We love music – can’t seem to get enough of it. It’s with us everywhere we go – in the car, on hold on the phone, in the restaurant, underlying every TV script, in our CD players, and on our radios. We love listening to music. At least, we have given up trying to escape it. What we don’t do much is sing. In fact, singing with any degree of enjoyment, satisfaction, or overt delight is becoming more and more the practice of a select few. Oh we may belt out a few bars in the shower, or sing along with a favorite oldie; and we participate (more or less) in the obligatory singing that comes with worship on Sundays. But singing as an activity we enjoy, one that exercises our faith, draws us nearer to God, and puts the world on notice regarding our most basic life convictions – well, it simply isn’t much done.
from WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SINGING? By T.M. Moore
It’s almost a case of both too much music and not enough music at the same time! Why don’t we sing?
I confess that I do, often, perhaps too much now and then. But this author cited above is right, and I have some ideas about why this is the case.
I noticed a correlation between church people singing and the advent of the ‘Christian music’ industry. It appears that as the ‘Christian music’ industry grew, church singing has decreased. At first glance you might think people listening to music more would make them want to sing more. But it hasn’t worked out that way, and we probably shouldn’t be surprised.
Most of us are not nearly as good as those who produce the music of the ‘Christian music’ industry. They are professionals. We are just duffers in comparison. Naturally, the more you listen to them, the more you realize that you sound bad in comparison. Who wants to sound bad?
But its not just that the music of the Christian music industry exists and we listen to it. The problem is exacerbated by the fact the the church has often abandoned its more traditional music for the music of the Christian music industry. If we sing ‘Shall We Gather at the River’ or its kin, we don’t sound nearly as bad as when we try to sing the works of the Christian music industry. Those works were written, in most cases, by and for the professionals. We have heard the professionals perform them, and our church singing stinks by comparison. So, naturally, we don’t want to hear ourselves sing that – we want to listen to our CD instead.
Another element that comes into play here is the ‘bandification’ of church music. The more complex and ‘band-like’ accompaniment is at churches and the snazzier the ‘praise teams’ become at churches, the more likely we are to just listen and not sing. After all, you don’t have to sing along at a concert to enjoy the music. As church gatherings become more like concerts – something most churches seem to try to do lately – the congregation becomes less likely to sing, and more likely just to listen.
There are and have always been segments of Christendom that are ‘non-instrumental’ for theological reasons. While I do not think these theological reasons are sound, the non-instrumentalists do gain one practical advantage over the rest of us: they sing.
For obvious reasons, they have to! It is nothing like a normal concert. There is no instrumentation that can cover up the singing.
I visited a small non-instrumental church a couple of years ago. They were just average people from all walks of life. But their ability and desire to sing were astounding compared to much of my experience. They actually devoted some church meetings to practicing singing as a congregation – imagine that! But even though I was a one-time visitor, their music, while not simplistic by any means, was very sing-able, even the songs I had never heard before.
Many circumstances have compounded the tendency for Christians not to sing. It would be a true service to God’s people to remedy those circumstances and restore singing.