Men and worship…
So this week an article was shared by a few people I saw on facebook and twitter. The article was called “Why have Men Stopped Singing in Church.” I linked it so you can read it. But after reading it, I was very dismayed, and flatly disagreed with it in its entirety. It should be noted the article was written in 2011, but for some reason it has made a sudden resurgence in interest.
My first issue is that this is a very misleading title. I object to this for two main reasons. Firstly, this article assumes that Men have stopped singing in church. However I would argue that I know many men who sing in church heartily and with gusto. Secondly, only the final third of this article actually addressed the issue brought forth in the title.
The first two thirds give a history of congregational worship, and the author’s opinion on the current trends in congregational worship. (It is not a long article, please click the link and read it and you will have a better grasp of what I am saying here.) So, in order to address the article’s main point, Men singing in worship, I will first address the first portions of the article.
The first third of the article gives the history of congregational worship beginning in the time of the reformation when congregational singing was restored to the church, then the article discusses the use of printed Hymnals to give the congregation the words to the songs. He makes the assertion that by having the songs in your hand with the lyrics and the musical notation, it encouraged the whole of the congregation to join in musical worship. He also makes the assertion that because a hymnal could only hold a certain amount of songs, that we inherited our worship from our elders as a passed down tradition which encouraged us to sing more.
Then he makes a transition to modern worship. He discusses the computer projection of Lyrics onto screens or walls. Beginning with this point, he mentions that this no longer limits the number of songs we can sing. Up to this point I was fairly neutral on the article, but from this point on my opinion quickly dropped.
The author of the article begins to make the assertion that because we have projectors, worship leaders now introduce a new song a week, write songs of their own, sing songs they heard from the radio, etc… (Like I said you ought to read the article.)
I find some of these assertions are just false, and others are unimportant. So let me address them.
- Worship Leaders introduce a new song every week: false. I know that some do, but on the average it is not true. Many churches will only introduce one song a month, or one every few months, and rely on singing the songs that have already been established in the church repertoire
- Worship leaders write their own songs: True, but a nonissue. Not all worship leaders are writing their own songs. furthermore, every song was written by someone. Many psalms were written by David, many hymns were written by church leaders. In our current era, we find current church leaders writing songs for the modern church.
- David wrote the psalms in Hebrew, and likely in a style that was current to his age.
- Hymn writers wrote songs based on the style of their era. Classical, baroque, etc…
- Modern writers write based on styles that are current of this era.
- Worship Leaders do songs from the radio: True, but actually hinders the article’s point. The article is arguing that we don’t sing the new songs because we do not know them, but using the songs that we listen to on christian radio means the congregation has opportunity to hear them and become familiar with them outside the church (this is only a problem if your men do not listen christian radio.)
These Now lets continue to his next issue. He makes the contention that the congregation cannot learn the song if they do not have the notes in front of them. I think this is also wrong. I think that if a song is easy, a congregation will pick up on it after a few times through. I also think that it is sad that we assume someone can only worship if they know all the words and sing along one hundred percent of the time. When I am being led in worship, I am worshiping. I am centering my mind on Christ and I am meditating on Him. When I sing, I sing to Him. When I am silent, my heart is pondering Him. If a song is being sung that I do not know then I am still worshiping Him with my spirit until my mind picks up the words.
Perhaps the author of this article does not see thins in his congregation. I would then contend that some teaching on worship should be brought forth to help further explain worship beyond the mere singing of songs. This is important in any congregation, because worship takes many forms; singing, prayer, giving, obedience, etc… A person should be able to worship regardless of the song that is being sung.
It is at this point that the article begins to zero in on men specifically. I am going to quote a whole paragraph directly and then discuss my issue with it.
But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.
I find this to be a very sad paragraph. Becuase of the author’s experience, he makes the assertion that congregational singing is going away. I find this to be false. I think the songs we are singing are changing, and the style is different, but I would reject the notion that singing is less.
I have been to, and lead worship in many churches across America. I have been in Pentecostal Churches, Presbyterian Churches, Lutheran Churches, Reformed Churches, Charismatic churches, Hispanic churches, white churches, black churches, and Asian churches… My experience across the board has been mixed. I have been in churches where congregational participation was low, and where it was high. I have noticed one thing, in my experience, in churches that encourage the congregation to join in and where the leadership teaches on the varied expressions of worship, congregational singing is higher. In churches where there is less teaching and encouragement to sing the participation is lower. I do not see congregational singing dropping, I see it mixed around the country.
Furthermore, I feel sorry that the experience of the author is that churches only want men to participate in giving money. This is very sad, but this doesn’t really seem to really directly address the issue of men and singing. It seems as more of an assumed tangential. I am very disappointed that the author of the article has had these experiences, I would however acknowledge that a lot of this article seem to show a fondness for the hymns of old, and classic traditions. I think if we look objectively past our bias of personal preference, we will see that it is not the use or lack of hymns that affects congregational singing, but rather a lack of teaching and encouragement from leadership helping people better understand the concept of worship.
I will end this article for today, but will comeback to it in a few days and address a few more common issues brought forth in a discussion of men and worship.