No One Sounds Bad in Church (Sing Anyway, Part II)

Wish I could take credit for this heading but I swiped it. In an internet article, a pastor of another denomination was urging his congregation to sing in the worship services. Even if you have no singing voice and take steps to make sure you are never heard attempting to sing, he said, in church no one sounds bad.

I’ll buy that. Now if I can only convince half the people I know.

I have only two things to say in making that point. But they are two really, really big points.

One. When a group of people with mediocre voices blend them together, something almost magical takes place. Perhaps the strengths of some compensate for the weak areas of others, but the combined voices produce a strong and powerful musical effect.

Last Wednesday night, I spent two hours with the sanctuary choirs of the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi. I say “choirs” because they have one for each morning services. Together, there were easily 200 people in the rehearsal room. An impressive sight, a lovely group of people.

Now, I know very little about the musical abilities of any of those good people, but I know a lot about church and have decades of experience with church choirs, and I’m going to let you in on a secret: most of those choir members are not all that good. Oh, they can carry a tune, but not one in ten is of solo calibre.

Together, however, they are incredible.

That great choir stands as the ideal metaphor for your congregation in worship: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

That’s why we say it’s almost magical. In no other area does this kind of alchemy take place. If you took a hundred people with C averages in math or science and added them all together, the results would still be mediocre; you still would not have an Einstein in the group.

But in singing–particularly in a worship service; don’t ask me why, but that’s special–something remarkable happens. A group of men can shout out at the top of their monotone lungs alongwith an equal number of ladies who tend to know what they’re doing when opening a hymnal–these can lift their voices in the words of a hymn of praise and several things will happen….

–the result will be phenomenal. There is a power there, a force, a unity, a persuasion, an uplifting–I’m searching for just the right way of putting it–that cannot be explained.

–the singers will be moved spiritually themselves. (No one is ever so inspired by the music as are the singers and musicians.)

–God will be glorified. Really. Up in Heaven, He may bust a button off His tunic in delight.

–Non-singers will look on with envy, wishing they could get in on that experience.

–The enemy (you know who we’re talking about!) will be disgusted with the whole business. In his fury, he will plant snide remarks in the mouths of nay-sayers. But it doesn’t matter; no one pays them any mind anyway.

–Newcomers will want in on what you have going. You will bear a witness to the lost and unchurched by doing nothing more than singing from your heart to the Lord.

Two. (I said there are two great persuaders for motivating you to join the chorus on Sunday. Here’s the second.)

“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” (Psalm 66:1) That well-known admonition is found in half a dozen psalms. Over the centuries, we preachers (and other teachers, doubtless) have quoted that to encourage non-singers to open their mouths and praise the Lord, regardless of how it sounds.

Today, however,”Shout joyfully” is how the modern translations turn that phrase. Doesn’t quite say the same thing, does it?

You’ll understand if I prefer “joyful noise” in place of “shout joyfully” for obvious reasons, but no matter. We can work with that just as well.

I have three questions for any among us who classify ourselves as non-singers in church:

1. Do you ever experience joy in the Lord? Sure you do.

2. Do you ever holler or raise your voice? I know the answer to this, because I’ve seen you at ball games.

3. Could you combine those two and do that in church? Gotcha!

It goes without saying that I’m talking only about making that joyful noise at appropriate times in worship services. When everyone around you is sounding forth on “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” or “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand,” that’s your cue. Stand up and let ‘er fly.

If you’re off key, no one can hear. No one will care.

But One will hear, and He will care mightily.

So go ahead. Sing in church. It’s the safest place on earth and the sweetest place to tell Jesus how much you appreciate what He has done for you.

After all, if everyone is singing, no one is listening. Your own voice is drowning out everyone around you.

That’s why in church no one sounds bad.

The only exception to that is the people who make excuses for not singing. Now that sounds terrible.

4 thoughts on “No One Sounds Bad in Church (Sing Anyway, Part II)

  1. I’ll disagree with this one point — maybe the singers all sound good from the isolated dead center of the pulpit, but down in the throng it can be a mixed bag.

    I once insisted that our family move back 2 pews from our normal seats, because the new member who started sitting behind us made it very difficult for me to hit my notes. (Interestingly, he as a very nice deep speaking voice)

  2. In the early 1980’s, we attended Oreland Presbyterian Church in Oreland, Pa. We were in attendance for 5 years and never joined. During that time, several of our neighbors who attended with us as our guests, did join. One of those young women sat with us every Sunday and sung out on every song. We had a huge old pipe organ that encouraged us in our joy. Only problem was that she was one of those people who couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, but it was hard to set next to her and not smile because she was really worshiping in song. Carl and I were both relieved and a little saddened when after a couple of months she joyfully joined the hand bell choir!

  3. Joe: Good article. Instead of trying to be so perfect we sometimes become imperfect. We need to realize that the untrained in singing can sometimes learn from those who have a little more music knowledge. We can help each other in singing and bring glory to God. How do I know! Been there and still not an accompished,never will be, but I am better than I used to be. Why? Because I have learned from others. We can all learn from one another.

  4. Joe, yor’re absolutely correct in saying that the blend of voices causes something magical to happen. I will never forget at Aunt Ruby Chadwick’s funeral, the congregation was singing a song as the transition from funeral to burial was taking place. I was sitting between Johnny Kilgore (wonderful tenor voice) and a lady I did not know. I consider my singing ability so-so but the blending with these two people made us all sound so wonderful and harmonious. It was so uplifting, I had to tell Johnny about it later. Without batting an eye, he said, “that’s what it’s going to be like in Heaven”. I think he’s on to something.

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