As you’re aware, some Christian traditions sing without instrumental accompaniment in an effort to conform to the worship practices of the early church and align their worship with their understanding of the New Testament scriptures.
I’m not here to pick a theological fight with any of my brothers or sisters. I do, however, want to encourage those of us who regularly use instrumentation to consider laying aside our instruments for a song—or maybe even a whole service—and lifting our voices unaccompanied in a cappella praise.
Here are five important reasons to consider singing more congregational and choir songs unaccompanied:
- A Cappella singing features a God-made instrument. Musical instruments are fashioned by men, but the human voice is fashioned by God. Something transcendent happens when the unadorned voices of God’s children are lifted in heartfelt praise. While I’m not adamant about only singing without accompaniment, I believe that we forfeit an important worship experience when we only sing with accompaniment.
- A Cappella singing connects us spiritually to one another. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Did you catch that? We actually instruct and reprove one another as we sing to God. Singing a cappella increases our shared vulnerability and humanity to the end that we might be more spiritually connected to one another.
- A Cappella singing encourages participating rather than spectating. Let’s be honest: sometimes a stirring pipe organ or a rocking praise band can be overwhelming—even intimidating. And it’s tempting for folks not to sing when they can’t hear themselves. But standing in the midst of a congregation raising their collective unaccompanied voices to God inspires participation. Even the most shy and least musical are drawn in.
- A Cappella singing requires following a leader and listening to one another. Singing unaccompanied requires more precision and nuance than the kind of “karaoke” worship that happens when we sing along with the words as they appear on the screen. Rather, singing a cappella involves a kind of spiritual discipline that obliges us to follow the music leader and tune our voices with those around us.
- A Cappella singing celebrates the unity in our diversity. When we sing unaccompanied, it’s easier to hear all the vocal parts. Bass, baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano voices are woven together to create something greater than the sum of their voices. And though our parts may be different, melody and harmonies are unified in a common song lifted to the One God and Father of us all.
If you’re not taking some time each week or month to include a cappella songs (or portions of songs done in an a cappella setting), we hope these thoughts have been persuasive.
In the meantime, DiscoverWorship.com’s catalog contains more than 30 a cappella selections for choirs and ensembles; perhaps checking out these arrangements will be a good starting point.
So lay down your instruments...and lift up your voices!
--For more helpful articles about blended worship services and the issue of musical style, check out www.discoverworship.com and these articles:
- Arguing the Merits of a Blended Worship Service
- How Can We Add Musical Diversity to our Services?
- The Non-Issue of Style: It's Just Worth It
- Can Too Much New Get Old?
- Variety for Variety's Sake?
- 5 Compelling Reasons to Do More A Cappella Singing
- Worship on the Radio
- Expanding Our Worship Playlist
- The Age of the Top 25 CCLI Worship Songs
- The Both/And of Worship