Left out

LaHaye and Jenkins have their Left Behind,[1] and I have my own “Left Out.”

My tiny take on a tiny slice of Christendom Pie paints no armageddish picture (but it does mix metaphors!).  Truthfully, it’s rather un-cataclysmic.  For most of you, this is probably rather boring, so the only connection with “Left Behind” may be the word “left.”


At times, I am left out of the goings-on in church gatherings because music is not made available when I’m supposed to be singing.  I don’t like being left out—and again, this is nothing like being left behind if there were to be a rapture (I doubt there will be)—but the fact is, I am left out.


Displaying music on PowerPoint slides (or in hymnals) acknowledges general congregational literacy and enables the musically literate worshippers to take part fully.

Stated in the Negative

Not displaying music assumes general illiteracy and disables some of us musically literate worshippers who don’t know the song.

How is it, exactly, that I am disabled?  If I end up guessing whether F goes to G next, or to Eb, I’m wrong half the time. I choose not to be more distracted by intuiting the notes than by being passive.  Hmmm.  That was some awkward phrasing, so let me try again….  Either way, I’m going to be distracted some, and for me, it’s usually better not to try to sing at all when there’s no music notation and I don’t know the song.  My soul does better in just trying to listen and maybe meditating for a few instants on some concept in a line I hear, than in trying and failing to sing the right notes.

Take either the positive or the negative, and affirm or deny.  I’d like to see your thoughts.

People who think displaying at least the melody line of the music is “elitist” may be 12% right, but is that 12% worth leaving some of us out?  I really don’t like being left out.  On the other hand, I am finding it necessary to make at least some allowances for trends in the church at large.

I do have to wonder whether I’ll be able to sing anything at all in 10 or 20 years if the enterprise of displaying music continues its recalcitrant path in so many churches.

[1] I have little use for the whole hyped-up LaHaye series because a) it is, well, hyped up, and b) it assumes the “rapture” and other eschatological events that I do not assume.


10 thoughts on “Left out

  1. Glenn 08/15/2011 / 12:08 am

    Your musical training is a curse. Beth suffers the same malady.

    Nothing personal, but you probably just need to get over yourself and try to consider it from the Worshipped’s perspective. We all do. 🙂


  2. Brian Casey 08/15/2011 / 10:27 am

    I guess I’m trying to “get over myself,” but it’s a long process. It’s not all a decision *I* can make, though. I make a lot of mistakes without trying, so I somehow have an inability to make a bunch more when it IS in my control. Put more clearly: I can be somewhat content in not singing when there’s no music to follow, because not trying-and-failing on the audible front can free my heart to worship at least some. Isn’t that the Worshipped’s perspective, to some degree?

    If there are options–and there are, at least for now–I still think churches ought to display music somehow. In 5 or 10 years, the options may not be the same, since more and more non-music-people are making decisions about music things.

    In the meantime, my spirit moves musically in other arenas, and I merely endure in larger church settings most of the time.


    • Glenn 08/16/2011 / 2:31 pm

      Sure, I understand it’s a long process – probably longer than it should be (imo) because of our heritage/training.

      Maybe churches should display music for those that can read music. But I think most leaders assume that people 1) can only (or are going to) sing the melody/lead and 2) the lead can be learned with enough repetition. That’s probably a fairly safe assumption for those who haven’t grown up attending a traditional corporate church assembly. I assert that most people that don’t have that background don’t expect to be able to read the music and follow along – they listen to the tune just like they’d listen to the radio, then after the first couple of repetitions – they sing along.

      From another perspective, during my last few years in a worship assembly I often wondered why devout worshipers continued to stare at a hymnal to sing songs of praise which they had sung repeatedly for the last 40 years. Hopefully, it is just a habit they can’t break, and not their inability to memorize a simple hymn.

      I have a weak theory though, which is related to my continual frustration with being able to navigate my local shopping mall. I never seem to be able to find my way around that place. Here’s why – I believe that I unconsciously refuse to internalize the map of the place because I don’t care about being there. It’s not that I hate being there – it’s just that I don’t go there for any kind of pleasure like some. I go there to get what I need, and to get out as quickly as possible. So, I always end up looking one of the mall maps while I’m there. I think some do the same when singing hymns – unfortunately, and they’ve never internalized / related to / loved / treasured / enjoyed the words they are actually singing. Again, just a weak theory.

      Back to the ranch, I’m wondering if early church believers had any of the same issues regarding music? Do you think they struggled with something similar in music presentation preferences from generation to generation?


    • Brian Casey 08/19/2011 / 11:55 am

      Right, Glenn–if we think outside our heritage, the perception of such processes (and pretty much everything else in the Kingdom sphere) needs reevaluation!

      Your assumptions about leaders’ assumptions seem pretty much on target to me, but I don’t think that presents a complete picture. In other words, there are still plenty of people who can and do read music (at least until the illiteracy trends fully take over…), and if music were displayed or available in print, the overall musical “product” would be X% more satisfying experientially. (Note that I’m not saying anything about how God hears it.) In some churches, it might be only a 5-10% gain, but in the ones I’ve experienced in the last 10 years or so, I’d estimate the musical output gain to be closer to 40-50%.

      I guess we could question the devout-itude of “worshippers” who stare at hymnals (or the screen) and don’t think about what they’re singing. Then again, maybe the dullness of face and blankness of expression doesn’t always indicate anything about what’s within. 🙂 It took me years to get to the point that I could allow for those days that we just don’t feel like singing, for instance. I still have conscientious trouble laying out for more than a stanza, even if my throat is sore, but I have a lot easier time allowing for others who don’t sing from time to time.

      I don’t know that your theory is so weak. 🙂 Truly treasuring things does surely contribute to internalization. And I suspect that a great proportion of early believers had less trouble internalizing and treasuring important things.

      I completely resonate with your experience of malls. I do, however, remember the silverware placements. 🙂


    • Glenn 08/16/2011 / 2:38 pm

      Btw, I have the weird non-permanence issue about where to place silverware. I simply cannot recall which sides the fork/knife/spoon are to be placed. Sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. My children and wife give me grief constantly, which you think would be enough motivation for me to internalize those rules. I even have a picture on my cell phone so that I can refer to it. Again, I think it’s a subconscious defiance to remember something that doesn’t have any value.


  3. Rachel 08/16/2011 / 8:25 am

    Yes, yes, yes – If sheet music is available, why not show it instead of the fancy colored backgrounds and things (at least at some churches, mine included). I sometimes find myself getting to the end of a “new” song, realizing that I barely thought anything about the content and a lot about trying to get the right notes. But then I feel self-conscious NOT to try to sing (which is probably bad too)…

    I’m not sure it would particularly “hurt” the people who can’t read music, and it would help the people who could, so why not? And maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if one or two of the “musically illiterate” decided that maybe they would like to read music so they, too, could sing the songs they didn’t know!

    And while we’re speaking of it, why is it that so many churches don’t have ANY part singing? It is so refreshing to go to a German Baptist church and hear everyone (or nearly everyone) singing, in balanced parts… They’re certainly not musically elitist, but they did learn part singing through their church.


    • Brian Casey 08/19/2011 / 11:44 am

      To respond from what I take as the modern church’s perspective, the fancy colored (and even *animated* ones, right?) backgrounds are cool, and they make us look cool, and we believe they attract cool people to our cool churches. 🙂 On some level, music notation appears to require something of us, i.e., more concentration. So it’s not as cool, and I’ve even heard it called “elitist.”

      I agree that having music doesn’t really “hurt” non-music readers, and I would add that many people who don’t consider themselves music readers can actually be helped by some music notation. Most are literate; most were educated in American public schools where at least some level of music reading was taught. And, as you point out, some might actually want to learn more about how to read music!

      I miss part-singing, too. You’ve mentioned German Baptists before, but I’ve never seen a building with that sign out front. I’ll have to investigate!


  4. Rachel 08/19/2011 / 11:59 am

    You wouldn’t typically see a “sign out front.” A lot of groups meet in a room in a building that has other functions other than just “church.” Some of my close friends are part of one of the “Old Order” (no cars or electricity) groups around here that meets in a room in a barn. The German Baptists seemed to have settled in certain regions – there are pockets around here, but we don’t really have the “Amish.” (I’m fairly certain they did not descend from the Amish, but they are Anabaptists and consider themselves “plain,” so there are some strong similarities.)


    • Brian Casey 08/19/2011 / 12:02 pm

      Interesting. I recently read accounts of Baptist-types from Germany and Poland who were forced into Russia (1600s? 1700s?). There, they mixed with some Anabaptist-types who had experienced similar persecution and censure. Could be that common ground began in Russia….


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