There are wonderful exceptions. But anyone who attends worship regularly at an evangelical church knows this premise is true. For the most part men do not sing. They stand, occasionally pat a foot, smile, but they often do not sing. Gone are the days when you pick up a booming bass part sung by hundreds of men. The male lead in the praise team attempts to sing, but he usually produces no sound that one would publicly identify with the sound of a man. So why do men not sing any longer?
The next five or six blogs will address that subject. But a disclaimer seems apropos. I address this battle-scarred subject neither as a musician nor as one with expertise in singing within worship. My perspective is that of a widely-traveled theologian and observer of worship practices in dozens of locations around the world. I am writing as a listener and a participant, not boasting expertise of any variety. My musings may be tolerated on the basis that they represent those of one observer. So there follows through the next five or six weeks, Patterson’s Rules for Congregational Music in Worship. Some “laws” focus on music itself, and others focus on leadership. Here are the first four of Patterson’s Rules.
All music employed in worship must be inherently singable. The problem often arises at the other end of the spectrum. Complications in some classical selections are fine for trained musicians but almost impossible for the common person in the pew. By the same token much of the music arising from the Rock culture is impossible for the common folk. When most of the songs in a service of worship are easily reproduced in the hearing and singing of the people and the participation in congregational worship will multiply.
All must be memorable. Some tunes present such complicated variation that only a determined musician seems able to get it. Amazing Graceor the Battle Hymn of the Republicare not just memorable, but downright unforgettable. Naturally men, who are often less gifted musically than members of the distaff, are going to sing a great deal more if the songs are memorable.
All music making the grade for ecclesiastical worship must be theologically correct. Some reasonably popular hymns fall to the sword of theological rectitude. Contemporary songs often fall on the basis of biblical content if not sheer vacuity in singing the same phrase repeatedly until it becomes merely redundant. Not only should congregational and “special” musical presentations reflect correct theology, they must, as we shall see momentarily, support a vigorous biblical theology. This concept is important, yet so little endorsed or practiced. I am willing to suggest that every group or church program directing the music for worship would do well to employ a theological judge to render a perspective on the theological accuracy of every song selected. This needs to be an individual thoroughly theologically trained, which most music programs do not have.
Remember that under normal circumstances the second greatest source of the theological instruction in the faith arises from what is sung. This makes the assumption that the sermons of the pastor should by all means provide on a regular basis the most substantive introduction to biblical and theological studies. If that assumption is not the case, then a problem exists for transcending the music of worship. Many of us who grew up in a “singing congregation” found that we supplemented our theology in what we sang. I will go to my grave with hundreds of those songs implanted in my heart. To some degree, we are what we sing – or do not sing.
Awhile back I was in Florida preaching in a church. As usual, the congregation stood while a praise team performed. Trying to make friends with a fifteen-year-old boy sitting next to me, I said, “Son why do you stand for the entire song service. I am an old man, and it leaves me standing for most of an hour.” Unimpressed, the youth opined, “Man, you got to do something. You can’t sing their songs.” Out of the mouths of babes! Do you want your men to sing? Be sure the songs are eminently singable. Make as many as possible memorable. Be sure that the songs you sing are true to biblical theology. And by all means, remember that we are not singing because of some psychological need; but we are singing, learning, and teaching our theology! Then your men will sing.