Mike Harland has written an intriguing article on the state of congregational singing in modern churches.  It raises questions about the role of music in the church.

Congregations not singing

His job as a xxx at Lifeway has led him to an understanding that”people do not sing like their parents and grandparents did. And even worse, the leaders of those churches don’t seem to know it.”

He notes that “worship has become very produced with visual enhancements and top sound re-enforcement.”  Not that it’s bad, in an of itself.  It actually helps the singing if the words are up on the screen, and not small words in a hymnal down in your hands.  It lets them “lift their voices” to the Lord.

The problem is when the it turns into a performance, and the musicians start treating the congregation like an audience.  In those cases, the music gets in the way of worship of God.


In every discussion about church growth and vitality, the conversation will inevitably turn to the role of music, and which style to use.  The speaker mentions a particular megachurch that started with 3 guys in a living room that also played guitar, and that brought a crowd and soon the 3 became 300 and then 3000.  The implication is that music brought and kept the crowds.

That’s really a false assumption.  There are thriving  churches with country music.  There are robust congregations that sing hymns.  There are active parishes with robes that sing chants.  Some use orchestras, some rock bands, some a piano and organ, some a CD player.  Some are a capella.

When music gets in the way

Matt Redman’s “The Heart of Worship” was written after his home church, Soul Survivor, in Watford, England, topped singing. The congregation was struggling to find meaning in the busyness, so pastor Mike Pilavachi decided to get rid of the sound system and band for a season.  “When the music fades, and all is stripped away…” was more than a good lyric.  It was how the church reconnected with the heart of worship, how the church family learned to be “producers in worship, not just consumers.”

Reconnecting the music

Eventually, Soul Survivor Church added back the music, but with purpose. The music was then to support the congregational worship, not an activity that mimicked worship.
Source: Crosswalk.com Song Story