Jump Start # 2152
Psalms 59:16 “But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, for You have been my stronghold and a refuge in the day of my distress.”
Singing joyfully in the morning! What a great way to start the day. Singing to the Lord helps remind you of how great and important the Lord is to us. The way this verse is written, sounds personal and private. It is what one does at home.
Singing with the congregation, singing in worship, is a sore spot with some. “I don’t like the way we sing,” is something I hear quite a bit. Since we addressed, “I don’t like my church,” yesterday, I thought we would just carry this thought on. I don’t like the way we sing, has many layers to it.
First, someone may not like the type of songs that are sung. That can be a constant battle in a congregation. It’s often a generational struggle. One generation rarely likes the other generation’s songs. For my dad, it was big band music of the 1940’s. He was with us on a recent trip. We had on a station that played big band music. He was singing away. After about three songs, they all sounded the same to me. For me, my music of choice is the ‘60s. Beatles, Hollies, Zombies, sprinkled in with a few 70’s like Chicago, Eagles. I can listen to that stuff all day long. My kids like more contemporary songs. I was riding with my youngest the other day. He had a song for me to hear. Never heard of the singer or song. Song wasn’t bad, but it seemed like he was screaming the whole time. My response was, “it’d be a great song if he just sang and not screamed so much.” His response was, “dad, that’s the way it was supposed to be.” Different tastes in music. That spills over into worship. The younger crowd likes the newer version of Amazing Grace. The older crowd likes the original Amazing Grace. The younger crowd likes peppy songs that move. The older crowd likes the slow traditional songs.
So, when someone proclaims, “I don’t like the singing,” it may be a matter of taste. If you are in a small congregation and you have only one or two song leaders, you may not get much variety.
Second, some song leaders actually lead and others just start the song and the audience leads and the song leader follows the audience. I’ve seen song leaders that really didn’t understand music try to lead. That’s tough. It helps knowing something about the notes, the tempo and what you are doing. Some take every song that they lead and they slow it down, stretching out every expression. I’ve seen a guy lead so slow that one would have thought that he fell asleep between words. Some song leaders haven’t expanded the list of songs that they know. So when they lead, they lead the same songs over and over. This may cause some to declare, “I don’t like our singing.” If you as a song leader do not understand what you are doing, or music, try to improve. Find someone who can help you. Listen to some CD’s of songs. Practice at home and in the car. Strive to improve. Strive to give the Lord your best. If you have a singing service, try some new songs. There are many ways to step up our singing. Have folks over to your home for a singing.
Legend has it that the singing was so pitiful in Midway, KY, back in the 1850’s, that a progressive preacher introduced an instrument to help improve things. I expect he was looking for any reason to introduce his progressive ideas. Instead of working on singing better, he sought a different way to deal with the problem.
Third, singing is a valuable tool that the whole family can do together. The little one’s learn the books of the Bible and the names of the apostles through songs. VBS songs are designed for the little ones and they can be a fun way to kill time while driving down the road. They teach great principles and it’s an easy transition to the deeper songs that are sung in worship. Singing isn’t filler time. It’s not the two minute warning to gather all the books and put on jackets and get ready to leave. It’s our time to praise God. It’s our time to encourage others. Songs stay with us and they stick in our memory. “Whispering Hope” was sung at my grandfather’s funeral more than 40 years ago. I still remember that. That song takes me back to that day. That’s the power of songs.
Fourth, as a congregation, there ought to be a spirit of always giving God our best. We want the preacher to bring his A game. We want the prayers to be thought out. Singing, likewise, needs to be the best that we can do. Song leaders need to pick out their songs before they are walking up to the front of the auditorium to begin leading. There are circumstances in which the one scheduled to lead couldn’t make it, but on most days, it ought to be decided in advance and the song leader needs to be ready before he walks into the church building. Give it some thought. Call the preacher and tie the songs in with the lesson. Don’t just lead songs that you like, but think about where the congregation is and what’s going on and realize you help by leading songs that are fitting and timely. There has been a sudden death and everyone seems to be in a fog about it. Not a good time to sing, “I’m happy today.” The reason is, they are not happy today. Preachers do this all the time. They fit their choice of sermon with what is going on. It’s a connecting thing. We ought to do the same with our singing. The choice of songs can help or it can hurt the spirit of worship. Don’t introduce all new songs on a Sunday morning that no one knows but the song leader. Not the right time for that. Get a few others and learn the songs in private or bring out new songs on a singing service.
“Oh, why not tonight,” is a great song to be sung at the end of a sermon, but not in the morning service. That song works at night. I’ve been places and we’ve sung “Oh why not tonight,” at high noon. As we are singing, I’m thinking, Oh why not now. Put some thought into what songs you select and do they fit the need of the hour.
Some folks sing too loud from the pew. Some song leaders lead too quietly from the pulpit. Those things can be worked on. They can be improved. Don’t give up. Don’t resign yourself to “I don’t like our singing,” and thereby, you don’t sing, or worse, you become bitter and complain about it all the time.
On our recent trip to Italy, we were with our dear friends from our congregation. We visited a very small church building that dated to about the 3rd or 4th century. It was made of stone. It had an arching roof that was made of stone. My friend Bob, who is an amazing musician, started singing, “God is so good.” Soon all of us were singing, even off-key, out-of-tune, Roger, and it just filled that place. It was amazing. We were singing and looking up at the arched stone ceiling, not realizing that we were no longer the only people there. When finished, a few people who had stopped to hear us sing, complimented us. Those early folks knew what they were doing. Our modern construction leans toward beauty and not acoustics. That can be another reason why singing doesn’t sound so good in some places. We left that place wishing we could have a stone room in our church building to sing in.
I don’t like our singing. Well, my thought is, what are you going to do about that? Not sing? Quit? Complain and make everyone else miserable? Find ways to improve. Do your best. Encourage others to do their best. This is part of our worship to God. The first fruits. The best of the flock. That was the spirit of the O.T. We need to carry that spirit into our worship. Giving God our best, but doing our best.
Learn. Practice. Have patience. Develop. Challenge yourselves. Give God your best. All of those will go a long way into making our worship better.