Tag Archives: worship

Why Men Have Stopped Singing In Church (from the blog – “Church for Men”)

  • Worship band in the dark

    It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

    Last month I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

    First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

    Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

    Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.

    A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

    About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

    At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

    But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.

    Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

    That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

    And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

    What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

    But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

    There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music.The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.

 

Murrow also blogs:

When I was a kid growing up in church, we sang hymns. Songs about God. From a book. Never more than three in a row. There was little emotion attached to this experience. Nobody dimmed the lights.

  • And we all sang. Loudly. Or at least we mouthed the words.

    Today, worship is not something you do – it’s something you feel. We no longer sing about God, we sing to him. There might be seven songs in a row without a break. We are expected to feel something. The lights are low.

    And we’re not singing any more.

    As I visit churches around the country, I’ve frequently observed that the majority of attendees do not sing. They stand motionless, looking at the words on the jumbo screen. It’s particularly noticeable in so called seeker-friendly congregations. I’d guess that only a quarter of the men sing.

    According to LifeWay Worship Director Mike Harland, the modern stage-driven worship atmosphere gives people an excuse to be spectators instead of participators.

    Lillian Kwon writes in the Christian Post, “While the congregation is left in the dark under dim lights, stage lights place the focus on the gifted worship leader — who has in-ear monitors and who sings songs in a key that best fits him or her. The worship leader can’t hear the congregation or see the congregation and ‘they don’t even know that the congregation is not even singing,’ Harland said.

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Firefighters

My late Uncle Alex worked for the National Coal Board in their offices in Edinburgh at Lauriston Place.

At pavement level in one of the windows of the building there was a picture advertising the Coal Board’s principal product, and a slogan along the lines of: ‘There’s nothing like a real fire’

This was kind of ironic as the Fire Station was right next to them!

That Fire Station is no longer operational, but remains as a museum.

It always had an attraction to me when, as a youngster, I would visit Uncle Alex in his offices next door..

I watched crowds of small boys yesterday at the Dumfries & Galloway Fire Brigade’s Open Day at Brooms Road, and it brought back a lot of happy memories.

I wonder how many of the laddies posing in front of the fire engines for photographs, had, like me all these years ago a great aspiration to grow up and be a fire fighter?

The old fire station in Lauriston Place in Edinburgh contained just about everything there was to engage a young boy’s imagination There were the bright red gleaming fire engines into which we were able to climb.  There were the lockers with all the fire-fighter’s coats and helmets There was all sorts of other equipment, each item having some fascinating use for a small and wonder filled boy.

But most of all, there were just the grandest thing – a gleaming fire pole down which the firemen would slide from their quarters above down to the ground floor where the fire engines were.  Oh the excitement of it all!

Certainly, to be a fireman would have just about been the best thing ever!

Of course, there are the long hours of training, long shifts away from home, the long boring hours when nothing is happening Then there is the tough physical conditioning,, and oh yes, lest I not forget, the danger of fighting fires!

Well, as a kid, I thought that maybe, I could just pretend to be a fireman. 

What if I went out and bought a red fire-helmet and boots and a heavy fireman’s jacket And maybe I could find a used fire truck

And in my house, it probably wouldn’t be too difficult to install a brass pole from the first to the ground floor Then I could look like a fireman, act like a fireman, drive a fire-truck, ring the bell and blow the siren, install a brass fire pole, and slide down it each time I wanted to go to the ground floor.  I could even tell fire stories But in the end, I might fool some people, and maybe even fool myself — The truth would be, that if I refused to put out fires, I would NEVER be a fireman.

You can have all the trappings and all the equipment, but if you do not put out fires, then you cannot be a real fire fighter.

What is true of the fire brigade is true of the Church and of religion.

We may sing our hymns with vigour, pray our prayers with fervour, hear the Scripture eagerly, but if we leave it at that and do not put into action what we profess, then it’s a shallow exercise.

We may have the finest of Church buildings and most beautiful of sanctuaries, the most ornate pulpits and altars, and the loveliest of stained glass windows, but if we do not live a godly life outside of these walls, loving God and our neighbour in the name of Jesus Christ, then we are not a Church.

In the Old Testament, in the book of the prophet Micah, there is a famous passage in which the people think that true religion lies in the type and quality of sacrifice they make before the altar.

Micah answers that the real demands of God on humankind are moral and spiritual, and the proper worship of God is a life obedient to them.

He says ‘With what shall I come before the Lord?  …..  He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’

And then we hear Jesus repeat so much of this scripture in his ministry and indeed, add

to it in an ever deeper call to love God through loving our neighbour when he speaks of the greatest commandment — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’

If we, who claim to be Christians, do not have that fire in our heart, that zeal in our heart, that burning desire in our heart to live for others, as Christ lived for us, then we are like the fire – fighter who has all the gear, all the equipment, all the resources, but refuses to fight fires.

The picture of a laughing little boy on a gleaming fire pole is a joyous memory which  is deeply cherished, but it is nothing more than a faded picture when compared to the joyous realm of the kingdom. A kingdom which is revealed to us by a loving Redeemer, when we truly seek to love and honour God.  May God give us the courage to seek to worship him in the very best way we can.

 

this was preached at the 25th anniversary service of the Dumfries and Galloway Fire Service

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