can’t sing all the way through the phrase. They find themselves running out of breath and singing becomes tiring. Worship leaders need to be taught what is comfortable phrasing for the people out there and not push them beyond that.
    3. Very limited styles — most modern worship music seems to be stuck in a pseudo-pop-soft-rock style. Can’t we branch out beyond that?
    4. Aesthetics — do worship leaders give thought to how the aesthetics connect with the text? For example, when the guitarist turns his distortion up and the drummer starts hammering away on the back-beat does that match a lyric that speaks of our peace in Christ? If the lyrics speak of great joy why would we sing that at 66 bpm with a mellow, flowing background instead of 116 with a more exuberant accompaniment? When we listen to pop, rap, blues, and classical music there’s a reason a lyric is given a particular musical (aesthetic) treatment. Let’s find aesthetics and styles that match what we’re trying to say in our lyrics.
    5. Quality — let’s face it. There are lots of songs out there that are of very poor musical quality. The text might be meaningful, but the music is poorly written. We owe it to our Lord to craft well-written music. Great composers and song-writers in any genre take considerable time working out a creative melody and the harmony to go with it. Just because a worship song writer was thinking about his child or God’s grace or about an apology he needed to make doesn’t mean he wrote a great song. An emotional experience doesn’t equal great music; it’s just an emotional experience.
    Some might think I’m being a musical snob with what I’ve just written. However I believe we owe it to God to use our musical talents well, not casually or sloppily.

    • beverly nicholson says:

      You have 5 good points. I would add that when a song has just a few lyrics that are repeated two or three times in the song, and then the song is sung 3 or 4 times it is way too much of one phrase. I would rather sing an additional song in that time span. I can worship the Lord, but I am thinking of visitors and people that are not used to repeating the songs over and over and over.

    • Jake Leyenaar says:

      Glad to read your good observations, Don. Thanks for weighing in.

  188. Austin Hoffman says:

    I really like this article but it’s solely based on worship as a singing act…
    There are so many different ways people worship God during a music set… Arms up high, eyes closed, constant prayer, reflection, surrender, standing still, waiting for the sermon, playing fantasy football, etc haha.
    Finding an outlet and helping to provide an environment in which those who care to participate can do so freely I believe is more important than trying to manage a singalong

  189. Jay says:

    Interesting thoughts and for the most part, accurate. As one who is old enough to love the hymns (51), and young enough to love the new praise chorus (51), I believe Ephesians 5:19 provides a Biblical solution: “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your hear to the Lord” (NIV). It’s not either or, but a balance of both, with application of the comments on not singing too many new songs at once, and keeping them in a key that the average worshipper can sing. Many of the contemporary worship songs are hymns (just not 100 years old), and many of the praise choruses are straight from the Psalms. We need to be careful in implying they are somehow ‘unclean’ because they were not written by the Wesley brothers…
    I do remember the positive impact the praise choruses had on worship when they were introduced and would hate to see them omitted from worship services.
    Enjoyed the article and responses.

  190. kim garreffa says:

    at various times I’ve personally polled members of our congregation, always a variety of ages, asking them what their favorite worship song is – which song means the most to them. I would say 85% of the time, the person I ask names a hymn or a worship chorus written prior to 1980. I’ve come to realize that the majority of our congregation never listens to worship music. The music in their home is secular radio music, that’s it. They have no idea what’s happening now in worship music, and very little interest in finding out. What few songs they learn, they learn in church.

    • I dont disagree that a lot of people listen to secular music…..but for me a 66yr old who loves all kinds of music I have to resort to CD’s and Spotify where I can select my preferred music to listen to for the most. There is a station here who ONLY plays the current type of music which is not hymns but repetitive phrases that get louder and louder. I love a lot of those songs because they come right out of scripture…but after Ive heard the same phrase over and over and over and the music and clapping it becomes as the Word says clanging symbols. For some this is TRUE worship and Im so good with that but Im just taking the other side of preference and the state some believers find themselves. 1. their preference of music is hard to find 2. they dont have the ability to find it on a computor either because they choose not to do this type techno or they are blind or they simply do not know how or they dont have the means for technology! 3. No cable….they cant get just the stations of gospel or any Christian music. 4. If the church they attend only introduces new music every wk that they have never heard or only has it on a screen where it might be hard for them to see it 5.Simply… Some Older people dont do loud well.
      You may be right in your church about most everyone listening to secular but I wanted to give some valid reasons and be an advocate for the elderly here. My experience has been hearing this from the mouths of church-goers ” if they( the elderly) dont like it they can leave” or “we dont want that kind of music here” All ages get in a twit! The older will stay because they love their church and where they have worshiped and where they have given in worship with their tithes and offerings and life long friends have been made. Where I attend there is a blend…..both the young and elderly work well together! I still do choir and ensembles and choral specials etc etc….the kids and youth do wonderful stuff! I love the hymnals….I love the choruses and all. But Im blessed to search and find my weekly preferences. Some are not. Im always moved by the worship in music as much as my Pastor teaching us the Word. ANd if I miss him , I can always use the internet to listen to him.

  191. Steve Basselman says:

    We are creating a musically illiterate generation by totally removing hymnals from our worshipper’s hands. We offer a convergent style of worship, some may call it blended. No one style of music can respond to all that God is. However, if we loose that connection to the music that helped form the faith life of generations, then we are really loosing the ability to connect with that by not keeping some form of printed music in front of the worshippers. We don’t do screens, we have found it to detract rather than aid worship.

    • Jim says:

      So you don’t do screens because it is distracting, but you advocate printed hymn books? How is that less distracting?

      • Steve Basselman says:

        Screens don’t provide what the congregation needs to successfully sing…no music to help guide them. I have found that printed music in a hymnal or bulletin is the best to give the congregation the proper tools.

  192. Tom Bostic says:

    I do not disagree with one single thing you said above. I teach worship seminars quite often and have been leading worship in churches, camps, conventions, revivals and more since I was 12. Just a quick thought I would add–we are not a society that sings anymore. Name me one place that average people sing corporately. Singing has become 1) very personalized; we used to turn on a turntable or a boombox and blare away our favorite songs and sing at the top of our lungs; now we shove buds in our ears and sing in our heads–not the one commercial on TV where a guy is singing out loud–he gets embarrassed and apologizes to everyone. Also, 2) there is no place in our society where it is expected or even truly acceptable to sing corporately. People used to sing in bars–now its individualized karaoke. People used to sing the National Anthem aloud in chorus–but now, ever since Whitney Houston revived its singing with a hugely patriotic version years ago after tragedic national events everyone performs it, they don’t lead it. Listen at the next big sporting event: “And now, here is ___________ to sing for us (or even ‘performing’) our National Anthem.” I get strange stares when I sing it aloud. (But that doesn’t stop me, haha.)

    part of the reason congregations don’t sing is because America doesn’t sing. We listen, other people lead us.

    A controversial thought–just because the congregation sings, does that make it NOT worship? Can there be something participatory about listening to someone worship? Only if people are taught how to do it. Like so much of worship (which involves TONS more than singing, though few people get that) its all “individually together”, a movie theatre kinda church service. I come in, sit down, prefer there is a space between me and these other people–and I want the show to be good–thrill me, move me, motivate me–but I really don’t care what is going on with the people around me–I don’t know them anyway. Worship is simply knowing and expressing how great God is; BUT corporate worship is different: it is a Body of believers encouraging each other to a deep knowledge of God through a unified expression. That, I think, is why “I” don’t sing; its because we have forgotten that corporate worship is about “us” singing.

    God bless.

    • Jake T says:

      Nailed it. Nobody sings together any more. Name to me the last time you went to a party and the THING you did was singing together…what’s that? You say it was in college? Uh huh.

      This isn’t a church problem–it’s just a cultural shift. Blaming it on style or worship leaders or screens or drums or electric guitars or pianos or organs or handbells is myopic and offensive.

  193. Kenny, I believe you could’ve started and ended with #5, although all of them do apply. But #1 really is the fact that 80% of church attenders, as reported by George Barna, are there simply to fulfill their spiritual obligation for the week. They’re entrusting the staff to spoon feed whatever it is that they need to know or do. We as church leaders enable this line of thinking with all the whistles and bells.

  194. Kenny, You nailed it. My concern. Very few care that the pews are silent. They don’t understand the power of a song.

  195. Laurie says:

    Psalm 149:3 speaks of praising God with dance, there are also times when just instruments are quoted as being used. God looks upon the heart of the believer and would be the ultimate authority on whether or not someone worshiping Him with dance or poetry or what not is acceptable.

  196. Ruth Rousseau says:

    Thank you for this comment! I agree wholeheartedly — corporate worship is not just about the music.

  197. Ruth Rousseau says:

    I also appreciate the good old hymns, and I am not alone in my generation. For example, Casting Crowns has revived a lot of the old stuff, such as “Glorious Day.” I am working on creating at my church a Hymn Sing here in Connecticut, styled after the old school hymn sings of decades ago, and styled after a bi-monthly event at my parents church in North Carolina. Those who show up can choose what is sung, from hymns to current songs. Between the singing there are times of rest where the leader of the event might read a devotional describing the background of the lyrics. There are some wonderful testimonies behind many great hymns of faith. We end the time by praying together.

  198. Ruth Rousseau says:

    Interesting food for thought. A couple of years ago, I read “Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns” by Dr. T. David Gordon of Grove City College (PA). This is always a relevant topic, due to my soft heart for singing and music. I love when I can sing with joy and confidence the words that I’m praising my Lord with. But this will not always be the case, for me personally. I do not think music is so limited that I will ALWAYS be able to sing it well, or always understand the truth of the words. I am a mere mortal, after all. Not every hymn in the hymnal is musically interesting or biblically sound, ONLY by merit of being selected (by humans!) for the hymnal (a point strongly made in the brief book listed above). Songs and worship leaders need to be selected with prayerful consideration. The congregation needs to be praying for the worship to be a blessing to all of those participating. The music is part of the gospel presentation and has a lot of power in human souls. the music may be the only part of the worship service that gets through to the hearts and souls out there, and the enemy of our souls would love to destroy the worship leaders as well as the gift that is music, as well as the unity of our body of Christ. We need to be on guard constantly in order to worship our Lord and Maker of all things beautiful.

  199. Ruth Rousseau says:

    I trust my worship leader and the leadersip team of my church, and that is what makes the difference for me, regardless of desire to be participating WITH all of them. Also, I would like to see a revival of lengthy times of singing together. When I was growing up, we sang a few songs Sunday morning, but we sang for at least a half hour straight on Sunday nights (and sometimes the full hour), and then another half hour on Wednesdays. This is how I learned so many songs and hymns before I was even a teenager! I don’t believe so much time is typically devoted in churches of our day to singing in general. Perhaps that is the difference between the worship leaders and the congregations today. People used to be taught how to sing in public school, too. Singing for hours together, regardless of the “age” or “style” of the songs, binds the hearts of many people together on a deep level and pleases God.

  200. What interesting comments!
    May I add to the discussion that perhaps the minister or worship leader might consider asking the congregation what type of songs/hymns they prefer.
    One member of a church was heard to lament, “I can see the time coming when there won’t be room in my denomination for me” as he viewed the changing worship style of music.
    Worship leaders are not mandated to lead the people to where they do not want to go! (even if some would say that such, in a different context, is the role of the minister!)

    • Greg jones says:

      I don’t necessarily think it is wise to lead our congregations only where they want to go. When Moses was leading the children of Israel, there were times when they wanted to return to Egypt.

      If your church is healthy and growing this advice may be more applicable but many (perhaps most?) churches are failing to reach the nones and have generation gaps BECAUSE they are more self focused than other focused… They assume seekers are like they are… For stagnant & shrinking churches to grow, it is insanity to do the same thing & expect different results. These churches may very well need leaders to do things that their congregations do not particularly love or prefer if they expect to turn things around. Good leadership requires having the wisdom & courage to go against the grain….

  201. Mike says:

    Wow. This is true of every church service I have ever been to, especially ones where hymns were used exclusively!

  202. George Mims says:

    All worship leaders would do well to meet on a regular basis and at least two times a month hearing from those who will teach and preach what the anticipated, even longed for, response of the Body of Christ gathered is hopefully to be. Let music and other expressions of worship FLOW out of this intentional gathering. If your pastor says “O I don’t know what the Lord will say to me this far in advance,” perhaps your pastor needs a little encouragement to not force God to speak at the last minute and leave the rest of the service to seem incongruous!!! Wholesome worship comes from intentional Christians intentionally gathering intentionally expecting God to speak and, as members of the Body of Christ, intentionally responding both in heart and mind! Tools of worship should incorporate texts and music KNOWN to those gathered or tools that are being repeated until the congregation knows they OWN such text and music. Other tools of worship can be utilized in a different frame or event. Worship language and melody needs to come from the heart and just art. Therefore familiarity is essential.

  203. Leticia says:

    I was a music ministry leader for years, about 20 years ago I had a conversation with the other music leaders where one of them argued that the congregation would not come to church if they don’t sound good. I pointed out that music and the music ministry should not fall into a “performance” mentality. We were there to enhance the word read for the service and to allow for contemplation there of which enforced the message.

    Hymnals also created a void in allowing ministers to adequately choose songs that lent support to the Word being read. They provide ministers a list of related songs. There was a lack of instruction or teaching of the ministers in discernment of the message of the reading in total. If one read all readings and responses used one would find that of those suggested hymns or song there are some that are more appropriate for others.

    I grew to feel that churches, especially those with young congregations, recruited good musicians for leadership, but neglected to instruct the ministry portion of the leadership role. Never should a choir, music group or musician become the focal point of a service.

    As for the Reformation efforts, if one understand why, in the Catholic Church, the Priest faced away from the congregation, that it was to lead the congregation in worship; to have their attention to the worship just as the congregation was expected; one may then consider that it went too far. The priests/pastors, by being put in front of the congregation, instead of leading in worship from the front and supporting the worship in music from behind it created a theater rather than a altar.

    With all that said, in the end, Clergy and ministers need to know what the needs of the congregation are, how to fulfill as much as possible and remember to serve with a humble heart. When the music gets too artsy, too complicated it moves the congregation to spectators, rather than a community rejoicing as one body in worship.

  204. DGreusel says:

    Worship leaders are, not surprisingly, often very talented artists. With contemporary songs, there is a tendency for the artist to want to sing off the beat or off the melody (or both) for artistic reasons that make total sense in a concert, but make no sense at all for people (supposedly) leading worship. Worship leaders need to rein in their artistic sensibility and stick to the beat and stick to the melody for the benefit of the flock, not for the benefit of artistic interpretation.

    • beverly nicholson says:

      Agree. When the girls are singing harmony, and then the leader singing melody takes off and starts doing riffs and off beat syncopation, I, a prior choir director and organist can not find where I am to sing…. no one is singing the melody. Then that evening just one singer with a guitar signing the melody with gusto, one bass and a drummer. It was so worshipful and the congregation was all singing along with gusto too. There was no ‘production’, no one ‘ loving doing their thing’ ( I am sure he was worshiping the Lord, but he is also suppose to be ‘leading’ others to worship)….and there was a clear melody. It was great

  205. Melissa says:

    While I agree that worship should not be a production or a show, you could just retitle this “9 excuses people give for not worshipping God”. Nothing should stop people. Nothing.

    • DD says:

      Caution is warranted in suggesting that singing is synonymous with worship, that not-singing is therefore synonymous with not-worshipping.

      Some of us *are* worshipping God while our lips are not moving. I might not know the songs, might not be able to figure out where the worship team is trying to lead, and/or might not be able to hit the notes demanded by the music, but when all else fails, I can at least try to decipher the words the team is singing and respond to God in some way as I listen. (Except for the la-la-la bits, which I’ve thus far been unable to redeem.)

      It may be appropriate also to caution against allowing resentment to build. I’ve had several friends who struggled with this while leading worship, not realizing until later that they were allowing others’ behaviors to stop their own worship. Please be careful to guard your heart — the devil specializes in distorting very good desires (e.g., genuine worship) for his own evil purposes.

      • Melissa says:

        I’m glad that you still worship regardless of the songs. I do too. I think if the song is glorifying to God and biblically accurate that should be more than enough. People think it should be all about them and what they like/prefer instead of about God. If we don’t, then the rocks will cry out and we don’t want that!! 🙂

      • Lori says:

        “Caution is warranted in suggesting that singing is synonymous with worship, that not-singing is therefore synonymous with not-worshipping.” — Thank you. I’ve learned over the years that what we observe as externals don’t necessarily translate to what’s happening internally. Some of the most godly people I’ve ever gotten to know keep their mouth shut and their hands down during worship. Some of the most ghastly pharisees I’ve ever encountered sing the loudest with hands raised high. I guess I’m saying don’t rate the quality of your worship by how many people are singing and how loud. God doesn’t rate things like we, even our spiritual selves, do. 🙂

  206. susan says:

    We call it “7/11” music…..sing the same chant 7 times in 11 different keys. When I visit a church as a visitor, I expect to be able to participate in worship! But if all they are singing is “follow the bouncing ball” on a screen, I have no chance. If they want to do that, AT LEAST put a three-ring binder in the hymnal rack (with the unused hymnal) so I can read the music and sing. Otherwise, why are you spending copious amounts of money on choirs for the kids to learn to read music? DON’T GET ME WRONG! I WANT the kids to learn how to read, but for what? A bouncing ball??

    • Pat says:

      Susan, I’d love if that was possible.

      Unfortunately, there’s this annoying thing called the copyright. Most churches are only authorized for so many sheets of music and allowed to display the lyrics.

      They are not permitted, by the terms of their licensing agreement, to print out enough copies for everyone in the congregation.

      Hymns are mostly public domain, or the hymnal publisher has a separate copyright agreement with the estate of the song writer which allows for them to be distributed (but not necessarily copied).

  207. Michelle says:

    I never liked the chorus chant for 15 minute songs either; professional musician here 🙂 until a friend told me that she actually likes those best because the phrase you chant can build and get stronger inside of your heart; become more true. I then saw the good in that style of singing…just thought it worth a mention.

  208. Sharon says:

    I am very disappointed I have not found a church since I moved to Fla. where they sing the old hymns. I have always been lifted spiritually by Christian hymns. And I love to sing my praises to God our Father. But all of the churches I have attended are now only playing Praise Music, out of which I get nothing. They don’t lift me; they don’t inspire me; they don’t help me worship my Lord. I’m sure I’m not the only person of my generation (I’m 68) who feels like this. I’m going to keep looking and hopefully I will eventually find a more SPIRIT-FILLED CHURCH!

  209. Flossiepal says:

    We no longer have worship songs, what we have are chorus chants. 15 minutes of singing the same 20 words over and over and over and over and over. Where is the worship in that? To me this is walking a fine line very similar to new age stuff.

    What is worshipful about music that is so loud you can’t hear the words anyway?

    I now don’t even show up to church until the music is over and done and I can sit and listen to the Word being taught. There are 3 people in my church who have had brain tumors or injuries and loud noises cause severe headaches and pain. This does not seem to matter to the worship leader/team. Let’s just keep banging them drums.

    • FS says:

      I agree. I do not like singing the same phrases over and over and over and over AND OVER again! I know they are trying to pull you into a higher level or worship but I find myself being bored with the chanting and thinking, “Seriously, we’re singing this AGAIN”? Where’s the depth and intelligence in that?

    • Melissa says:

      Please read Rev 4:8 and see if God likes it.

  210. eve says:

    I appreciate the article although I struggle with worship for a few more reasons. I tire of the same verse being mindlessly sung over and over. Many of the new songs do not have the depth of the old gospels songs, although it seems a few of the old gospels are being brought back into worship.

    I agree…too many new songs so you don’t know them and music too loud where you can’t hear anyone but the worship team.

  211. LB says:

    Interesting article from a limited view however hard it as may be How and when will leaders, believers admit, confess that we fail and tend to place ourselves and what we bring to the table above what God has for each of us. Yes we can discuss, try to enable or encourage however the Bible is clear on what worship is defined as and singing is part of that but overall worship is based on our relationship to Christ and I will let him be the judge before stepping as some of us can dance better than others but again other servants have shown me worship by the simple act of service and sacrifice.

  212. Brian says:

    The author of this article, Kenny Lamm, brings up some decent points. But he invalidates his message by using the word “schizophrenic” as a negative metaphor. His usage of the word is inaccurate, derogatory, and discriminatory. It’s a good reminder to be careful with the words we use.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      I apologize for offending anyone with the use of this word. I have removed it from the post. I was using another common definition of the word, “approach characterized by inconsistent or contradictory elements,” which fits the meaning well, without thinking about how this may be offensive to readers. There was no derogatory or discriminatory intent.

  213. Lyn Jackson says:

    All good points, agree vigorously! We also need to remember that singing is only one component of worship. It helps SOME people worship God, but not everyone. The worship segment in a service should contain a range of ways to help people feel God’s presence and be involved in the process – responsive readings, Bible passages, reflections, prayer (in various forms), maybe even liturgy, drama, poetry or dance, depending on your congregation. Trouble is, worship leaders tend to be musical, and forget that this mode of expression doesn’t suit everyone. When a number of different components work together around a theme, everyone has a chance to listen, participate and express in ways that best suit them.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Thank you, Lyn. Well said. Worship is certainly much more than congregational singing.

    • Melissa says:

      Sorry those are not Biblical forms of worship. They might be nice and help people feel good but that is not what God finds to be acceptable worship.

      • Caleb says:

        Sorry Melissa, but the Hebrew word for “worship” comes from the same word as “work”. It makes no sense to limit worship to singing. So I can honor God only when I am singing and no other time? Can’t I dance for His glory and push paper for His glory and own my own business for His glory? The Bible also explictly says not to wear clothes with mixed fabrics…. I am pretty sure God cares more about our heart attitude than a checklist of how we can and cannot give Him glory……

  214. Joe losiak says:

    If I can’t even hear myself singing, it’s very hard to sing. It’s like giving a dead mike to a singer who sings off key.

  215. GregHint says:

    I’ve struggled with this as well…but from the position that most worship songs are sung by men (tenor voices) which are in a key not at all suited for women to sing.

    I then started to wonder if our voices were designed to be in different ranges so only when we have a servant attitude towards helping women worship, we in turn help everyone to worship…seems to be that songs that are great for women to sing are decent for men to sing, but songs that are great for men to sing are hard for women to sing

    I explored the topic here:

  216. Savage says:

    I’m always amazed by the congregational response when we use Matt Redman’s “10,000 Reasons”, and I’ve seen it used in a variety of settings.

    Modern songwriters should revisit that song and learn why it gets congregations signing in a way that very few songs do.

    I’m guessing:
    – good vocal range
    – good message
    – strong poetry
    – good variation (high chorus, low verses)
    – predictable melody pattern
    – interesting but memorable melodies

    One way I often critique new songs is to question whether you can remember the melody after one listen. I still remember the first time I heard Matt Redman’s “Blessed Be Your Name” – one listen and the song was in my head already…

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Great points! Yes, 10,000 Reasons has been embraced by young and old alike. Memorable melodies, as you note, are also important. I attended a church Sunday where I had never heard the four songs being used in worship (and apparently most of the congregation had never heard them). What I really noted was that I could not remember the melody of any of the songs after we had finished singing. Thanks for your comments!

    • A says:

      As a worship leader of 10yrs, I see 10,000 Reasons a little differently. In my opinion, it has a very wide vocal range, seeing as the verses start down in the basement, and the choruses (Oh MY soul) are in the stratosphere. I sing higher than most men, and that is a very difficult song for me to find a good key for.

      I think people like this song because it really is very much like a hymn. And that’s fine with me, I’m a fan of just about anything from Matt Redman, not so much because of the musical content but because of the heart behind it. His songs are always sincere, Biblically sound, and often cover topics most worship songs won’t.

      Personally, I think we’re really discussing a generational issue moreso than a worship/music issue. I led worship for a high school group for several years, and here’s how it usually went: Ask kids to sing along, sing 3-5 songs that flow into each other, minimal speaking before/during/after songs. The result was always a room full of worshipful, very engaged kids.

      I proceeded to do the exact same thing at my church’s Sunday morning services, and instead I find myself looking out upon a room full of unengaged, bored, & often times even angry people.

      Kids these days (anyone under 30 I think) expect something different out of a “worship” service. They expect to engage God on their own while the music plays. It seems to me that previous generations have a different expectation entirely: they expect to be walked through worship with talking from the front, definite beginnings/endings of songs, etc.

      Neither is right or wrong, just different. The problem arises when either side begins equated their personal worship preference with Biblical worship. To say that God doesn’t like repetition and that it’s not worshipful is not only untrue, it’s unBiblical (Holy Holy Holy anyone?).

  217. Reed says:

    Something else that must be inserted here: Yes, worship must be God-directed, both in execution and in focus; but in the midst of listening to that direction from God, the Worship Leader should also remember that he stands in a position that requires him to LEAD people to the throne of God. Basically, each time I step onto the platform, I view my task as taking the congregation on a journey from wherever they are at that point in life to encountering God personally and corporately. But if no one is following, can I really call myself a leader? Part of being a good leader is knowing what the “followers” need in order to participate in the task.
    Now, I have never been under the false assumption that “unless they are all singing, I am not leading.” For one thing, we do not know the individual circumstances surrounding each person that is sitting in our congregations each week. There was a time in my life about 11 years ago when, due to a heavy, personal loss, it was all I could do to walk into the church and sit down in the pew.
    It is a good idea, however, to scan the congregation and glean a rough percentage of people who are actively participating. My goal, regardless of the song, is to average 75% participation. Most often we hit or exceed that, but some times we don’t. And that is when I, as the Worship Leader, need to take a serious look at reasons why. So, getting, sorting, and understanding the feedback from the congregation is an essential part of Worship Leadership.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Great words. Thank you, Reed. This is the kind of sensitivity we as worship leaders need–in tune with God’s Spirit and with the congregation we are leading.

  218. TJ Shirley says:

    I think another huge element is the decline of music in our society in general. Music is not a culturally transmitted skill anymore. Music education from churches and schools is not stepping up to fill in that gap. Thus, people are not able to pick up on music quickly and efficiently. Contemporary worship music, as it is closer to the music the general public listens to from day to day, should be picked up rather quickly. However, our society is no longer a society of musical performance and participation. This has bled over into the church, both in contemporary and traditional services. Amateur musicians are becoming increasingly rare. The issues named above are just as much about worship techniques as they are about the church’s failure to cultivate musical worshippers.

  219. Kenny Lamm says:

    Hi Bart, I am puzzled where your assumptions came from. In no way am I coming down on Tomlin or Hillsong. I use their music frequently and find it of tremendous value to the worshipping community. I strongly teach that worship is not about us–not about our preferences of styles, not about us calling attention to ourselves, etc. The problem has become that too many worship leaders/teams have begun to lose sight of their mission to help the congregation worship, and have (perhaps unintentionally) begun to breed an environment of spectators with very little difference from a concert venue. This can happen regardless of the “style” of the music being utilized in worship.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Great words. Thank you, Reed. This is the kind of sensitivity we as worship leaders need–in tune with God’s Spirit and with the congregation we are leading.

  220. Jennifer says:

    I left a church for the very reason stated the worship service is nothing more than a performance…every Sunday was new songs that no one new or had ever heard . It was very disheartening. Now I stay home and praise God alone, this way I know he hears me and not a performance

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your comments. I understand your feelings. I do encourage you to find a fellowship of believers where corporate worship is what it should be. You are missing an immense blessing by not worshipping with other believers. I pray you can find such a place.

    • Greg jones says:

      If you are giving your best to God then you are still performing…. He is the audience though… And I think that’s supposed to be the point of church worship bands… The real problem isn’t performance, it is pride

  221. Joseph Pauley says:

    One of the interestings the Reformation (for the most part) recovered was singing without the accompaniment of instruments. Congregational was just that…congregational SINGING. There’s something about simply singing that encourages greater participation. I would recommend that anyone interested in renewing worship reas the historical section of John Price’s Old Light on New Worship. He extensively quotes from theologians, preachers, and historians on music in the church.

  222. Ann van Hemert says:

    As someone on the pew side, I know why I sing and don’t sing and aside from the aforementioned group rebuke, no one seems to be asking. I used to be a serious worship junkie for many years. I know all the admonitions and it is all about Jesus, but these are the reasons why I may not be singing.

    – I have thought about the lyrics and can’t in good conscience agree with them. (or they seem odd or confusing?)
    – I know the song so well (we’ve been singing it for 20+ years) that I am singing on autopilot and my mind wanders. I like a mixture of old and new songs.
    – I am distraught about something that is going on in my life and am afraid I am going to cry.
    – It seems that people might be judging my participation/nonparticipation. Example: For awhile I was feeling convicted to kneel, so many songs mention it, but then had someone tell me not to. Now I am self-conscious.

    One commenter noted the isolation of worship. Yes, it is supposed to be between us and God and hopefully we are doing lots of that throughout the week, but we only get one chance a week to worship corporately. We should take advantage of the opportunity to worship together.

    I am a teacher so it behooves me to evaluate how my instruction and activities are working for my learners. If my learners are not successful, then the first question we ask is, “Do I need to adjust what I am doing?”

  223. Tony Roslan says:

    I thought that I was the only person that felt left of singing praises to my Lord. Wether we sound bad or good when we sing, Jesus sends my singing to his Father as sweet sounds. Jesus does the same thing with prayer. I’m not a flowery prayer person, I just talk with God as I would my earthly Father.
    No instruments aren’t needed. Our voices are like little children who sing to their Mom and Dads.
    I miss the ole time religion. The music drowns out the beautiful voices God blessed us with. If I can’t hear the singing, I don’t think God can either. Thank you for song leaders. I don’t want to be entertained in church. I want to sing with my brothers and sisters that will sing with me in heaven. Love you Jesus

  224. This gentleman makes some excellent points, however, the real reason people are not singing is their lack of hearts of praise. Week after week, I have sat watching people bring in snacks and coffees from the outside coffee bar, and talk and text on their phones. The worship service is treated by many as a theatre, thus the spectator component. If a heart is really given to worship, the person lifts their hearts and hands to the Lord in thanksgiving and praise. Here is the question, would you really act or sing the way you are if Christ were standing right in front of you? He is, you know! Worship leaders need to teach people what it means to come before the Lord in song and worship.

  225. Jerry Patterson says:

    I spent my life as a preacher. But my college training was in engineering. One of the subjects was wave analysis. This is useful for both the propagation of sound as well as electricity. The thing that I have noticed is that modern design of worship facilities do not consider such things as wave refraction and phase reversal and its effect on congregational singing. Much of the design is for sound suppression. Designers try to overcome it with sound amplification. Years ago, I talked to the head of our denomination’s church architecture department about this and he was unfamiliar with the principles. I also talked to the head of the church music department, he did not seem interested in designing for congregational singing. Then I talked to the chairman of the department of sound (that was not his title) at my local university about this. He said they just taught industrial sound suppression. What happens is that a person starts singing and cannot hear those around him because of the phase reversal or sound suppression and so he sings lower and lower. I have also observed churches where they sang the 7-11 songs and then switched to a hymn. You can really tell the difference.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Jerry, certainly acoustics can play a big role in congregational singing. Some church’s pay particular attention to this when designing a new worship center, making sure the congregational singing is a priority. As for the 7-11 songs vs. the hymns, that is a totally different matter. First of all, if the church is singing the 80s choruses rather than the more recent modern worship songs that are often packed full of depth and great theology, they are doing their congregations a great disservice. See this post for more information. Further, the true difference, I would guess, in this example is more connected with people KNOWING the hymn better than the other song. This, again, can be totally changed by a worship leader who understands how to choose, introduce, and reinforce new songs in worship. Thanks for your comments!

  226. Sue Hackwood says:

    After many years of seeing the changes in church music it is always obvious that when a traditional, well known hymn is sung the congregation sings with great enthusiasm. After the singing people turn to me and say “Wasn’t that great?!” The fact that many of the traditional hymns were written by people going through severe persecution eg John Newton (slave trader to slave) who wrote Amazing a real depth to the message of the song.

    • Tony Pero says:

      As someone who once led worship in a church with three (three!) different service types (which I despised, by the way. I hate dividing the congregation that way), I have a different perspective. In the traditional service, where we only did hymns, people were bored and barely participated. In the blended service, where we did both hymns and choruses, half the congregation would only sing the hymns, and half would only sing the choruses. It was a trainwreck. People were THERE to battle and engage in worship wars. At the modern service, people would participate reasonably well, and then, like you said, when I would do a hymn (generally modernized), the room would light up with worship, and participation was awesome.

      It was the uniqueness of it, that it was different, that people liked. And yes, they knew all the words by heart. But singing the same song is sung in a service that ALWAYS does hymns, and hymns only, that passion is not there. Because its no longer unique.

      The problem with all of this is that in every case, the determining factor in whether someone was going to worship or not was PERSONAL PREFERENCE. That’s not worship. That’s a sing-a-long.

  227. Sam White says:

    One of the things that hampers congregational singing is that, other than the national anthem at a ballgame, church is the only place in America that it happens anymore. People don’t sing at the pub or around a friend’s piano as they might have once. This makes for just one more thing about church that people find awkward. I’m not saying we should stop, though. I’m saying that while (or before) we teach the how of corporate worship we may need to teach the “why”.

  228. Bob Clark says:

    I have been in Music ministry for 25 years and have followed the trends from traditional to adding praise choruses. We did all of the Don Moen “God with, God For, God In Us worship experiences, the Brownsville Revival, Passion, Hillsong, and on into today. I’m 55 play acoustic guitar while leading worship, with choir still in place. There are a lot of singable learnable songs out there, we are blessed to have so many song writers, but pace your use of song, its ok to reuse, to see what takes hold and use it in different worship sets. Let the song become a part of your worship lexicon. Know your congregation. learn to change keys, use a capo. Most modern songs are written by high tenors, or they have that octave jump, that either women have to sing harmony or really low and men can’t sing. I try to find that range that fits – eliminate the octave jump and even though I’m up on the very latest songs, pick and choose message and melodies that are easy for all. Not a rock show, but a worship experience for all.

  229. Good list. I have to add the observation that I have been in plenty of no-sing traditional churches. Often, the pattern I see is that the organist is stuck behind the organ and isn’t engaging the congregation and on last verses will crank up some raucous over-80 dB registrations for the alternate arrangement and blow the congregation away. 65-75 dB is best in most venues for encouraging people to sing and not overpowering them.

  230. Martin says:

    Thank you for the excellent article! I think you have demonstrated wisdom and discernment. Multitudes are in agreement with you.
    Blessed be the church that still uses hymnals and allows the Spirit to tune the hearts. Give me Fanny Crosby any day!
    So! How is it that the pastors and leadership don’t get it? If the common man in the pew can barely tolerate the irritation, surely the preachers feel it.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Hi Martin, Thank you for your comments. I am not, however, in any way shooting down modern worship songs. I firmly believe the church must sing new music. The problem is in how music is often selected, introduced, and reinforced. Often worship leaders are killing worship without realizing what they are doing. Much of the music written for worship in the last couple of decades is as theologically rich and memorable as many of our old hymns. It’s not either or, it can be both and!

  231. Catholic says:

    I have been in many denominations with various styles of worship. Catholic worship is, from my experience, the MOST participatory. From beginning to end of the mass, there are responses from scripture, prayers said or sung aloud, true communion with our Lord and with His body, the Church, and singing. True, before Vatican II in the 1960’s this was in Latin which many could not understand, but since then it has been in the people’s own heart language. Of course, individuals can recite prayers “parrot fashion” without their heart being in it but is not the same true of singing modern worship songs?

    As for those who say that Jesus is re-sacrificed at every mass. The Catholic Church clearly teaches that Jesus’ sacrifice at Calvary was once and for all. In the Eucharist His one-time sacrifice is made present, “This is my body” and “This is my blood” (He did not say this is a symbol or representation of my body and blood) as Jesus commanded us to do in remembrance of Him, until He comes again.

  232. Texas Annie says:

    I have to add another no-no. Please, worship leaders, refrain from commenting on whether the congregation is “half asleep” or “wide awake today.” Why are you looking at us? Shouldn’t your attention be on the Lord? When I hear comments like that, I feel that the worship team itself is not entering into worship, and basically, I have to try to IGNORE them and enter in on my own.

    Also to the person who posted about the Sacrifice of the Mass. The Jewish priests had to offer sacrifices every day, morning and evening, and also at new moons, feasts, etc. The Sacrifice of the Mass offers the sacrifice of Jesus every time the Mass is said. However, Jesus suffered once for all and does not need to be sacrificed again. Please read and study the New Testament, especially Acts and the Pauline Epistles, to see what I mean. Sacrificing Jesus over and over again is an abomination. I believe that Catholics will someday understand the error and change this practice.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Please don’t bash my Church; we’re not bashing yours. In so doing you are sawing off the branch you are sitting on, my dear. Jesus is not being “re-sacrificed” in the Sacrifice of the Mass; His once-for-all sacrifice is re-presented every time the Mass is celebrated. It’s “the gift that keeps on giving.” God bless.

  233. Jonathan says:

    I would add another point, although it tags onto what you’ve already said: The individual has been isolated from the gathering.

    There are a few reasons for this. One, we’ve decided that the worship is the singing portion of the gathered worship service. Not true. Worship is a response to God’s self-revelation. Any response on behalf of the congregation is a form of worship. We have to stop saying “worship songs.” They’re just songs (hopefully most of them are hymns).

    Secondly, and most importantly, we’ve decided that worship is this individual intimacy with God. Many current songs suggest that congregants are only worshiping if they’re singing directly to God, often in the first person. That’s find when you’re on your own, but that’s not the point of a corporate worship service. You are there to be the collective congregation and together affirm truth about God’s character, not just close your eyes and pretend you’re by yourself. We even manipulate the setting with low lighting and loud music to help people further remove themselves from the group.

  234. Neil Chaban says:

    I recently started projecting the MELODY and words… took some work to create but the congregational response has been awesome! They love having the melody just like in the hymnal or song book!!!! I hope this is the future!

  235. Joseph Forster says:

    Good thoughts. Just one comment if in defense of the Reformation: there were no “tavern tunes” used in reformation hymnody. No confirmed examples and no evidence for this. In fact, many of the tunes used were simplifications of chants that had been used in th Church for generations. While they reformed the way church music was done, it was not a complete revolution or break with the past. Luther, who is often credited with introducing “bar tunes” would hav been furious to see frivolous music introduced into the liturgy. If you read his work on music, that becomes pretty clear. 🙂 thanks for your article.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Thanks to you and others challenging the “tavern tunes” reference. That indeed is listed as true in many sources I have read, but after the challenges here, I have seen that it is erroneous and have made a modification in this post. Unfortunately, I was out of country for some time after the posting and was not able to respond in a timely manner. Thank you!

  236. Laura Millward says:

    My past church has a congregation that did not need any over amplified bad voices drowning us out. Does not need screens on the wall where there is no music to read and the words are not always correct. Or someone, after the song is over standing up in front singing the same chorus over and over again entertaining us. We kept it simple and beautiful offering excellent praise and thanksgiving to The Lord. Using printed music so even if you were not a music is you had an idea of if your voice was to go up or down in range. Our voices were lifted up in praise. The music is to guide us not over power us. All things in excellence, not loudness, to our Lord.

  237. Justin says:

    Dear Craig, understanding some truths regarding God in the OT as relevant today does not mean one has to embrace ALL OT acts of worship from the OT. What it means is one has to understand the principle from the OT and apply it. Did God’s covenant with His people change? Duh of course. Did God change? Obviously not. Why don’t you explain your view point further with either Scripture or logic. Why does silence on issues in the New Testament mean they aren’t allow? When the Psalm writes, “Praise Him on the lyric, harp, tambourine…” Does that mean in the OT they were only allowed to use those specific instruments? Of course not lol. In fact… now that I think about it… Jesus walked everywhere except his final entry into Jerusalem. Do people think you’re weird when you tell them you don’t drive a vehicle because it’s unbiblical?

  238. Catholic says:

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Romans 12:1

    In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value.

    We need a true understanding of what worship is. If we think singing is enough, we are sadly mistaken.

  239. Tony Blair says:

    Some good points here…for some churches. Very, very over-generalized, however. Not the experience of my congregation at all. Feels more like a list of pet peeves about one’s own congregation.

    • Kenny Lamm says:

      Thanks for your comments, Tony. This comes out of concerns of seeing many churches in the US and Asia where congregations are no longer participating in worship. The “list” has grown out of much study and discussion of WHY this is happening. This is very real stuff in epidemic proportions. You should be very thankful that your congregation is able to experience real worship.

  240. Craig says:

    See this is what SO many people have lost sight of. There are only 5 acts of worship authorized in the NT. Singing, prayer, Preaching, Lords Supper, Collection for the Saints. No where does the NT approve or authorize shouting, clapping, or jumping up and down. Placing a label of “with joy to their Savior” on these un-authorized additions to NT worship does not make them okay.

    The OT teaches us that there is a worship that is acceptable to God and there is a worship that is not.

    Numbers 3:4
    Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.

    Before you stand up and attempt to support YOUR desire to have ANYTHING other than the 5 acts authorized in the NT in your worship please read these scriptures:

    Matthew 7:21-23
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

    Mark 7:7
    They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

    Who are these people who THINK they are worshiping God in a manner that pleases Him?

    If we can add anything we want to our worship simply because we THINK we are improving on the NT pattern, or WE like the way it makes US feel, then who’s worship is vain in Mark 7:7?

    Who THOUGHT they were doing the work of the Lord in Matt. 7:21 when in reality they were not?

  241. R.F. McKinney says:

    You nailed it brother,worship should be directed toward GOD and his leadership by the HOLY SPIRIT and not programs, and praise bands!

  242. Andrew says:

    I’m sorry to hear that people aren’t singing in your church. However, this post appears to be a list of personal pet peeves rather than objective observations.

    I must have missed the part where you cited evidence that people are singing less in church services. My anecdotal experience is the opposite. Worship is huge and one of the main reasons people will attend one church instead of another. The churches with more modern worship, large bands, and thumping bass appear to be growing. Those with a “common body of hymnody”, organ, and unamplified sound are whithering. People are not only singing, they are shouting, clapping, and jumping up and down with joy to their Savior!

    This blog post does have a few points that worship leaders need to remember, but this has always been the case:
    -make worship accessible (keys, song choice, clear melody)
    -connect with your people
    -let people hear each other at least some of the time

    However, congregational response has more to do with really connecting with the presence of God. If we welcome His presence and make worship about Him, people will respond.

    At our church not only are people singing, but they are repenting, getting healed, and having their hearts softened before the preaching even begins. Then the Word of God is preached powerfully and we worship some more as people respond.

    I’m sorry to hear that this isn’t the case in your church.

  243. Mick Murray says:

    Wow! I didn’t realize so many people hate on the way music is done in the modern church. As a worship leader for more than 10 years, the idea of the church being able to sing together is near-and-dear to my heart. One of my biggest goals is to find music that people can sing together, regardless of when they were written.
    (Just as a quick note: I’ve discovered that un-churched people tend to sing the hymns better than the modern stuff)
    I find it very interesting how so many people are quick to bash the music itself, and more-so elevate an older way of singing. I really thought the so-called “Worship Wars” were done and over with, but apparently this is not the case.
    In all honestly, I strongly believe that the type of music should be dictated by context. Are hymns better than modern worship songs? Yes and No. Are modern worship songs better than hymns? Yes and No.
    I believe there are two issues that the article doesn’t touch on that are at the heart of the real issue. I believe this article has some great things to think about, but have failed to really look at two of the most important factors in why people don’t sing.
    1. Song leaders don’t know how to lead. Much of what was mentioned are symptoms of this issue. But I think when all is said and done, the church is looking to hire talented musicians as opposed to talented leaders.
    2. Our culture is less musical than generations past. People do not sing like they used to. Most men have no idea how to dance. Many people don’t sing in the shower, sing in their cars, or sing to anything. If they don’t sing throughout their life, why would they sing at church? If you were to put a hymnal in most people’s hands, they would have no clue where to start in reading music.
    As church leaders we need to stop being so negative toward other styles or strategies in leading people to lift up their voice in praise to our Creator. We need to work on inspiring and encouraging and equipping people to do so.
    Perhaps the issue isn’t with the music, but rather with those involved in the music.

  244. Craig says:

    In response to Justin’s post above. I find it interesting that people refer back to the OT for authorization to use “acts” of worship THEY want to use in NT worship. Using this logic opens the door for ALL forms of OT worship including animal sacrifice or risk being exposed as divisive.

  245. Justin says:

    There are a lot of comments here regarding the organ as being the most appropriate and best suited instrument for the church. Some language above seems to almost equate “replacing” it with a band of modern instruments to heresy. When and why did the organ take a prominent role in the church? There used to be quite a bit of instrumentation in the church. Imagine that… the God who created all we see might actually like diversity. Then some folks decided people playing instruments were receiving glory and suddenly instruments became the devil. Insert decades and centuries of a cappella singing in churches. Slowly, the organ became accepted as a “band in a box” instrument. Have you ever looked at the stops on an organ? You have trumpets, flute, oboe, etc. The organ worked its way in as being able to play many instruments by using just one instrument. Now, it seems like because grandma played an organ in one’s church from the time they were born, they assume the organ has been around forever and is the best instrument for worship. People don’t realize that hymns carols like Silent Night were first written for and played on a guitar. And beloved hymns like At the Cross are actually hymns from hundred years earlier (Alas and Did My Savior Bleed) with a modified melody, altered text, and an awkward chorus added. And folks love their gospel church piano but don’t realize great hymns like When I Survey the Wondrous Cross were actually written before the invention of the piano forte and certain well before it’s acceptance in churches.
    A long time ago, missionaries went to Africa and told new converts they now must wears suits in church and sing Amazing Grace. The only problem was that music wasn’t their heart language and nowhere near their context. Not everyone grew up with piano and organ playing hymns. Our country is very different now than it was even 20 or 30 years ago. That’s why I believe a lot of these comments are erroneous simply because they don’t seem to take into context a missional view of worship. Is our worship for God? Certainly. But we the people are the active participants. Maybe each church should judge their style of worship by the people in their context (church as well as community) and stop judging others worship styles and imposing and “right and wrong” mentality. Just some thoughts… I’m sure if anyone reads this lengthy comment it will stir some emotion. Any thoughts?

  246. Jeffrey Shoup says:

    Just a historical note: Luther and his comrades didn’t use tavern songs, and in many cases avoided replicating popular styles.

    Also, the awkward lyrics of many modern worship songs are a deterrent. They lack the signifiers of modern or even premodern popular verse: rhyme, syllabic symmetry, recurrent and focused imagery, etc.

    Often what I’ve seen in the worship of my generation (Gen Y) is stream-of-consciousness lyricism with half-formed images. When Katy Perry and Coldplay have better mastery of verse-to-be-vocalized than worship writers do, we’re in trouble.

    That said, there are hundreds of hymns from the 1800’s and early 1900’s that simply aren’t very good. Hymns aren’t necessarily better. Time tends to whittle all canons, whether literary or musical or otherwise, down to a representative few that are passed on because of their outstanding merit. We remember the Beatles; we forget Strawberry Alarm Clock. We’ll remember “God of Wonders” in fifty years I suspect, but will has forgotten David Crowder’s entire catalogue.

    As a person in the audience, I’d prefer worship songs with coherent artistry that fit the liturgy (where present) and sermon and other sharing for that service. Even better when the pool of songs doesn’t turn over every three months, so we can have consistency.

    But I for one think the evangelical church ought to bring back liturgy. An entire audience reading a Psalm together is powerful, and what’s more trustworthy for creating a worshipful attitude — the God-breathed words of poets whose work has stood 2500 years, or that of some young buck or doe without even a degree in Scriptural matters?

  247. Dana McIver says:

    Liturgy is “the work of the people” for God. also it is a misnomer to say that the hymns of the Reformation were simple tavern tunes. Luther wrote hymns himself and encouraged the best composers of the day to write for the church as well.

  248. Andy Alverson says:

    The Greek word used in the Pauline epistles for psalms is psalmos. Psalmos is defined as a set piece of music, a sacred ode accompanied with the voice, harp or other instruments. There are religious denominations that believe music should not accompany songs in the church. However, the very definition of a psalm refutes that idea.

  249. Steve Markowitz says:

    I hate 7-11 songs!!!! The same 7 words repeated 11 times. Boring!!!!!!

  250. Bob Stratton says:

    As always, an insightful and helpful article.

    As a sidenote to Ted Meberg, I agree with you. When I became a Christian – too many years ago to be decent – I absolutely loved the jointly read Church of England affirmation of faith. It had some way of binding the group together with our words combining in a worshipful way. I think contemporary worship music works much more as an individual response (although sung collectively).

  251. Ted Meberg says:

    Why does “worship”, by default, always refer to music? There is so much more to worship, than what passes for music in the 21st century Evangelical church. Recent visits to a couple of more liturgical churches, have been like a breath of fresh air, as far as meaningful worship is concerned.

  252. Justin says:

    In response to Craig’s comments above, I notice a bit of sarcasm in the tone lol. It seems you are obviously using the silence of the NT on the use of instruments to negate their value. I find it interesting you choose to neglect the varying forms of instrumental worship in the OT, but then you qualify God’s response to unauthorized worship by using an example from the OT… interesting. I’m not even sure how you made this comment on this blog. Nowhere in the NT does it mention to encourage or rebuke teaching by use of electronics such as computer.

  253. Justin says:

    This article makes some very good points. These issues out of balance can definitely hinder congregational singing. My only concern arises as it appears ALL the reasons people aren’t singing are attributed to the worship leader and his choices. This article seems to get a lot of Amens by people who are obviously disgruntled that their flavor of song isn’t being offered to them each week. While this article does raise very real concerns, I would suggest a lot of the reason people aren’t singing is due to their relationship with Christ. Do we enter corporate worship with clean hands and a confessed heart as one who is entering the presence of the King of kings? Do we live lives Monday-Saturday as living sacrifices? Do we enter worship with anticipation for how God will work through Christ-centered songs? Maybe Christian apathy we see in North America is closely related to this issue. Maybe nominal Christian (if there is such a thing) who don’t display the fruits of the Spirit or spiritual disciplines throughout the week just want to point a finger at someone else for their lack of personal worship. Perhaps another article could be written regarding the 9 reasons worshipers don’t sing as related to their own spiritual condition.

  254. Tim Hurley says:

    The article listed Nine things worship teams do to quench congregational participation. While reading it, and then the Psalms for awhile…a sense of conviction hit as to what might be happening from the other side of the microphone, preventing congregants from lifting their voices in praise to our King. Having experienced both sides, here are nine things I can identify in my own heart that can quench, nullify and grieve the person of the Holy Spirit, commissioned by Father to further His Kingdom.

    1) A soul too full of sin to enter in.

    2) When a (dis)comfort level takes precedence over anything else.

    3) Worshipping the worship, resulting in murmuring when a certain song, (be it a hymn or a contemporary expression of praise) is played or not played.

    4) Bereft of the gift of desperation, not putting forth the effort required to lift up a sacrifice of praise

    5) A critical spirit bent on taking inventory of the musicians and singers in lieu of allowing God to examine my heart

    6) Going a whole week without reading the Word

    7) Going that same week without praising God in gratitude for all He is

    8) An unrealistic expectation that the worship team/and or/pastor should fix that which I’ve neglected, ignored, resisted or rebelled against.

    9) Coming to church week after week without contributing anything to the local church, whether that be tithes, encouragement, service work, or any personal gift being neutered as the result of unconfessed sin and an unrepentant heart.

  255. Craig says:

    I have a question about “music” mentioned in reason # 4

    Where in the Bible is the New Testament church authorized to use music in its worship?

    I found these scriptures:

    Ephesians 5:19
    Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

    Colossians 3:16
    Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

    but there is no mention of “music”. I’m assuming “music to loud” refers to something that it is being generated by something other than vocal cords.

    How could mechanically generated music be in agreement with these scriptures?

    Can mechanically generated music teach or admonish one another?

    Can mechanically generated music sing from its heart, from its soul?

    Does the NT authorize the use of mechanically generated music in worship? If so, where?

    How does God feel about unauthorized worship?

    Numbers 3:4
    Nadab and Abihu, however, died before the Lord when they made an offering with unauthorized fire before him in the Desert of Sinai.

    Mark 7:7
    They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’

    Matthew 7:21-23
    “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

  256. Mark says:

    Reading the comments just shows why worship wars divide a church. Everyone has an opinion of what worship music should be and is. It’s so sad to see this foothold that Satan has on the Church, dividing congregations and generations over a song selection or key choice, or tempo, or volume. As one blogger (Kristin) commented, “worship is a matter of the heart.”

    God’s word instructs us to prepare ourselves for the worship of the Lord. This should not be the 30 seconds before the first song of the Sunday worship service, but should begin early that morning, or even the night before. Meditate on God’ word and His greatness, and it will spur on your desire to worship and praise Him with jubilant song and with excitement. The Psalms also say to sing joyfully and to sing a new song to the Lord. Many times this was done on the spot and people would cry out to the Lord in whatever fashion they could – some were very musical and some very non-musical. But it truly is a matter of the heart. If people are not engaging in song then they are denying themselves communion with God – and unity with fellow believers.

    Like preparing to watch a football game, we don’t just show up having no idea who the team is or what sport is being played. No. Most people study the stats of the teams and plan out the day, what they’ll wear, where they’ll eat, when they’ll leave — (to make sure they’re early) — and so on. But when it comes to church people just arrive expecting that the moment they step foot in the door of the church ….


  257. Patricia Morrish says:

    You are mistaken about worship before the reformation. The early church from the time of Christ until the reformation, and the Orthodox church and many Eastern Rite churches today did not and do not have any instrumentation. All hymns were and are sung by the people a- Capella. The hymns, Troparions and Kontakions were meant to convey the theology of the church and celebrate the saints and martyrs. Often then, as today, the hymns were Psalms set to music and the people often sang them as they walked to the worship place.
    Other than that– I agree. We left the Protestant church and have become Orthodox because of the “worship.” God does inhabit the praises of his people so I’m not implying that God is not receiving what is offered in contemporary worship, or that it isn’t meaningful to some, but we found it was getting to distracting, loud, and meaningless for us– like mantras. Personally, it wasn’t just the music– the element of mystery and Holiness seems to have gone missing as well. It’s very disturbing to see a Starbuck’s coffee cup sitting next to the chalice on the stage on Sunday morning while the pastor gives his “talk” . Just could not do it anymore.

  258. Sue Trigger says:

    I would like to add just one more perspective. I am a classically trained singer. I LOVE to sing in worship! However; I read music and when a song I don’t know is posted on a screen with only the lyrics, I’m lost. Teaching it helps, but it feels awkward and uncomfortable. I am able to sing praises better with a hymnal or songbook in my hands. I think your article may make the case for a core hymnal or songbook that may be updated after a time.

  259. Christopher Hadley, S.J. says:

    Great article, and right on the money. As a Catholic priest, I would have to agree with all of the author’s 9 points. And in response to one of the first comments above, I do not believe the author was saying that the liturgy was done “for the people” in the sense of entertaining them or even edifying them, but rather, it was carried out by professionals so that the congregation did not have to do anything other than show up and pray their devotionals. I would have to say, he is right. (The commenter Nick is also right, in that liturgy should be done by the people for God, and more importantly, because God always does the liturgy for the people first. Liturgy should never be done by people “for each other,” in either the sense of entertainment or of relieving them of their duty to offer God praise.)

    The author is also right in that we are sadly returning to a time when ministers and choirs do everything and the congregation just sits and watches. And hopefully prays. But that’s not what liturgy is supposed to be, no matter what church or rite. The Catholic teaching on liturgy is that the people have a duty to gather on Sunday as One Body of Christ to praise the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. The hymns and prayers should be offered in a way that facilitates active participation by all the congregation, so that they can pray with their minds, hearts, and bodies. For Catholics, that means receiving the Eucharist, but it also always means bowing, kneeling, and singing.

    My main two worshipping communities, a Byzantine-rite parish and a very lively Latin-rite student-run campus ministry, both have the tools and the will to combat most if not all of the author’s 9 obstacles, and as a result, these two congregations sing and pray very well together. But it is a huge problem in the wider Catholic church, and I appreciate my Baptist brother’s very excellent words here.

  260. Tom Doak says:

    I guess I need to thank God for the church He has led us to. Our worship leader does a wonderful job leading worship to our awesome God. Some days the congregational singing takes my breath away, it seems like a foretaste of heaven. The music does not overpower the church and he teaches new songs by having a song of the month, which are later drawn on for worship.

  261. Jeanna Sebald says:

    Unfortunately many of the new songs being sung in church have meaningless words sung over and over. They are often so lacking in originality of tune you can begin to pick out what the melody will be even though you have never heard the song before. Sadly, many of the old hymns have had their lovely lyrics and melody shredded by those who feel they improve the song by changing the rhythm, adding bits of this or that old hymn to make it see more Godly. And, yes, so loud one cannot only not hear their neighbor sing, but cannot hear themselves.
    It is said that God loves any kind of music that comes from a pure heart, but are we really bringing our best to Him with ditties we can knock off in ten minutes?

    • Dusty says:

      I can flip through the hymnal and find just as many old hymns that have equally terrible melodies, and words that are not very good. There is and has always been good music and bad music. Neither the modern era nor older eras have a monopoly on bad music. That is why only the best of the hymns have survived through the last few hundred years. And the revivalistic-era hymns were only written 25-75 years ago. Of course, at that time, they were new songs faced with the same criticisms I see leveled at today’s Christian music. Music used in the church has always evolved, and will continue to evolve.

      At what point did we decide that only OUR generation’s music should be the final era of Christian music? You may say it’s repetitive – I’d say listen to the Hallelujah Chorus by Handel. You may ask why we keep singing the same chorus over and over again – I’d ask the same question of why we would bother singing the chorus of It Is Well after each verse. I mean, it’s a great song, but have you heard the melody of It Is Well? The chorus essentially has no melody, although the verses follow the circle of fifths nicely towards the end. All of that to say, we really don’t tend to have well-informed views of music history either in the church or outside of it.

  262. morgan says:

    Great list, but missing a few things besides the nine stated reasons:

    10) Songs are written way too simply these days. The same few words repeated over and over 3 times in a chorus, followed by a bridge which is just a variation of the world “Hallelujah”. Is our society that dumbed down? Can we get some intelligently written songs that don’t all sound the same?

    11) Speaking of sounding the same, Christian music has the same “sound” to it. You can instantly identify Air1 just from the music, without hearing any lyrics. Why is it so homogenous?

    12) Lack of direction from the worship leader, besides stand and be seated. Plus worship leaders are scared to put people in a place where they feel vulnerable, like just having some hang time to reflect / pray, exercise spiritual gifts, etc. Or perhaps the worship leaders just aren’t qualified beyond having a decent voice and an acoustic guitar.

    13) Oftentimes, senior pastors have way too much input or control over doing the worship leaders job. Enough said.

    14) Nothing spontaneous ever happens. it’s always 20 mins of worship followed by 40 mins of message, then an outro song and done. So rote. It would be so cool to see some variation.

    15) There’s a lot of discrepancy out there about whether musicians should be paid or not paid for the leading of worship. By paying, I have discovered you often create a corporate mindset that leading worship is a job. It’s not a bad thing if it can be coupled with a sincere heart. But I have seen TONS of half-hearted musicians rolling out of bed 30 mins late to come perform and collect a paycheck. Why churches tolerate this I don’t know, but it DOES have an effect on the worship.

    I’m sure there are more. Sorry to chime-in so long winded but I’ve been thinking about this for a long time, and you posted a really good list!

  263. emmy bonja says:

    Thank you for your well-put insight. W have experienced most of what you described in our decades in the church. Then we came to a small town in Central Oregon which knows how to use current technology as needed, but has turned back the clock on what is happening with a worship leader who leads worship!!!

  264. Krummyhorn says:

    So many opinions to ponder here. For me personally, I agree with John – there is nothing more moving than the sound of a mighty organ playing one of the great hymns of the church. With all of the contemporary worship, organs have been displaced, and competent organists capable of making an organ truly sing are far and few in between.

    I also feel that people are getting tired of contemporary worship in general. When it became “mainstream” some thirty or so years ago it had a tremendous “novelty” factor. We began to “feel good” about our worship and our “feelings” associated with it became our primary judge as to whether it was good or not. But today it seems that many congregations are not happy with the contemporary worship styles. Is it, perhaps, because for the past several decades we fed their “feelings,” but not their needs? Have we made made our worship to “meet them where they are,” rather than to “lift them up and draw them out of this world?”

    As for me, I prefer to be drawn out of this world in worship rather than attending a Christian/Liturgical pep rally with the occasional tender moment.

  265. Vince says:

    Good Article… What we need to remember is that ‘Worship’ is for the Pleasure of ‘One’… The LORD God… It is not entertainment for the Congregants… When we approach ‘Worship’ it should be orderly, and designed for The Glory of God… Everything we do in Worship is for His Glory and Pleasure; Our Prayers; Our Creedal Confessions; Scripture Reading; The Preaching of The Word, and Our Singing… It is all for him; and when we are uplifted by our Worship Personally, by The Spirit, it is because The LORD is pleased and He Graciously pours out His Love, and Grace upon us. especially in our participation of The Eucharist…

    It was He who said to the woman at the well… “The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John: 4:23b-24)

    I am glad I attend a Semi-Liturgical Service, there is a reverence and awe for God that one may loose in Contemporary Settings… And we sing, from The Hymnal and Spiritual New Songs… This is not a criticism, just an observation…

  266. John says:

    I might add to my already lengthy response above, modern instrumentation in contemporary services does not aid singing in the same way that the traditional organ does. We now live in an almost post-organ era, with a lot of people today having never attended a worship service in which the organ “leads” the hymns in a powerful way.

    Nowadays it is popular for music leaders to put down the organ as some kind of antiquated instrument, but in fact it WAS the instrument of the church for several hundred years until the contemporary worship movement began to displace organs about 25 years ago. We are losing something very important and useful.

    If you have never heard a worship service employing a truly wonderful organ, you should make a point of seeking out such a service and see if your opinion of the instrument is not changed.

    • Jerry Doty says:

      I am 63 yrs old. I was asked to record a hip-hop style sound track for our church youth choir to use. Although hip hop is definitely not my style, the songs lyrics were amazing. I believe the music has to enhance the lyrics, which is the whole basis of a song and I had a problem. One part of the song, the music had to pull way back to expose a really sweet luric and vocal solo. No matter what I tried, the vocal was awesome but the music was thin and definitely did not support the lyrics being sung. I finally fixed it by inserting a full pipe organ to support the strings and add the necessary harmonics. It was beautiful. I always laugh because I am sure it is the only hip hop soundtrack in existence with a pipe organ in it.

  267. John says:

    An overlooked problem is that almost all the contemporary songs used today do not have the type of structure that lends itself to group singing. While traditional hymns have an orderly arrangement of stanzas with or without a chorus or refrain, many of today’s songs have loosely organized verses interspersed with repeats, bridges, codas, oddball endings, and other confusing elements. In addition, hymns have more or less standardized melodies and harmonies that lend themselves to memorization, while much modern music majors on obscure chord progressions and riffs that are simply unsingable to most people.

    Even with the words on the screen, worshipers are unable to keep up with where you are in the song. Without musical notes (as in a hymnal) even experienced musicians are often at a loss. Without a regular meter, without a standard type of musical line within a predictable vocal range, without the chordal structure underneath the words as in hymns — it’s a wonder anyone ever learns such a song.

    The first commenter above (Catholic) is also on to something. While traditional worship is built around a “liturgy” of one kind or another, including weekly communion (or mass) in many churches, and including responsive readings, the Lord’s Prayer, and other elements that involve the people, a contemporary service is often nothing more than a string of songs then a sermon and another song or two. If a person gets through the whole service without ever recognizing or singing even one song, he leaves the building without having participated at all. No wonder much modern worship leaves people feeling empty.

    I pray for an eventual return to traditional music and ways of worship. Not that we need to go back to the boring, meaningless stuff that has been passed off as traditional worship in some times and places, but a newly revitalized worship built around traditional structures and using music that people can actually sing.

    Then we will give the people back their voice.

  268. Joy Baker says:

    You left out the problem for older people of having to stand for 30 minutes during the song service, and being unable to see the screen with the words because of tall people in the row in front of them.
    Many worship songs are doctrinally incorrect. Poetic, yes. But the value in congregational singing is one reads the words, sings the words, and hears them all at one time, imprinting the message on their mind. Without that, a potent teaching trool is lost.

  269. Great article, especially re: No. 4, excessive amplification. Are we like the priests of Baal, thinking God is deaf and we must crank up the volume for Him to hear us?

    One thing, though: Not “tavern tunes,” but “bar songs.” As in the AABA musical form. See this article, which is one among many others on the subject:

  270. Vickie says:

    Best thing I’ve ever read to explain this – thanks!

  271. James Lowery says:

    Your reference to “simple tavern tunes” is an oft-repeated, little-researched reference to the “bar form” of Lutheran chorales. “Bar form” does not refer to the SOURCE of these tunes- the ‘tavern’ was not a saloon which specialized in low lights, and alcohol; Bach wrote cantatas to be performed in the ‘taverns.’ Luther wanted his tune-writers to emulate the serious composers of his day. The term ‘bar-form’ refers to the way the tune is put together, the ‘architecture’ of the tune: One phrase (A), repeated (A), followed by a different phrase (B). See for an excellent discussion of this topic.

  272. Jonathan Nichols says:

    FANTASTIC ARTICLE!!! Having had the opportunity to lead worship for the last twenty years, I have seen many of these issues come to light. I have especially witnessed this first hand in the last six months, having stepped out back from ministry and gone to observe other music ministries in our area. Kenny, you have put to paper what I have been struggling with for many months. “Why is there such a disconnect during the worship? Where has the corporate worship spirit gone?”. Thank you for answering my questions! Now back to work preparing “meaningful and participatory” worship!

  273. Nick Byrd says:

    I stopped singing because I didn’t understand what I was singing about, especially the metaphors. The words did not seem to be meaningful upon analysis, or analysis revealed multiple meanings, or analysis revealed something not not worth singing about. In other words, if I thought about it, I couldn’t keep singing (which makes sense given that many “worship” services are, by design, emotional, rather than intellectual or analytical).

  274. jkeyboard says:

    Acoustics also matter. Large carpeted modern spaces and loud instruments demand amplified worship leaders; congregants can barely be heard and must strain to hear their neighbors. Conversely, smaller, old fashioned wood and stone churches, even storefronts, are resonant and easily lent to congregational singing in a reverberant space.

  275. Mike Hanks says:

    This is a great article. I will submit it to the elders and ministers. Our congregation is not responding well to the current worship songs. Maybe something can be done about some of the suggestions.

  276. Kristin says:

    Worship is a matter of the heart. If you are connected to Jesus you will worship, whether the song is fast, slow, loud, soft, old, new… your heart will cry out to worship the Living King. Worship leaders are charged with creating an atmosphere that promotes reflection and worship, but there will only be true worship when the people in the pews have met Jesus and are living in a dynamic relationship with Him.

  277. David says:

    I don’t play the guitar. I play the piano, but my church doesn’t expect me to. They hired me to LEAD the congregation in music, and I find it much easier without an instrument in front of me.

    I can engage the congregation more easily because I’m not concerned with putting my fingers in the correct spots on the keyboard or guitar. I also tend to move around a bit so I engage more than the middle aisle of the church. But I expect them to sing, and it’s quite evident! That’s not to say that people can’t lead with a guitar, but in my case I am free to concentrate on one thing: Getting the congregation to focus on the reason we’re together.

  278. Ang says:

    Or maybe, because of spiritual abuse, more people would prefer to remain safe (not in a church building environment).

  279. Lena says:

    So very true. Each of these is a very common occurrence and really makes praise music difficult to follow or sing. Your article is a very good reminder for our praise bands!

  280. Thank you for a ministry-focused, intensive diagnostic on an issue that is an epidemic. One further assessment I would offer from my training at the Institute of Worship Studies ( is the tendency to value style of music over the scriptural focus of the day and the hymns, songs, refrains, and even chant tunes that pertain to it. It is a worthwhile exercise to take stock of the songs used and ask “if someone looked only at these songs, how many centuries or generations of the Christian faith are celebrated? How many cultures are represented?

  281. NIck says:

    You appear to have no understanding of Christian history and what true worship really is as practiced by our Lord, His Apostles, their successors, and His Catholic Church.

    The Mass is not “for the people”, but rather FOR GOD. The Mass was not contrived form thin air, it is part of the Sacred Tradition of the Church and is spoken of in Sacred Scripture. The first Mass took place at the Last Supper and has since been handed down and practiced by the Twelve and all of their holy successors.

    Any liturgy that deviates from the sacrifice of the Mass fails to truly honor God. I’m sure our Lord, as He offered his Body and Blood as the new and everlasting covenant; saying “do this in remembrance of me” would be happy to see ‘Christians’ ‘worshiping’ Him with electric guitars and jumbo-tron karaoke screens.

  282. Vickchick57 says:

    Amen, Amen and AMEN!!!!!

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