It’s Your Responsibility to Sing

I have, in the past few days, read four articles about people singing in church. With the exception of one, all have suggested that people in the church have stopped singing because of something to do with the music. Some such articles have argued that the keys in which songs are sung, or the arrangements used hinder the engagement in worship through music. Others suggest that it is the content of the music, or the performance environment created with lights and talented musicians that limits people’s involvement in the music. Regardless of the aspect of modern evangelical worship identified as a problem, all of the ideas stem from the same underlying message: It’s the worship leader’s fault.

This is something that deeply troubles me. As a worship leader, and a student of worship, I have learned very quickly that you can’t please everyone and that there will always be someone who is not happy with something that you did on Sunday. I’ll be honest, I’m used to it. Yes, there are times in which there are things said that hurt or irritate me, but for the most part I have become somewhat numb to the barrage of complaints about worship. However, I  want to point out that there is a difference between a complaint and an accusation. Complaints can be ignored, or handled lightly because they question preference. Accusations, however, are something that must be dealt with because they question issues of morality, character and justice. It is in the later category that I believe such articles, as the ones mentioned above, fall.

The fact of the matter is this: yes there are many who have stopped singing in the church. But I think it is ignorant to assume that such disengagement is a symptom solely of modern evangelical worship practices. I’m not going to claim that the modern worship movements are without problems. But I will say this, the problems which are found in modern worship are no more numerous then those problems found in the worship of the past, or will be found in the worship of the future. Here’s the thing, there is now an assumption which implies it is the responsibility of those leading worship to make sure everyone worships. However such an assumption is a falsity. Yes, the worship leader is responsible for creating, to his (or her… I don’t want to get into this debate right now) best ability, an environment in which people can engage and worship. This however is not the same as making everyone sing. At the end of the day it is not the responsibility of the worship leader to make sure those in a service sing, such a responsibility rests on the shoulders of he who is called to worship. The call to worship given in scripture is not one that says worship only if you know the songs, or if the lights are not too flashy. The call to worship, and even the call to sing, is given in response to God and His goodness alone. Not worshiping or participating in singing because of the situation or elements of a worship service, is essentially the same as worshiping because of such elements. Such an action suggests that God is not the focus of worship, but rather worship is subject to such things as lights and talented singers. It doesn’t matter what the worship leader does, if you do not worship it is an effect of your heart. Your lack of participation in worship speaks more about your heart than it does the church service. I’m not making excuses about the condition of modern evangelical worship. We know that it is flawed, we know that we, as worship leaders, are flawed and we are trying to make things better but it not our responsibility to get you to sing much less our responsibility to make you worship. Your worship is something that is between you and God. If you are having trouble singing in church, or you find that you “can’t worship like you used to” I’d suggest first examining your heart and focusing on God before you complain about the worship leader or his actions because he cannot fix the inner issues of your soul.

The bottom line is this, you need to worship regardless of the situation. I understand that there are things that take place in modern worship practices that make it harder to worship, or distract from worship. However, we cannot allow such things to get in the way or our worshiping. Even more we cannot put such a burden upon a worship leader as to suggest that he is solely responsible for the churches engaging in worship. That is a burden too great for a worship leader to bear. It is a burden that has crushed many worship leaders and destroyed many ministries. It’s not fair to worship leaders, and it’s not healthy for you.



2 thoughts on “It’s Your Responsibility to Sing

  1. Brandon Collins says:

    I understand where you’re coming from on this, but I don’t think it’s fair to equate the responsibility to worship with a responsibility to participate in a group worship service.

    Not knowing the words to a song makes it pretty difficult to sing. Having “distractions” in the service can easily take our focus from where it needs to be. Often when I’m in a particularly bad (for lack of a better word) worship time, I will forget about the music and singing and close my eyes for a prayer of worship. Point is, sometimes it is more effective for me to resort to personal worship.

    I’ve heard people speak of music as the language of emotion and heart. And if we think of music as a language, it makes sense why some people struggle enjoying unfamiliar songs or with new styles. I’m not suggesting that we just forget about new styles and such, just that I don’t think it’s quite as simple as “it’s your responsibility to worship no matter what.”

    1. Jon Holman says:

      Brandon, I agree with your assessment that it is difficult to participate in a worship service when one doesn’t know the words. However, the idea of something being difficult in and of itself, suggests that it is not impossible. I will also agree that there are things that can distract from participating in worship. Never once, will I suggest that a worship leader’s actions do not have an effect of participation. However, the call given to worship in scripture is one that is given without limitation to worship services being held in an idle manner. I’m glad to hear that it times when you find it difficult to join in the singing, you pray, I would argue such action is participation in a worship service. This is a much different response to difficult services than that, which is found in the articles to which I was referring. In one such post, the author mentioned that because he didn’t know a song, he stopped trying to sing, sat down, and began tweeting and checking Facebook. This response is bad, because the individual stopped all forms of participation.
      As a musician, I would agree that music is, in a way a language. It is very much a means of expression that does seem to have a more direct connection to one’s heart and soul. Which is why I agree that music can cause one to struggle to participate in worship. Yet, a struggle to worship is not an excuse to not participate in worship but rather it is an implication of participation in the midst of difficulty. Worship is something that is to be done in all situations. We are to worship in the good and in the bad. Just because it isn’t easy, doesn’t mean worship can’t take place. The call to worship isn’t conditioned upon preference but rather it is given despite one’s situation.

      Thanks for the comment Brandon! I’m glad to see that, even if you don’t agree with me, thought and discussion in regards to the subject is taking place.

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