Charles Spurgeon once quipped: “God is to be praised with the voice, and the heart should go therewith in holy exultation.”
While Spurgeon is right, the problem is that in many congregations the people are not “praising God with the voice”. If the folks at Renewing Worship are to be believed, part of the reason is that many churches are turning worship into a spectator sport – where attendees watch and listen to a concert as well as a message. As Kenny Lamm expresses it:
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.
Lamm goes on to say he sees nine reasons congregations aren’t singing anymore:
- They don’t know the songs.
- We are singing songs not suitable for congregational singing.
- We are singing in keys too high for the average singer.
- The congregation can’t hear people around them singing.
- We have created worship services which are spectator events, building a performance environment.
- The congregation feels they are not expected to sing.
- We fail to have a common body of hymnody.
- Worship leaders ad lib too much.
- Worship leaders are not connecting with the congregation.
In his article titled 9 Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship, Lamm elaborates on each of these observations. His thoughts are worth exploring, and comparing to our own church worship practices.
It may be that your church, like ours, defies this trend. In our church people do sing out, and at times, when the sancturay is full of people, and the voices seem to overflow the sanctuary, it feels majestic. Not only do we encourage singing, but we also usually offer a liturgy that invites the participants to praise God with their voices, even if not in song. So, if you have a singing congregation, GREAT! Lamm’s observations can serve as a great affirmation. They can also serve as a wise of caution, things to look out for, to minimize the possibility of drifiting.
On the other hand, if your church has been moving more toward the spectator… I hope Lamm’s concerns will challenge you to re-examine what worship is and how it really ought to be done.