Congregational Worship in Song

By Hobart D. Kanatzar

I believe that the five parts of a worship service are of equal importance. We tend to put greater effort to- ward the teaching of a lesson than the breaking of bread, praying, giving, and singing. I have observed that in some congregations the part of the worship service given to singing has a lack of forethought. Some congregations are selecting songs in the last few minutes before the start of the worship service.

Singing of hymns during a worship service is required by God. As we sing praises to God, we teach and admonish each other (Col. 3:16). To best use the song service it should complement the lesson given by the evangelist. The use of songs to complement the thoughts of the lesson requires pre-planning by the evangelist and the song leader. The two confer during the week and select songs that lead one’s thoughts to those to be presented by the evangelist.

After the songs have been selected, the song leader reviews the words in each song. The words used by the poet will establish the tempo that the song is to be sung in. Some songs are to be sung as an anthem, some as reflecting joy and gladness, and some as serious. Some songs are written to have more than one tempo to express the thought being portrayed. I have in mind the song “Did You Think To Pray.” This song starts with somber and serious thoughts. The chorus changes to thankful thoughts and the last four words put forth a strong remembrance. A properly sung song will lead the congregation to sing from the heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:19).

Another point that a song leader must consider is to determine if the songs selected meet the singing capabilities of the congregation. If selected songs have leading parts done by the alto, bass, or tenor voices, the congregation must have the capability to sing the parts. Selecting songs that the congregation cannot sing properly has a negative effect on the worship service.

The evangelist studies how that he may best present the lesson to the congregation to achieve the best results. A song leader must work toward the same end results in the song service. A song leader must use expression in his voice to match the words of the song. Good eye contact is necessary to lead the congregation in the thoughts expressed. Beside having a complementary facial expression, the song book should be on the podium so that, when necessary, both hands and arms can be used in directing the song. At times alto, tenor, or bass parts need to be brought in on time. The director should be well enough known by the congregation that he can use his left hand to bring in whatever part is required. The words of a song can, at times, be better expressed by singing softly or mid-voice or loudly which requires a director to give the proper arm and hand motions to the congregation. This is another reason for the song book to be on the podium and not held by the director.

To be able to start a song on the proper pitch can best be accomplished by a pitch pipe. Each member of the congregation should hear the pitch whether it comes from the pitch pipe or the director. When a song leader pitches a song so that he is the only one who hears the pitch and starts the song, it may be several words into the song before the congregation can find their note and start to sing.

Some song leaders do not have a voice strong enough to lead a congregation in a song service. The song leader must start strong and be able to be heard by the congregation throughout the song. Usually, a song leader not heard by the congregation will allow the congregation to pull the tempo down to a funeral dirge which detracts from the meaning of the song.

Today’s attitude towards dress is of a casual nature. This is an area that we need to seriously consider. In the Old Testament, God required the priests that served in the temple to wash and clean themselves and dress as prescribed by God. When you attend a wedding or a funeral, the accepted dress is a suit for men and a dress for women. Here you are only honoring a human being. It is of far greater importance to dress in clothing that is the best that we have for a worship service. I say the best that we have because during the Great Depression some people owned only work clothes. These people would be clean when they came to worship. I have never seen a preacher get up to deliver a worship service lesson dressed in anything other than a suit. My feeling is that a song leader is as important to the worship service as a preacher; therefore, a suit is appropriate for the song leader during a worship service. Some people today dress for the Sunday morning service in a suit or dress and then come to the evening and Wednesday worship services dressed for some casual sporting event. My understanding is that all worship services are of equal importance. By dressing in a casual manner we automatically establish that one worship service has more importance than the other.

One other thought that is necessary to consider. An evangelist spends hours preparing a lesson that will hopefully cause a person to become a child of God. The evangelist will bring the congregation’s thoughts to a point where someone may be encouraged to answer the invitation. The song leader should be on the front row so that he may take only a few steps and start the song with a minimum of delay. Some song leaders want to sit with their families in the rear of the building. This requires some bit of a delay to walk to the front of the building to start the song. This delay could cause a negative effect on some who may have been considering answering the call.