(A VISION FOR CHRISTIAN SONG, by Ken Bible; p.55)
When I sit at my desk, a large sign stares me in the face, shouting this reminder: Simplicity. It’s
a reminder I constantly need. Simplicity is a discipline, and a challenging one. Yet it is vital to
effective congregational song.
Congregational singing involves people from a broad range of ages, cultures, stylistic
preferences, and personalities singing together. Most have little or no musical training and
usually no rehearsal. Further, the music must be easy enough to be sung comfortably and
naturally, leaving the singers free to focus on the words. The music must serve simply as a
vehicle for the text.
What happens if the tunes fail the simplicity test? At best, the tune soaks up so much attention
that the words are ignored. At worst, the singers grow frustrated and fold their arms in stony
Often the problem is trying to use performance songs as hymns. Lacking the discipline of
simplicity, such songs are more suited to be performed by a well-rehearsed artist than to be
sight-read by a highly diverse, untrained congregation.
With performance songs, the leaders are counting on people’s ability to sing back almost
anything they hear, no matter how complex. Go to an artist concert, and you’ll hear it happen.
Fans will sing along with the band or soloist, no matter how intricate the song. But that doesn’t
make the songs congregational. Devotees can join in songs they have heard many times. But
what about the people not immersed in such styles? They cannot follow. They are left out. And