Worship services are meant to be a time when believers can join together and lift their voices up in one song, praising their Savior. And yet, if you look around in church, you may notice that very few people are actually singing. While church hunting in Virginia we visited one particular church a handful of times, and each time I noticed that the first 3-4 rows were moving their lips, but no one behind them was even pretending to sing. People were staring at the stage with glazed eyes, or talking to the person next to them. People left their seats and returned with coffee and donuts, others were texting and filming the band. But no one was singing. Why is this? I think it is largely due to worship teams creating an environment that discourages the congregation from singing. Allow me to elaborate:
- They select unfamiliar songs, and don’t teach them to the congregation.
This one should be a no brainer. Imagine you are at karaoke with friends, and someone selects a song you have never heard. Even though the words are on the prompter, how confident are you going to be singing it? How likely are you to volunteer to sing that song? The same is true in church. When the congregation doesn’t know the song, they probably aren’t going to sing. Plain and simple. Do your church a favor, and when you select a brand new song, run through it before having the congregation join in, so that they can sing with as much confidence as you.
- They ONLY sing new and unfamiliar songs.
While there is obviously nothing wrong with embracing new worship music, some people take Psalm 96:1 way too literally. Not every single song has to be new and unfamiliar to those of us in the pews. Familiarity is comfortable, and more people are obviously going to sing if it is a song they know by heart. There are quite literally hundreds (even thousands) of established songs that the majority of people will know. You shouldn’t have an issue incorporating one or two into each service without having to repeat the same ones.
- They are singing in ranges that average singers can’t handle.
Let’s be honest here. There is a reason you are on the stage, and we are in the pews. It’s because you are a highly trained and talented musician, and we are not. We need to be able to follow your lead and match our voices to yours. If you are singing in a key or octave that is unattainable to the average singer, we are not going to sing.
- They deviate from the song and the congregation loses focus.
Deviation happens in a lot of ways. It can be a 2 minute long wailing guitar solo, or you crooning “ooooooooh” into the microphone, or the worship leader singing the regular lyrics but in a different key than before, or at a different tempo. It can be adding words that aren’t on the screen, or taking words away. We get it, you are very talented, and awesome, and good at singing, and have good range and….wait. Shouldn’t we be focusing more on GOD than on YOU? Isn’t worship about how great GOD is, not how great YOU are? When you interrupt the time of worship to draw attention to yourself, it detracts from the overall environment of worship, and discourages people from singing. So why are you doing it?
- They make the music so loud the congregation cant hear themselves sing.
This one should also be a no brainer, but sadly it is not. If I can’t hear myself sing, I am not going to sing. If I need earplugs to get through the service without a migraine, do you really think I am going to sing? I should be able to hear my brothers and sisters around me all lifting their voices to the One who paid it all, not just the lead singer and the drum set ringing in my ears.
- They create visual distractions which make it harder to focus
Lasers, fog machines, and special effects are all well and good…if you are at the Electric Daisy Carnival. But last I checked, we were in church, and the objective is (or should be) different from a Dubstep music festival. All these blinding lights and swirling colors are nothing more than distractions, preventing us from fully focusing on the words we are supposed to be singing and the message they contain.
- They prioritize the production over the praise
I am sure everyone has a different story or example of how church has sacrificed worship for theatrics. For me personally, the kicker was actually the projections screens. On the screens at this church, they didn’t just have a pretty background with the lyrics on it. They broadcast the worship team on the screen, and panned from the lead singer who winked and waved, to the guitarist who immediately started jumping around at the sight of himself on the screen, to the drummer who did some fancy flips with his drumsticks to get everyone to cheer, and then back again. And there, at the very bottom of the screen, are what I think might have been the lyrics. They were printed in a size comparable to the bottom line of the eye exam chart, and coupled with the lasers and strobes; I couldn’t read it no matter how hard I tried. So guess what? I wasn’t singing. And neither was anyone else.
As you can see, the above seven antics are simply turning worship into a spectator sport. I get that music teams are trying to keep up with the times and attract younger crowds, but at what cost? Worship should be solely for God, not for our own enjoyment. So if your worship team is conducting worship in a way that is limiting the praises going up to God, they are wrong. I would go as far as to say they are in sin, because they are creating an environment that denies God what is rightfully His: praise and adoration from the lips of every believer. Just food for thought.