Why should we sing?

I don’t go looking for posts about congregational singing, but a couple of blogs I follow comment on or link to blog posts on the topic fairly often.

The prevailing consensus is that congregational singing is declining. I have not noticed that myself, but apparently others have.

Naturally, people want to find the problem and fix it. A number of possible reasons for this decline have been proposed.

Some say that the congregation doesn’t sing as well since the advent of worship teams. Some blame this on the atmosphere seeming more like a concert than a church service. Others point blame at the number of instruments on stage, the loudness of the music, the singing of new songs that no one knows, the difficulty of some of those songs for a congregation to sing. Some have blamed the professionalism or the commitment to excellence of the musicians, because that makes us “average Joes” feel like we don’t measure up. Sadly, many churches are eliminating performed music (what we use to call “special music”) for these reasons. The most recent article I saw said the problem started way back even before the worship team advent, when churches had choirs that “drowned out” the congregation.

My own experience is limited, of course. We’ve only visited one church where I truly felt like the stage and musicians were set up for a concert rather than congregational singing. This church had a choir and a worship team, multicolored lighting, a stage covered with instruments. I don’t think any of that would have been insurmountable, though. The one main problem was that the songleader or worship leader never told us as a congregation when to join in or invited us to sing along. As we looked around to see whether others were singing, we noticed that some were and some were not. So we didn’t know quite what to do.

Most of my church experiences have involved one songleader on stage with a choir behind him, sometimes with musicians on stage or nearby, sometimes not. The choir helps keep the pace and provide the melody for those who might not know a song. I have never been in a church where the choir “drowned out” the congregational singing.

I have been in two churches where the songleader was an actual professional in the sense of having a PhD not just in music, but in voice. In both of those churches, the singing was robust. No one seemed to be intimidated by the professionalism of the leader and others in the choir and church. Ordinary, untrained people sang special music as well as the trained ones. So I don’t think professionalism in and of itself is a factor, or at least it shouldn’t be.

There is one factor, however, that overrides any problems with congregational singing: the fact that the Bible tells us we’re supposed to sing.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! Psalm 100:1-2, ESV

Be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart. Ephesians 5:18b-19, ESV

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Colossians 3:16, ESV

We shouldn’t use these verses as clubs to beat people over the head with their responsibility, but we should encourage each other to obey God in this respect. Some have tried to encourage thinking about the songs we sing by almost preaching a small sermon between songs, sharing long Puritan readings, etc. There might be a time for that kind of thing, but usually I find that, rather than encouraging singing, it takes away from it. People get weary mentally and their minds wander (or even physically, if they’re made to stand through all of that).

I’ve long wanted to do a study of music in the Bible. I notice that in many of the psalms, singing is associated with thanksgiving. The passages above speak of singing as an outgrowth of being filled with the Spirit of God and the Word of God. Could it be that poor congregational singing is a symptom of a lack in these areas, rather than a problem in itself?

One of my soapbox issues is that our responsibility to do right before God should not depend on other people or circumstances. I can’t stand before God and blame other people for my sin. They are responsible for their influence, and they’ll have to answer for their failures and temptations. But God has promised each of His children that, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). That is true not just for avoiding sin and resisting temptation, but also for doing right. I should do the right thing whether the circumstances are conducive or not, whether anyone else is doing so or not.

Sure, it’s good to study what helps and hinders good congregational singing. But we as a congregation need to realize that whether the song is too old or too new, too high or too low, too fast or too slow, too soft or too loud, whether there is one musician or many, whether others sing better or worse or not at all, we need to sing as unto the Lord. He is worthy of our praise. Let’s overlook the petty hindrances to our comfort level and think about His greatness and goodness and all He has done for us. It will be hard to hold back from singing then!

The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him.
Psalm 28:7, NKJV

The Lord is my strength and my song;
    he has become my salvation.
Glad songs of salvation
    are in the tents of the righteous.
Psalm 118:14-15a, ESV

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Literary Musing Monday, Tell His Story, Let’s Have Coffee, Porch Stories, Woman to Woman Word-filled Wednesday, Wise Woman, Faith on Fire)

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It has been a little while since I have shared noteworthy reads with you. Here are a few:

Encouragement for Bible Reading From Puritan Women, HT to Out of the Ordinary. “Let these seventeenth-century women remind you that even if there are parts of the Bible you feel upset about or don’t understand, there is life to be found in it because God speaks to you through it.”

Always Wanting More. As Christian women, we encourage each other not to compare ourselves lest it damage our self-esteem. But the issue is much large than self-esteem.

The Cost of Surrounding Yourself With Negative People. I’ve had some of these same thoughts. Avoiding negative people is listed in a lot of self-help advice for increase your own happiness and productivity. But what if God wants you to be a light to those people? And didn’t Jesus reach out to those who were negative in every way?

Whatever Happened to Civil Debate, HT to Challies. “We’ve simply lost the ability to think deeply, engage opinions different from ours, and do so in a civilized manner.”

Thank You, God, for Failure, HT to Challies.. There is much we can learn from it.

Don’t Sing Noisy Songs, HT to Challies.. No, it’s not about contemporary vs. traditional or loud vs. soft.

What Not to Say to Someone in the Hospital.

A Simple Hinge. Neat connection to inward beauty.

I’m noting this one just because this phrase is so apt: “…the spirit of this age, which eschews thoughtful argument about difficult issues for moronic and often malicious soundbites.”

On Writing (More) by Hannah Anderson makes much sense to me though it goes against much of the other writing advice I have seen. Except the part about comments: I enjoy comments. 🙂

Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards Finalists, HT to Laura. These are always fun. One of my favorites:

Happy Saturday!

O God Beyond All Praising

I usually set an album on my phone to play as I fall asleep, and lately it’s been Beyond All Praising by the BJU Singers and Orchestra. The title comes from the last song, “O God Beyond All Praising.” This song is one of a few that leads me to almost instant worship, both the words and the majestic melody. A bit about the history of the hymn is here. A second verse written later is included here.

O God beyond all praising,
We worship you today
And sing the love amazing
That songs cannot repay;
For we can only wonder
At every gift you send,
At blessings without number
And mercies without end:
We lift our hearts before you
And wait upon your word,
We honour and adore you,
Our great and mighty Lord.

Then hear, O gracious Saviour,
Accept the love we bring,
That we who know your favour
May serve you as our king;
And whether our tomorrows
Be filled with good or ill,
We’II triumph through our sorrows
And rise to bless you still:
To marvel at your beauty
And glory in your ways,
And make a joyful duty
Our sacrifice of praise.

~ Michael Perry (1942 – 1996)

The same song sung by the Herbster family, in which the words are a little easier to understand:

Lord of the Small Things

I have listened to the CD this song is on before, but heard it this morning for the first time in a long time, and it spoke to my heart:

Praise to the Lord of the small broken things,
who sees the poor sparrow that cannot take wing.
who loves the lame child and the wretch in the street
who comforts their sorrows and washes their feet.

Praise to the Lord of the faint and afraid
who girds them with courage and lends them His aid,
He pours out his spirit on vessels so weak,
that the timid can serve and the silent can speak.

Praise to the Lord of the frail and the ill
who heals their afflictions or carries them till,
they leave this tired frame and to paradise fly.
to never be sick and never to die.

Praise him, O praise Him all ye who live
who’ve been given so much and can so little give
our frail lisping praise God will never despise-
He sees His dear children through mercy-filled eyes.

Words: Johanna Anderson

Music: Dan Forrest

(Sharing with Literary Musing Monday)

Allelujah!

Happy-Easter-Resized-Blog

The strife is o’er, the battle done;
The victory of life is won;
The song of triumph has begun: Alleluia!

The powers of death have done their worst;
But Christ their legions hath dispersed;
Let shouts of holy joy outburst: Alleluia!

The three sad days are quickly sped;
He rises glorious from the dead;
All glory to our risen Head! Alleluia!

He closed the yawning gates of hell;
The bars from heaven’s high portals fell;
Let hymns of praise His triumphs tell! Alleluia!

Lord, by the stripes which wounded Thee,
From death’s dread sting Thy servants free,
That we may live, and sing to Thee: Alleluia!

Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!

~ Author of the words is unknown
Author of the music is
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina

 

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My Father’s Love

I have this song on a couple of CDs, and a lady in the church we used to attend in another state sang it occasionally. It always ministers to me, especially the last two lines of the refrain.

The world’s wealth and riches can be bought and sold.
But I possess a treasure far greater than gold;
‘Twas a gift passed down to me from heaven above,
‘Twas the gift of my Father’s love.

And my Father’s love is strong and true,
Always believing, always seeing me through.
So no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love.

Safe and secure now in His love alone,
I find here my place of worth as one of His own.
And I don’t need ev’rything this world wants to give,
‘Cause I live with my Father’s love.

And my Father’s love is strong and true,
Always believing, always seeing me through.
So no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love.

So, no matter what happens in His grand design,
I’ll be fine with my Father’s love,
with my Father’s love.
I have my Father’s love.

Text and music by Amy Susan Foster, Mike Harland and Niles Borop, recorded by the Soundforth Singers on their CD A Strong Tower and also by Sena Rice on Love Lifted Me. I don’t know who the folks are in this video, but the arrangement and accompaniment are much like the recordings I have.

Friday’s Fave Five

Welcome to Friday’s Fave Five, hosted by Susanne at Living to Tell the Story, in which we can share five of our favorite things from the last week, a wonderful exercise in looking for and appreciating the good things God blesses us with. Click on the button to learn more, then go to Susanne’s to read others’ faves and link up your own.

It’s Friday again! I haven’t gotten half of what I wanted to get done accomplished, and had a bit of a stomach bug for a few days, but otherwise it has been a good week. Here are some favorite parts of it:

1. New CDs. I’ve been wearing out the new CD from the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team called Before You Now (I posted one song from it on Sunday), and just a couple of days ago I received Be Still by the Galkin Evangelistic Team. The latter has two CDs, one instrumental hymns and spiritual songs, the other those same songs as a backdrop to someone reading Scripture. I’ve listened to the instrumental one several times over already. Both have greatly ministered to my heart.

2. Our favorite pizza place just opened a new location near us!

3. Quiche. For some reason I don’t think of it often, and when I do, I’m like, “Oh, wow! Yeah! We haven’t had that for a long time.” The one I make is relatively simple, but it was very good as a somewhat mild meal when my stomach wasn’t feeling so good this week. And I had the leftovers for breakfast this morning. 🙂

4. More sorting and organizing this week.

5. A book from A Lego a Day. I don’t remember how I came across this site, but I loved it from the first day I read it. Legos were some of my guys’ favorites long after they stopped playing with other toys. Dan Phelps started out by making photos of Lego figures in different scenarios with funny captions and posting one a day for a year. Then he went for another year. Now he has put some of them in a book called The Best So Far. I love that many of my favorites are in books form so I’ll always have them if the site ever gets taken off. Honestly, the book is a little pricy, but he has a 20% coupon just now that helps. And I was delighted to see that one of my favorite is there about putting on a happy face. (No, this is not a paid or a requested ad. I’m just a big fan who was delighted to get the book. 🙂 )

Deep Waters

I mentioned a few weeks back that George and Gerry Stouffer were at our church’s missions conference, and for a couple of the meetings some of their sons came to sing with them. I was so blessed by the music — wonderfully done, beautiful harmonies, but most of all a heart of service and blessing underneath it all. I bought their CDs and have been thoroughly enjoying them.

This particular song has been speaking to my heart in a special way. I think I have heard it before. It’s based on Luke 5:1-11. I don’t think I would ever have made that application from the passage — that if you obey the Lord’s sending you out into the “deep waters” of life, He’ll bless you in ways you never expected, but that certainly is true.

Their fishing nets were empty when they first saw the Lord.
All night they had been fishing in the waters by the shore.
The Lord said “Go to deep waters, cast your nets once more.”
And because they obeyed, they would never be the same.

Go to deep waters, deep waters, where only faith will let you go.
Go out to deep waters, deep waters, harvests of faith will overflow.

They cast their nets and almost before they could begin
Their nets were overflowing and they had to pull them in.
And though this was their greatest catch their fishing days would end.
For they abandoned all when they heard the master’s call.

Go to deep waters, deep waters, where only faith will let you go.
Go out to deep waters, deep waters, harvests of faith will overflow.
Go.

~ Pepper Choplin

You can hear a 90-second clip of it here. (Updated 9/3/18: Some of the links I had here were no longer active, so I deleted them. I did find a different group, Project 10 Men, singing it on YouTube here).

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(Source of painting unknown. I saw it in two places with no comment as to it’s name or the name of the painter. If you know either, please let me know.)