Two weeks ago I went to the Friday Chapel at Westmont College and sat in the back. The worship band led a set of songs, some very new and others remixed old hymns. What I noticed was how few of the students actually sang. Some sang enthusiastically, with hands in the air and almost dancing in praise. But others stood (the only posture for chapel singing I've witnessed) with arms folded in silence.
I wonder if the same is true at church on Sunday? Being up in front and not facing the congregation on the chancel (like I did in Indiana, Michigan and Minnesota) I do not see or hear who is not singing. Is singing going away? Do people not sing as much anymore and replace it with intense listening? With the proliferation of digital music and iPods, music is everywhere and all the time. Young people I know dread silence. They have some sort of music playing all the time. But do they sing? Do they sing together?
The Bible, and particularly the Psalms, strongly encourage believers to sing together, corporately, gathered in worship. Why? Jim Hawkinson's recent post in his blog "rooted wings" expresses it well:
"We, with the psalmist, must learn ever to sing in community, Lord—the community of your people, gathered not only in our place and time but in all ages before us and yet to come. We are not strong enough to sing your praise by ourselves. The fount of our song is in you and in all the people who belong to you—past, present, and future."
I'm not strong enough alone to praise God the way God expects to be praised. I need the help of others. My words are too shallow and my energy is too weak. I get distracted and discouraged. I get stuck in the ruts and routines of my language and cannot get high enough to praise God. That's why the old hymns and classic poetry work; they transcend the immediacy of today's issues and trends and speak about those things that endure.