I’m sure you’ve all heard one of the following… or perhaps both of them. “I don’t have a good singing voice.” “If you don’t have a good voice/can’t sing on pitch, just mouth the words.”
The purpose of this post is neither to tell people who don’t have good voices “sing LOUDLY!” nor to tell people who get told they can’t carry a tune in a bucket to “sing anyways.” Nor is this to tell people who *can* sing to “sing louder.” Or quieter. In fact, the point isn’t to say how to sing at all, really.
I was thinking about the Colossians and Ephesians passages dealing with music today and something stuck out to me; Paul didn’t care about your singing ability – good or bad. I would like to offer perhaps a reason why… from the perspective of a participant, not the perspective of a leader.
Congregational singing isn’t about the music
What? How could singing not be about the music? Well, Paul connects singing to two things. He connects it to being filled with the Spirit and to letting the word of Christ dwell richly among you. He also gives, more or less, a purpose to the songs: teaching and admonishing one another. I might sum it up as “encouraging.” In Ephesians, he refers to “addressing” one another.
So here’s my thought. The encouragement, teaching, and admonishing is not dependent on your musical skill and we really shouldn’t be more taught/admonished/encouraged by someone with more musical skill than someone with less musical skill. We’re not told to encourage each other in music or encourage each other to sing louder or encourage each other to sing in rhythm or whatever. Musical skill simply isn’t what this is about, nor is it limited to those who are skilled, nor is the teaching based on the skill.
So what is the encouraging part? It doesn’t seem like Paul really addresses this specifically – i.e., how do we teach and admonish each other in songs – but I have some observations.
First, seeing others worship is encouraging. I don’t mean seeing other people come to church and passively listen… that’s kinda encouraging because they are there … but there’s something distinctly encouraging to hear and see people actively worship. Actively meaning they are both choosing to do it and they clearly want to do it… even excited to do it! And, furthermore, they actually want people around them to know it (I wonder if that’s why “loud cymbals” are mentioned, hehe). Hearing other people teach and admonish each other in song, as well as worship and praise God in song, is encouraging … regardless of how they sound. Having thought about this, it actually saddens me now that we seem to so easliy say things like “well, maybe just sing quieter so the others around you can’t hear” or “mouth the words.” Paul didn’t say that. We aren’t the Levites, the select musicians in the temple. To tell someone to “tone it down a little, you’re out of tune” or something like that, in the context of worship? I would hope that is rare and only necessary in extreme cases of extreme distraction. It bothers me that I think I used to think more that way before and probably joked about it and whatnot.
Second, knowing that others are worshiping with you … doing something with you … is encouraging. We’re not alone. The person next to me is worshiping the same God, singing the same song, praising the same Savior. That’s encouraging. Even more so when we sing something like “as you go, may you know the love of Christ” and actually know that the person next to you is thinking about you, or someone else near them, as they pray that.
Well, I guess just two. Just somewhat undeveloped thoughts, hehe. My main point, though, is still this: encouraging each other in corporate, congregational singing isn’t something that is better or worse depending on how well you sing or carry a tune or how good your harmony skills are. Oh, sure, we should do the best we can and all that; but we shouldn’t look at someone who can sing and say “ah, they can *really* encourage each other with their voice” and someone who has trouble and say “well, they can encourage others in different ways.” We shouldn’t be encouraged by the music. I don’t think that’s the point.
(by this time, after so many paragraphs of saying the same thing, I should mention something about a dead horse.)
tl;dr (too long, didn’t read): sing to encourage, not to show off your ability; be encouraged by the worship, not the musical skill.
Hum. This requires more thought and fleshing out.