Tag Archives: worship through music

Is Congregational Singing Doomed

21 Jan

On the Porch 

Onisha Ellis

I'm a winner

It seems we have moved past the age-old church music choice controversy and are now smack dab in the middle of are we singing at all? Lately, when I attend church, I am not sure if I am supposed to be singing. The music leader invites me to stand but instead of singing, I find myself thoroughly disengaged while the Praise group does their thing. It is not their song choice that is the issue, I can go with traditional or contemporary and enjoy it best when it is mixed together. It is the way they lead and sing.

For instance, let’s say the chosen song is one I am familiar with, great! BUT the praise group has decided to change the cadence and melody. That is fine if the praise group is the only ones singing. It is not fine when the congregation is supposed to be singing too. I actually find it to be rude and excluding.

As we have modernized our sanctuaries, we rely on song lyrics displayed on large screens. Those screens do not also display the musical notes and the congregation has no idea which way the melody will go.

Painting by DiVoran Lites

Painting by DiVoran Lites

I try to sing it in the way I know and I am either too fast, slow, too high or low. Since I can’t sing, I stand silent and listen to the voices around me. I like to do this, anyway as I love the sweet sound of voices singing unto God. To my surprise, I couldn’t hear any voices. I saw a few lips moving, but for the most part, all I heard was the music leader and the band. Does he not realize people are not singing? I ask myself?

Photo via Visual hunt

Since I find this trend of singing at the congregation rather than singing with them to be distressing, I decided to do some research. I found this article The Slow Death of Congregational Singing written in 2008 by Michael Raiter. In his article he says

 “I travel around a great deal. In fact, I’m in a different church on most Sundays, and it’s true of virtually everywhere I go. I can’t remember ever coming home to my wife after church on a Sunday and saying, “Now, honey, that church really knows how to sing”.

Isn’t that sad? I grew up in a church that knew how to sing. They sang with their hearts.  Raiter goes on to say:

“I liken the ministry of song leaders to that of John the Baptist. They must decrease as the people of God increase (John 3:30). When the song begins, we may hear the voices of the leaders and the sounds of the instruments, but by the end of the song, it is the voices of the people of God that should dominate.”

 Church Leaders online magazine has an article entitled

Congregational Singing Dysfunction: 4 Ways to Fix It

The author states

 “If your church doesn’t sing it’s probably because of one of two things: either they haven’t been invited to sing or the obstacles to their singing have not been removed.”

Theologian, John Calvin says, “singing subdues the fallen heart and retrains wayward affections. St. Augustine says, “Singing is praying. When one sings one prays twice. While singing in the front of the Lord, we are in touch with the deepest center of our heart.”

I love going to a Christian music concert and being caught up in the music and worship. When I am in church, I like to be able to sing. ( I sing poorly by the way)



Praise for the Lord’s Goodness.

A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day.

Psalms 92:1-4

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning
And Your faithfulness by night,
With the ten-stringed lute and with the harp,
With resounding music upon the lyre.
For You, O Lord, have made me glad by what You have done,
I will sing for joy at the works of Your hands.

I can’t remember these words without mentally humming “Fiddler on the Roof.” We sang it this way in our small family life group, accompanied by the guitar and sometimes a tambourine!


I would enjoy reading your thoughts on this. Do you think congregational singing is doomed?

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