When I read this quote from Michael Raiter’s article, "The Slow Death of Congregational Singing," I thought about a decision we made at Bethlehem 13 years ago. The article said:
I was at a convention recently, seated near the rear of the auditorium. The music team at the front were ‘leading’ (and I use that word advisedly) and we were singing. Well, we were meant to be singing.... I turned to a friend next to me and commented, “No-one's singing”. He looked at me as if I'd just observed that no-one was flying. Of course they're not singing; we haven't really sung here for years.
Thirteen years ago we asked: What should be the defining sound of corporate worship at Bethlehem, besides the voice of biblical preaching?
We meant: Should it be pipe organ, piano, guitar, drums, choir, worship team, orchestra, etc. The answer we gave was “The people of Bethlehem singing.”
Some thought: That’s not much help in deciding which instruments should be used. Perhaps not. But it is massively helpful in clarifying the meaning of those moments.
If Bethlehem is not “singing and making melody to the Lord with [our] heart,” (Ephesians 5:19), it’s all over. We close up shop. This is no small commitment.