So here is the big question - do backing tracks work?
There are any number of websites out there which will provide you with midi files, mp3s or even whole multitrack computer programs to accompany your singing. Garage Hymnal provides backing tracks for most of our songs - basically just the album recording but with the vocals turned off so you can sing along (for example - on the webpage for Hallelujah you can download an mp3 to sing to).
But I wonder how useful these things really are. Partly I guess the problem is that most backing tracks are just the cd arrangement without vocals, not tailored to the purpose (so, for example, timing could be an issue in sections without a rhythm instrument). Worse, many backing tracks (particularly the MIDI ones) just sound plain cheesy, reminding everyone how awesome it would be if there were a real band to accompany them, but giving them something which falls far short of the ideal.
Personally, I'd prefer to sing a cappella, or at least in a style which suits the actual meeting we are engaged in. There is something a little bit too 'karaoke' about singing to an invisible band in a room which plainly is not appropriate for the style of music being made - a mismatch between what we're hearing (stadium rock band) and what we're seeing (intimate gathering of precious believers). It just reinforces that small churches are somehow second best - an imitation, not the real thing.
Whereas I believe that small church music should be it's own beautifully simple genre: playing to our strengths, enabling me to hear my neighbour clearly, reminding me that singing together is a profoundly unifying experience whether we have instruments or not.
Maybe I'm just being too purist - maybe there are resources out there to genuinely help churches sing who don't have musicians. What do you think?