One of the great benefits of attending a Christian conference is undoubtedly the singing. Each year during the G3 Conference, I try to record some of the congregational singing just to file away and remember. This week as I listen through livestream to the T4G conference, it’s impressive to hear 10k people, mostly men, singing hymns of truth with passion and boldness. This past November, I attended the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, and as the gathered church lifted voices of praise through a hymn to the Lord, it was impressive. There were no fancy lights, smoke machines, and minimal use of technology in the room. It was simply people singing praises to our God for the salvation that’s ours through the blood of His Son. So, why is the church not singing on Sunday?
One of the most important things a church does is sing the gospel. David penned these words in Psalm 9:11 – “Sing praises to the Lord, who sits enthroned in Zion! Tell among the peoples his deeds!” Certainly David understood the importance, but sadly the church today doesn’t understand the importance of singing praise to the Lord of glory. At least that seems to be the case since the majority of evangelical church sanctuaries are quiet on the Lord’s day. Below I’ve suggested 6 reasons why the church is not singing.
The Men are not Singing
It’s true, and sadly the case, that men are not singing. Not only do most churches have more women in attendance than men, the men who do attend are often seen standing there silently during the congregational singing. It could be the arrangement or the lack of discipleship regarding the importance of singing the gospel, but most men are not singing in the church today. Something must be done to correct this, but the answer is not centered on pragmatic methods or surveys. The answer is rooted in biblical discipleship and the selection of proper worship songs. When you attend a pastors’ conference and you hear the men lifting up their voices in unison, it’s quite impressive.
The Church has Given the Singing Over to the Professionals
One reason why the church is quiet on Sunday is because the church has decided to hand over the responsibility of singing to the professionals. The choirs, praise bands, and praise teams have largely assumed the responsibility of singing in the church worship service. If you turn off the loud music from the praise band, silence the drums, pull the plug on the guitar, and mute the microphones of the praise team, the result would be quite revealing. On a given Sunday, most of the people mumble the words to the songs while the “professionals” sing. We must remember that we’re not called to mumble the words. We’re called to worship God in song, and that can’t happen with mumbling lips and quiet voices.
The Hymns Have Been Replaced with Lighter Praise Songs
There isn’t anything wrong or sinful in the use of new praise songs in worship. Praise God for the ministry of modern hymn writers such as Keith and Kristyn Getty and others who are writing new songs. Most of the songs we sing from the hymn book were once upon a time considered new songs to be used in worship. All extra-biblical songs are written by pastors, theologians, scholars, and musicians rather than apostles. So, for us to limit ourselves to older songs would be a tragic mistake. However, it can be said that many of our good theologically rich songs that contain both weighty lyrics and an appropriate musical arrangement are largely being replaced by lighter praise songs that certainly don’t have the theological depth necessary for use in a worship service.
We’ve reached a day where “And Can It Be” has been replaced with “Lord I Lift Your Name on High” and Charles Wesley has been replaced by Chris Tomlin. Just because a song is on the top 40 Christian music chart doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for a worship service. We should think critically about the theology we’re communicating when choosing a song for worship. Hundreds of good hymns sit in books as unsung choruses each week while the latest new praise song remains in perpetual use. The selection of songs for worship is a solemn task, and it falls under the oversight of the pastors. Regarding the use of primarily new songs today in worship, T. David Gordon writes:
For nineteen centuries, all previous generations of the church (Greek Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, or Revivalist), in every culture, employed prayers and hymns that preceded them, and encouraged their best artists to consider adding to the canon of good liturgical forms. That is, none were traditional, in the sense of discouraging the writing of new forms; and none were contemporary, in the sense of excluding the use of older forms. So why now this instance that many, most, or all forms of worship be contemporary? 
Families are not Singing at Home
Family worship was once upon a time a common practice among professing Christians. Today, the busy schedules and technological gadgets have crowded out family worship time. Therefore, most families who attend church in an evangelical church on Sunday have not been engaging in family worship through the week. It’s quite simple, families who don’t sing at home can’t be expected to sing passionately in the gathered church. The little league baseball coach asks my son’s team often, “How many of you are playing baseball at home?” The point he’s driving home is that we can’t expect the children to get better by merely going to one or two practices each week. Family worship is essential for building a foundation and respect for congregational singing. Family worship also builds familiarity with the songs that are used during the congregational worship on Sunday, and this not only helps teach theology, but it helps the entire family memorize songs.
People Get Lost in the Repetition, Progression, and Climax
Many new songs used in worship have awkward arrangements, progressions, and extremely high climactic peaks that make them difficult to sing – especially for men. If the church is distracted by the arrangement and musical expression that points to a climax more than the gospel, that’s a big problem that must be addressed. We want people to sing, but we want our minds involved in the whole process so that it’s not merely an emotional exercise, but also a discipleship and learning tool each week. Mark Dever has written:
These are the hallmarks of good worship songs, whether they’re hymns or choruses: biblical accuracy, God-centeredness, theological and/or historical progression, absence of first-person singular pronouns, and music that complements the tone of the lyrics. 
Modern praise songs have created a new genre often referred to as 7-11 songs. These songs often use the method of repetition to a degree that’s well beyond healthy. If a 7 minute song contains only 2 main lines that are repeated multiple times, it’s most likely not a good song for worship. One of the things lacking in many modern praise songs is the element of poetry. If you read the Psalms in the Bible and if you reflect upon the hymns of church history, they are often using some grammatical element of poetry that enables the song to connect with the congregation. Poetry and well arranged lyrics have a natural progression that enables people to sing freely rather than worrying about missing some transition. Songs full of disorder can’t lead us to worship an orderly God in Spirit and truth.
Progressive media technology provides wonderful tools for use in worship, but if the words are not in sync with the song, it can create a problem for the congregation. One of the major causes for a silent congregation is the misuse of media technology in a church service. If projectors are cutting off or blinking awkwardly, that too can be a distraction that will cause a church to stop singing. In short, media technology and progressive tools can be a powerful aid in the worship of a congregation, but it too can be a massive distraction as well.
The pastors and church leaders are responsible for the selection of good songs each week in order to properly and passionately worship God in truth. We’re called to sing, but if we’re honest, we must address the reasons why the church is perpetually dominated by female voices and for the most part – quiet. The historic Reformation not only gave us the Bible in our common language, but it likewise brought us our hymnal. As the Reformation continues today, it will certainly be visible in the way the church sings to the Lord.
Psalm 67:4 – Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.
- T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can’t Sing Hymns, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 2010), 42.
- Mark Dever, The Deliberate Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2005), 120.
Years ago, I was one of those college students sitting in the field in Memphis, Tennessee listening to John Piper proclaim his famous sermon, “Boasting Only in the Cross” at the One Day conference in 2000. I remember hearing his voice thunder across the fields warning us of the American dream. His sermon helped me. God was gracious to spare me from wasting my life. I’m thankful for the fact that Piper, along with others, have been used greatly of the Lord to prevent many people from wasting their lives. However, after surrendering to the sovereign Lordship of Christ, consider how many of us waste opportunities to worship God each week.
Any study of worship will certainly lead to you to a spirit of humility. To consider why we worship and who we worship will astound the greatest of minds. The fact is, God is interested in how we worship Him. All of the details of worship are important to God, and this is obvious as we read the revelation of God and the history of worship from the pages of holy Scripture.
After preaching through the book of Exodus over the last 3 years, it has become evident to me that God cares about worship. In delivering the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt, He provided specific details regarding the worship that He required. Following the initial phase of the Exodus, God consistently revealed how He wanted His people to worship Him. The culmination of this revelation is found in the blueprints of the Tabernacle. The tent of meeting and each piece of furniture provide great specificity in the worship demands of God for His people. What can we learn from this?
God Demands Christ Centered Worship
First of all, we must not lose sight of the fact that this text is Christ centered. While many of these details of Christ would later be fulfilled in the Lamb of God (John 1:29), the blood sacrifice of Israel’s history demonstrates God’s plan that spans back before the cross and before the Tabernacle. In fact, it spans back before time (Ephesians 1).
As we read the redemptive history of God’s people, it’s extremely bloody. All of this blood is for a reason. It has connection with sin, but it is ultimately fulfilled in the brutal death of God’s Son. There is no way to please God without a blood sacrifice. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin (Hebrews 9:22). I remember standing before a reproduction of a sacrifice scene from the Scriptures in the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky years ago. As I stood there beholding the detail of this scene, a little girl and her mother walked up. The little girl asked her mother, “Mom, why did they have to kill the animals?” Tragically, the mother had no answer for her daughter. As we assemble to worship each week, we must have an answer for our children and an answer for our church. Our worship must be Christ centered. At the heart of our weekly worship must be a bloody cross!
The Details of Worship Matter
As we read the story of the Exodus, the depth of detail in God’s blueprint given over to Moses regarding worship is inescapable. God is interested in the details of who we worship, how we worship, when we worship, and where we worship. Therefore, as we consider our own weekly corporate worship gatherings, the details matter. There is nothing more disturbing than attending a disorganized worship service where little effort is placed in the planning of the songs, prayers, and preaching.
Have we considered the fact that God has gifted His children with spiritual gifts to be used for His glory? That involves everything from administrative gifts for planning, voices for singing, minds and voices for preaching, prosperity for giving, access to His throne for praying, and the list goes on. Everything about our weekly gathering from the early hours of Sunday to the final benediction on the Lord’s day is for God. Every body part (1 Corinthians 12) matters. God has arranged the parts of the body in such a way as to give Him glory.
Therefore, as we plan our worship this upcoming week, we must not take it lightly. We must gather to boast in the cross of Jesus Christ and refrain from wasting our worship. Every song matters! How we sing matters to God. The words we sing matter to God. The prayers are not breaks in the flow of the service. Each prayer matters to God. The sermon is not a professional speech by a professional Christian. The sermon is a two way street whereby we are all involved and interact together. The preaching goes out from the pulpit and each individual is responsible for what is being proclaimed. Every sentence matters to God. This is humbling for both the preacher and the entire church.
In reflecting upon this truth through my study of Exodus, I have tried to consider how many times I have preached twice on the Lord’s day and been in a sanctuary full of people with multiple songs during each service and completely failed to worship God. I was more focused upon the detail of the worship service. I was thinking about my sermon that I was about to preach. I was talking rather than praying. I was thinking about an earlier conversation or meeting rather than engaging in real worship. I have been guilty of wasting my worship.
What about you? Are you wasting your worship? Do you frequently neglect the assembling of the saints on the Lord’s day (Hebrews 10:25)? Don’t look at the Lord’s day as the Lord’s morning while you stake your claim to the afternoon. Sunday is God’s day and He deserves to be worshipped in corporate gatherings and restful reflection. If you are not in the mood to worship and think there is always next week for real worship, that may not be the case. This coming week may be the last time we are privileged to worship with the gathered church on the Lord’s day before we stand before the sovereign King of the universe.
Let’s make much of God and refrain from wasting our worship! We can begin that process today.
Just as an indescribable sunset or a breath-taking mountaintop vista evokes a spontaneous response, so we cannot encounter the worthiness of God without the response of worship. If you could see God at this moment, you would so utterly understand how worthy He is of worship that you would instinctively fall on you face and worship Him. 
- Don Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life, 87.
Jonathan Edwards once said, “Every Christian family ought to be as it were a little church.”If you’re like myself, you have heard of the importance of family worship from the pulpit through the years of your Christian life. However, the subject of family worship is rarely taught from the pulpit in such a way as to describe the practice, disciplines, and challenges of such intimate family time.After the birth of our daughter Karis, five years ago, we decided to make sure that each night we would pray together as a family before going to bed. It has been said, “The family that prays together stays together.” This practice developed into prayer and Bible reading as Karis grew. Two years ago, our family was blessed with the addition of our son, John Mark. We continued our Bible reading and prayer time with Karis after putting John Mark to bed. However, in recent days, we have started gathering together as an entire family each night and allowing John Mark and Karis both to be part of our prayer and Bible reading time. Our son, although usually full of energy, has responded well to this intimate time of worship.In recent days, we have added another aspect of worship to our family gathering. We have started singing together after the Bible story. At times it will be a song such as “The B-I-B-L-E” or even Amazing Grace. Our desire is to teach our children the importance of sound theology through song from an early age. Therefore, we will not limit our songs to “children songs” in our family worship. I remember when we first started singing together, John Mark’s face was priceless. It was almost as if he was thinking, “we’re not supposed to do that here at home – only at church.” It’s that idea that we desire to overcome in our home. Charles Haddon Spurgeon once said, “I agree with Matthew Henry when he says, “They that pray in the family do well; they that pray and read the Scriptures do better; but they that pray, and read, and sing do best of all.” We want our family to worship together at home before worshiping at church each week. The public gathering of our church family should be the climax of our week of worship in our home.We will have a new addition of a little girl added to our family in October. That will be a blessing from the Lord as the Buice family continues to grow. With growth we will experience another set of challenges in the early days as we seek to continue our family worship without interruptions. We will make necessary adjustments in order to continue gathering together for prayer, Bible reading, and singing! While it takes a little time and patience to work through the challenges of getting the family together, the results are worth it! In fact, my good friend Brad Walker likened it to herding cats. Although he doesn’t have cats, he considers the process of getting overly active children together for worship in the home as a similar experience!The children that God has blessed us with are nothing less than precious gifts from Himself. We as parents are entrusted with the responsibility of raising them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord – all for His glory and praise. How can I honestly claim to be obeying God in this great task He has given to me if I neglect worshiping with my family at home? As the leader of my home, I desire to teach my family the importance and joy of worshiping the God who first loved us! As a pastor, I desire to share the need for families gathering together to worship the God who is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory! May our homes and our church family be saturated with joy as we worship our great God who has showered us with abundant mercy and love.Psalm 29:2 – Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.Pastor Josh Buice
The human soul, by nature, has a desire to worship. However, due to sin, that worship is directed toward idols. A person may begin by worshiping self, money, power, or anything that satisfies the flesh. After the point of conversion, the direction of worship is changed from idols toward the true and living God. However, being crafty and scheming, the Devil will often twist people into perverted worship that does not bring glory to God. It has happened all throughout history. The nation of Israel battled with that problem as they worshiped false idols. They even battled with it as a nation in Malachi’s day as they brought perverted sacrifices to God. They were more interested in taking care of their own desires than they were in bringing God their best lambs for sacrifice.
In the church today, we have people who are well meaning, but they are misguided into a perverted type of worship as well. Many people worship music rather than God on Sunday mornings. Some people worship their own “style” of worship. They are most interested in having their type of music, drama, or even their own most preferred translation of Scripture – to the point they are actually “worshiping worship” as opposed to God Himself. In some cases, on the average Sunday morning, people are gathered in churches worshiping false gods that they have actually elevated to the place and position of God. Can a person elevate the Bible to the point of idolatry? Can a person elevate the song “Amazing Grace” to the point of idolatry? Can a person elevate prayer to the point of idolatry? The sobering answer to such questions is – yes! Therefore, we must guard our lives, our worship, and our motives in worship to the point that all of our affection, love, and joy is directed toward our God. If we worship the Bible, music, the choir, the preacher, drama, or any other aspect of our worship services – we have committed idolatry and we should repent immediately.
Thanks be to God for what He accomplished through His Son on the cross of Calvary. To Him be all praise, honor, and glory!
Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
Exodus 20:4 – Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of any thing] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth:
Pastor Josh Buice
Often times tradition can be a great thing for families or even church families to enjoy. The yearly family trip or Bible conference would be a great thing to look forward to, but unfortunately – many people in the church have taken tradition and placed it on a higher level than God’s Word. These unfortunate happenings have caused large ruts or even great rifts to form which separate people from one another – and in some circumstances – people from God. It is not an uncommon thing to hear of churches fighting over the type of music they have in their services or the type of clothing they should allow in their church buildings. While I admit that I am more traditional than many, I also see some people holding on to tradition with a tighter grip than they hold on to God’s Word. That is a dangerous thing.A coupe of months ago, Eddie Ware (student minister at Cornerstone) and I spoke on a Monday morning following our Lord’s Supper service the night before. He asked me if we could observe the Lord’s Supper in a less traditional way the next month. I asked him what he had in mind, and after he described it to me, I told him that I had planned to observe the meal in a similar manner that particular month, but I had not done it because I had been busy and needed more time to plan it. So, I told him we would do it and he could take that service and plan it himself.This past Sunday night was the night that was planned for the Lord’s Supper service. Eddie Ware and several youth participated in the service which involved praise and worship music, special music, and the use of instruments (drums, guitar and piano). Furthermore, the pulpit was removed and a large wooden cross was centered on the platform before the congregation. The Lord’s Supper was placed at the foot of the cross and following the message from John 19, the congregation was asked to come row by row to the foot of the cross to partake of the Lord’s Supper.The service could not have been more non-traditional. However, from the first opening song to the last closing prayer, the service was full of worship and it truly brought glory to God. I heard numerous elderly people talking about how great the service was and how they truly worshipped God. As I listened to senior citizens describe the service, I thought to myself that the breaking of traditions can often bring glory to God. While some may have assembled in the sanctuary on Sunday night without a desire to worship because of a skeptical mindset – many were surprised and were led by the Spirit into a time of true worship.On this note of traditions and traditional worship, I must say, I am a traditional guy. I enjoy the great hymns and the theology that is contained in the hymns that we sing. However, I am not satisfied by singing these great hymns like we are nearly dead! As one member of our church put it recently, “It is not the hymns that we sing that I dislike, it is heart of worship that is the problem.” I would agree. We need to sing Amazing Grace like we believe Grace is amazing! I hope that we can learn to worship God in both traditional settings with a choir in robes singing Holy Holy Holy and with a praise band leading the congregation in Before The Throne of God Above.Therefore, in 2009 I desire to keep traditions that are profitable while making sure that my traditions are not keeping me from worshipping my God!For His Praise and Exaltation!Josh Buice
From the early days of the Church, we see that the believers gathered together for the purpose of worshipping God as a body of believers. The book of Acts records the gathering together of believers in Acts 2:37-47. The gathering together for worship included the preaching of God’s Word, fellowship, breaking of bread (the Lord’s Supper), prayer, reverence of God, meeting the needs of fellow Christians, and praising God.The last thing in the listing is the word, praise. How did the early Church praise God? Was it with mere words spoken or was it with both spoken words and songs of the heart? The word translated, “praise” here is one that can be used to speak with joy overflowing about God or through singing (chanting) to Him. The Angles “praised” God when they appeared over the shepherds in the field by night to announce the coming of Jesus – the Christ child. Luke 2:13-14 – And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. We do know that singing was a specific part of the worship services of the early Church. That is evident from Ephesians 5:19 – Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. The early Church gathered around the Word of God as the central aspect of their services, but they also incorporated prayers of praise along with songs of praise to the One who is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory. Therefore, what emphasis should we today place on the aspect of singing in our services? What type of singing should we have in our services? Is there any type of song that glorifies God more than another?In order to answer those types of common worship questions, we should look specifically at Ephesians 5:19. We should define the words in that text and look at our present services to see if we fulfill those commands. Note: All definitions will be coming from the Louw & Nida.1. Psalms = a song of praise.2. Hymns = a song with religious content.3. Spiritual = pertaining to being derived from or being about the Spirit.4. Songs = a particular melodic pattern with verbal content.The songs that the early Church incorporated into their worship services contained rich content of spiritual matters about our God. Therefore, they were not songs about the flesh, about vain things of the world, or entertainment songs. These songs were without a doubt centered on God – for pure worship – for His glory. Is Worshipping God Through Music Important?Yes! We see the early Church worshipping God through music. Therefore, we should allow that model to express the importance of singing to God. There is something about singing out of a heart that is surrendered and dependent upon God. Pure worship is often born out of suffering and other trials of the faith. Therefore, when we learn to have Christ as our treasure, our focus, and our ultimate joy, we can sing while behind prison bars at midnight like Paul and Silas. We can sing, “It is well with my soul” when our daughters die at sea when Christ is our treasure! We can sing, “Abide with me” when facing death itself and while discouraged – because true worship is not dependent upon well being in this world.John Piper says, “If no shepherd-kings were ever surrounded by fierce and bloodthirsty mobs, if no young missionaries were ever beheaded, if no pastors were ever hated and driven from their churches, if no nations ever tottered on the brink of oppression, if no daughters ever drowned at sea, the Song Book of the Bible and the Hymnody of the church would be very thin and the singing of the church would not reach the bottom of our heart (http://www.desiringgod.org/ResourceLibrary/Sermons/ByScripture/1/526_I_Will_Sing_of_Thy_Might_and_Mercy/).”As we go back to the Old Testament hymn book, we see David and other Psalmists writing songs and singing songs to God out of trials, problems, and even joy filled days of life. Often those hymns were preserved for use in worship in the congregation of Israel (see Psalm 57 and 59). Therefore, as the Old Testament saints had a song to sing, we today as New Testament believers must realize the importance of singing to our God who deserves our praise.Is There One Genre That Is More Important Than Others?No! There can be more reverent songs as opposed to others for worship – that also comes from understanding that rhythms and melodies affect our emotions and minds in different ways. For instance, when we hear a more up tempo song it has a tendency to lead to a more celebration mood as opposed to a somber tempo that may lead to a more sorrowful or reverent mood. We can make use of all types of songs in our services without being unbiblical.When we hear of churches who split over worship wars centered on genres of music used in worship services, we must ask ourselves if this is right or God honoring! Is it right to split churches over differing opinions of music? Absolutely not! God never gains glory when Christian people fight over nominal things that truly do not matter. Provided that the songs we sing in our services honor and glorify Him through righteous theology from His Word – we should have freedom to embrace both traditional hymns and more contemporary music styles.People in China do not listen to Southern Gospel music and people in Tennessee do not incorporate Chinese worship music into their worship services. Is either one right or wrong? No! Both can be right because the culture and geographical areas often dictate the music styles. As long as the content and rhythm of the song are both used for the glory of God – we can have freedom to embrace whatever type of music is normal in our geographical area.When churches have a mixture of elderly and youth, it may be more important to blend the service with traditional music and more contemporary praise music. This will allow everyone to worship together while learning that we have freedom to sing “spiritual songs” unto our God for His glory. It would seem that a good mixture of music for worship coupled with a gathered assembly in one accord for God’s glory is most pleasant to our God as opposed to fighting and splitting over worship styles!Therefore, in conclusion, it seems clear that from the text (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), God is more concerned with the attitude of the heart, content of the song, and motive of the people than He is with the genre. We must seek to worship through singing as opposed to critiquing the music style during each worship service. Liberalism is nowhere connected to contemporary worship styles and we have freedom to sing hymns, Southern Gospel, and contemporary songs as forms of praise and worship. God desires our worship, and we must desire to worship Him with our voices of song.For the glory of God!Rev. Josh Buice