this is not my blog, i have copied it from  Sharing it here cos i believe it is relevant to us who are very much involved in worship.

Why men have stopped singing in church !!

It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

“Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

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.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music.The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.

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What about rock, punk, progressive and folk are they on the same team?


One of my favourite bands is punk/rock (Quench)

What exactly is "California-style?" 

I also assume you include Messianic worship music like Paul Wilbur and Barry Segal on that team?

"California-Style" is a tongue-in-cheek remark which assumes any of dozens of stereotypical perceptions of Californians by Non-Californians.  I am half-Californian myself, having lived 25 years between Santa Barbara and the Central Valley, which is really a different state (the musical capital being formerly Bakersfield, but recently it's moved to the opposite end of the valley, at Redding/Bethel Church).  And yes, Christians are allowed in Santa Barbara (don't even need to carry papers); in fact, I was first exposed to contemporary worship music there.

My Dad became very involved with Messianic and Slavic worship music (which stylistically often intertwine) through a radio station that broadcasted into the Soviet Union, and through Jews for Jesus and other groups.  He wrote a number of songs, always using Y'shua as the name of our Savior.  I still occasionally lead Make a Joyful Noise, When the Spirit of the Lord Moves Upon My Heart and songs of that flavor in church here in Oregon, and sometimes a solo from the Psalms. 

But Calif. has a thousand styles.

Very, very few songs that achieve a large "market" today are written in a way that is friendly to "ordinary" singers (and while we're at it, let's include altos, who can't reach the high notes and have no notes from which to learn to create good alto parts.

The visual has enabled us to present much more sophisticated songs than our ancestors sang.  I've been a worship leader for fifty years, but until a decade ago, never had occasion to use the term "bridge" in conversation.  Today you won't find a song without a bridge, and usually a recognizable intro, coda and, sometimes, a pre-chorus and chorus!  Without notes, singers have to pick up all this by rote.  The dedicated will; the rest can content themselves with moving around to the danceable rhythms made by the musicians.  For years, I have been hearing the preachment:  "You are not song leaders -- you are worship leaders", as if singing was only an incidental part of worship. 

I'm not sure that most men ever did more than growl along with the melody two octaves down, unless they happened to all be in a school district with an effective teacher.  I may be wrong -- I recall the explorer Peter Freuchen hearing the Greenland Inuit singing in 4 parts as if they were born to do so.  Yet, a good deal of contemporary music is way too complex in rhythm to express in simple notes.  Overwhelmingly, the genre is blues, whether western, southern or urban; and blues is extremely melodic, with easily as many fancy curlicues as opera singing (just less altitude). 

The 70's crew could introduce a new song and have everybody singing it in their cars on the way home from church because they worked with a limited palette -- common song types that a large majority of people knew from church, school or local folk traditions.  For that reason, Wesley could write a poem on horseback and sing it at his next destination, to some familiar tune.  That was pretty much all the outside music people had then, and thus were more willing to experience it (I'm getting into hypothesis here). 

One downside to this sort of hymnody was that poetry tended to be forced, kicking and screaming, into the same rhythm and rhyme patterns.  A poet with a lot to say had to write a lot of verses.  Verses were cut to satisfy our quick-paced world (who hasn't experienced the gutting of "A Mighty Fortress" (original ten verses), or "Amazing Grace", which sometimes takes us from the moment of grace to the glories of the hereafter without "teaching my heart to fear" in between?  Also, the original vitality of songs tends to entropify to cut-and-dried rhythm patterns (A Mighty Fortress being again a classic example, having been shorn of its wonderful syncopations by this supposedly modern age). 

Still, I think if we want people to sing, Let's create singable songs, or have the guts to sing ones already created, be they classic hymns or old Scripture choruses.  Perhaps our congregations will learn the joy of acquiring a song and keeping it in their heart from the day they first hear it.

And there are people who simply don't care to sing.  I know a fellow who never sings a note, but expresses the word of the music through dance.  Now theeeeeeeeere's another whole kettle of fish...

I don't know, after watching how loud the crowd was singing along with Adel at one of her concerts... I'm taking of vocal complexity as a reason why congregations don't sing. lol

The bible is clear that God likes us to sing new songs and it doesn't say anything about the style.   Though further read say we should use,  percussion, stringed instruments and brass (trumpets):  

  • Psalm 33:3
    Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.
  • Psalm 40:3
    He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him.
  • Psalm 96:1
    [ Psalm 96 ] Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth.
  • Psalm 98:1
    [ Psalm 98 ] [ A psalm. ] Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous things; his right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for him.
  • Psalm 144:9
    I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
  • Psalm 149:1
    [ Psalm 149 ] Praise the Lord. Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of his faithful people.
  • Isaiah 42:10
    [ Song of Praise to the Lord ] Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them.
  • Revelation 5:9
    And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
  • Revelation 14:3
    And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders.

We had an interesting experience that turned into some learning for us. When the band was loud no one sang along...because they couldn't hear themselves or anyone else singing. When we turned down so that everyone could hear themselves & their neighbors...everybody sang. And we can even hear it up front.

We also work very hard to make sure we're not putting on a show. Yes, we are performing...but we're not entertaining...we're facilitating. We have no fancy light shows or smoke machines (my joke with our head pastor is my ongoing request for a "laser light show machine").

I know each congregation is different, but if you put songs in accessible keys (a big need for most contemporary songs), play them well, lead them well (make sections/entrances obvious) & make sure you aren't promoting an atmosphere of "we're playing to entertain you" then the rest is probably something out there in the room. We found it to be volume level in our case.

Thus far in my life (65 years) I have heard only one rationale for playing worship music very loudly -- the old mantra, "Because the young people will go away in droves if we don't."  Perhaps some will; but I have a hard time hearing (so to speak) this argument applying to all, or even the many.  And if we play our music well, well, it's the playing well part that makes the impact, not the volume.

Nice to hear each other, isn't it?

Actually, our problem wasn't that the band wanted to be loud. We rely on a couple of volunteer HS students for our sound/tech team. It took a lot of training to get them to mix well enough that they could keep the volume down. Such is the situation when you rely on those with the will to help & the interest in the field, but no experience or practical skills.

Thinking about this brought to mind a friend who I had asked to "sub".  I've heard him play in our scvhool band room and he tears the set apart.  But in church he never pushed the deebees at all.  Now not long ago we realigned the piano, and in the limited space available my left ear is about two feet from the ride cymbal (so I hear it in stereo!).  I've noticed our regular drummer also exercises some restraint.  Perhaps their fear of destroying my ears is keeping them in the moderate zone:)

I think good musicians are very conscious of volume & tend to try to self-mix their level with the rest of the band. The irony of my situation is that we went sans amps and sans real drums to be better able to control the volume level, and because of that we had a bigger problem with volume.

I play through a Pod X3 Live (which I consider barely passable from a tone perspective), drums are Roland V-Drums, acoustic guitar is DI'd, Bass is DI'd & Keyboard is DI'd. And because our sound crew has more heart than experience we've spent too long being too loud and hearing comments about not being able to hear vocals or solo instruments, or too much bass or too little get the idea..

I sub for friends, who happen to be worship leaders in other churches, and always bring my amp, and it's always a much better experience. I wish I could get the powers that be on board with real instruments with real amps. It would be a *much* better presentation...but so be it.

As I said, we're getting there. We've made a lot of progress...but we have a way to go. It's been a test of my patience at times.  ;-)

Before around 1980 there were virtually no sound men in churches, orchestras or anywhere outside of recording studios and festivals, other than a PA jealously guarded by a fellow with horn-rimmed glasses, a pocket protector, and a shaman-like fluency in technical terms. 

In the Pleistocene preceding that era, musicians judged the volume of the sound their instrument was making and imagined what the entire ensemble must sound like in the room.  If my organ speaker was near me, I played what seemed to be loudly; if it was on the other side of the room, I imagined what it would sound like, though I could not really hear it.  If we were out of balance, someone would tell us.  For some this could be kind of rough on the ego (worship wars tended to be not between generations, as today, but between peers).

Of course, I am giving you a broad generalization based on my limited experience, observations, and conversations.  The whole subject of acoustics does test our patience, because we as musicians just want to get out there and play, and when we hear what seems right to our own ears, we assume it's right for the assembled Body. 

I've been totally acoustic, and I've worn the Borg-set on the side of my face with six channels blaring in one ear while I'm trying to play a keyboard.  Can't completely vote for one or the other -- only for musicians and sound crew who have, as you note, heart.


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