By Zach Goodrow
Recently, my local church held a night of worship where we focused on hymns and praise. The night was incredible. We sang centuries old hymns, prayed for our nation, listened to testimonies of God showing his faithfulness throughout tremendous trials, and praised our God under the lead of an incredible choir.
Hearing the choir, 20 something people all singing distinctly yet harmonously, made me pause and reflect on something about most modern worship that isn’t necessarily wrong, but it is sad.
The fact is this: It’s hard for most men to sing many modern worship songs.
Before I say too much more, I want to clarify. I do not hate modern worship music. Not some of it anyway. Granted, there are songs that play on popular Christian radio stations that make me want to slap the artist with the Book of Psalms so that they can hear some depth, but there is some modern worship music that is incredible in it’s theological depth and it’s poetic beauty.
So I don’t think that a church has to sing only hymns. Especially if they only sing hymns so that they can be proud of the fact that they only sing hymns. Their god of tradition is no better god than the god of relevance; it just shows itself in different ways.
But I do not think any church should completely disregard hymns. The songs of our long-dead brothers and sisters in Christ should inspire, encourage, remind, teach, and guide us because their God is also our God and our God has not changed. The things they sang, if sang correctly, have not changed because the state of man and the state of God have not changed.
There are some problems that face modern worship music. Some of it could be sung to a boyfriend or girlfriend with no distinction that the song was meant to be for the God of the universe. That’s problematic. Some of it relies too much on emotionalism to get a response out of the crowd which generally occurs in a repeating bridge that could lead to boredom at best or manipulation at worst. But another, more subtle problem is the one I mentioned above. It’s difficult for men to sing these songs.
When I say difficult, I mean it is physically difficult. I’m not speaking of the heart here, though that is an obstacle to true worship. But for this piece, I am talking about the physical difficulty of adult males to harmonize well with modern worship music because of the higher, and more typically feminine, notes that are prominent in a lot of modern worship songs.
What this means is that many men tend to stay silent in worship because there is no way they could match the notes. And I am not saying it is wrong for songs with higher keys to be sung in our churches. In fact, I think it is good for people to hear women praising God in a way that highlights their feminity. But in the same way, what I noticed in my church’s night of worship is that when men of God sing of God, hell shakes.
The Power of Bass in Our Churches
At the worship night, the basses and baritones would start a half second before the tenors, altos, and sapranos. This meant that for a fraction of a second there was a distinct “maleness” in our worship, but what happened after that fraction of a second brought me to tears. The men in the crowd heard a note they could hit and sang in glorious unison for the rest of the song. This meant that wives got to hear their husbands praise the God they both serve. Children got to see their fathers lead in worship alongside their families. Everyone sang more praisingly, more whole-heartedly, more powerfully because the men were doing the same.
And that’s where bass in our churches shakes hell to its core. You see, worship is a battleground. Satan is trying to destory anything good that God has made. And though he cannot destroy the church completely he can attempt to weaken it. And in our time, the way he has attempted to weaken it is by making church a place where men go to sit passivley while their wives lead the home in worship.
Satan wants our men quiet and passive because he knows that if men lead their homes in worship of the true God, if they shout out in praise, and if men sing proudly of their King, then entire generations change. If wives and children not only witness their fathers and husbands serve the Lord but also hear them cry out definitively in worship to the God they serve, the landscape of their family will change. The kingdom of hell crumbles to make room for the Kingdom of Christ. This Kingdom work happens not only in the outside world where God is drawing the unbeliever to himself, but it also happens in our homes when God draws children to himself through witnessing their father worship the Father.
Harmony and a Deeper Future
It is not wrong for women to lead worship. It’s also not wrong for churches to sing songs that have higher keys. My desire is not to minimize female led worship songs. It is good for women to sing of God. Husbands need to see their wives worship and children are won by the faithfulness of the mother.
But, let us not feminize worship so intensely that our men cannot participate. Yes, have a sister with a stunning voice lead her congregation in awe and wonder of our God. But also sing songs that your men can sing. Sing of attributes of God that inspire courage. Sing songs of God’s holiness, his power, sing “Psalm 46” by Shane and Shane for crying out loud so that your men can sing along without butchering the harmony. Not because we have to appeal to masculinity for men to be happy, but because we are at war and it is good for men to fight in this war with praise. It is good for the glory of God to be heard in the praises of all of his saints, both male and female.
Sing high because our praises are lifted up to the Almighty. Sing low because our worship cripples hell. Let our men sing like men. Let our women sing like women. And let those who can sing both high and low lead those, like myself, who can’t sing at all. Because when we get to heaven our voices will join the songs of centuries of saints. The bass notes will rattle our bones while the sapranos will bring us to tears. This heavnely harmony will be reality for everyone who calls God their Father. But we do not have to wait until heaven to experience this harmony. In his goodess, God has allowed us to experience a fragment of heaven through our worship on earth. So while we are here, let the bass notes shake the hell out of our churches.
Soli Deo Gloria