Gleanings Part 1: Congregational Singing: The Congregation as Choir

If you have grown up anywhere in America within the last, oh, 150 years, you have come of age in a culture that has increasingly prized entertainment and performance, and with this movement, a Christianity that wreaks of individualism and a consumer mentality while shunning any notion of what it means to be the household or family of God.  That this has crept into the church is lamentable.  It has happened as the culture and the church have merged together so that in many places they have become near indistinguishable.

One of the myriad of ways that this is evident in the church today is in our understanding and appropriation of worship in song.  I do not pretend to be a scholar on historical or contemporary worship as it relates to music and song.  But I do not think that you must be in order to discern the error that has been made in many congregations.  You know what I mean – one or two choir specials while the congregation sits on their hands in silence, followed by a random solo from the music minister, and then, probably, one or two more “special songs”, i.e., a solo or duet or trio by a select group of people from within the congregation (don’t these same three people seem to be the only ones ever scheduled?).  I do not intend by this to reprimand any brothers or sisters who go to or participate in such activity on Sunday mornings.  I do intend, however, to address this as counterintuitive to congregational worship.  It does little to nothing in the way of facilitating the congregation’s worship of God.  It isolates a few select individuals who are able to perform well, and it invites the rest of the congregation to take in a performance rather than becoming personally inclined to God in song themselves.

After my recent trip to Capitol Hill BC (and the last year and half at my current church), I must say that I have now observed congregational singing at its best – and it is not lame, boring, unexciting, or awkward, but just the opposite.  When there is intentionality in bringing the whole congregation into the solemnity of worship, there is not much better than congregational singing.  While there may be some instruments, the vocal leaders are “mic-ed down”, and the cumulative voices of the congregation thunders away with praise to God.  If it can be done in parts it is well worth the effort.  In the midst of the last line of a hymn, psalm, or spiritual song being sung acapella by the entirety of the congregation as if they were one mighty voice, heavenly, powerful, solemn, holy, edifying, unifying, majestic are some of the descriptive words that come to mind.  Performance is knocked out when the congregation becomes the choir.  Congregational singing is something that I would strongly encourage you and your church to emulate.

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One Response

  1. brian…I just posted blog post that kind of argues against some of what you say here. I just wanted to make sure that if you read it you didn’t get offended. We should talk about this subject soon. love ya bro

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