Why They Stopped Singing on Sunday

Looking around the church last Sunday, I noticed that the majority weren’t singing. And most of those who were singing barely moved their lips.

The only voices I actually heard were those on stage with microphones.

That’s been the case for years now—in churches large and small.

What used to be congregational singing has become congregational staring.

Even when the chipper “worship leader” in contemporary churches bounds on stage and predictably beckons everyone to “stand and worship,” the people compliantly obey the stand command, but then they turn into mute mannequins.

What’s behind this phenomenon? What happened to the bygone sounds of sanctuaries overflowing with fervent, harmonizing voices from the pews, singing out with a passion that could be heard down the street?

I suspect it’s a number of unfortunate factors.

1. Spectator set-up.

Increasingly, the church has constructed the worship service as a spectator event.

Everyone expects the people on stage to perform while the pew-sitters fulfill the expectation of any good audience—file in, be still, be quiet, don’t question, don’t contribute (except to the offering plate) and watch the spotlighted musicians deliver their well-rehearsed concerts.

2. Professionalism. 

It seems it’s paramount for church music to be more professional than participatory. The people in the pews know they pale in comparison to the loud voices at the microphones.

Quality is worshipped. So the worshippers balk at defiling the quality with their crude crooning.

It’s better to just fake it with a little lip syncing.

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Thom Schultz
Thom Schultz is an eclectic author and the founder of Group Publishing and Lifetree Café. Holy Soup offers innovative approaches to ministry, and challenges the status quo of today’s church.