It happened again yesterday. I attended one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.
Last month I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.
First, a very quick history of congregational singing.
Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. Sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).
Reformers gave worship back to the people, in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes with lyrics that people could easily memorize. Some of the tunes came out of local taverns.
A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.
About a decade ago, a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.
At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.
But that began to change about three years ago. Worship leaders brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.
Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now. We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”
That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently today that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?
And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, and sing in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.
What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.
But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men?Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.
There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music.The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key here is familiarity. When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded. People sang. Even the men.
This post was written by David Murrow. You can find the original post here: http://churchformen.com/how-were-off-the-mark/why-men-have-stopped-singing-in-church/
BE A MAN.
Rise up, O men of God!
Have done with lesser things.
Give heart and mind and soul and strength
to serve the King of kings.
Rise up, O men of God!
The kingdom tarries long.
Bring in the day of brotherhood
and end the night of wrong.
Rise up, O men of God!
The church for you doth wait,
her strength unequal to her task;
rise up, and make her great!
Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where his feet have trod.
As brothers of the Son of Man,
Rise up, O men of God!
Text: William P. Merrill, 1867-1954
Music: William H. Walter, 1825-1893
BE A MAN.
Even though this is Canadian research, there is much here that applies to the American church.
Why are there so few men in the average Canadian congregation? Early in 2009, the women elders at Strathcona Baptist Church in Edmonton suggested that the congregation adopt as a key objective over the next few months “That 50 percent of our church attendees should be men.”
Bob Goethe, also serving as an elder, took the opportunity to purchase David Murrow’s book, Why Men Hate Going to Church
(Thomas Nelson, 2004; related website www.churchformen.com
). He gave each elder a copy of this book.
Goethe asked them to read 42 pages in the book and answer three broad questions. On the evening they met for discussion, they went over their general responses to the book, and then looked at a worksheet and evaluated several songs by their lyrics.
They used a scale to rate songs as to whether they appealed primarily to men or women. The theory here is that on any given Sunday, if you add up the numbers of the “F” (feminine) songs and the numbers of the “M” (masculine) songs, they should come out roughly even.
Here are some of the results of the Strathcona Baptist experiment:
One song (author unknown), based on Psalm 125:1-2, got an average rank of M2. The elders chose that because of the imagery of Mt. Zion, of bigness, of power. Some lyrics: “Those who trust, those who trust / Those who trust in the Lord / Those who trust in the Lord are as Mount Zion / which cannot be moved but remains established forever.”
The song “Lord, you are more precious than silver” (by Lynn DeShazo, 1982, a setting of Proverbs 3:14-15) rated an F8, which the elders decided is too feminized to be sung in a worship setting. The women elders were actually harder on this song than the men. Calling Jesus “precious” and “beautiful” made it a feminine song. And the line “nothing I desire compares with you” made it strongly feminine, since such language is so associated with romantic love. Some lyrics: “Lord, you are more precious than silver / Lord, you are more costly than gold / Lord you are more beautiful than diamonds / And nothing I desire compares with you.”
The elders came to agree that feminine worship songs tend towards celebrating a passionate love affair with Jesus, while masculine worship songs are more about strength, power, commitment and loyalty.
Participants decided to implement a balance of songs based on their scale to see if there would be any effects. Goethe reports that they have been very positive, even striking.
Before opening the issue, Goethe counted about 40 percent men in Sunday morning services. Whenever the worship team used to invite worshippers to “take a few moments to speak out our praises to God,” the voices one heard were almost all women’s voices. The men had nothing to say during these times of corporate worship.
They began discussing Murrow’s book and analyzing worship songs in March 2009, and started making immediate, small changes in the mix of worship songs, eliminating songs that were F6 to F10s, and trying to make sure there was a balance of masculine- and feminine-flavoured worship every week.
After they got into this process, one of Goethe’s male friends said to him: “This is great. It helps me to understand perhaps why I have often found it hard to ‘enter into worship’ – something I usually attributed to be just being ‘less spiritual’ than those around me.”
Only six weeks after they began making intentional changes, when a worship leader called on people to speak out their praises to God, half of the voices were male. It seems men are finding it a bit easier to track with the worship times and engage with the Holy Spirit.
After six months, overall attendance had grown, and fully half of those who attended were men. The elders have taken the “50 percent men” goal off the To-Do list and put it on the Done list.
Admittedly this subject and this method are controversial and easily misunderstood. No one should think that leading worship at church is an easy task for anyone, male or female. But let’s not be afraid to open up a conversation that will allow us all to begin to think seriously about the words of the songs that we are trying to get men to sing on Sundays.
If that can help deal with one of the issues that keep men out of church, we might be able to attack some of the others.
This research is taken from: http://www.christianity.ca/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=7243
I was a camp counselor and we were having a great worship time with our preteen campers. However, up front, two backup singers were helping the worship leader by moving in time with the music (some people would call it choreography, others would call it dancing). With their movement, certain body parts were also moving and it was very noticeable. Being a normal man, I was distracted from my worship by such movement. Afterwards, I overheard a couple of the preteens boys in a discussion about how these two women looked (they were camp counselors as well). It was obvious that I wasn't the only male that was stimulated...
Men whom I have counseled have told me similar stories. They become stimulated, and some even become triggered by such activity in the church. Their mind wanders away from worship and often this stimulation leads to acting out once they leave church. Not only do some become triggered by viewing worship leaders but sometimes they also become stimulated by the way that some women dress in the church. If they attend a church that "hugs," these men may also be triggered by such activity.
These men need the strength that comes with corporate worship but it often backfires for them.
How does a man who is addicted to sexual activity keep himself from becoming triggered when he goes to church? This is an extremely difficult thing for such men to work thru. There are no easy answers and it takes real work to follow thru with some of these ideas:
1 - Don't sit up front or where you can see the worship leaders
2 - Or sit close to the front behind a large person who will block your view (that way you won't see the women in the congregation nor the women up front)
3 - Close your eyes when you are singing
4 - Concentrate on the Creator rather than the creation
5 - Come late to the service so that you miss the worship time
6 - Consider going to a church that does not have such stimulating activity
7 - Sit with a male friend who knows of your struggles who will help you stay focused and not let you look around and who will pray for you while in church
8 - Talk to your pastor about your struggles and ask for assistance/ideas
9 - Join an accountability group and be honest about your thoughts during church and also pray about your mutual struggles.
These ideas are very hard to do and take much prayer, much mental discipline and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit.
The answer is not to just make sure that women dress correctly. In case you didn't know, in churches that have organs, many have a screen so that you cannot see the organist's feet. This is done because it used to be too sensual for men to see the organist's naked foot. So, policing what women in the church wear is not the answer.
If you are a pastor, worship leader, or someone in a position of authority in your church, I would encourage you to spend some time thinking and praying about your church and what kinds of messages your church may send to people who struggle with sexual sin. Ask God to give you wisdom so that your church is healthy and not a hindrance.BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Once upon a time, there was a little lovebird named "Petey." Now, Petey was the love of his owner, Jane. Jane and Petey were inseparable. Jane would let Petey out of his cage and Petey would sit on her shoulder and chirp away.
One day, Jane was cleaning Petey's cage. Petey was sitting on his perch singing away, just minding his own business. Jane was using the vacuum cleaner to suck out the waste at the bottom of the cage just like she always has. Just then, the phone rang. Jane reached over and grabbed the phone and at the same time, the end of the vacuum hose raised slightly and Petey was sucked away. Do you ever have times like Petey? You're just sitting there singing away, minding your own business and something comes along and sucks the life out of you?
Jane quickly hangs up the phone, turns off the vacuum cleaner, the whole time yelling and crying, "Petey!" She opens the vacuum and pulls Petey out. All dazed, covered in soot and almost lifeless she grabs him, cradling him in her hand. Do you ever have times like Petey? You're just sitting there singing away, minding your own business and all of a sudden you find yourself covered in filth and feeling dazed?
Jane sees the soot all over him and whisks him away to the sink, where she promptly gives him a bath. Petey is so overwhelmed by the flood, that he nearly drowns. He is laying there gasping for breath, all wet and bothered. Do you ever have times like Petey? You're just sitting there singing away, minding your own business and a flood overwhelms you?
Jane suddenly realizes that Petey may catch cold so she takes Petey into her bathroom and turns on the hairdryer. Petey is now subjected to hurricane force winds that nearly take his breath away. Plus, he's feeling heat like he's never felt before. Do you ever have times like Petey? You're just sitting there singing, minding your own business and the winds of change blow you away?
Finally, the trauma is over. Petey is placed back on his perch in his cage. Things seemingly return to normal for everybody .
Do you ever have times like Petey? You're just sitting there singing away, minding your own business and something comes along and changes everything, just sucks the life out of you? Have you ever found yourself covered in filth and feeling dazed? Do the floods of life overwhelm you? Do the winds of change blow you away?
Everything returns to normal. Everything seems normal, normal for everyone but Petey.
Petey doesn't sing much anymore... How about you?