Why We Don't... Sing

by Peter Swann

After covering praying, giving, and witnessing so far in this “Why We Don’t” blog series, the fourth topic may come as a surprise: singing.

It’s not that I’m referring to singing in general… many of us are notorious for belting tunes in the shower. It’s the idea of corporate singing, and specifically, loud corporate singing.

Growing up in Africa, I saw a church that loved to sing and dance and celebrate God. It was a way of church life and it grabbed my heart. I enjoyed God because I saw a people enjoying God. I celebrated Him with the Africans because they clearly expressed deep rejoicing in Him.

This was consistent with Scripture, where God is a God who sings loudly (Zephaniah 3:17). There are examples of people singing (Exodus 15) and there are exhortations to us to sing (Psalm 95:1). Yet when we walk in an average American church, we find singing that is often muted or lifeless.

That’s not necessarily true from up front, but it is from the average church attender. In truth, we either act like we’ve come to a performance, or we often just seem bored. There’s little reflection of celebratory singing in response to God and the amazing news of His gospel. You’d never know that we’ve been radically and undeservingly rescued from hell and punishment, saved into mercy, grace, and unfathomable blessings.

The question, then, is why this is the case. Why when we gather corporately do we not express our celebration by singing loudly? There are probably lots of reasons, but here are some key ones:

1. We lost sight of why we’re singing.

It’s unbelievable news that we’ve been given. Truly incredible. And when we sing, we sing primarily to God and for God. When we sing, we’re worshiping Him in response to this unbelievable news. It’s the gospel which drives our singing, because our singing is worship… and the reality of this gospel results in lives in loud worship.

2. We are gripped by our culture.

Corporate singing isn’t common in our culture, and when it is, it’s generally weak (think national anthem at sporting events). Once again, our Western culture is affecting our church culture when we long for it to be the other way around.

3. We worry about what others think.

It’s the lamest reason of all, and perhaps the most dominant one. We’ve got to get over ourselves and remember that worship isn’t about us after all. Plus, when we freely worship, others will much more easily join us.

As a former music major, I deeply love music. But I much more deeply love worship. And some of the most beautiful times of worship for me have been those rare moments where I’m in a group where everyone is singing with all they have to the Lord. That’s just special. That’s a taste of heaven. And we all long for more of that.

There are many reasons we don’t sing loudly, and it’s time to attack those. Our God is far too great, and so is His gospel. May we be a people who reflect our Maker and sing… loudly. He’s worthy of it all.