There has been much talk across the blogosphere this week on a topic I’m thankful is being discussed: the struggle to get a church to actually participate in corporate singing. The conversations was begun – a few months ago – by Jamie Brown in “Are we headed for a Crash?” Good observations. Leading to helpful responses by David Santisteven and Dan Wilt, both of whom made some very good points. More recently, the Kenny Lamm of the North Carolina Baptist association has chimed in on the subject as well. Having led worship in a wide variety of churches – from traditional a cappella hymn singing to free-form, “Spirit-led”, 3 1/2 hour charismatic praise, and everything in between – I’m familiar with the problem. All it takes is one Sunday morning service with the room staring back at you, uttering not-a-peep, for us to go home contemplative, asking, “What did I do WRONG?” That said, though they make many good points, I’m not convinced any of the fore-mentioned blogs gets to the heart of the matter. Here’s why…
I’ve been blessed with many opportunities to visit, worship with, & sometimes even guest-lead at other churches. I have worshiped with at least 4 or 5 churches in my life-time that I would truly call “worshiping congregations.” I remember more than one Sunday leading worship where the singing was so loud from the room that I couldn’t hear myself or the band through the monitors! Surely I was leading solo from a piano or acoustic guitar, right? NO! These churches had FULL-BANDS, incredibly technically astute players – many of them touring musicians – big lights, loud music, & AT LEAST 50% of the songs were originals, written in-house, or “in-network”! Of course, some of those nights were special – moments where God showed up in a way that no one could’ve planned for and just did His sovereign work, BUT many more of those moments were just normal church for these people.
Those are moments & environments that I long for, but those moments were common for those churches. So I began to ask “Why?” These churches worked at creating a worshiping culture. They taught worship – corporate participation in particular – via every avenue, consistently: Sunday morning service, small-groups/Sunday schools, one-on-one mentoring/discipleship – the spiritual D.N.A. of those churches acknowledge something the Evangelical church to easily forgets. We were MADE to worship!
God created us for this purpose, & it is one of the things we will continue to do long into eternity after the “end”. When we’re with Jesus in the afterlife, there’ll be no need for “Solid Biblical Exegesis” – no need for Evangelism where everyone is already “saved” – no need to understand tithing, or how to love your neighbor. But we will sing praise! Let’s not neglect the importance of SINGING!
The consistent drive to create a worshiping culture ensures that – whether singing hymns, folk songs, or loud, modern rock – the church will give it all during corporate singing.
That’s just to say: we need to make TEACHING WORSHIP a greater priority. I understand the problem: lead pastors in particular tend to under-emphasize the eternal importance of corporate singing, in some cases because they may even fear losing their “authority” within their congregation by elevating the importance of the worship pastors’ role. I’ll say this: that hasn’t been the case in the churches I referenced earlier. In fact, the congregations respect & admire the pastors’ own commitment to worship God with all that he has! It inspires greater respect in his people, not less.
So, that is my call: where the corporate worship of God is elevated to it’s proper place, people “get it”, & they participate. Where that emphasis is lacking, people will only sing if they like the music, & we’re back in the front row of the “worship wars”, trying to please people’s tastes, & tickle everyone’s fancy.
Teach worship, & teach it how the Bible instructs us to teach: explain it, discuss it, lead it, walk it out, & encourage others to do the same. I call it “worship discipleship”.
Teach who God is, who we are, why we should sing, and teach us TO SING, & teach that with all that you are, & in all that you do. If you do that, you won’t be able to MAKE them stop singing!
So be it!