“I don’t feel like singing”
For a few months, this blog has been making one sustained argument: that the most important thing music should do in church is get people to sing. I am trying to paint a picture of corporate worship in which the people in the pews are co-creators of a beautiful sound together with the music leaders, not mere spectators to a musical event. I have mostly written to worship leaders, admonishing them to lead in a way that promotes and esteems congregational singing. Sometimes I’ve been tough on the worship leaders, making it seem like the responsibility for achieving this vision of church music is entirely on their shoulders. But it’s not! Yes, if the worship leaders have the wrong vision, it can be detrimental to the experience of corporate music-making. But it is equally true that if the congregation lacks vision, they can do just as much to train wreck their own experience of corporate worship.
Today, therefore, I want to give the music leaders a break and talk to the rest of the congregation. That means I am talking to you if you are a Christian and not a music leader. And I want to say two things: 1) You have an important role in the music making at your church 2) If you are not participating in the music, the first place you should look to blame is your own heart, not the music leaders at your church.
1) Congregation: you are the most important instrument in the room. Act like it.
Most of the time, when you go to a place where music is being played, the music is there to entertain you: concerts, musical theater, etc. But at church, this is not the case. The purpose of the music at church is to help you sing. This, however, assumes that you actually want to sing. If you show up at corporate worship in the same mindset that you do at the 9:30 club, that is to say, if you show up thinking “entertain me,” then you have the wrong vision. If you are mentally/spiritually unprepared to make music and worship the living God, then no amount of musical coaxing from the musicians up front is going to compensate for that. If you are determined to merely watch (or tune out) rather than participate, that’s your own funeral.
But wait, it’s not just your own funeral! It’s a blow to the whole church! You are the most important instrument in the building. Your voice and the voices of everyone around you collectively make up the single most significant factor determining whether the music will be beautiful, encouraging, and God-honoring or lame and flat. If you sing robustly and mean what you sing, then you are a) ascribing glory to God, and b) making an important, encouraging contribution to the Body of Christ, the other believers around you. (Not to mention, you are declaring to any unbelievers around you that your God is worthy of worship.)
You know this to be true from your own experience: when you are surrounded by people singing the Gospel like they mean it, it encourages you, lifts your spirits, helps you believe the Good News, does it not? Well, it’s your job be that for the people around you. Enable your brothers and sisters around you to be enveloped in the singing of Gospel truths by doing your part: Sing!
2) If you are not singing, the problem is probably your heart, not the music
Occasionally, I hear Christians quietly disparaging their church’s music–it’s too old and somber, or it’s too new and high-energy, or it’s just cheesy. And believe me, I can sympathize. It can be frustrating to have songs set too fast or too slow or any number of other extremes. This sort of frustration, though, often obscures a more significant heart issue.
Consider for a moment what happens in your mind when the music at your church does not suit your tastes. Do you quickly withhold your participation? If you are like me, you say in your head, “That guitar is too loud. How obnoxious…(3 seconds later)…that’s it, I’m done singing.” And, if you are like me, it takes embarrassingly little to get you distracted, preoccupied, and soon abandoning any effort to praise God. Before you know it, you are standing there silently in a sort of quiet protest against the aesthetic decisions of the music leaders.
The swiftness with which we abandon our effort at praising God is remarkable. It is evidence of a hard heart and a misunderstanding about our role in the Body of Christ. It’s as if we are saying, “God may love me with an everlasting love, but dang it, I’m not going to praise Him unless He does something about that loud guitar.”
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. – 1 Peter 2:9
You are “a people belonging to God.” In other words, He purchased your life with the blood of His Son, and He did so in order that you “may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light.” Worshiping God is your (our) responsibility; singing loud praises to our Savior in concert with other Believers is a holy duty God has placed on your life. It is not optional. It is something you should be prepared to do at corporate worship every week, whether the music is to your taste or not. You should do it because God is worthy of your praise. He deserves it, whether the music is great or not.
And, I suspect, if you and many others in your local congregation begin to approach church music with this in mind, the music will “magically” improve.
Filed under: Congregational Participation, Corporate Singing, Singing, Worship | 11 Comments
Tags: responsibility to sing, Singing, singing together