Are choirs still relevant?

Someone approached me a few years ago and made a statement sure to get my attention (being the "choir fanatic" I am): "Nothing is more boring than a choir." To their surprise, I agreed. Think about it: a group of people with long faces, wearing long robes, singing long songs. (No wonder some choirs are long gone!)

On the other hand, I pointed out to my cynical friend that nothing in this world is more exciting than a choir that is passionately and purposefully singing praises to the Lord with energy, expression, enthusiasm, and genuine joy.

As I travel throughout the country, I am constantly asked if I believe the ministry of the choir is still relevant in today's postmodern culture. My answer every time: Absolutely!

A choir full of people who obviously love the Lord and are expressive, engaged, and animated in authentic, God-focused worship is absolutely contagious. This dynamic and participatory worship cannot be replaced by a small praise team of select singers - enhanced, but not replaced. If a choir is fulfilling its role as worshipers, making God the audience in vertical, passionate worship, nothing on earth is as exciting and meaningful. In fact, it's just a little taste of heaven.

God will not summon just the praise team, but millions of believers will sing His praises for eternity. Our worship choirs should be a microcosm of that heavenly choir. What a privilege we have every Sunday to experience this kind of authentic worship!

Here are just a few reasons I believe the choir is still relevant.

Choirs are biblical

Throughout Scripture, we see the choir at the center of worship. Whether it is Jehoshaphat going into battle (2 Chron. 20:21-22) or the greatest worship service ever held (2 Chron. 5:12-14), the choir offered genuine worship.

Choirs maximize the musical gifts of the congregation

Hundreds of churches across America have discontinued their choir ministry, only to be replaced by a small select group. In the pews sit dozens of faithful members who have been stripped of their opportunity to serve, to use their gifts in worship. This also robs God of the worship.

Many churches that have dismissed their choir as being "irrelevant" have realized this and tried to restart the choir with mixed results. What I see happening quite often is the "larger choirs getting larger," as committed choir members find a place to serve — in another church that has a choir!

Choirs are 80/20

The rule that "20 percent of the people do 80 percent of the work" applies to church choirs. In every church I have served, the choir is full of Sunday school teachers, deacons, elders, and the "worker bees" of the church. Often, the most loyal supporters and givers are choir members.

If their main ministry is taken from them, many times their commitment and "need" to be at the church decreases and other nonchurch priorities take precedence. This makes the church a weaker organization and less effective in accomplishing its mission.

Choirs are full of 'Everyman'

A worship choir includes a cross-section of generations, cultures, and people. This is a microcosm of the congregation, and the congregation can relate to these everyday folks who love the Lord and love to sing. This kind of worship is contagious because it is led by a community of worshipers, not just a few select singers.

If a worship choir is fulfilling its biblical role of passionately leading people into the presence of God, it is one of the most relevant tools God has given the church.

One last thought ...

Be true to your DNA

Many churches rush to be like "the cool church" that is "packing them in" and being super-successful in ministry. The reason that church is effective is that they are being true to themselves and what God has called them to do.

The reason most people attend your church is because of its DNA. Why not expand on that and make it the most effective it can possibly be? We need variety in the body of Christ. Be progressive with the qualities that make your church unique, instead of trying to become like everyone else. If your church DNA and passion include a worship choir, make it great for His glory. Be true to yourselves and the DNA God has placed within you, your staff, and church body ... and don't forget the choir!

Phil Barfoot is a composer, author, and music ministry professional who has written and created more than 20 choral collections and musicals that collectively include more than 200 songs.

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