Many church choirs are dying. Here’s why.

Cross Pointe Worship Team rocks out during a performance. Photo courtesy of Cross Pointe Church
Cross Pointe Worship Team rocks out during a performance. Photo courtesy of Cross Pointe Church

Cross Pointe Worship Team rocks out during a performance. Photo courtesy of Cross Pointe Church

(RNS) James Merritt spent years as senior pastor of an Atlanta-area megachurch that featured a mighty choir.

Then he changed his tune.

At 50, he left First Baptist Church Snellville to plant a new church — 200 people in a rented space at a high school 12 miles away — focused on reaching a young generation.

There was and is no choir. And that puts Merritt’s current congregation, Cross Pointe Church, right on trend.

The newly released National Congregations Study finds church choirs are on the downbeat in white Protestant churches across the theological spectrum.

Choirs stand strong in black Protestant congregations, where 90 percent of regular attendees say there’s a choir at the main service. The same is true for three in four (76 percent) Catholic worshippers.

But among white conservative evangelicals, only 40 percent of worshippers say they hear a choir at services, down from 63 percent 14 years ago.

For those who attend liberal or moderate Protestant congregations, there’s a similar slide to 50 percent in 2012, down from 78 percent in 1998.

Sales for the music for choral anthems, slipped so deeply four years ago that the United Methodist Church’s publishing arm, Abingdon Press, stopped buying new anthem music, said Mary Catherine Dean, associate publisher.

A singer with Cross Pointe Worship Team rocks out during a performance. Photo courtesy of Cross Pointe Church

A singer with Cross Pointe Worship Team rocks out during a performance. Photo courtesy of Cross Pointe Church

Merritt, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is quick to say, “I’m not knocking choirs.”

A lot of thought went into eliminating the choir at Cross Pointe.

“Practically, if a choir is going to be top shelf, people have to come at least one night a week and rehearse at least two hours. Then, a top-shelf choir is going to want to sing every service and do Christmas cantatas and special events,” said Merritt.

“That takes staff, an orchestra, a big enough stage. That costs money. When we were starting up in 2003, we decided we would be better stewards not to invest in that.”

Philosophically, said Merritt, “We saw where the culture was headed. The younger generation doesn’t gravitate toward choirs.”

Today, Cross Pointe, with nearly 2,800 people in weekend worship, is “a very contemporary, very band-driven church,” serving a multiethnic, multigenerational congregation at two campuses.

Merritt’s reasoning mirrors that of experts who see choirs shrinking, if not falling silent.

People are reluctant to perform.

Mary Preus, choir director at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, blames “our culture of performance and expertise. We don’t sing anywhere else in our lives the way we once did. I grew up singing in home, in school and church every week. Now, people think they are not good enough to sing,” she said.

People move.

Alan Purdum, minister of music for Howland Community Church near Youngstown, Ohio, said, “Our choir survives because some of my friends and my wife are in it.” On Sunday mornings, eight to 12 people and a hired soprano sing for about 80 people at services where, 40 years ago, a choir of 30 voices sang to hundreds in the pews.

The recession was a blow.

“Music is an area that can be cut when dollars are scarce in the (offering) plate,” painful as that may be, said Terre Johnson, national chairman for music in worship for the American Choral Directors Association.

Thirteen years ago, when Joey Lott became been director of worship arts for Maples Memorial United Methodist Church in Olive Branch, Miss., there were 55 voices in the choir. “In 2008 when the recession hit, I lost 15 members of my choir in six months. They had to move elsewhere for work. That started the descent. From there, I am now down to about 25 people,” Lott said.

Yet choir leaders adapt and sing.

Preus has spent decades working to “revive the joy of singing” at Our Saviour’s. She does it with creative choices for music and staging. Choir members don’t sit or stand in a special spot. They don’t wear special clothes or robes, said Preus. “They just stand up wherever they are in the pews and sing.”

And because traditional choral music can be challenging for even the most talented of singers, she takes time to hunt down more accessible music, often drawing on music from Africa and Latin America.

Don’t count choirs out, said Eileen Guenther, professor of church music at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington and former president of the American Guild of Organists.

“Churches are struggling to find the style that is most engaging. But there’s a reason choral music is called ‘traditional.’ It’s been around a while. Contemporary music may not have as much staying power,” Guenther said.

It may be that what is fading away is the “performance choir,” replaced by choirs that lead the whole congregation in song, said Charles Billingsley, worship pastor for Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Va., and artist in residence at Liberty University.

“We are in the age of church planting, and a lot of these startups are small. But I see even some of these churches will throw up some risers and have 20, 30, 40 people sing,” he said.

Thomas Road, founded by the late Jerry Falwell, has “a loft full of singers, 300 people in the choir. But their main function,” he said is to “be an army of worship voices leading the people of God into the presence of God.”


About the author

Cathy Lynn Grossman

Cathy Lynn Grossman specializes in stories drawn from research and statistics on religion, spirituality and ethics. She also writes frequently on biomedical ethics and end-of-life-issues


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  • The main thing churches need to be worried about is preaching the Truth!
    Far,far too many people today only want a feel good message and to be
    entertained. The Bible says that people will want to have their ears tickled
    and that many will depart from the faith and not stick to sound doctrine.
    The Bible says man shall perish because of their lack of knowledge and
    we see it everywhere with people not living according to the Bible because
    they don’t know what the Bible says/they have a lack of knowledge. It’s also
    because specific sin harldy ever gets confronted unless it’s gay marriage or
    abortion. Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk and 1 Corinthians 6:10 says
    that all drunkards go to hell. The wine that Jesus made was from the fruit
    of the vine/new wine/diluted/Bible also says don’t get drunk on strong wine
    so people who get drunk with wine are also wrong/go to hell. It doesn’t matter
    how spiritual people are if they aren’t Biblical they are still lost/headed for hell.
    If you say you love Jesus then don’t follow the Bible/religion no Truth is in you!
    Christians shouldn’t be drinking/getting drunk,mean/have sharp tongues and
    still sleepin around/havin premarital sex,gambling,gossips/livin like the world.
    It’s not enough to believe in Jesus. We must follow Him! Jesus said many will
    say to Me Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! Bible says we must Repent/follow!

  • I take great issue with Merritt’s comment that to have a top shelf choir you need an orchestra, stage and 2 hour rehearsals. We have none of the above, although we have a nice choir “loft,” and we are staying strong with 25 members and ages ranging from 24-80. And we only practice up to an hour and a half. Now we only sing twice a month so we have time to feel confident about the music and we only meet Sept to mid-May. What people are missing here is the social factor. Our choir is like a family—taking care of each other’s needs or just taking the time to ask how things are going. It’s not about a performance, hence the lack of staging and lighting and microphones. It’s as much about being a community of people who care about each other AND who love to sing as it is about enhancing worship by preaching the word through song. I guess we are lucky to have that and to set an example for our younger generations.

  • In Catholic churches, you typically have no choir. You have a parish diva, a piano, and hymns which most do not sing. About 85% of these hymns were composed after 1965 and sound like cheap TV score music.

    You can get the job done with as few as four people: a choir of three women in the loft to chant the ordinary and a schola or cantor in the sanctuary or at the front of the nave to chant the propers. No need for an organ.

  • All you need is three people and an old piano. Period.

    (Make sure the piano keys are still intact. Some musicians get picky about that.)

  • I’m usually all for new music and different approaches. Choirs are actually in the Bible, however. While that may not mean the traditional robed-every-sunday approach I do think that a church that eliminates large groups of even loosely organized singers is eliminating a huge part of Biblical worship and digging a hole that they will likely want to get out of sooner than they think. It’s kinda hard to get that ministry back once it’s gone.

    Personally I’m seeing that the praise band approach is starting to become….well…boring. How many U2 guitars and BFGD chord patterns can we hear anyway? A once great trend in new music has devolved into tired chord progressions and lyrics that are almost interchangeable.

    I think we’re going to see that trend get tired and start merging some older techniques back in…and churches that have eliminated all forms of choir are going to find themselves oddly behind the curve.

    “The service starts at 9, but we can get there at 9:20 because that’s just the music.” Watch for it.

  • I also take issue with Merritt’s statement about the “cost” of having a choir in the service. How can he say that a church that wants a choir needs “staff, an orchestra, a big stage” and requires “two hours” of rehearsal weekly, when vast numbers of churches all over the world maintain often excellent choirs with volunteer leadership (or a part-time director who draws a small stipend), and nothing more than a piano or organ for accompaniment (or sing a capella), rehearsing one hour a week?

    Just another example of the somewhat snobbish attitude of those who think that ordinary folks with enthusiasm and heart can’t possibly do anything worth presenting in a worship service. It takes “professionals” with big budgets and fancy equipment to do anything worthy in the sight of God apparently.

    And what about the gazillions of dollars mega-churches spend on their praise bands with their mega-watt sound systems, projection machinery, fog generators, video lights, elaborate sets? You can’t tell me that it costs less money to have a hotshot band than to have a choir.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, and I am only speculating, but I’d bet when Cross Pointe was initiated, there was a conscious decision not to have a choir because that’s “old-fashioned” and “not cool.” A “band” on the other hand is “hip” and “draws young people.” Evidently, in the mindset of many Church Growth Experts, choirs (and organs and hymnals) are all detrimental to their goal of “drawing young people.”

    I probably won’t live long enough to know, but I predict that within a generation, people will abandon “hip” churches in droves as they realize how empty and boring they are, leaving behind hulking metal buildings littering the urban landscape like so many used-up Walmart stores. The perpetrators of these mega-churches will have sucked all the life out of the old main-line churches in their communities, and fewer people will be going to church than at any time since the Reformation.

  • My wife is the choir director at our little church. We have a paid organist/pianist. My wife is volunteer. As mentioned by others, much of contemporary Christian music is written like 1980’s lite-rock. Three chords, and repeat… and repeat… and repeat. The only people who like it are people who can’t read or understand music.
    If we want to do a more “contemporary” presentation. my wife will spend hours pouring over selections to find ones with deep 4-part harmonies and meaningful lyrics.

  • I grew up in a very traditional Southern Baptist Church in Mississippi. The highlight of my teenage years was singing in my youth choir every Sunday night wearing a red choir robe with a white stole. We sang 4-part anthems every Sunday night in the evening worship service. BACK THEN, it was just what we did & it was great for me – a musically-inclined kid who had grown up in church, gotten saved at age 8, & had a strong Christian family with parents who are still involved in that same church to this very day.

    As wonderful a memory that is for me, & as deeply as that imprinted me, I have to understand that now, WHETHER I LIKE IT OR NOT, the culture in 2014 has changed A LOT since the late ’70’s, & WHETHER I LIKE IT OR NOT, to tell THEM (today’s teenagers & younger generation of adults) the “old, old story of Jesus,” I’m probably going to have to change my methodology. It’s really not about what MY preferences are; it’s about what will reach those who don’t yet know Christ. How can we reach the MILLIONS in our nation who don’t have a relationship with Jesus? Are we more concerned about THEM, or whether or not we have a choir on Sunday morning in our worship service?

    For some churches, having a “traditional” choir on Sunday mornings it still a very effective way to impact their community. I’ve been on staff at some of those churches. First Baptist Church of Jackson, MS, is a prime example. Amazing choir & music ministry! Great worship!

    For other churches, like the one I pastor now, we still have a great choir that is in the choir loft each Sunday morning. But they don’t sing an anthem every Sunday, but understand their responsibility is to help lead the congregation to worship (many traditional choirs have that mindset as well). Our worship “style” (I dislike that word) would be considered “contemporary”, & the songs we sing are as deeply biblical as any 200 yr-old hymn in the hymnal.

    Then there are many churches that don’t use a choir at all. A lot of these churches are new church plants that are being EXTREMELY effective in reaching unchurched, unreached, unsaved people in their communities. Hundreds & hundreds of people are coming to know Christ, are being discipled in their walk with Him, & are reaching out & inviting their unsaved friends to come & be a part of their church. I know several of these pastors, & it is so exciting to hear the stories of life change that is happening in many of these new churches!

    So, I guess my point is that EVERY church must take a hard look at where they are, & what will be most effective in reaching those in their communities who don’t know Christ, & what will be most effective in leading your church to worship God in an authentic way in your context. If having a choir is a part of that strategy, then go for it! But don’t bash the church across town that doesn’t have a choir. If not having a choir is a part of that strategy, then go for it! But don’t bash the church across town that does have a choir. We are in this thing together! Celebrate the multitude of ways that the Bible gives us to worship the Lord! I am in awe of our amazing God when I hear a huge choir sing “The Majesty & Glory of Your Name,” &, at the same time, am in awe when I see my 17 yr-old son playing the drums in the worship band in our student ministry, helping lead teenagers lift their hands & hearts in genuine worship of God! Isn’t it truly astounding to consider how awesome our God is!!!

  • Let me first say I greatly respect what Dr. Merritt did nearly 15 years ago by starting that church. I would never doubt his calling. I must take exception with two main points in the article. I am a mid 40s 20 plus year veteran of worship ministry and yes, a huge choir guy. First of all, Getting rid of choirs in churches and starting churches with no choirs has been going on 15-20 years. May I ask- how’s this working for the kingdom of God as a whole? We constantly read and hear these stats: baptisms down, giving to ministry and missions is down, churches closing, more church starts that fizzle out after a few years, rather than make it for the long haul, and churches of all styles, sizes, and backgrounds struggle to engage members in ministry and it’s community. Every church seems to weekly be looking for ‘workers/ volunteers. Again this has been happening for a number of years, and I just wonder if it has anything to do with churches eliminating choirs, thus eliminating a large group of people weekly engaged in ministry and especially helping others to worship. However, it seems the first step has always been to change the style, format, or the how we do ministry. Don’t get me wrong, change is a part of life, and we need to constantly be seeking ways to do things better. I believe the vast majority of people who attend our choir/ orchestra led worship service would say they have seen dramatic change over the past 15 years of my tenure. Second, I believe the expenses to run a top notch contemporary style worship service in 2014 at least rivals the costs of a full choir and orchestra program, and maybe exceeds it, and this has almost always been true. This isn’t a shot at the modern generation- but contemporary bands are in need of the latest and greatest in technology, and are upgrading sometimes annually. And far more musicians are paid now than in the hayday of the choirs. Also, a lot of the larger contemporary churches are paying enormous amounts for salaries and expenses for ‘named’ worship leaders to lead their weekly worship. One more note- not every church that has a large choir and orchestra is spending major bucks on productions. Many are now focusing on leading effectively in worship on a weekly basis. Would love to hear what others think about my post.

  • There are a number of other reasons for the lack of choirs. The move to a more contemporary praise-music style is the biggest one I’ve seen; those lend themselves to a small “worship team” with only a handful of singers. The two aren’t mutually exclusive (my sister’s Assembly of God church uses that style but has a high-quality choir that helps lead it), but that seems to be the biggest choir-killer.

    Also, modern church architecture has tended to do without a big elevated altar area that included a choir loft. The worship-team meme might have induced some of those changes but a more multi-purpose style of sanctuary has helped kill off the choir as well.

  • So – I’ve been involved in “church music” since the age of 12 (during the Jesus Movement, for those who like math problems). I’ve been a performer and director, arranger and producer, choir master and worship leader. I’ve seen everything from guitars to banjos to choirs to organs to drums to robes to choreography – and more. I’ve seen and experienced ALL of it – and have always thought, deep down, that NONE of it – none of it – matters one tiny bit – if the focus of our craft is not 100% on worshiping and glorifying God. I am sick to death of various camps thinking they have “the answer” when it comes to church music. Choirs are in the Bible. So is David and his harp. it’s not either/or and nobody is “more correct” on church music than someone else. We really have to stop re-hashing this argument. Some churches will NEVER have a choir – and that is completely acceptable to God. Some churches will NEVER have a praise team with projected lyrics – and that is also acceptable to God. Churches who worship the Lord fully – with what they have and who they are – THAT is what is always acceptable to God. We need to stop “targeting” groups – and simply provide an atmosphere where God can be worshiped and where Jesus can be encountered in the power of the Holy Spirit. Use a choir. Use a harp. Use a praise team. None of that matters. Focus on the WHO of worship – rather than the HOW of worship.

  • Shelvin, I think you’re on target with your insights. I can tell that you’ve been doing this a while & definitely have a clue about the daily work & struggles of the local church, whether that’s dealing w/ volunteers, budgets, staff, etc.

    As a senior pastor who is also a musician, I have a DEEP APPRECIATION & LOVE for all sorts of music styles & genres (you ought to see my iTunes playlists! Ha!). The thing that I struggle with a lot is those who feel that “their way” is the best way (whether with the choir or no choir), or the only way to do worship in the church (Please know that I’m not at all suggesting that this is your stance!). There is such a wide diversity of incredible ways to worship the Lord!

    Maybe it’s b/c I am a musician, but I have had so many awesome & wide-ranging moments of worship throughout my life:
    – Singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” with 60,000 men at a PK conference in TX
    – Singing “Open the Eyes of My Heart” in an crowded apt in southern Russia w/ 15 believers of an unreached people group (they were singing in their native language & I was singing in English)
    – Singing the Southern Gospel song, “I Believe in a Hill Called Mt. Calvary” w/ my father & 2 brothers in our family quartet
    – Being moved to tears nearly weekly as we worship Christ at the church I pastor now, singing some of the songs that are on KLove right now
    – Going nuts w/ my kids at a Skillet & Toby Mac concert, or at a Newsboys concert w/ my wife
    – Speechless as a listened to Russian Orthodox priests & ensemble singing & chanting a capella at a church is Kazakhstan
    – Watching my 24 yr-old daughter dance to Mannheim Steamroller’s “Stille Nacht” at our Christmas Eve service
    – Unable to sing b/c of the huge lump in my throat when I sang “The Majesty & Glory of Your Name” with the massive choir at FBC Jackson (tears are forming even now as I think about it!)
    – Watching & listening to Haitian believers sing at the top of their lungs in the stifling heat of a metal roof church bldg in a poor Haitian village

    I think this is what we need to be teaching our people in our churches – the amazingly different ways that the Church can express ourselves in worship! I do believe that there are many worship leaders & church musicians who are striving to guide & lead their choirs & teams away from a “performance” mentality, & more toward a “worship leadership” mentality. That’s a good & needed thing, whether the church has a majestic choir & orchestra, or a group of 20-somethings in skinny jeans leading worship.

  • In response to one of the post comments, I’m all for preaching biblical truth as long as it’s not communicated in a constant judgmental way. The gospel by definition is good news. Let’s be careful to not turn church into a non-biblical message of gloom and doom.

  • What is most important is music that the average, non-professionally-trained person with a so-so voice can actually sing and sing well, and a congregation that is encouraged and led to stand up and sing with real sincere passion. I have seen that, both in congregations that had instrumental accompaniment and those that did not. People who have experienced that want that (although those in charge frequently fail to recognize that this is what people really want and need). Those who have never experienced that don’t know what they are missing, and often think that they want something that is actually a poor substitute.

    Choirs can help to teach the congregation to sing and to lead them in their singing. That is choirs at their best: the choir as large worship team. The special anthems and all that are nice, but those could go if necessary.

    What I really hate to see is a congregation that just watches as musical performers of any type or combination pretty much are just entertaining them. They become less of a congregation at that point and more of just an audience. As the people of God and the body of Christ, I think that we should really expect quite a bit more of ourselves and each other than just that.

  • There is one thing not addressed as I read through these comments. I served in a large congregation for 11 years where there was anywhere from 60-90 people involved in the choir. Long story short, the choir was disbanded, the orchestra disbanded, the handbells disbanded and sold, all music stands, timpani, organ, and music sold. The reason I bring this up: these programs were a channel for over 200 people to give their talents to God. With a praise band you may have 6-10 per week. I don’t understand shutting these types of program down for the sake of “everybody else is doing it”, just to be like every other church on the block.

  • I note that, while they couldn’t find the resources for a choir, they could find the resources for a praise band.

  • I knew I was in the right church a couple of years ago when the YOUTH choir sang “O Magnum Mysterium” in Latin. A cappella. One of the reasons I was drawn to that church is the strong choir program.

    From the very beginning the Minister of Music sings with the children every Sunday morning. Grade schoolers have the chance to memorize up to 60 hymns by the time they become youth. The adult choir sings almost every Sunday, everything from simple tunes to complex anthems. And last year, in order to make it more do-able for folks, we shortened rehearsal 75 efficient minutes each week.

    I don’t have a solo quality voice. But I can sing in a choir. And that singing allows me to praise God with my whole body. Rehearsal imprints the music in my brain and on my soul. Recently when having a tough stretch the words of an anthem came back to me, over and over again… “Shepherd me O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, form death into life…”

    For many of us, choir functions as an important source of community. Frequently I walk in Wed. night rehearsals dead tired only to leave refreshed.

    Eliminating choirs just reinforces the vision of worship as performance, something done by only a few.

  • This is the reason why people don’t want to go to church anymore. Who wants to be scolded like this every week.

  • But when it comes to folks who don’t go to church, THEY get a free pass on scolding whomever and whatever they want every day.

  • Doc-Amen and very well said! 1 Corinthians 5 the whole chapter is perfect
    for people who twist the do not judge verse. Bible is clear we must Repent
    so people who want to say/do whatever are not going to heaven!

  • Agreed! My church’s choir values our rehearsals as a time of fellowship, worship, and praise to the Lord as we are called to, by lifting our voices in song. For musicians, focusing that time on making music to the glory of God is what many of them call our mid-week worship service.

    The other point missed is that music is a part of the church’s *MINISTRY*. We are all called to share our gifts through the ministry of the church, and the Methodist church in particular has a generally fantastic record of valuing the many varied gifts of the people of God, and incorporating the people in the worship of the Lord.

    If you’re having a music program just to have good music, you’re missing the point. Rather, the music program of a church is part of its ministry, by giving a chance for the people of God to worship him through their gifts, and through that, to lead the congregation to a greater experience of worship.

  • There’s already a backlash among my generation (the late-20’s to mid-30’s) because many of them bought into the non-denom stuff when they were younger and now that they’re looking for something with substance, they’re finding that they’re not going to get it there. There are a lot of great studies going on right now that are trying to figure out why all the older-young-adults are going back to ritualistic and high-church settings, and why they are finding increasing value in the structure, rituals, and liturgy of the church, despite everyone trying to tell us that we’re supposed to like contemporary music and we’re not supposed to like tradition or organ music or any of that stuff.

  • A church with a mass choir that can sing very well is an asset to the church membership increase. I am not a Mormon, but look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, their membership has greatly increased internationally. I see Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Hispanics, and American Natives are joining in masses. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has much to help their membership.

  • When I first visited the church I am now a member of it was during the summer, when the choir was on hiatus and attendance is usually lower, but I noticed two things right away – first they had a pipe organ. The church I had been a member of, though they had almost 10,000 members, went the piano and worship band route. It was SO uplifting to hear the liturgy played on the organ again. Second, this congregation SANG! I felt at home,

    A couple years after I joined the church I joined the choir, and have participated in the music department ever since. We have a firm policy: we are NOT performing. We are using our God given talents to worship, and lead the congregation in worship. Simple as that, and that makes the difference. We have no “praise band” and yet manage to have a wide variety of membership – and that is because of the atmosphere of love, acceptance and outreach our congregation as a whole demonstrates.

    As others have mentioned, choir is a community – we support and care for each other, care for and joke with each other, and share our Wednesday nights together throughout the “school year.” We are a predominantly white Lutheran (ELCA) affirming and welcoming church, and if the choir isn’t singing it is because either the children’s choir, bell choir or a small ensemble is doing the special music for that Sunday.

    So, apparently (and thankfully) we are not “trendy” – and I am grateful for the opportunity to sing, and thankful for the community, and the hard work the music director and organist do to make the choir accessible to people of all skill levels.

  • I agree. OUr church is around 50…has been down to 25…and we have had a choir of maybe 5 to 10. We sometimes sing with tapes, sometimes piano. It’s not about performance, although we try to sing with JOY, our choir is in effect a small group: we love and support one another. our service is full of lay involvement: It is not simply a spectator sport. This is important! I’m not always sure I’m crazy about the music of the day, but there is variety: everything from gospel to traditional hymns, to rocking praise music: if you don’t care for this week’s…wait till next. and our congregation supports us.

  • Your comments are great. Good job. Totally agree. I have been working in churches since I was a teenager. You have the right view of what is happening.

  • Not one mention of anything but personal and physical sins in Karla’s post. What about how one treats the beggars and the poor? Political and economic injustice and oppression? Lazarus’ rich man probably didn’t smoke, drink, gamble, be overtly mean, gamble, gossip…..and he probably did go to synagogue and pay his tithe. and definitely went to HELL!

  • I agree with Jane. When we begin to do away with music ministry or limiting it to a few chosen people then we take away the opportunity to worship and serve God through music for many people.

  • It’s a shame that the only lessons you got from reading the Bible are the same ones the scribes and Pharisees dwelt on. You’re missing the same lesson Jesus tried to teach the “religious” people of His day. His message was one of forgiveness and love. It’s not our job to line people up according to our regulations. We don’t get to be anyone’s junior holy spirit. We have a Savior and a Holy Spirit to guide our lives and He is the only one who gets to judge us. If we judge others by the law then we will be held to the most detailed law. God knew we could never live up to the law. That’s why there’s grace. I’m guessing you’ve never experienced real grace in your life.
    I’ve been where you are and was so incredibly judgmental and then my life and all my religiousness fell apart. It was then that God began to show me what grace was. Seek to find all that God has for you and let Jesus deal with everyone else. Love others and let God change them according to His time table.

  • Our medium-sized church (200 on a Sunday) has an adult choir of 45, 2 children’s choirs and a handbell choir of 20. If you look at every committee in the church, consistently some of the most active participants are the musicians. They are part of the church’s life blood. In addition to doing ministry thru their music, the music feeds them. I could not attend a church that didn’t have a vibrant music program.

  • I agree. At the downtown Anglican church where I play the organ and direct children’s and adult choirs we are swamped with young people and young families and you should see the children everywhere! Mystery, transcendence, rich historic Prayerbook worship, organ/choral music are all drawing young people into our church every week. At some point the pendulum is going to swing back the other way and churches like mine will be on the cutting edge.

  • More of a concern is the performance culture created by praise bands mimicking a performance driven culture which turns Christians into an audience of consumers. My wife and I just transfered our membership to a church that still has a choir and organ from one that had jumped both feet into the praise band fray. At least part of this move was feeling like spectators at a performance. Choirs when used properly are there to enhance the congregational music, to bolster the voices of those who are together praising God. The fact that they often sit in balconies or wear robes to mask their individuality, is a part of this. We are the poorer for their demise.

  • A few points:

    Music notation (as we know) it, is a western tradition that was particularly popular before music could be recorded. We have gravitated back toward an oral/aural tradition – and we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it. Yes, it is healthy to honor the traditional music of Western (Protestant) Christianity, but we need to be open. Not all of our members grew up in the protestant tradition, or any tradition. Traditional choirs, bell choirs and praise bands all can inspire and lead, or entertain and become idols.

    When we talk about “attracting” members, we miss the point. It’s about fostering worship that is authentic to our communities – while also stretching people to unite with the breadth of the global Christian Tradition.

    Finally, i’m primarily against using choirs because it often creates a sub-group within the church: One that often misses out on meetings, christian education, and other opportunities to participate in the life of the congregation. The choir is often its own social group within the church – quite a clique too. We don’t need that. Also, i’d rather have these wonderful voices sitting with everyone else in the pews, supporting congregational song, rather than singing from some lofty balcony, or worse, some stage-like chancel.

  • All this “My God is better than your God!”, “My Holy Book is better than your Holy Book!” is such childish, schoolyard bunk. This is the reason for the Holocaust. The is the reason Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic have been at war for generations. This is the reason that al-Qaeda and ISIS/ISIL exist. There seems to be an awful lot of people who are going to some other person’s version of Hell. It is well past time that the male-centric, misogynist violent traditions of the Abrahamic cults (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) were see for what they really are — ways to control the populace and force them to “toe the line”.

    World War III, (aka — the Biblical “Armageddon”), has already begun. It began in 1947 with the creation of the state of “Israel”, forcibly displacing other Semitic peoples, and has been raging on and off for the last 67 years or so.

    Put simply, the “Allies” (Great Britain, France, United States, Russia) had promised to rebuild Germany and Japan after WWII. In order to get the funding to do so (since the Allies’ treasuries were depleted by WWII), the declining colonial empires of Great Britain and France together with the rising colonial empires of the United States and Russia, with the backing of the United Nations (newly restyled from the former League of Nations), promised to create a “homeland” for the tribes of Judah/Israel, in exchange for funding from the international (Jewish ?) banking community.

    Nearly all industrialized nations of the world are currently contributing to this new great war in one way or another. It is merely being fought “off site” in the lands of the Middle East.

    The prophesies are being fulfilled in our lifetimes. Only scholars can decipher and determine who takes on which roles as outlined in the Revelation of St. John the Divine or the quatrains of Nostradamus.

    The Bible is a history of one group of nomadic Semitic peoples. The Qur’an is a history of one group of nomadic Semitic peoples. Mohammed raised an army of thousands and forced the tribes of Arabia to unite under one dogma. Little wonder then that radical Islam generates violent militants. Just as Christianity generated violent militants in its time.

    If those of the Judaic faith follow their “laws” to the letter, and those of the Christian faith follow their “laws” to the letter, and those of the Islamic faith follow their “laws” to the letter, there will never ever be peace in this world.

  • Johnnykins-Someone is right and someone is wrong! Bible predicts the
    future with 100% accuracy and who died for all our sins? Jesus Christ!
    Jesus said I am the way,the Truth and the Life! Jesus is the only way and
    there will be false peace treaty set up by the antichirst and the false prophet
    to deceive the whole world so you better make your decision to follow Jesus
    and read your Bible so you won’t be deceived! Bible is clear that if you are
    lukewarm you will not go to heaven. It’s either you are for Christ or you are
    against Him and there is no middle ground! Read the Bible/follow Jesus!

  • Johhnkins – care to participate in the conversation we are actually having here? If not, please take your comments to a more appropriate venue. (where ever THAT may be . . .)

  • I suspect choirs do better when they aren’t full of angry people with a “we lost the worship wars” chip on their shoulders.

  • “Greg E.” — Thank you so much for singling me out. If you had been paying attention, you would have noticed that the conversation in which I was participating began with the multiple posts of “Karla”, who hijacked the topic from her first post, the first post of the comments. “Karla” — I am sure your faith and your dogma give you great satisfaction and perhaps even inner peace. However, yours is not mine. I have been the Director of Music for a great many denominations of a great many faiths. Any sanctuary that needed a musician would find that I am familiar with a great many traditions — Judaism, Christian, Islam — and more. None of these are my faith, but I have read and am familiar with the texts they hold sacred. I hold Masters Degrees in Music Education, in Organ Performance, and in Comparative Religion.

    It is my experience that traditional choirs and pipe organs no longer garner the attention of the youth, in the same way a “praise band” does. Youth “relate” because these bands are closer to their “style” of music. Sacred venues do what they must to attract the youth of their faith.

    In addition, pipe organs are frightfully expensive beasts to keep in tune, to keep clean, to maintain in good working order. One particularly large concert instrument recently cost $2.6 million to fully restore and an additional $1.5 needs to be raised to fund future maintenance. The instrument in Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City should be declared a National Treasure, but has not been full playable since the mid-50s and was severely damaged during hurricane Sandy. Many millions of $ will be required to fully restore this monument to American musical engineering.

    So all that said, cost and youth appeal, are the driving factors behind the decline of the choir and the organ, and the increasing use of the group band.

  • Karla, Wow. You seem to be saying being “religious” keeps you from Hell. I do not believe what you DO has any thing to do with salvation. You point to things that Jesus said about how to live, and say that is what we must do. I think you are taking Jesus’ words out of context. If you will look at the facts. Jesus was a Jew. He was living in the time of Jewish Law. (the Law was in effect until Jesus rose from the dead) He was talking to Jews about the requirements of the Law. Under Law, people were judged by their works. When Jesus died on the cross, He paid for ALL the sin of the WORLD. That includes EVERY person that ever lived or will live, and every sin they did or will do. The requirements of Law ended at the Cross. All the things you listed are “sins” Jesus paid for. Remember how John the Baptist introduced Jesus? He said: Behold the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. So Sin is no longer a factor of salvation. So being “Religious” will not save you. You probably think: Then what is the requirements to be saved? Belief that Jesus is YOUR Lord. Not just a head knowledge, but a belief in your heart. Many people think “Repent” is an action of what you do, or stop doing. It is not. The Greek word for “repent” is: to change your mind. So to be saved do not be a religious person; be a believer.

  • “Oh sing to the Lord a new song!” Three thousand years ago they were saying “Let’s quit doing things the way we’ve always done it!” If we believe in a God of Creation, why are we afraid of something new?

  • One problem we face in my current (ELCA Lutheran) church is that multiple activities are scheduled during or overlapping the adult choir rehearsal. This forces those who might be interested in being, for example, a confirmation mentor and a choir member, to make a choice, whereas if the church would adjust its scheduling just a half hour on Wednesday evenings, more people would have the opportunity to be a part of more than one group. Our choir is in dire need of younger members, but many of the potential candidates are involved with Wednesday evening youth education classes or Bible studies that overlap the rehearsals. We are still a fairly traditional church, with a newly re-built pipe organ and strong tradition of good music, but I’m not sure how long it will last.

  • The Catholic Church frowns on the use of the piano at Mass because of its
    secular associations, but they don’t disavow the use of the guitar. Go figure.

  • I have always believed that the attitude of the choir, be it at rehearsals or
    Sunday worship is due in large part to the attitude of the choir director (minister of music, organist/choirmaster, etc.). If the director is ‘performance’ oriented (as all too many are) the choir will be also. I have
    gone into situations as a director where the choir was in performance mode, and I simply reminded them about who their audience actually is:
    God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. The congregation gets to listen to the choir sing, but the singing is directed heavenward as an offering of praise and worship, which hopefully edifies the congregation also.

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you. VERY well said. I am very fortunate to have a choir director that emphasizes that the choir exists to give glory and praise to God and to lead the congregation in worship. While I myself prefer a traditional worship service I fully support the contemporary services ay my (United Methodist) church. It is about spreading the Good News of salvation. We ARE all in this together. Thank you again for reminding us of that .

  • Be very careful in saying that young people don’t want to sing in a choir or that they don’t like traditional music. Did they say that, or their parents? Our kids tell us they prefer the traditional liturgy and music, that the praise band and such are “boomer things, for our parents.” We have 22 children in our youth choir this year. If you get rid of choirs, you may be getting rid of the next generation as well.

  • Peter-Is Kanye West saved? Read 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 whole chapters
    then get back to me. I understand what you are saying but you need to
    read all of the Bible not just part of it. If every person that claims to be a
    Christian goes to heaven why would Jesus say that many will say to Me
    Lord,Lord and not enter heaven! We must Repent/have change of heart
    about our sin/agree our sin is wrong! The Cross is the perfect example.
    Two guys were next to Jesus on the Cross. Only one guy went to heaven!
    Why? Only one guy Repented/had a change of heart about their/his sin!
    Hollywood is another great example. Many change their image but don’t
    change their heart about sin/Repent. Big difference! Same with Grace.
    Grace allows us to Repent/come to Christ but many think Grace allows
    them to sin. Big difference! Bible is clear that we all must Repent/change!

  • Absolutely love your last paragraph Jon! I wish our choir director believed in variety, as not all of us like the older hyms and would like to sign more of the up-beat Christian music.

  • I’m sorry that’s been your experience. I lament the Roman Catholic Churches have not understood the value of employing a trained minister of music, with a solid understanding of liturgy – and so congregations are often lost without solid leadership. I’ve been a music minister in the Roman Catholic Tradition for almost forty years. I have one traditional choir, one folk choir, and one contemporary youth choir, as well as about fifty cantors and several guitar and keyboard accompanists. We have paid and unpaid musicians. We are not a wealthy parish – but one that values good liturgy. To respond to your unnecessary remarks about compositions for the Catholic Mass, the music composed after Vatican II has brought to the forefront of our Christian heritage, Jesus’s Good News of peace, justice and God’s unending, unconditional love. Some more recent brothers and sisters in the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church have recently provided us with an updated repertoire. I, however am grateful for Cooney, the St. Louis Jesuits, Haugen, Haas, and others.

  • Thanks for mentioning the Orthodox, Jon. We’re usually the tertium quid in discussions of Christianity in the United States. Every Orthodox church has a choir, including mine, in which I sing. And we sing a cappella.

  • I really can’t relate to this article. One of the problems my United Methodist church had just over a decade ago was that the choir lofts were too small for the growing choir. We also have multiple praise bands. The pipe organ—and the baby grand piano– are played weekly. About a quarter of our weekly attenders participate in the music ministry and I know of several who came to our church originally because of that ministry. For that matter the collection, attendance and membership seems to be growing monthly. What’s the problem?

  • We’ve made the simple act of worship a performance. People feel that can’t sing well enough, or play and instrument well enough. We have a very small church, with a very small choir…who though not sounding like some “professional” choir, sound pretty awesome together and they each use their talents…some strong..some not to make the “joyful noise” mentioned in an earlier comment. I would not change our small choir for any praise band…the anthems are deep and soulful and the whole “team” is working together to offer praise to God. What we do is authentic worship, not entertainment for the masses…each of us trying each week to do the best we can…sometimes hitting the mark, sometimes falling short…but always trying with teaching, preaching, praying together, supporting each other, laughing a lot…and being a community of inclusive loving people.

  • Right on, jhuber. You have said it best. For a church choir to survive, however, we need to be more creative in our selection of music and lean more to music that gives a biblical message the congregants can be inspired by in the hearing. Get away from the Latin and baroque style. Those styles are for concert/performance and do not enhance worship for most congregations today.

  • I direct choir at my church. The problem is enough people don’t seem to be able to read notes anymore, possibly from the dumbing down of our educational system.

  • I have been in our FPC Chancel choir since 1967. I have been directing the choir since 1970. I am a professional musician and performed with the HSO in Houston and taught at Lee College in Baytown both in classical aspects and the jazz program. Best thing to do is keep recruiting as much as possible in person using varied styles. Our top group was 40 singers. Last Christmas Eve we had about 9 singers. We average about 15-20 on Sunday.This is an old church and composed of older choir members so a lot of folks go out of town to visit grandchildren during the year. This often happens close to holidays. Have moved to SAB & Unison Anthems with a few SATB. I set up my schedule from July through Christmas, January through Easter and Easter to July. We rehearse once a week. If we need to change Anthems, OK as we rehearse about 8 Anthems in advance. Sometimes we sing an Anthem instead. New Choir members who are younger in years seem to get side tracked into their own problems. In 10 years most of my group including myself will be 60-80 so who knows. We just keep making it happen and don’t look back. They may be gaining on us!

  • Depressing. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to go to church to sit in an audience listening to a band–and a sermon. The fun part of church is getting to participate–to sing and move around. Choirs lead the singing–and provide an option for members of the congregation to get together with others to lead the singing, and do more challenging music.

    Maybe I’m just peculiar. I can’t stand anything where I’m trapped in an audience, listening, watching. I never go to movies, concerts or the theater, and I can’t understand why anyone would watch sports: it’s like sitting on the bench, gnashing your teeth because you can’t have the fun of playing. Why would anyone want to go to church if there was nothing to do? Where you were trapped in an audience listening to other people’s music and talk?

  • I do not know if Karla is saved. Only God knows. Why did Paul say; not all who say Lord, Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Because just saying something with out believing it in your heart is not enough. To be a Christian you must believe that Jesus Is YOUR Lord. The Bible says that even Satan knows Jesus is Lord. All the sins listed in Corinthians (any sin for that matter) will keep a person from the Kingdom of Heaven by authority of LAW. Grace supersedes the LAW. How much sin did Jesus pay for at the Cross? Answer: ALL sin. A person is not saved by what he does or does not do. When a person is saved, God cleanses ALL sin from him, past, present and future. What God has cleansed, no man can call unclean. A saved person does good, NOT to be saved, but BECAUSE he is saved. A saved person HAS freedom to sin. But why would a saved person want to sin? Being saved releases a person from the condemnation of sin. You need, not only read the ENTIRE Bible, but you must UNDERSTAND it as well. The LAW is no longer in effect. Where sin abounds, Grace more abounds. So what was Paul talking about in chapters 5 and 6? He was saying to allow non believers into their fellowship, but not allow the non believers’ action in His Church. Love the person, shun the sin. The same in Romans 16: 17-18. Shun the false doctrine, not the person. Ask yourself is there any sin so big God can not forgive? Answer: the only sin God does not forgive is unbelief. You know that a testament is like a last will and testament. A will does not take effect until the person dies. Only the newest will has authority. Remember that the next time you study the Bible. The scripture says to study to show yourself approved, rightly dividing the word of truth. The division point is NOT between the testaments, but at the Cross.

  • Peter-The Bible says we are known by our fruit and good works
    don’t save us so the fruit is fruit of Repentance not good works
    so if a Christian gets drunk,is mean,sells sex,promotes sin like
    Kanye West and many other so called “Christians” today they
    are all headed for hell. Bible says to Repent or perish! Preach
    Repent or perish and then see how many people still want to
    follow Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill the Law not to abolish it so
    yes we are under Grace but that does not nullify the Law or that
    we are to follow it!!! Jesus said you are one of Mine only if you
    follow Me/continue in My teachings! Bible says that many will say
    Lord did I not prophecy in Your name and do many wonderful
    works and the Lord will tell them plainly depart from Me you are
    worker of iniquity I never knew you! We must Repent and then
    develop a relationship with Him/remain in the faith! Once saved
    always saved is only true if we remain in the faith! Repentance
    and faith in Jesus saves us! Bible says Repent and believe the
    Gospel to be saved! The Repent part now seems to get left out.
    You really need to read all of the Bible and not take out the tough
    parts which the Bible says not to do. It’s very convenient for many
    today to preach false Grace that allows them to live anyway they
    want and still go to heaven. Repent or perish! We must Repent!
    If you say you love Jesus and then don’t follow the Bible/religion
    no Truth is in you is what the Bible says. We must Repent/follow!
    It doesn’t matter how spiritual people are if they aren’t Biblical they
    are still lost and headed for hell. The Bible says Repent or perish!
    Bible says that all drunkards go to hell and sex is for marriage yet
    I meet person after person that still gets drunk/has premarital sex.
    Many have premarital sex and then get married thinking that they
    covered it up but never Repent and agree premarital sex is wrong!
    The wine Jesus made was new wine/diluted/from the fruit of the
    vine plus the Bible says don’t get drunk on strong wine so all the
    people who still get drunk with/on wine are also wrong/go to hell.
    Bible says to flee from sexual immorality/the sexually immoral go
    to hell yet people in church still sleep around like it’s no big deal
    cause most people only want to talk about gay marriage and/or
    abortion so they don’t have to face their own sin. We must Repent!

  • That can also work both ways Jane…. It can also depend on whether it is a large church or a very small church.. I have belonged to both of those… The first church actually has both, in that they have a choir for a traditional service and a praise band for 2 contemporary services… All 3 are on Sunday morning… I have discussed the subject with people and unlike your thought that with the large choir there are more people able to offer their talent up to God, that may be true of the actual choir but not many members in the pews… many of the traditional hymns are hard to sing, especially for those that are not real musical and those that aren’t good singers (like me!) ….. I get very little out of most traditional hymns…However the services where the smaller praise band which was usually about 5 or 6 people, pretty much every person in attendance were on their feet , singing, clapping, whatever.. I know that the feeling of being excited, refreshed, so many other words I could come up with is something that I enjoyed and it was a great start to a new week… I walked away totally energized…Now skip ahead and I have moved… I went to a few churches but wasn’t especially fond of any of them and then finally ended up at a church where someone I knew went…. There are about 50 members although the usual attendance is in the 30’s… There are only about 5 children and they are from 2 families…They have a choir that performs at some services and rarely during the summer… There are at most about 7 people now in the choir… With the traditional hymns being “sung” it can get very bad… Most of the people (like me) don’t sing very loud or have trouble with the old wording while there are a handful that can sing but are usually trying not to be overpowering which results in a not so good to the ears sound… Even though the pastor is great and gives great sermons, I usually leave there feeling very flat… I actually listen to praise music on my drive to and from church… I have talked with the pastor about it and I think she agrees at least somewhat… she asked me to send her a few examples and used one of them for a service a few weeks back… I felt like the people there enjoyed the more contemporary song …. The church is fairly old and there are very few younger people and they need something to help bring younger generations into the church… they have had a decent amount of people that signed in as visitors but they don’t come back… They hear a great sermon most of the time from a very dynamic pastor…. I have talked to a few in the past and they agreed that the music just is so bad and hard to sing, they don’t feel involved in that part and they continue to search for a church to their liking… unfortunately even in this college town there are very few Contemporary Churches that are open to all…

  • Well said Peter… There are way too many that believe that they can “earn” their way into heaven while others will go to Hell for doing bad things… They have absolutely no idea of what Grace is… Sad…

  • Mike my experience is quite the opposite… The band also meets to practice every week and since they sing 4-5 songs each week for 2 services there are ones that everybody knows… They do continue to grow and introduce new songs and there are some of the older ones that fall away… If people end up having to be late they often will stay for the next service for the music at the beginning and then leave when the sermon they have already heard starts… The music definitely gets the heart pumpin’ !!

  • Can’t we like it all ? maybe some more than others but still like it… Also like and enjoy can be two different things..

  • Darla-I never said that we can earn our way to heaven so you need
    to read what I wrote! Bible is very clear that we must Repent then
    put our trust in Christ…Period! Only one guy next to Jesus on the
    Cross went to heaven and that’s because only one guy Repented!
    People that continue to practice sin/don’t Repent will not inherit the
    kingdom of heaven! That’s what the Bible/Word of God says so if you have a problem with what the Bible says then that’s your problem!
    Read the Bible! 1 Corinthians 5 and 6 whole chapters are a start.
    Grace allows us to Repent/turn from sin not practice/continue in our
    sin so you have no idea of what Grace is! Cheap Grace is no Grace
    at all so people who abuse it don’t really know what Grace is…Period!

  • jhubers I couldn’t agree more with you about the music in church. We are a new church development with about 250 members right now and we have a music director and organist who involves almost everyone in the music program. Traditional choir, small men or women vocal groups, children and youth musicians who frequently participate in worship, chimes group (hoping to become a handbell group when the funds become available, and a praise band which plays for an occasional small group worship time. The choir has avoided becoming a performance choir and because our facilities are still quite small they are not removed from the congregation by any great distance. Their purpose is to bolster congregational singing in the praise of God. I’ve been to worship services totally led by a praise band but have never felt like I’ve had a “worship” experience.

  • Sorry, but the church is suffering from what is happening in this country. Most of the decisions are based on money. Most of us so idolize the ministers we make sure he is paid first. I am surprised that an ex muscian would eliminate chiors and that enhance the service. But most churches are trying to keep or draw members from the non-denominational churches. But it has always been a tug of war with the egos of pastors vs the church muscian. Once they had to have them(choir directors). Now this is away to keep all the glory, honor and the money. Plus the economy of this country has squeezed the life out of its people. They are tired, depressed and drained compared to the way thing were 20 years ago. Less money and less time to work in the fields of God. More money to the top and less for what the ministrum thinks of as non essential personell. This is not spiritual it just what has happen since 1996.

  • Everyone who forms the congregation of worship should sing praises to God; a choir is not necessary in that regard. Everyone, including men, women, young children and those who shepherd over the congregation take a part of singing from their hearts in my faith.

  • Karla, I agree a bit. Even choirs are about entertainment, just as praise bands are. Church attendees just show up and are entertained by other people singing and playing. Whatever happened to congregational singing? That’s how to involve attendees. And Karla, I’d be interested to know how you found out about the alcohol content of the wine Jesus made. It seems to me that it wouldn’t have much of a wedding celebration with simple grape juice. Wine is wine.

  • Pusser-Ephesians 5:18 says don’t get drunk on wine for it’s debauchery.
    The Bible also says don’t get drunk on strong wine so if they had already
    been drinking all day do you really think Jesus would make more strong
    wine so they could get even more drunk when the Bible says that getting
    drunk is wrong/drunkards go to hell. Jesus made wine for symbolic reasons
    not to get drunk. The wine was very diluted. Thanks for the feedback,

  • Karla,
    Where, outside of the book of Acts do you see the emphasis on the word “repent” that you seem to have grabbed on to? Acts is the history of the beginning of the church as, especially the Israelites had to come to term with their rejection of Jesus so that had to “repent” of their rejection of the Messiah. Certainly we must acknowledge we are sinners, other wise why would we need a Savior but your misusing and bullying people with your use of “repent”.

  • Also says the key “fruit” would be our love of others. Very little love in your words or the tone of your words Karla. You can have all the knowledge the Bible offers but if it doesn’t translate into a loving individual you are an empty gong – 1 Cor. 13. A lot of clanging going on in your posts Karla.

  • Paul-Bible says Repent or perish! Jesus said Repent for the
    kingdom of God is at hand! Preaching the Truth is love and
    we have tons of people in church who want to go to heaven but
    don’t want to Repent. The Truth is love so that’s all I’m doing is
    just preaching the Truth. So many people today are now living
    in compromise someone needs to preach the Truth. Thank you
    for the feedback. God bless.

  • Paul-Luke 13 the whole chapter talks about the fruit of Repentance
    which says that if the tree does not bear good fruit it will get cut
    down. We must bear good fruit because our good works don’t get
    us into heaven only Repenting/trusting in Christ does! Many,many
    non-believers do good works so the fruit is fruit of Repentance not
    good works. Bible says Repent or perish! We all must Repent!

  • I couldn’t agree with you more. The first thought was “people just want to be entertained.” We are a culture of movies, music, and television. Passive is our modus operandi!

  • Jane, you are so right, I am sad to see so many people who used to participate in music not be able to. It’s something people loved to do, and when everything is canceled, they have no outlet.

  • The existence of a choir/music program is a reflection of the interest of the clergy and the devotion of the singers. Most churches, whether evangelistic or liturgical, have volunteer choirs. If they are larger, they have professional musicians as leaders. However, at the end of the day the success of the choir/music program depends on its utility in the service.

    If your congregation is “high church” with sung liturgy, a good choir and organ is mandatory. On the other hand if you congregation is “low church”, congregational or “informal” then the demands for music are not as demanding. Less demand, less supply–Economics 101.

    Equipment is optional. I have seen great music programs with no pipe organ. An orchestra is a luxury. Dedication to good music is essential.

    “Good Music” does not, of necessity, mean a Tallis 8 part mass. It can be a professionally-sung rendition of “To God be the Glory”.

    But God created music, and he intends for us to do it!

  • There are many concepts you advocate here that seem to be on target but please tell me why the church should abandon latin (the language of most of it’s lineage) or particularly, “baroque music”?

  • That’s an interesting statement. As I recall from my music history classes, much of the Latin and Baroque choral music was written specifically for worship, composed by people who were offering the best of their compositional talent to the Lord. And they can still speak to congregations today.

  • It is interesting that many churches that claim to be innovative and creative are in lock step with the contemporary worship, “herd.” Seems entertaining style is the overidding principle for worship in these churches. Bible teacher Jacob Prasch said, “You can draw a crowd with entertainment but you have to use entertainment to keep them and the world can always put on a better show.”

  • Sure, get rid of the choir, it’s a bunch of old people anyway. Get rid of the hymnals, it’s all stuff people can’t sing or understand (some of the language is above 3rd grade level) get rid of the organ – it’s just old. That kind of music is just not millennium or X gen – oriented. Bring on the contemporary praise band – make it loud with a good strong beat and powerful drums. You don’t need a choir when you’ve got that high-energy soloist and a big sound system.. Then, finally we will get some young people in church and they might have some money – then we could raise the pastor’s salary and declare that we are a successful church!

    Is this what Jesus did?

  • My husband directs a church choir. It is one of the truly active ministries in the church. We not only lead in worship but we support each other during times of trials & there have been a lot of them. Last Sunday & this Sunday we collaborated with another choir & we had 40+ singers who have become friends over the 6 years of this collaboration. The choirs are not dying in these churches.
    We have listened CCM at various times through the years. Some of it is good, some of it is not. Good church music not only has a strong biblical base but a good musical base. It does NOT matter if it is 10 days old or a 100 years old. If it’s not easily sung by a choir or a congregation, then it does not belong in worship.
    We attended church this summer with some friends. There was a praise band. The songs were poorly written & were presented as though we were at a concert. Most could be picked up by someone with a musical background after 4-5 times through but the congregation, for the most part, did not sing. The praise leader then had the nerve to tell the congregation that we need to “worship” rather than just “participate.” The problem was, the music did not allow the average church goer to even participate, let alone worship. We asked their teenaged kids what they thought of the music & they didn’t even care for it. We really need to look at both the quality of the text & the quality of the music, if we are to reach people.

  • Do you not know that the first miracle the Christ did was turn water INTO wine???? there is nothing wrong with drinking wine in moderation like all things

  • My friends and I (lifelong traditional choir members in a large Methodist church) call praise music “7/11 music.” It’s the same seven words, eleven times, aimed at a short-attention-span generation. Boring and repetitive!!!

  • He didn’t die to preserve tradition (as an undifferentiated mass? (^_^) ) but the knowledge of what He died for, as well as the rest of His teaching, is preserved BY tradition. Please note 2 Th 2:15: Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

    Since of course there are ‘traditions of men’, such as those of the Pharisees, there has to be also good tradition, i.e. the teachings of Christ. Please note the appendation ‘of men’, which can’t be redundant, & indicating there must be tradition of God.

    And since tradition is just ‘parádosis (‘from 3844 /pará, “from close-beside” and 1325 /dídōmi, “give over”) – properly, give (hand over) from close-beside, referring to tradition as passed on from one generation to the next…a giving over which is done by word of mouth or in writing, i. e. tradition by instruction, narrative, precept, etc.’ (from , Protestant site, by the way), the Bible is part of tradition! Of course we got it from a prev. generation, which got it from a prev. generation, etc. back to the bishops in ancient times who decided what was the correct canon. And the way they decided it, since Christ had left the earth (Lk 24:51) generations before & without leaving a table of contents, had to have been that writings that fit the tradition passed on by word of mouth could be allowed in the canon, & writings that contained anything that didn’t had to be disallowed. Hence, for example, we have nothing Gnostic in the canon. How DO we know Gnosticism is surely wrong? How do we know the canon is surely the right canon & no book, such as an epistle, was let in that gave some teaching that didn’t come from Christ, even when Acts & the epistles contain hundreds of teachings not recorded in the Gospels as coming from Christ’s mouth? Consider some unpopular & commonly overlooked verses, such as 1 Cor 11:5 & Heb 13:10! Consider also that there are traditions we forget to examine, such as folding hands to pray, while the only position of hands for praying is raised (Ps 141:2, 1 Tm 2:8; called ‘orans’ position), & closing one’s eyes to pray: having one’s eyes closed is BAD in the Bible, e.g. Ac 28:27.

    A few other verses further confirm the need for the tradition of God: Mk 4:33 says after the Parable of the Mustard Seed Christ taught with ‘many such parables’, but the Synoptic Gospels don’t record them; the next v says He taught the Disciples the meanings of all of them, & then the scene changes. Since not all the meanings are in Scripture (I think most are not), & since people can interpret unclear things to mean almost anything they like, I think it should be clear that THE meanings, i.e. the ones Christ taught in private, have to be gotten from extra-scriptural tradition, & they have to be gotten via handing down in a direct line of consistent understanding & absolutely unchanged & unchanging faith. Jn 21:25 indicates how large the complete Gospel (i.e. ALL the Good News) really is: And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.

  • The Orthodox Church actually has PROHIBITED ALL musical instruments in services since the time of the Book of Acts, except an instrument such as a piano is allowed to be used to play the first note of each part before a hymn, only to tune the choir, although tuning forks, not even usable as instruments, would be preferable.

    Instruments had been allowed in services in OT times because of the ‘grossness of mind’ of the people of Israel in that time, just like at-will divorce had been allowed & was later prohibited. The human voice, as a creation of God, is understood to be vastly superior to man-made instruments. Organs once had a connotation of the theater & hippodromes too, which continues at least in part now, since organs can be heard in old theaters but also at practically any pro baseball or hockey game. Of course there can be no solemn, holy association. The organ in the Bible is not the same instrument as we know today anyway, but hand-held, maybe a flute with a reed: , & obviously not a piano or anything electronic! Apparently there are a few Greek churches in America that have installed organs & lead the choir with them, apparently trying to be more ‘Western’, but that’s something everybody else Orthodox in the world considers a disturbing ‘liturgical abuse’, so I think those are on the way out.

    We also consider organs & pianos crutches & believe God is pleased with our singing with however much effort we are able to put into practicing. An advantage we have for not needing crutches is the rule of our repertoire of hymns: about 7/8 of what is sung is always the same except on major holidays, & then maybe 1/2 to 3/4 is the same, i.e. every Easter is exactly the same as every other, every Christmas exactly the same as every other, etc. The parts that change may change only according to schedule. Some have different words for each Sunday of the year, but a rotation of only 8 tunes. Very little has changed in 1,000 years, & not much more in 2,000. Most of the hymns are Psalms or parts of Psalms, also there are the Beatitudes. New hymns have been written in recent times, but they are exactly like the old ones, for example, written in the late 20th c., for my patron saint: & from the 6th c. (at least the latter), Christmas hymns: . Here: are a lot of ancient Western ones as well, of the same nature. Thus changes are small, regimented, & cyclical; everyone has always known & will always know what to expect, & the style is timeless & heavenly.

    A choir loft might be used, but otherwise the choir is in the left front corner of the nave, facing south (to lead the singing; everyone else faces east, toward the Second Coming; performance is incomprehensible).

    Therefore, no stage, organ, piano, guitars, sound-system, light-show, fog machine, etc. is needed. We do need such things as an altar (Heb 13:10), chalice (i.e. cup; 1 Cor 11:25-29), icons (i.e. UNgraven (^_^) images; Mt 22:19-21; 1 Cor 13:12), & censer (Rv 8:3-5).

  • P.S. There is no requirement for numbers of singers, just that SOMEONE besides clergy shows up, since ‘leito-‘ in ‘leitourgos’, as in Rom 15:16 (also root of the word ‘liturgy’!), refers to the people, & since there has to be someone to dismiss at the dismissal. Here: is 2-part-, & in the ‘Byzantine’ section, single-part-music, adapted to be easy to learn & esp for untrained singers. More info: .

  • Jane I understand what you are saying. I think many have jumped in the band wagon. however, there is another side to this coin; that is where churches un volunteer staff for their worship ministries. I am one of them. I do not get paid for being a worship pastor at my church, yet I do it anyway because it is my calling. unfortunately, I do have to support my wife and family by working a 40+-hours-a-week corporate type job; and btw, I am one of the few that actually hold a degree in music. Bottom line is, where the church’s time and money is spent shows you were its heart is. A choir/orchestra set up requires not only money but a lot, lot, lot of….TIME. I lead a team of around 12 ppl, for whom I have to maintain a website, roster, schedule and calendar; without taking into consideration chord charts, research (looking for new songs), or even writing which takes even longer. On average, I spend anywhere from 6-10 hours a week with counting services where I also lead.
    We have grown used to “requiring” certain things from our churches and althought it is things that we are just used to seeing and make us feel warm and fuzzy, some churches (including mine) have decided to focus more on reaching out beyond the walls thru TV and radio, community assistance centers, food banks, etc.
    When I was asked to creat a choir for weekly services, I politely declined the request. Unfortunately, for most of us volunteer staffers our lives just do not allow for another unpaid part time job. 🙂

  • I disagree with that statement *greatly*. If you have to be in a choir or praise band or some form of up front group to WORSHIP, you are doing it wrong. Period.

  • To all commentors,

    Sadly, there are too many church leaders who encourage the entertainment feeling of worship by using screens instead of the hymnal, and by playing videos. It is supposed to be a service of worship, for heaven’s sake – and not an hour or so of TV or the movies. Choirs can do a “performance” selection, as it isn’t really a performance, per se, unless the music sounds like entertainment – such as sacred words put to a secular style musical score and the like. That is bad. And, choirs should also help lead the congregation in the hymns, but please do not forget that it is the organist who should be the only one who truly leads the hymn singing, as the organ is the best instrument to use for the proper singing of hymns.

    Now, Gregory – you NAILED it, brother.
    Right on the head.

  • Excellent point. Too often bands lead to showboating by a few–same with praise teams. There’s a place for various groups, but the choir is the place where even those with weaker talents can blend in and make that joyful noise.

    By the way, a choir doesn’t have to be large. I’ve led choirs from 12 to 25 in smaller churches. You just choose music that is more accessible to the size.

  • I am a music director. I have a choir that has pretty much morphed into a Christmas and Easter program choir. We do very little worship service anthems and such because of a number reasons. About a year and a half ago, a lady joined our choir. Like most adult choirs, it is volunteer and everyone is welcome. This lady who joined is the sweetest lady you would ever want to know, but she is, shall we say, mentally challenged. I say that truthfully, not mean spirited. The bad news is, she is tome deaf and sings WAY out of tune. The really bad news is she “sings” incredibly loud, to the point that it is distracting to everyone, not just the altos she sings with. I hae tried every tactful way to address the problem. I havenno problem with her being tone deaf. It is just that she wont sing softer. With her being mentally challenged, if I was to tell her she sings badly, it would break her heart, and I am the bad guy.

    Here is the fallout… When she joined up, we were 30 strong in membership for a program. Since then, the once strong alto section of 8 quality voices has dwindled to 2 people. The choir has steadily declined from 30 to 27 to 23, to 18 as I write this, and it is all because no one can stand the sound that she makes. I am not exaggerating, it is a terrible sound.

    I dont know what to do. Everyone at my church knows the problem, but no one has a solution. I feel like i am letting several people down just to save one person’s feelings. The choir is dying and i cant stop the bleeding. I have prayed constantly for over a year…. Nothing.

  • This is very good as long as our churches are really evangelizing and are not merely Christian country clubs.

  • Elizabeth, i think you may have hit the nail on the head with your comment about how the economy of this country has squeezed the life out of its people, making us tired and depressed and drained. Let me add to that that adults are very much more child-centered than they were years ago. They are chaufferring their kids to this activity and that activity so that they don’t “miss out” and left behind to compete in life later on as they grow older (or so we believe). My choir has about 19 people in a church of about 400. I counted about 30 people that still attend church that are former choir members that bowed out for one reason or another, but about half of them tell me it is because the are too busy shuttling kids around town. And even if they do have the available time when choir meets, they are too exhausted to show up. And believe me, I have fallen into that trap as well. I remeber when I was growing up, Imwas offered very few activities, and most of the time, i was dragged along to whatever activity my parents wanted or needed to do. For my parents, church was the number one priority.

  • Jane, I am one of those people “out of a job” at church. I had spent most of my life in hymns. I know the stories of them, most of them in any hymnal and sometimes I have more than one verse memorized. I love the old hymns. Now I have been told that these things are irrelevant, and I just need to sit in the congregation with music that I don’t relate to, can’t tolerate, and am just uncomfortable with. Therefore, we have given up on church. We didn’t leave it, it left us.

  • Good for you and your church! I am jealous! I have given up on choirs and church all together. I had a lot of musical training, and I miss singing at the level I used to. Yes, I miss a lot about the golden days of church choirs, and the fellowship was part of it.

  • Amen! I think that praise music started out with the traditional rock turn (I – IV – vi – V7). Then I noticed that a lot of songs were dropping to three chords, then 2. Now it seems like the chord never really changes – it is just some nebulous collection of notes played at the same time over and over. How can melody work with that, let along harmony! So many of the songs no longer have an end, and I am jittery when a piece just suddenly shuts down on a subdominant chord!

    I have sung alto even before I knew what to call it, and I love being in a congregation singing hymns, where some of us are doing parts. To me, it is a musical setting of the body of Christ. We each have our own parts to do. I also love to hear people singing that maybe “shouldn’t be.” The ones who can’t carry a tune but sing lustily (as Wesley would say) bring a joy to me.

  • I have one concern with that. When we were kids in the 70s, we did as the adults wanted us to. If they said, “Have a choir,” we did. Now the kids come in and get their way, telling those of us who built those churches to sit down and shut up. I have been told that my music is irrelevant and so am I. It is too bad when churches choose to alienate any group, but it has become clear that I am a has been and my gifts are useless. This is why I say I am “done” with church. I am not leaving, it has left me.

  • I agree. I get sick of hearing ol’ folks saying that the youts don’t like hymns. I never hear it from the youts!

  • As someone who read music before she read English (really!) I have always found it deplorable that choir members don’t only not read music, they seem proud of it. I have always wanted to do music school in conjunction with a choir, but could never get the staff behind the idea. If I could learn to read music at 5, there is no reason that someone else can’t learn as an adult. (Took me a while to warm up to the letters after G!)

  • Hi, Thecla!! I’ll bet I am one of the few here who know who Thecla was!! I agree about feeling like participation is important. One of the reasons we are done with church is because we just stand there and listen to music we don’t like. I don’t feel like I am not needed or wanted there at all.

  • In your anger do not sin. I agree with your beliefs but your way of communicating is not very loving. Your message reads as though you are in the flesh even though you are biblically correct. If you win every disagreement yet you do not have love you are just an annoying sound and embrace the holy one. I know because I do it too often. Jesus brother James addressed this in his letter.

  • when church starting looking more like a secular concert (and not a very good one) is when it lost its relevancy. The contemporary music movement was born out of the “we want something different” complaint. The only problem is they’ll get sick of that one day too. What was so alluring and “magical” about church was that you knew on Sunday mornings you were going to see and hear something that you could only experience at church. “Be in the world, but not of the world.” When the Church stops trying to look and sound like the world, they will once again have relevance and begin to grow.

  • Interesting conversation, especially between you and Paul.
    One thing Paul said is that the law was no longer applicable. That is not what Jesus said. Matthew 5: 17-20 “Jesus Teaches about the Law” states Jesus’ intentions for fulfilling the law. 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Porphets; I have not come to abolish them but to fultill them. ……..” The rest of the verses are very enlightening. There were three catagories of old testiment laws: Cerimonial, Civil and Moral. My NIV Commentary says the principles behind all of these laws – to worship and love a holy God – still apply, although the details of our civilization may need to apply them a bit differently. The moral (such as the Ten Commandments) is a direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely, and asked us to do the same. The principles behind the Civil laws are timeless and should guide our conduct. Jesus demonstrated these principles by…

  • Johnnykins, Congratulations on your vast opportunities to study music. Do you consider yourself to be in Music Ministry for the glory of God, or a hired musician who doesn’t worship with these congregations – perhaps thinking of your gifts more as an art form? (By the way, if we have a gift, it has to have a “giver.”) The God I worship is the Creator of all, and is the giver of the gift of music I have enjoyed for nearly fifty years as a director, vocalist, etc. Many of us who are choir directors or Worship musicians get no pay, or get small wages/gratuities for our dedicated and consistent efforts. We labor to glorify the Lord, Jesus Christ. We have an attitude of gratitude to God for the gifts we enjoy. I hope you do, too.

  • We need to find a way to make the message more appealing to this modern generation. Since technology and inter-connectivity is so prevalent in society, I think we need to find a way to integrate it into our church services. Seems like our only option these days is to find a better way to market ourselves to society.

  • David, I think you have been very compassionate to this parishioner. I would like to offer a possible solution. Recently, we moved and in our new church, there is a man with a mental disability (J.) who is in the choir, but he doesn’t sing too loud. However, he was going up during the children’s sermon, even though he’s in his 40’s. To me, this is very inappropriate. I asked the pastor about this and he said it was going on before he came. So I offered to speak with J. My career has been either as a social worker or special ed teacher for this type of disability. I talked with J. privately and told him very kindly, – J, I want to talk with you about going up during the children’s sermons. (He looked sheepish.) You are too old to go up there. Are you a little kid? (He shook his head.) No, you’re a grown man. You can’t go up there any more. (He kind of shrugged). Do you go up, so you can get candy? (He said yes.) (Running out of words here – will continue in 2nd post.)

  • (Continued from 1st post) Why don’t you ask the pastor for candy after church. Do you want me to tell the pastor that? He said yes. So I left it at that and he no longer goes up. I was surprised that no one had ever talked with him.
    As far as your situation goes, two possible solutions come to mind. Sometimes people don’t know how to sing softly. They have to be taught. Same thing with talking too loudly (unless they have a hearing loss or ear wax impaction). If she only sings loud, and doesn’t talk loud then it may have nothing to do with an ear problem. Here are some ideas:
    Maybe you or a more gentle, yet firm choir member could ask to speak to her privately and say (we’ll call her S.) S. I need to talk with you about singing. You like to sing, don’t you? Well, I think that’s wonderful and God is happy to hear your voice. I want to help you sing better in the choir – is that okay with you? Okay good. In choir, we have to learn to keep our voice so it sounds like everyone…

  • (Cont for 2nd post) Do you know what I mean? So we have to learn to keep our voices soft. Do you want to learn how to do that? Then I would practice with her and try to help her develop a soft voice. Another possible solution would be to give her a different job during church, such as lighting the candles or handing out bulletins and tell her that, that would be her job now at church and that she wouldn’t be a choir member now, she would be an acolyte or an usher. Many times, people with disabilities just want to be included and accepted. Jesus is very clear, “what you’ve done to the least of them, you’ve done to me.” So your response has been very kind to include her, but on the same token she cannot dominate the choir with a loud, off-key voice anymore than J. could go up during the children’s sermons. It isn’t behavior that we would allow regular people and we aren’t doing the disabled person any favors by allowing it to continue, so they look strange to others. (cont…

  • If she still would rather make music, then I would see if there were bells or chimes that she could play. I may even ask her care giver to see if she has an ear problem & for her to be checked by a doctor. I am a choir member, too and I don’t really mind if people are off key, but I don’t believe that their voice should stand out ahead of the rest. I know you’ve prayed a lot about this and I hope that you will be able to resolve it. This woman could very well be happier with another position in the church and God may very well lead you to understand what that is & how to make it come about in a loving and Christ-like way. May God bless your efforts! Sorry this post was so long!

  • I grew up in choir. I started at 5 in our children’s ages 5-12 Sunbeams choir. I then progressed to the ages 13-18 Youth and Young Adult choir becoming its director when our former director turned 18 and joined the Mass Choir. I held that position until I’d trained the girl who replaced me then I move on to the mass choir. Mass being the term we used to describe the combined choirs. Sunbeams, Youth and Young Adult, Mass and Senior choirs. Then we had two male only groups. Ages 13-18 were The Royal Ambassadors and the older men were simply the male chorus. 1st Sunday Mass choir. 2nd Sunday Senior choir. 3rd Sunday Mass choir. 4th Sunday Sunbeams and Youth choir. 5th Sunday was the male chorus. There were 13 Ambassadores. Any 3 could out sing the Sop and Altos. Youth was 45 strong. Seniors were 35 strong. Sunbeams were 15 strong so mass was 90 strong. We let the sunbeams sing with the mass so they could learn. Organ, piano and later drums and bass. I’m 52 now. Praise Bands leave me…

  • Why are you on an article about church if you don’t believe in the Bible .. She was talking to believers dumb Witt!!! Believers who play church and don’t live anything. Stay off of our sites and spend your time with the atheist!!!!

  • The choir has to be part and parcel of the worship service and not apart from it. There are more than 800 specific references to music in all its forms in the Bible, which conveys the importance of praising and worshiping God in song and music. The trend toward eliminating choirs and using only a worship band is often dictated by the idea that a choir is old and stuffy, and in order to attract the younger families and generation a church must move toward a fresh approach. Yet, a lot of young people who have grown up in Christian homes have at one time or another sung in choirs, and have found the experience edifying. Pastors who fail to recognize the importance of a choral ministry often make excuses about the cost of maintaining one, where it costs about the same, or even more, to maintain a worship band. Pastors nowadays have a unilateral agenda to reshape the church in their image, and that is both sad and dangerous.

  • i fell in love with church because of the choir. it was a heavenly sound that was not able to be heard anywhere else on the planet but on sunday morning in church. same with the organ. when the Church decide to replace that with a cheep, cheasy, rock band knock off, i was out. i wasn’t called to do that.

  • Amen, Jane Smith. While some churches survive and even thrive after disbanding the choir and throwing out the organ, I’ve seen countless churches weakened and destroyed by the shift to so-called contemporary services. If there’s no room for the organ and piano, there’s no room for me in that church.

  • Good article… all true. I do miss the choir in my church. But if it’s not going to be “top-rate” and if enough people aren’t going to commit so that it is a strong and confident presence, then of course (as churches are finding out) its presence can actually hurt the church. Few things in life are as unpleasant as hearing a small, weak, struggling choir on Sunday morning. It’s true as we all stopped singing, choir rehearsal became more of a struggle, to sing, to read the music and the music is usually not easy – four parts, lots of big forte sections requiring singers that can really do it. At some point the once big choir all got old and, just like the church itself, hasn’t been effective at replacing folks. Plus, It just became not possible in one rehearsal a week. I also blame bad music and weak choral directors, i must say. The music, especially in the baptist church almost became chorally un-singable. It sounded good on a practice tape, but the real thing was rarely close – even with a big strong choir. (David Clydesdale – bless his heart but does he know how few church choirs can actually sing his music?) Also these days it’s hard to find a true “choral guy.” You know the guy who’s personality draws people to the choir and makes you want to sing and who just “knows” how it’s supposed to sound and is a master at getting it out of us. Those guys are rare and usually the ones who can do it are no longer attracted to a traditional First Baptist. They are teaching school or college and the really great ones are usually gay and we cut them out years ago. We’re just in a new culture now. But, I do miss it.

  • I know I am late commenting on this article. You write so much about James Merritt. How about explore what FBC Snellville was like before he came and the destruction and havoc that he was allowed to do to that church. I grew up in the area and remember it very well. He destroyed the music ministry so for him to say he isn’t knocking choirs is only giving his side of the story. He was part of the the power play movement that took over the SBC masquerading as wanting to bring it back to the Bible. It was a power play for control. The SBC has never been the same and that is not a good thing. I know many people who lost ministries they were leading because of his power hungry group. They wanted the CEO leadership model (which is the opposite in how the SBC was) and if you didn’t like it, he would show you the door.

  • Those “guys” are still out there, but they also include women. A choir only sounds as good as the director. One problem is that most churches aren’t wanting to pay someone a livable salary. Well, you get what you pay for. A big part of the reason you don’t have the younger generations coming up (at least in the SBC) to take over from the older singers is the power movement to have the big flashy choirs and/or praise bands. Many churches have discontinued children and youth choirs that fed into the adult choirs. You get rid of that and you don’t have anyone to feed into the adult choir. (I will agree on the Clydesdale music – most of it was unsingable by the average adult choir.)

    Southern Seminary used to be known for turning out well round music ministers to oversee a fully graded choir program because they had training and often experience in a full music ministry. SBTS’s curriculum now? Praise bands. Ridiculous.

  • Amen for the women! I went to SWBTS. Knew folks from Southern, they always had the better choir. Things went south when they closed the School of Church Music. There is still a separate music school at SW, but it is a shell of its former self. They just hired a new Dean whose lack of experience and ability to lead such a school is causing many to question.

  • They didn’t close it just weaken it piece by piece. First they changed the name to the School of Church Music and Worship (which made me want to say duh!). The power struggle within SBC hurt as well as having a president who didn’t care about the school. Almost cried when I looked up the curriculum and it was all geared to the praise band. A truly great school who fell when Roy Honeycutt retired.

  • Sorry. I wrote you back about Southern not SW. Very sad that these great institutions for music were let to run aground due to lack of interest by the administrations.

  • In my parish, the choir is 6-8 people. They do not have a mid-week rehearsal, but arrive an hour before the liturgy and stay an hour after. They consistently produce top-shelf results for a service that is mostly sung, leading the congregation in hymns, responses, service music, etc.

    It can be done, but your congregation or parish has to make the music program a priority, not an afterthought.

  • I joined my church choir 29 years ago. At that time, there were 16 members, all volunteers. The choir director/organist is paid. She is a nice enough woman, but she has a favorite singer/leader of song whom she is friends with outside of church. There is a lot of favoritism there. The favoritism is obvious, and why I quit the choir. I do miss singing, but not under those conditions.

  • Hi. I am LDS (Mormon). I used to be Protestant until age 23, when I joined the Mormon Church. One of my favorite Protestant hymns was Holy, Holy, Holy. That hymn is not in our current Hymn book. However, there have been many changes (not doctrinal) in our Church lately. We are definitely a Christian Church. The only difference is that we believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings, instead of being a Trinity. Our Church is making a new Hymnal; and has invited us to suggest any new hymns we would like to add to it. I put Holy, Holy, Holy as one I would like to add. Interestingly, I saw a video of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing this hymn in our version. It’s almost identical to the original, with few exceptions. One would be instead of Trinity, they use the work Diety. I love it.

  • To echo what a few others have said, there’s multiple reasons that I can see as the reason of the decline of church choirs. In no certain order, here’s a list:
    1. For a good qualified director, the church has to be willing the shell out a decent compensation. Qualified personnel usually (but not always) has college debts from acquired from their years as a music student. People throw themselves into so much debt for college now that they don’t have the option to volunteer that much time for free. Not offering sufficient compensation often leads to having someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing. Having the wrong person can actually be worse than no person at all. Let me explain, by having no person, someone from within the choir will usually step up on a “temporary” basis. Quite often, that person will be (one of) the accompanist. They take the position knowing how that specific ensemble operates and under the pretense that they’re only doing it to keep the music afloat until someone else is found. So, at least it keeps going with some normalcy. However, bring in, even hire, the wrong person, you might drive folks out of the choir (if not the church altogether) due to poor-management, poor tastes, lack of knowledge of music traditionally done by that particular group, lack of knowledge how to direct a choir/rehearsal/music program. Maybe the director is overly artsy in a more rural/country setting. Maybe he picks music that is too difficult for the choir. Maybe the new guy thinks it’s his way or the highway and ends up offending and hurting feelings. I’m finding that this often the case. Evidently, the church I’m at now, had a music director for many, many years. However, she believed that the only music worthy of the service was that of Bach and Mendelssohn. While I love a good German chorale, that can take a lot of steam out of a program if it’s the only music presented. She drove away several people not only in the choir, but also the congregation. This church used to have weekly numbers around the 1200 mark, but her unwillingness to change (coupled with an older-changing and unwelcoming council) drove away more than two-thirds of those people. The fella right before me was also apparently a dud. He didn’t care much about the music. He was more about the tech. They tell me for hymns, he would choose songs based solely on the word content. While there’s nothing really wrong with that, he had no real knowledge of the style of music nor the tastes of the community. They were unhappy because they didn’t really know many of the songs he would chose. He would then just flap his hands during the service and not sing along thus driving away more people. As far as the choir under his direction, they evidently did little simple, dinky songs that were not uplifting, entertaining, or (insert adjective). While entertainment is not at the top of the list for a church service, we can’t just bore the congregation.
    2. Especially in Alabama, there is a major shortage of people that can and are willing to commit to being an accompanist. No one learns how to play the piano/organ anymore. More and more churches are going to either singing exclusively with CDs or finding a someone to just chord along on the piano or guitar. There’s such a demand now for pianists and organists that smaller churches just can’t often afford one that can get through the standard hymns much less navigate a lot of the choral music in production.
    3. Directing a choir is a full-time position in many aspects. Someone has to pick and often rearrange the music that often has to be bought (which can also become a very large expense in itself). My former church is suffering with this issue. They are asking a lot from but are offering very little to someone who is a very active music director at a very active school to lead the music to a degree that one might expect of full-time music ministry department (for this church in the middle of nowhere with and average of maybe *MAYBE* 70 people on a good week). While a church may find a leader that is willing to give his/her time to the task, it will be a rare find. LIke I said, most people that are qualified are generally already working low-paid jobs as teachers of some kind (which are generally, incredibly time-consuming) and are also crippled with at least a little debt. They can’t afford to spend the amount of time required to pull-off a decent program… especially if they’re not being compensated.
    4. Many churches, especially smaller churches, are often ruled by a pastor that is under the assumption that he knows and controls all. Therefore, he often makes an already difficult position into an even more tedious and time-consuming position because he wants to sign off on everything… if not direct your every move. He may wait until days before the sermon to actually give information on his sermon that he wants all of the hymns, anthems, and specials to echo the specific theme of his message. Then, when he goes back to check you on your choices because he thinks he is the most intelligent person in the building, he requires you to justify every choice. How can you run a decent music program with that kind of leadership above you?
    5. The music being made available today for choirs usually falls into one of two categories. Option #1: It’s great. It’s big. It’s full. It requires an orchestra or expensive accompaniment track and a well-seasoned choir of more than the 12 below-average to average usual voices that may show up that week. Quite often, you can simplify the parts into 4-parts, but the dissonances, harmonies, and rhythms are often still out of your choir’s league. Option #2: While in the (probable) general skill level of you small and (probably) aging choir, it’s most likely hokey, boring, campy, dinky, or just flat-out crappy. Since option #2 is the most probable choice for the most common skill level these days (either due to the skill-level of the choir or the skill-level/taste of the choir director), campy and simple selections often reign supreme among smaller choirs. If you want to grow the size of your choir, how is that going to help? Younger people aren’t going to be enticed by those little tinker-tink-do-da songs. The choir members, themselves, may like them, but that’s usually because they know them, they’re easy, and they’re “pretty.”
    6. This is also a cultural issue that we will probably be facing more and more as time marches on. People aren’t willing to commit anymore. It may be due to hectic schedules dealing with family schedules against school and other extracurricular activities because your kids’ after-school activities are the most important priorities of any modern family these days, don’t you know. This means that many people put church on the back-burner. It’s not as important as the other teams and events in which they may chose to participate for a myriad of reasons. Some may feel that due to those kind of reasons or others that they don’t have the time to fully commit to joining the choir… or often any other church function outside of Sunday morning. Furthermore, barring that kind of reasoning, other people just don’t want to commit to anything, period. How do you fix that?
    7. Stemming from that, shall we also discuss how many people are more into their own personal likes and tastes rather than the corporate worship experience. Many forget (on both sides of this isle) that worship is supposed to be all about and for God the Father and not for their weekly entertainment and checklist. There’s not as much responsibility in a contemporary service: dress like any other day of the week (if at all), sway to the praise band (maybe put a hand up), watch the words on the screen that are projected on a pretty graphic… Compare that with everyone up front of the church in some kind of robe (in more formal churches), possibly having to hold a hymnal and Bible in order to follow along, maybe feeling the need to be a little more dressy than usual, performing the same routine with the same songs and words that your grandparents and (often) their grandparents recited. The traditional service is out-dated to them because we are now in a me-centric society that many younger people subscribe to and no one has ever successfully conveyed why those methods are important. They, therefore, often don’t understand why they should subscribe to the traditions we were taught when we were little. They don’t like the older songs because they don’t sound like what’s on the radio. In larger, older churches, the majesty of the organ and the architecture escapes them. They see it as dated, flashy, and a waste of money because they don’t equate it to the majesty and supernaturality of God. Think about it. The oldest, most beautiful buildings in Europe are often churches because they were built to demonstrate the magnificence of God as well as offer to God the best that man has to offer. They’ve been taught, instead, and believe that worship is about them and their feelings. I have nothing against a theologically-correct contemporary service, but quite often those services are just performances with Jesus-versions of pop songs. On the flip-side however, many people think similarly of traditional services and a little more. They find the routine and methods of the services to be empty rituals – sometimes that can be true. They are confused about what is too new. Think about it. Many hymns being sung in traditional services were new 40 years ago… and several of those aren’t written in a very hymn-like manner. Why are those songs fine, but not others? They wonder why the traditional service stopped progressing. Quite often and especially if they are completely new and know nothing about the routines of the service, they may feel unwelcomed.
    8. One of the biggest problems facing us as a culture right now is that we don’t learn to sing anymore. Gathering around the piano used to be how people socialized. It used to be how folks fellowshipped with each other… at least down here. Every family-gathering ended up around the upright. You learned to sing at home. Everyone could half-way make out how to read music or hear harmony. It’s what people did for enjoyment. That’s no longer the case. Fewer and fewer people read anymore. Family gatherings aren’t as common as they once were. Church used to be a major institution when it came to learning music. If anything, you kind of learned through osmosis. Everyone had a hymnal from which to read. Then, we started projecting just the word on the wall. Sure, people seemed to sing out a little more, but that’s the physics of looking up at the wall rather than looking down at the book. Most people have lost the ability to harmonize if they ever had it to begin with. So, maybe they’re just scared to join because they feel they aren’t qualified.

    I believe (if the church doesn’t shoot itself in the foot) many people are starting to meet in the middle as far as service “genres.” The novelty of the contemporary service is wearing out in some places. Many people are being reintroduced to the classic hymns of the church for the first time and find something in those songs that’s not offered in many of the contemporary songs. However, many traditional service congregants are aging and are learning that their strongholds on their churches are slipping and will have to change if they don’t want the church to shut its doors. As long as a song is theologically-sound, I see no issue with it being in a traditional service. However, the problem with many, if not most, contemporary songs is that they are not conducive to congregational singing nor traditional instrumentation.

    We now have a generation coming up in which the majority are not familiar with the old songs. They don’t understand the motions and rituals that often accompany a more traditional service. So they have an interest that was not common of that age group 15-20 years ago. The biggest issues as far as music right now is that the offered material is often terrible and younger people don’t feel incredibly welcome in the traditional setting for both just and unjust reasons. The biggest issue right now is that so many are being brought up today not in church. It’s all foreign to them. All they know is what they may have experienced a couple times on a big holiday or grandparent visit or what they’ve seen on television (which we all know is incredibly accurate and always shines a very bright light on the Judeo-Christian beliefs and organizations). The church as a whole, but especially traditional churches, are not doing a very good job of reaching out to the younger generations.

    That’s just my two cents I’ve gathered from my younger age and the small, large, contemporary, and traditional services and churches that I have attended across Alabama and Georgia.

  • You need to remember that “holy, holy, holy” refers to the holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. When you say that Jesus and Satan are brothers, that turns me off. When you don’t accept that the Christ is the eternal Son of God, you misquote the Scriptures. Christians must accept Jesus Christ as eternal Son of God, Virgin born God entering humanity, death and resurrection as foretold in OT Scripture, and his coming again as his second coming as Son of God. Man cannot become God, nor an angel.
    I have known former LDS members who left that movement as soon as they began to accept the inspired, inerrant Word of God. I have often had business trips to Salt Lake City and I would always try to be there over Thursday night when the choir has a public rehearsal. Yes, they do really know how to sing. Oh that you would regret, confess, repent, and become a real Christian. (This write up is overly sounding condemning but it’s not meant to be).

  • I was not too indoctrinated in the Trinity concept of Protestantism when I started listening to the missionary discussions from the LDS missionaries. It sounded right to me. That’s not doctrine about the concept of the Savior and Satan being brothers; it’s only an idea that a friend of mine and I are tossing around. Man can very well become just as our Heavenly Father. Wilford Woodruff (one of our former Prophets) declared that “as man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” That kind of says it all for me. I feel that I am now, finally a real Christian; not like before. Anyway, I still like the hymn and hope that it gets into the new hymnal. We borrowed several hymns from the Protestants; changing the words as we saw fit. I’m afraid that it’s you who are missing out on a wonderful, life-changing experience. I know you’re not condemning me.

  • Your CULT is not a Christian church. Mormons are LOST and need salvation or they will go to hell like the Jehovahs Witness and the Muslim and the Roman Catholics. Please dont come on here and defend your defection or apostasy. It insults biblical intelligence. JOSEPH SMITH was a fake flake and fraud and you are part of his bamboozling of people. In HELL will you and all mormons lift up your eyes unless you repent and accept JESUS as GOD COME IN THE FLESH and stop lying saying “Jesus and Lucifer were brothers; Blacks are the cursed of the earth; Stop wearing your special underwear and THAT JESUS AND GOD ARE NOT ONE ALONG WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT. Someone has to tell you the truth…..I pray you will hear it TODAY!

  • Richard you are so lost and its so sad……YOU ARE NOT A CHRISTIAN! Come out from among them……please sir…..pray and do some more research. It is so sad to hear of your experience. Wilford Woodruff sends a message from hell for you: TURN AROUND…GET OUT OF THE MORMON CULT AND RUN TO JESUS!!!!!!

  • Christine ever think that maybe you were not lead material? Some of us are meant to be backup…..not a bad place. Sounds like you need to pray a little harder and go back to using the gift GOD gave you before you lose it.