Remy, the delightful and culinarily gifted rodent in Ratatouille, once replied to the statement, “Anyone can cook” by saying, “Well, yeah, anyone can, that doesn’t mean anyone should.” Wise words. Words that can be related to other areas of talent, as well.

Everyone, at one time or another, has had the skin crawling experience of having to listen to a person who thinks he or she can sing, but really can’t. Rather than delighting their listeners with a soothing musical interlude, these wanna-be singers have voices that evoke a nails on a chalkboard reaction.

And the greatest enablers of these singers?

The church.

Every Sunday congregations across America are subjected to performances from members of worship teams who simply can’t sing. These deluded divas confidently hold microphones to their lips, close their eyes in worshipful abandon, and cause the members of the congregation who are not tone-deaf to white knuckle the pews in front of them.

As I’ve contemplated this cacophonous catastrophe, I’ve asked myself two specific questions:

  1. Why is it that so many people who can’t sing think that they can sing?
  2. Why is it that the worship leaders at churches put these misguided individuals on their worship teams?

Here are my five conclusions to the first question.

  • First, a lot of people just can’t hear how they sound. I think all of us have had the experience of hearing ourselves on a recording for the first time and feeling shocked at the sound of our own voices. The voice we hear in our heads sounds different from the voice other people hear. The consequence of this auditory distortion is that some people have inaccurate opinions about what their vocal chords are actually projecting, resulting in their “Yeehaaa! I’m good! I think I’ll join the worship team!” reasoning.
  • Second, a lot of people are just plain tone deaf. They don’t know what sounds good so they can’t discern their own shortcomings. They can’t tell if a note is flat or sharp, or if their tone is shrill or jarring, and their lack of musical discernment leads them astray. Also, because a portion of their listeners are also tone deaf, and erroneously compliment the untalented singer, the delusion continues.
  • Third, some people are so starved for attention and have such a craving to be a star that they blind themselves to their lack of talent. They don’t understand that just because they want to sing, doesn’t mean that they actually can sing.Their all-encompassing desire for acclaim blinds them to the truth about their own abilities usually leading them to disappointment and humiliation such as we have seen in outtakes from shows like American Idol.
  • Fourth, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, and the ever-adoring nanna tell the singer she can sing and she believes it. The problem is that Nanna thinks everthing her darling grandchild does is perfect. Her grand baby just has to let out a tiny squawk and nanna is ready to rush her off to Nashville or the Met. So what Wanda the warbler needs to grasp is that Nanna and other family members cannot correctly assess her vocal talents because they are blinded by their love for her.
  • Fifth, people lie. People will tell deluded singers they can sing because they either don’t want to hurt their feelings, or because the person is a friend and they are afraid of losing the friendship if they are honest. Add to that a handful of bamboozling music teachers, out to make a few bucks, and voila! we have ourselves deluded singers.

But what about my second question? Why, if these singers are so bad, do worship leaders allow them to join their worship teams? I have five conclusion for this as well.

  • First, some worship leaders can’t discern talent. Most worship leaders are great at leading worship. But over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that some of these wonderful worship leaders simply can’t assess talent very well. If a person isn’t completely off key, they think they’ve found a singer! But the bulk of t he congregation knows the truth. She can’t sing!
  • Second, worship leaders, in smaller churches especially, are desperate to have singers and therefore will accept virtually anybody onto the worship team. (Hey! even I’ve been on a worship team! Face palms.) There seems to be this mentality in the worship community that more is better. The more instruments they have the better. The more volume they have the better. And the more people standing on the platform with a microphone to their lips, the better. But these worship leaders need to fall back on the old saying – less is more. They need to make excellence their goal, not quantity. Personally, I would rather have just one person with a guitar singing on key than twenty singers and instrumentalists having no genuine ability.
  • Third, worship leaders are nice guys (sometimes gals) and they are afraid of hurting a auditioner’s feelings. It’s got to be tough being a worship leader. So many people have the “I can sing” mentality who really can’t sing, and the worship leader is the person who has to tell them they can’t be on the team. As a result, some worship leaders just decide to avoid an unpleasant scene and let the discordant diva join up, hoping that the congregation won’t notice how bad she is. But dear worship leader, I’ve gotta tell ya, we do notice.
  • Fourth, sometimes churches are filled with families and extended families. The consequence of this worship wise is that Armando thinks his cousin Annabelle sings like Adele , and Mary thinks her brother Marco sings like Michael Buble and they urge the worship leader to add their kin-folk to the team. And of course, nice guy that the worship leader is, he again doesn’t want conflict so he goes along with it.
  • And fifth, there is this mentality within many churches that “it doesn’t matter what a person sounds like as long as that person is worshipping the Lord from his or her heart.” This is just wrong. Our worship teams should always strive for excellence. Our worship leaders must aim for giving God the very best. Just as the children of Israel were instructed to bring the best of their flocks and livestock for a sacrifice to the Lord, our worship needs to be the very best we can offer to God. People who can’t sing should be singing from their hearts as part of the congregation, but not on the church platform!

In conclusion, I’d just like to to make a heart felt plea to all of the wonderful, hardworking worship leaders out there.

Dear worship leaders,

I respectfully ask that you help your congregations to stop white knuckling their pews. Free us from the curse of bad singers. Free the bad singers from the humiliation they are bound to eventually experience. And relieve the members of your flock from the painful, ear aching effects we endure from people who think they can sing, but can’t. Take it from Remy the rat – just because anyone can (sing), doesn’t mean anyone should.


Marty Pena – Busted eardrum, broken fingernailed survivor of atrociously bad singers