Singing and Culture
In Darryl Tippens book “That’s Why We Sing” he makes the following statement.
“Times have changed. We are less and less a singing culture, more and more a listening culture. We are surrounded, day and night, by professionally produced music. As we move from active participation to passive listening, an even more ominous consequence emerges. In a world of ‘American Idol,’ we become entitled judges of everyone’s performance. In other words, we move from being singers to being listeners, then, finally, to being consumers and self-appointed critics. In such a consumerist world, congregational singing suffers. Instead of praise being understood as a sacrificial gift to God; it becomes a human performance subject to critical analysis. (What did you think of the singing this morning?) This may explain why some sit through the service, lips sealed. They do not feel qualified. They do not understand that through silence they are withholding a gift rightfully due their Maker and Lord.”
I believe Tippens raises a valid point concerning congregational singing and culture. In the 21st century we are seeing more and more churches making the change from congregational singing to a performance by a professional singer or band. I believe the reason for this change is churches are being influenced by the culture they live in. Congregational singing has been a staple of Christianity since the 1st century. When we gather to worship we unite our voices in praise to the Most High God. This act of singing is not about performance, as some believe, but it is about our hearts worshiping God (Eph. 5:19). God does not look on outside appearances. He does not sit in judgment of our worship as if He were a judge on American Idol. He looks at the heart (1 Sam. 16:7).
Karl Barth wrote, “The Christian community sings. It is not a choral society. Its singing is not a concert. But from inner, material necessity it sings. Singing is the highest form of human expression… We can and must say quite confidently that the community which does not sing is not the community.”
Even though we may fully embrace congregational singing there is no doubt that members of our congregations will be influenced by the culture. They may, as Tippens puts it, “not feel qualified.” We must make sure that everyone understands the importance of singing and why we do it. We need to be careful of sitting in judgment of the song leader or any others who are singing and praising God with all their heart. May we all continue to sing and give God the praise He rightfully deserves.