By R.J. Stevens
Singing praises to God in worship by God’s people will always be done in this life and in the world to come. Paul exhorted the brethren at Rome, “That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6). He also encouraged the brethren at Corinth to pray and sing with spirit and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to command the church at Colosse, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). Hebrews 2:11-12 says, “For both He that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.” Hebrews 13:15 says, “By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise continually, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.”
The above passages emphasize the importance of spiritual singing, especially when the church assembles together. Singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs is as important in worshipping God as any other act of worship. God knows what is best for his people and he has specifically told us in his word what to sing and the manner in which we are to sing praises to Him. In our assemblies we ask brethren to lead the congregation in prayers. We also ask brethren to lead the congregation in the study of God’s word. Brethren are asked to lead the congregation in praising God in song. It is always best to call on brethren to lead in prayer, to lead in teaching and to lead in singing who have prepared themselves to lead in these areas. Many times brethren are asked to lead who have no desire to lead. Worship is to glorify God and edify brethren. If a person is indifferent about leading in the assembly, he will not glorify God or edify his brethren.
A church should train men and boys to be leaders in our assemblies in a training class. The assembly for worship is not a training class. Churches that have men and boys who are capable song leaders am fortunate. However, there are many churches that don’t have song leaders who can stir the congregation to love and good works (Heb. 10:24). This is not because no one has the ability to lead, but it is usually because no one has applied himself to grow in this ability. Every good song leader was weak when he started. It takes time and effort to grow in our abilities.
I can remember when I was a boy when churches within a radius of fifty miles of home would call my dad to lead singing for their gospel meetings. I have been called on many times to lead singing for churches that have good song leaders in their membership. Many of the preachers in years past who would preach meetings would have a song leader to go with him to direct the singing. These men realized that poor singing can almost kill a meeting. No one objects to having another preacher come to lead the congregation in the study of God’s word. Sometimes the local preacher is a more capable preacher than the one who preaches the meeting. If we can accept having another preacher from another congregation do the preaching in a gospel meeting, we ought to be able to accept having another song leader from another congregation do the song leading for a gospel meeting. If the leaders of a congregation feel that this will make the meeting more effective, no one should object. The ideal arrangement is to have someone in the local congregation who has prepared himself to lead so that the singing will be an asset to the meeting.
Nearly every gospel preacher I have known will say that good congregational singing adds much to the success of a gospel meeting. Good spiritual singing makes a preacher want to preach. I believe that at least twenty minutes ought to be spent in singing praises to God before the sermon. It is also effective when the song leader has planned the song service to have a theme that is related to the preacher’s sermon. Halley’s Bible Handbook gives some of the best observations concerning congregational singing and song leading I have ever read (pp. 740-741). I recommend that all song leaders and those interested in the song service read this material.
“I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live: I will sing praise to my God while I have my being” (Psa. 104:33).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 16, p. 18
August 19, 1993