By Weldon E. Warnock
Not enough emphasis is put on singing in many congregations. Consequently, the singing has become drab, dull and dead. Singing should inspire, comfort, console and edify our hearts and lift up our spirits. God’s people have something to sing about and it ought to show in the manner in which we sing. But good singing can be frustrated in several ways.
(1) Good singing can be frustrated if we do not sing. Some brethren never open their mouths in praise to God, including some preachers. The Bible says, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). In Colossians 3:16, Paul states, “teaching and admonishing one another.” Paul did not say, “Listen,” but rather, “speak, teach and admonish.”
Too, some who do sing hardly speak above a whisper. Brethren, when we sing, “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” let us sing it with exuberance and conviction – not with an apathetic gesture.
(2) Good singing can be frustrated by incompetent song leaders. Not everybody is a song leader. Some are not gifted with this particular talent, while others need training and developing to become adept. Some men who try to lead cannot pitch a song. Most of the time they pitch it too high or too low and this makes the song very difficult to sing.
Some leaders do not have the feel for the tempo of a song. They drag it “to death,” and the song loses its impact. For example, the song, “I Want to Be a Worker” must be sung with vitality to reflect the sentiment. On the other hand, some songs must be sung slowly and quietly.
Furthermore, song leaders need to be enthusiastic and take charge of the service. They are the directors. They must make the assembly follow them, not them follow the assembly. They should provide continuity from one song to another and from the song to the prayer, and not allow the service to be abrupt and chopped up as though the whole hour of worship is mechanically programmed. In other words, put your personality and heart into the service. We are people – not machines!
While we are speaking on song leaders, I have not understood why some brethren during a gospel meeting do not use exclusively the best they have to lead the singing. Churches pay hundreds of dollars to bring a preacher across several states to preach, but let any and everybody lead the singing during the meeting. Why not have gospel meetings with different speakers from the congregation? If the purpose of having different song leaders is to give everybody a turn to lead and not hurt anyone’s feelings, then why not do this toward preaching as well? We need to “put our best foot forward” for the Lord and use able song leaders on such occasions. In my judgment, the same song leader during a gospel meeting works better than three or four or more.
Several years ago song leaders traveled with some of the preachers for gospel meetings. Churches also invited song leaders from far and near to lead their singing during meetings. What great singing they had. We need to do the same thing today if we have no competent leaders.
A couple more things about song leaders. They need to dress in a way that reflects the dignity of the service and they need to sit up front. Some dress so casually, sporting their faded denim pants and jogging shoes with their shirts hanging out. Not a few like to sit back in the audience after they finish and then have to walk clear to the front to begin the invitation song. Those few seconds of silence seem like an eternity.
(3) Good singing can be frustrated by poor judgment in selection of songs. (This section could have been placed under point two as song leaders are responsible for selecting songs.) To select new songs for a gospel meeting or Sunday services my be catastrophic. Have you ever led a song with a tenor lead and when you got to that part – total silence? What an embarrassment! There should have been some previous practice before the song was used. Well-known songs are more appropriate under such circumstances. Otherwise, you may wind-up with a solo by the song leader.
Song leaders have distracted from the worship by choosing an unfamiliar song for the communion hymn or invitation song and then go over the notes before they sang. How unwise! One leader, after the preacher spoke on hell and painted a vivid picture of this awesome place, led for the invitation, “Are You Ready to Go?” Here is where the preacher and the song leader should work together in the selection of songs.
We will not go wrong in selecting some of the old songs that have warmed the cockles of our hearts through the years. No greater songs have been written than “Amazing Grace,” “Sweet By and By … .. Never Grow Old,” “Standing On the Promises,” “The Old-Rugged Cross,” “There’s Power In the Blood,” and a host of others that could be enumerated. Yes, let’s learn new songs, but let’s not overlook the old hymns of Zion in the meantime.
(4) Good singing can be frustrated if we are indifferent toward singing. Some brethren look upon singing as no more than a duty. But it should be a joy. The sweet singer of Israel said, “0 come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation” (Psa. 95: 1). James wrote, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms” (Jas. 5:13).
When we love to sing and place the emphasis on singing that it deserves, we will put forth the effort to improve the quality of our singing. We will have more singing schools and more practice sessions, and the members will learn the basics of music and the potential song leaders will also learn how to pitch and direct the singing.
A greater interest in singing will get us away from the routine of “two songs and a prayer,” and we can have a song service for 15, 20 or 25 minutes prior to preaching. A good idea is to gear the singing around the sermon topic. If the topic is “The Cross of Christ,” songs can be selected about the cross. Yes, we need a revival of interest toward gospel singing.
(5) Good singing can be frustrated by poor acoustics. Some how, some way, some of us have gotten in our minds that we need acoustical tile in the ceiling of the auditorium. This absorbs the sound and makes it difficult to blend our voices. The ceiling and the walls should be so constructed in order to have good reverberation. I know of some churches that removed the acoustical tile and replaced it with plaster or a hard tile to improve the sound. What a difference it made.
We plan on being in a church building for many years to come. Why hesitate to correct an acoustical problem because of the cost and sacrifice good congregational singing? We would not wait to correct some flaw in the building if it affected our comfort, but some of us hesitate if it affects the quality of our acts of worship. Sometimes we get our priorities out of the right order.
In conclusion, let’s strive to make our singing vibrant, lively, stimulating and spiritual so that God will be glorified and the saints edified. Singing can be a great influence in public worship, but also at home, at work and at play. Let us sing with grace and thanksgiving in our hearts unto the Lord.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 24, pp. 739-740
December 19, 1985