As a worship leader, I hear it and see it all the time. Most people do not like to sing. Well, not in public, anyway. In the car? Maybe. In the shower? Definitely. In church? Only if you make me.
Let's cut to the chase: people don't like singing because people don't like vulnerability. And to quote myself, if I may, singing "puts us in our undies."
I had a mind-blowing conversation with other worship leaders where it was revealed that even they feel self-conscious when singing in a congregation. These people are the very ones who jump on stage and belt into a microphone to lead others in song. For real? Yes, me, too.
And this is precisely why singing is part of worship. Because it makes us feel uncomfortable and exposed for the sake of giving all attention and glory to God alone.
For as long as people have been getting together to worship God, there's been worship songs. For Israel, the Psalms paint a picture of praise and lament in song (Psalm 33:1-3, Psalm 96:1-2, Psalm 5:11, Psalm 9:11). For the Christian Church, the New Testament offers example after example of singing in worship (Ephesians 5:19-20, James 5:13, Matthew 26:30, Acts 16:25). In my experience of today's churches, singing has always held a prominent position, no matter the style or denomination.
So, if singing is so spiritually significant, and if it's not an easy thing to have people do together, what encouragement can we bring as worship leaders?
First, we name it. We put these very truths before the congregation, letting everybody know that everybody knows how vulnerable everybody feels. And likewise, everybody knows that there is spiritual value in the act of singing anyway.
Also, know that our very act of singing confidently into a microphone gives others permission to sing with and under our voices. With strong vocal leadership, the congregation is invited to lift their voices in unity. This doesn't necessarily require a rock-star voice, but in the least a heart sold-out for worshiping God.
And not to stir up the controversial waters of "too loud" vs. "too quiet", but the sound tech also has a powerful role to play in this. If the overall sound isn't present enough in the house, each worshiper will end up hearing his or her neighbors more than the leader. This dynamic could offer communal value, but it also leaves the atmosphere wide open for rampant vulnerability and people holding back.
In the end, we can't make singing any less exposing, nor should we. As leaders of worship, we should lead others into that vulnerable space with the confidence that God lifts up the humble (2 Corinthians 12:9, John 3:30, James 4:6) as the humble glorify His name above their own.