“This ‘sinn(g)ing thing” (questions, musings about SINGING in church)

For the last year or so I have visited many many churches, generally to preach, and sometimes to lead the service too. After 20 years of leadership in the local church it’s been a thoroughly interesting and stimulating time to move beyond the ‘confines’ and ‘genuine joy’ of the local church to be a “travelling preacher” (amongst other things!). To view other church situations and see how others do stuff has been a helpful insight and one I have been extremely grateful for.

However, I am disturbed by what I see and experience in a number of ways. Too many to recount in one short blog. But here are a few questions to hopefully get you thinking and reflecting on just one subject!

1. What would churches look like it we chose NOT to sing anything at a Sunday service? How would your church use the time to ‘worship’ without singing? (I am assuming the traditional Sunday service is in view….but the same applies to those experimenting with other forms of church)

2. How much pressure ‘from within’ is there to ‘sing’? – i.e if you didn’t sing for a month, what would happen?

3. How often do we get the balance of the different gender, cultural, traditional and modernistic preferences of those present right? Does this matter?

4. How many hours are spent planning,co-ordinating, rehearsing and delivering ‘songs’? Is it worth it?

5. Are we in danger of ‘singing to please ourselves’ (see Isaiah 58.3)

6. Has the language within sung worship all got just a little too self centred and gooey? And is the language largely irrelevant to our post Christendom culture?

Please don’t get me wrong. I am NOT suggesting that ‘singing’ in worship is wrong, but I am questioning both the dominance and approach.

Or am I just being an old grump??!

Bless ya


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12 Responses to “This ‘sinn(g)ing thing” (questions, musings about SINGING in church)

  1. Interesting!! The guy who preached yesterday at the church I attend preached on John 4 – Jesus Talks With a Samaritan Woman. Among other things he brought up was ‘What are the givens for your circumstance/church?’ So what are those things that happen because they have to happen…do they have to happen? How many times did we see Jesus singing with His disciples? But then what would we do, what could we do instead of singing?!

  2. Sally Claydon says:

    I think there is something spiritual about music, it has the power to move us…so I think it would be important to include it as a way of worshipping…as long as we get the balance right. For those whose gift is music/singing then its wonderful that they get to use their gifts regularly…but maybe we should allow time and space for others to share their gifts too? Maybe we should make time for just ‘music’ without singing…

  3. Steve Blunden says:

    Read today that Paul and Silas sang while they were in prison (Acts 16) – not that I’m liking being in church to prison!

  4. Julie Wickenden says:

    I think we like to think we are somehow adding to the incessant Heavenly praise although I am sure God has good filters on His ears! I think good musical worship should lift, move, unite and inspire us. Like the victory song on the terraces. It is one of the few times when the congregation is actually encouraged to express themselves in worship and not just listen to the chosen few who speak/ pray/ lead. I do love all types of song within worship, but it takes a good worship leader and/ or good musicians to judge what is appropriate for the congregation. I love the poetry of the old hymns and I love the intimacy of some of the new songs. Actually music infiltrates our whole life, whether we like it or not. Lets keep giving the best in praise to Jesus.

  5. Naomi Goff says:

    I still think it is a problem in some places that ‘worship’ and ‘music/singing’ seem to have become synonymous (i.e. the ‘worship’ slot, the ‘worship’ group, le’ts move into a time of ‘worship’ (what have we been doing the rest of the time then?? etc). Also as a musician, flicking through the now thousands of songs in the SOF series alone, there are proportionately fewer that are (as Julie said), suitable for congregational singing, classics that have a real scriptural depth to them – I want a song to help me remember a truth about, as well as bring me into closer communion with, God. Not necessarily one that makes me want to jump up and down or just feel good (although if it can do all those things it’s a winner!) I think in our modern Western society we (and I include myself in this) have a real fear of quiet, stillness, silence but we are in danger of drowning God out.

    Did Jesus sing with his disciples? I don’t know. I suspect they may have sung the Psalms together. Also there is scriptural evidence for musical worship in heaven, however I believe I am right in saying that in one or two places this was followed by long periods of silence!

  6. I would tend to agree with you, singing does seem to have becoming something that bookends our services at TBC. Normally 3 songs at the start and three at the end, sometimes more, with a half hour pre-service song worship at least once a month.
    However I do wonder if that is not what the majority of the congregation want. It seems to be what they expect, at least.
    I am curious about your quote of Isaiah 58.3 as this is about fasting, not singing. There are plenty of places, mostly in the Old Testament, relating to singing to the Lord. It is positively encouraged, and there is a wealth of good worship hymns and songs as a result. Naomi questions whether Jesus sung with his disciples. That’s an interesting question as it is not mentioned anywhere that I can find. But then, to my mind, most of the New Testament is more about teaching Christ’s believers how to follow Him.
    It would seem to me that the amount of singing varies according to the denomination of the church that I’m attending. I’ve been to places where there is one hymn at the beginning and one at the end. I’ve equally been to places where almost the whole service was singing with a few notices and a 5 minute ‘chat’ from the leader.
    As they say, ‘you pays your money and takes your choice’.

  7. John McLaren says:

    There is one mention of hymn singing by Jesus and the disciples: in Matt 26:30 (and its equivalent verse in Mark). For me song is a significant part of worship although it does bother me that some seem to think that worship is only conveyed through song (I suspect that they don’t think that but their words often suggest it). One benefit song does have is that it enables all to partake in worship in a physical way and that has benefits for our fellowship together. If that is so, however, it is important that songs/hymns are thoughtfully chosen – so preparation time is essential – the words and styles of some of the songs in SOF are inappropriate for congregational singing.

  8. Phillip Gunton says:

    I refer you to Matthew 26:30, and Mark 14:26 where ‘hymn’ could be in the plural, ‘hymns’.

  9. jonstannard says:

    Thank you for your comments thus far. To repeat, I haven’t said singing is wrong, or that hymns are not appropriate. I think asking the questions and reflecting on them is worthwhile.

    • As Church from Scratch we have used singing sparingly over the last 10 years. May be 10% of the songs of a typical baptist church – but that’s a bit of a guess. So that’s the experience I’m coming from.

      Like Jon I’m not against it and some in my church who were in other churches before, miss that experience. Others, and usually those who have not been brought up church seem to have a little inclination for it but not lots though listening to music is a biggie in our culture.

      Naomi I also see a problem when worship and singing are seen as synonymous – I’d go beyond that and wonder why church services and worship seem to have become synonymous and why singing isn’t understood as teaching at times or just as a nice sing-up without trying to claim it is super-spiritual.

      On a related topic, it’s makes an interesting read to replace the word sing/song with preach/teach in what Jon has written. And to wonder why church services, or most Baptist ones at least, seem to feature a single voice delivering a longish talk (monologue) rather than multi-voice conversation.

      But, and I’m not sure about this, perhaps there is a difference in that the monologues are getting shorter and some churches are stepping out with multi-voice services which I see as an encouraging trend but the focus on singing seems to have gone in a different direction towards increasing imbalance.

  10. Dan says:

    Having worked in North Africa with people who don’t naturally worship through song – we rather missed it – especially gathering together in a large group. However, many of our indigenous Christians friends viewed singing as culturally uncomfortable and certainly couldn’t easily engage with western songs that had been adapted to fit the local language (historically a huge amount of time has been spent on this by missionaries) In contrast, we encountered folk that came to know Jesus in dreams. They wrote poetry and and at times spontaneously sang praises!

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