We all know the feeling of standing in a corporate worship setting where it seems the congregation has replaced singing with mumbling. Maybe some of us have been mumblers ourselves. I’ve even experienced this in settings where good doctrine is being sung. In such settings, pastors and worship leaders will often throw their effort toward attempts to get their people excited to worship. In such cases, whatever attempts to motivate the congregation to worship are, it is often assumed that the problem lies with the congregation. Many times it is true; people have a worship problem. But what if, just maybe, sometimes the problem lies not with the congregation, but with the music itself? Would you just consider with me for a moment that that could be possible?
Assuming from this point on that your song selections are theologically sound and filled with gospel truths, what if it could be true that the music style and structure itself is where the problem lies? What if certain song structures are incompatible with corporate worship? What if the reason your congregation doesn’t sing from their guts is because your song selections are too difficult for congregational singing?
I have been in settings where the worship band leads with modern songs, filled with great gospel truths, yet mumblers are everywhere. Then the band begins to play an old hymn and the congregation immediately starts singing from their bellies. Now, I’m certainly not laying down any laws about modern songs versus hymns; but if my experience is not exclusive to me, then there has got to be something to this. There has got to be something about the way certain hymns were structured musically that enhances the congregation’s ability to participate. My contention is that many hymn writers and composers wrote hymns specifically with congregational singing as the focal point; as opposed to songs written to suit the worship leader or the band. Many of the songs we sing are not written or composed with that intent, thus resulting in a mumbling, stumbling, and bumbling congregation. Love and serve your congregation by writing, composing, and selecting songs that emphasize the vocals. Your people will enjoy worship much more when it is musically easier for them to sing full-throatedly. And God is more glorified in our joy in Him in corporate worship, as opposed to less glorified in corporate spectators.
The main point I hope to convey is that our worship songs in the corporate setting must be structured musically, lyrically, and vocally (easy keys) to best suit and emphasize congregational singing. Churches that sing from their bellies together are strong together.