Just as home entertainment has morphed from family and neighborhood sing-alongs to the ability to consume whatever music the global professionals offer, the church has shifted away from an emphasis on corporate singing. At best, larger churches have shifted to more professional, performance-oriented music. And smaller churches have adopted less of the traditional “come one, come all” since because it feels outdated, irrelevant, and at times downright embarrassing. Who can compete with the masters, after all?
It seems curious that in a generation that has produced innumerable conferences, articles, blogs, and even university degree programs on “worship,” the topic of congregational singing hasn’t been raised more often. But even if we had been discussing congregational participation, would we know what goal we’re aiming to hit each week?
When preparing for any worship service, our desire is for the songs we sing to be filled with the beauty of Christ and the the truths of his Word. We want the Word of Christ to dwell in people richly when they listen to it being preached as well as when they respond in song.
I think the things we are most passionate about are, first, making sure that congregations are able to sing together and, secondly, making sure that the Word of Christ dwells in us richly. When you look at the New Testament, the radical thing about the church wasn't its performance capabilities, it wasn't buildings, it wasn't even artistry. It was the fact that these people from every background were coming together to sing. In other words, what congregational singing represents is actually what the church represents.