What, Me Sing?

Let me say at the outset that I’m NOT a singer. It’s true that I have sung in choirs and taken lessons at the college level, but primarily imagine myself as a ‘player,’  meaning I play musical instruments as my chosen means of doing music. Until recently, when the congregation sang in church, as often as not, I was content to just watch and listen. However, that has changed significantly, and my reason for writing about this topic.

My background includes music since a child. In fact, my family was more musically motivated than most. My mother was a soprano soloist and her children all played piano, sang, and played a band instrument.

I majored in music in college and after graduation, began a career teaching in a Christian College. In my personal Bible study, I was surprised to discover so much about music in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. However, over time I realized that most of these musical passages were either ignored or unknown by many in leadership. Imagine taking a topic like baptism, or salvation, or communion, and forming your theology without basis from Scripture, and yet sadly that is often the case regarding worship and music.

Recently in a talk on worship I discussed 2 Chronicles chapter 5, about the dedication of Solomon’s temple. As the musicians and priests did their singing, playing, and worshiping, God responded, filling the place with His presence. All proceedings stopped as the participants were awestruck. What a powerful example of corporate worship experience, and yet many people don’t know about this passage. Would it make a difference? Of course it would.

Worship Wars

There have been some scriptures ‘flying around’ recently as part of the ‘worship wars’ and in many of the churches I know, there is a clear winner in these wars. This is even more reason to look at Scripture to determine truth in the matter. Whether the popular view or not, the Bible is our guide to matters of faith and practice.

Ephesians 5

While there is much about music in the Old Testament, there are several crucial passages in the New Testament. Ephesians 5 is a great chapter, talking about the flesh vs. the spirit – don’t indulge the flesh, do be filled with the Spirit (verse 18). From that point, verse 19 states:

‘speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord…’

Now stop and ask yourself when was the last time you spoke to another Christian using text from psalms and hymns and spiritual songs?

I’m not sure I’d ever spoken personally to anyone in those terms. If I was going to start, it would require enough familiarity with the content to be able to share it naturally. But what to lose? It was worth a try. After all, the verse is quite clear.

To start, I wrote down some titles for various songs I knew which included contemporary songs, but also lots of hymns, dating way back to childhood. I realized I’d need a book or 2, since I didn’t remember all the words. How long was it since I’d last used a hymnbook or songbook? About the same as the last time I’d played a record.

Now for some accompaniment – I hadn’t played keyboard much lately, but did most of my music at the computer. Then, a minor revelation realizing I could sing without accompaniment – no support, but no distractions either. You could focus on the words better, and sing away in your heart to the Lord. Believe it or not,  I don’t recall doing this before. I’d practiced the trombone for years, played concerts, symphonies, concerts with choir and everything imaginable, but I’d rarely done this – singing to the audience of One, aiming every word to Him, and soaking up every minute of it. Some of those old songs became like gold – wonderful to sing, inspiring to experience, praise like no other.

As I’ve recounted this experience to others, I’m amazed at how many people have had a ‘wounding experience’ about their singing, where someone told them they couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, or some such thing. While I believe that is most unfortunate, I would encourage folks to sing to God in whatever state of voice He gave them. Of course, one can improve if so motivated, otherwise go to your private space and ‘warble away’, whether others approve or not. However, DO NOT FEEL YOU NEED TO GO ON American Idol.

It Turned Out

As I started singing this way – by myself, no accompaniment – in my space, in the car, in those waking moments of night, and soon my wife joined me. Several months later, you could say, “we’re hooked.” It has been good for our relationship and our entire spiritual walk. We think this is kind of a secret that some Christians have practiced through the years, including the early Christians who were active in personal singing and worship. We’ve also considered that singing is great for your health, also. It’s a win by all counts.

‘For he who sings praise, does not only praise, but also praises joyously; he who sings praise, is not only singing, but also loving Him whom he is singing about.’                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Augustine

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2 Responses to “What, Me Sing?”

  1. jerrydnelson Says:

    I agree with you. I love the personal times of praying and singing to the Lord as a part of my daily devotional time. I love to pray the scriptures as worship to the Lord silently, very early in the morning. Then, after my wife is awake, I do some singing of hymns, worship songs and scripture. The time of day varies depending on my schedule. I like to include a worship segment in every devotional time, so that I am not just learning about God from His Word, I am also worshiping Him with my whole heart by praying and singing to Him. It is always a refreshing time with the Lord. I typically use the piano for this time, but unaccompanied is also a blessing. I especially enjoy singing Scripture verses, particularly the Psalms, sometimes with original melodies that I have written. I don’t plan to perform them for anyone other than the Lord. They are melodies for my private time of worship. It also helps me memorize portions of the Scriptures. I believe that my private time of worship with the Lord helps make my corporate worship experience more rich. I love your blog!

  2. musreader Says:

    Jerry, it’s very interesting to hear of your original melodies. I wonder how many other people do that. I recently started writing music to set to Scripture texts and it’s fantastic! Just spending the time reflecting and repeating the text, it makes it’s way “in”. I think people need to hear more about this kind of activity, though I suppose God reveals it when appropriate.

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