Does Congregational Singing Matter?

May 22, 2006

On one hand, no subject generates a quicker debate than the music we use in our churches. Should it be contemporary, traditional, Gen-X, cutting edge, emergent, liturgical, classical, or some other variation? And how do we define those terms?
On the other hand, I argue that the deeper issues are cultural and theological. We live in an entertainment-oriented society where we pay people to make us laugh. We are better spectators than participants. We come to church to watch someone else lead us. Most of us don’t come with a deep sense that the vitality of the worship service depends greatly on our willingness to get involved. Some people simply don’t feel comfortable singing in public. They can’t read music, they don’t know the words or the lyrics, and they aren’t accustomed to singing in a large group. I say that as an observation, not as a complaint.
Perhaps the key to change lies with the church leadership. If they truly value hearty congregational singing, it will eventually happen. As long as we look at the music as the “preliminaries” and the sermon as the “real show,” congregational singing will continue be relatively unimportant. But if the leaders themselves sing, and if they value the full participation of the congregation, they will find ways to make music matter.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?