Engaging views and analysis from outside contributors on the issues affecting society and faith today.

CP VOICES do not necessarily reflect the views of The Christian Post. Opinions expressed are solely those of the author(s).

 Voices |

Singing together in church is a holy act. Why are churches doing away with it?

Christ Church in Montclair
Churchgoers sing praises during the third service of the morning at Christ Church in Montclair, New Jersey, on September 4, 2005. The church, which holds five services every Sunday to accommodate the interest of their more then 5,000 members, is planning to build a larger facility in nearby Rockaway Township despite resistance from residents and the local government. |

Martin Luther believed that next to theology, music was the highest form of worship, “a gift of God to be nurtured and used by man for his delight and edification, as a means for giving praise to the Creator, and as a vehicle for the proclamation of God’s Word.” And for centuries, congregational singing has been a prominent part of church services.

However, many churches are sadly no longer prioritizing singing together as part of services today. In a conflicted world with organized religion on the decline, it is imperative that churches restore one of Martin Luther’s favorite tenets: congregational singing.

Our responsibility as believers of God is to sing together. Throughout Scripture, the command to sing is given to God’s people more than 400 times. Ephesians 5:19 instructs believers to address one another in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We are spiritually renewed, realigned, and sanctified by singing to the Lord and singing to each other as the body of Christ.

Yet, the numbers today are telling. In 1998, 54% of American churches had a choir, according to the National Congregations Study. Just 20 years later, the percentage of choirs had decreased to only 42% of congregations — a 12% drop. Large Evangelical churches, especially, have led the trend: going from two-thirds (69%) with choirs in 1998 to just over one third (36%) in 2018. In place of choirs, which usually serve as a catalyst for music education and the promotion of singing among all ages, many churches have instead opted to have trained musicians perform on a stage while congregants listen rather than sing along.

Another big reason that a congregation may not be engaged with singing is a senior pastor who simply doesn’t enjoy it. C.S. Lewis believed that singing not only completes our faith, but it is also an act that is to be enjoyed. In his book, Reflections on the Psalms, he wrote: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.” I believe this concept is also why many of our spiritual heroes such as Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, J.C. Ryle, and Philip Schaff produced hymn books in addition to preaching and teaching. Others including Richard Baxter and John Calvin wrote hymns themselves. Pastors today have a responsibility to model and demonstrate the importance of singing; they should delight in their congregation’s singing, and joyfully and authentically participate themselves.

Other reasons that singing together is on the decline include churches’ use of multimedia presentations that replace singing, fewer people attending church in person (congregational singing virtually is just not the same), as well as the selection of songs that are themselves uninspiring. The fact is that great songs have stood the test of time. They have been passed down for generations and we should pass them along to our children. Assemble any group of Christians, and practically everyone can sing “Amazing Grace” confidently and passionately. We’re drawn to sing great music, much like we’re drawn to stand in awe of a beautiful painting. Pastors should choose music that will inspire those who sing it.

As we gather in churches again, amidst division and after a devastating pandemic, churches around the globe have an unparalleled opportunity to reset congregational singing, restore our hope, and reunite the Church in Christ-centered worship. And for the sake of our own witness, now is the perfect time to reunite as God’s people to sing and proclaim to all nations that our hope is found in Christ alone.

Keith Getty is a modern hymn writer who received the Officer of the Order of the British Empire by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, marking the first time the award has been given to an individual in the world of contemporary church music. On Sept. 4-7, Getty Music will host its annual Sing! Worship Conference in Nashville.

Was this article helpful?

Want more articles like this?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone by making a one-time donation today.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More In Opinion