Posted by: rcottrill | November 25, 2009

Singers Needed

I love choral work of any kind. Have both sung in, and led, choirs since I was in my teens. I can well remember how it all started. Our church choir met for its regular Thursday evening practice. We were all assembled and waiting, when the director walked in and announced that he was having some struggles in his life, and that he was resigning his position, effective immediately. After he left us, we sat there in stunned silence for a moment. Then several of the members turned to me and said, “Bob, you lead us!

I was a member of the bass section, but had no experience leading choirs. I’ve since had a bit of training in both voice and choral conducting, but not then. However, I did the best I could, and continued in that roll for a number of years. We were not professional singers, far from it. But we loved the Lord, and determined to serve Him the best we could–which brings me a little closer to my point.

Effective choral work has always thrilled me, especially that of men’s voices. Have you ever heard any of the albums made by the British Festival of Male Voice Praise. The massed choirs are composed of men from many different groups coming together to sing. In my opinion, the result is inspiring. However, a reviewer commented about one of their recordings that, “For those who appreciate the fine craftsmanship and expertise of quality choral singing there is little here to admire and nothing to learn from….This is the honest, sincere but rather rough and basic sound of men praising God to the best of their ability.”

Well! I don’t know whether the critic realized it or not, but he actually paid them a great compliment! An “honest, sincere…sound of men praising God to the best of their ability.” He has just described the kind of from-the-heart singing that the Lord delights in. The Bible tells us, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Sam. 16:7). And I think we can say, “The Lord does not hear as man hears; the Lord hears the heart.”

Not that I am at all denigrating skillful, trained choristers. What a blessing to hear some intricate choral work sung brilliantly. But we must not dismiss the untrained amateurs that make up most of our church choirs and ensembles. The word amateur literally means, after all, one who engages in an activity for the love of it. And if we combine a love of singing with a love for the Lord, we have a good basis to begin.

Practice and training there must be. We must not offer to the Lord that which is not our best. But if we can make a “joyful noise” that connects with the listener and communicates God’s truth, we have done well. More important that superb technique is singing with understanding and sincerity (Ps. 47:7; I Cor. 14:15; cf. Jn. 4:24).

Beyond that, we practice to communicate as effectively as possible, in hopes that our singing will neither distract from the message nor hinder the Spirit’s working through it. We should not sing to demonstrate our own ability, but to exalt the Lord. He should be the focus. In a Bible book that offers a great deal of instruction about organization and training of temple choirs in Old Testament times, notice how it is emphasized over and again that God is both the subject and the prime audience of the singing (italics added for emphasis).

Oh, give thanks to the Lord! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the Lord! (I Chron. 16:8-10).

If that is our focus, we will bring glory to God and blessing to His people. In his song, Prayer Before Singing, Don Hustad says:

Touch Thou my lips,
Thy beauty let me see,
And fill my heart
With love, eternally,
That men may come to know
And adore Thee.
Lord, this prayer I bring;
Lord, for Thee I sing.


Responses

  1. I appreciated this blog a great deal. Whole heartedly I agree that the Lord is concerned with our hearts in all areas. It is too bad man is so quick to judge one another based on appearances… heart breaking really when you are trying to raise children to find joy in the Lord and concern themselves with the heart… Choirs are such a blessing when you can see the joy of the Lord pouring out of those singing!

    • Thanks for your kind words.

      I may be fooled sometimes, but I believe in most instances I can tell if a singer is putting on a religious act and when he or she is truly communicating from the heart. And in addition to the emotional connection a sincere singer can make with hearers, I believe there is an intangible spiritual element as well. When both singer and hearer are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, there is a spiritual connection that is unique to Christian ministry.

      It may label me as an old fogy in the eyes of some, but I think Bev Shea has been a prime example of this kind of communication. Great though his voice is, his singing has never seemed to be an artistic performance, or mere entertainment. It is a ministry for Christ.

  2. Your post was a great encouragement to me, an average singer, at best. But I do love to praise God with my voice and I humbly think that honors Him.

    • Thanks Dorothy. That particular article seems to have blessed a number of folks. Praise the Lord!


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