As a visitor in the congregation, when I open my mouth to sing the hymns, I suddenly realize I am singing a solo. It is a rare occasion indeed when I get to visit a worship service where the congregation is truly uniting their voices in singing praises to God in a purposeful, joyous, and effective way. It isn't that they are unfamiliar with the words or the tunes. They just don't put forth any effort.
No, I do not think I am being a musical snob because I sing with a group of highly skilled musicians. This is not about wishing the lay ministry could be of professional quality. It is more a comment on our society as a whole nowadays. We are a consumer culture. We want to be entertained with no effort on our part beyond turning on our device. We want to do no work and definitely take no responsibility. How very selfish! What we are missing is so great.
Music is a gift from God. It has great power to lift the spirit and calm the soul. It can be used to motivate and influence mood and underscore life's dramatic moments. It can be used for good and evil. It has great power to unite people in a common experience.
Creating music is powerful, too. Live performance in creating worship music is a wonderful thing. It can channel thoughts and influence emotions. It can help invite the Spirit into your life. The simple act of hymn singing can do so much good.
My hope is that the people who play the organ and lead the singing will prepare themselves to reach a higher level of expertise and never stop working to get better and better. I hope that they will encourage better singing in the congregation by their preparation and example. I know that this can happen. I have witnessed it in my own life. We have moved many times in the course of my life. In nearly every place we moved to, the hymn singing and musicianship of the members was pretty lack luster at first. But after a good dose of our family's example and encouragement, things improved. It can be done, but it takes effort and preparation and encouragement and a belief that there is a better way. Being a church musician is a great responsibility. Only you can make sure church musicians don't become a vanishing breed!