Today I came across this blog about people people singing less in church gatherings. “Less” seems to be a theme in many churches across our country. Less people attending. Less people giving. Less people evangelizing. Less, less, less.
In the past sixteen years of ministry I have noticed what Thom points out, a decline in singing during worship gatherings. Thom attributes this to four reasons: spectator set-up, professionalism, blare (volume), and music choice.
While these may be true to a degree, I believe the problem is much deeper. In 1998 God’s radical one-way-love overtook me. My shame and guilt for sin was being drowned at the foot of the cross, I was free. The church that God brought me into was filled with old white people, an giant organ, and three piece suits. This was a far cry from anything resembling a peer group, my love for heavy metal, and the baggy shorts I was accustomed to. I didn’t know the songs. The organ volume wailed on my innards like haunted carnival music on steroids. The people on stage looked professionally sharp. Still, I sang. It took one worship leader telling me one time, “We sing to God because he loves us and sent Jesus to die for use while we were yet sinners.” This truth captured my heart, and captured hearts are what cut through professional, performance that is blaringly loud. The good news of Jesus, the gospel, is the reason I sing. In sixteen years of following Jesus I still find myself in awe of his great love for sinners like me.
I sin often, but my sin cannot outrun the forgiveness of Jesus. I fail God daily, but Jesus never failed God for a moment and he never fails me. I am prone to wander from God, but Jesus is always prone to find me. When I fall, he picks me up. When I run from him, he chases me down. Even when I do “good things” they are tainted with pride and self righteousness, yet still Jesus reaches across the chasm of my rebellion to say, “Ryan, I love you, you are mine, and all your sin of was paid for by me. It is finished!”
That’s why I sing, and I have sneaking suspicion that many people don’t sing because we’ve taken this radically good news and swapped it out for sermons and Bible studies that rarely take people to the gospel. Sermons that are about “getting better” or “how to…” or “Don’t do…” blah blah blah, be a good person. The gospel is power to save.
We have forgotten that the church is only club in the world where the only qualification for joining it and staying in it is that one must be unqualified and desperately in need. It is in this moment of forgetting our need that we lose our awe.
Perhaps people sing Amazing Grace like a funeral dirge because they are no longer amazed by grace. Perhaps we mumble through In Christ Alone because our sermons are so often Christ + good behavior (at best). Perhaps we lip sync How Great Is Our God because in our heart of hearts God is just… decent.
So go to church this weekend with wretched sinners like me. Fall into the loving arms of God who loves the unloveable and saves broken people at the foot of the cross. And when the loud professional singer starts with a song you don’t know, open your mouth and sing to your loving Father.