Can You Hear the Congregation Singing?

“We have a ginormous worship team,” Jared C. Wilson tweeted recently. “It’s called ‘the congregation.’”

This tweet, though tongue-in-cheek, is quite precise in its criticism. It speaks to a glaring issue within the evangelical church. When most churches want the worship team to be large, flashy, and concert-like, we need to regain the beautiful, harmonious noise of congregational singing.

Congregational singing — which includes the one who sings like it’s an American Idol audition and the one who can’t find the right key — is the most heavenly sound you’ll hear on earth. Because of this, it’s important to find a church that has congregational singing. It ought to be a priority when looking for a church home.

My family attends a church that has about 90-100 congregants on any given Sunday. We are small, relatively speaking. But we are also noisy! With a mix of different worship teams, their goal is focused on one thing: leading the singing. The worship team doesn’t drown the building out with ear-busting drums and hurricane-like vocals, but merely leads the congregation in the song.

We have lost the gravitas that is congregational singing. To many, they don’t want their voices heard in the first place. This is partly due to insecurity—which we can all experience—and partly due to putting on a show. We are more concerned about our appearance than losing ourselves in singing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19) to God.

When the congregation is focused on the glory of God, the glory of man dwindles. In a very real sense, the reason we search for a church that has congregational singing is because it reveals the attention is not on man, but God—the object of our worship.

Fundamentally, this comes down to what transpires in congregational singing. “When we lift our voices in song, we are speaking to God, hearing from God, and testifying to each other,” Josh Irby wrote in an article at Reformation21. “This means that singing is one of the most dialogical elements of a worship service.”

When we are singing, we are talking to our God who saved us. This should compel us to fearlessly and freely lift our voices high in unison! It is what we will be doing—and thoroughly enjoying—in glory for all eternity!

Have you ever listened to the Together for the Gospel Live playlist? If not, you should. Hearing thousands upon thousands of believers, together (for the gospel) as one, lift up their voices high to sing songs—it is an extraordinary sound. Take a listen to songs like “Behold our God” or “All I Have is Christ.”

Not only will it edify you, but you will understand more deeply why congregational singing is so important to the life of the local church. Without congregational singing, worship (in song) is reduced to a performance. And that’s the problem. The worship team does not exist to put on a performance, but to simply lead the congregation.

This isn’t to say a church can’t have a full worship team along with quality instruments. It doesn’t even mean they can’t dim the lights. These are all preferential things. But we err when the worship team is simply too loud that we can’t hear the congregation sing. It’s become more of a performance than worship. (Although I understand that, the bigger the church, the harder it will be to truly hear others voices.)

Friend, are you looking for a church? Might I suggest you go somewhere that has congregational singing. You can hear others singing with joy — whether they are on key or not. Either way, it is a wonderful sound and pleasing to our Father in Heaven.

Enjoy my writing? Read my new book Gospel Smugness.

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