Consider this a follow-up to my earlier entry on My Perfect Church. After thinking about that list some more, I wanted to pare it down to a few succinct principles that could be easily memorized, I was surprised by the first thing that came to mind, and I couldn’t get it out of my mind so I left it in first place.
My perfect church is … a singing church. Don’t jump over that statement and turn it into “a worshiping church.” That’s true, but that’s not what I meant. I’m referring to hearty, soul-stirring, God-centered, Christ-exalted, Spirit-led congregational singing that rises as a mighty chorus of praise to the Lord. As I travel around the country and speak in different places, I am slowly becoming convinced that the depth and quality and spirit of the congregational singing is an excellent barometer of the spiritual health of the church.
Healthy churches love to sing!
Growing churches love to sing!
Strong churches love to sing!
Please note that this is not a statement about worship styles. Anyone who has traveled to other cultures and worshiped with Christians in other countries knows that the Lord is worshiped every Sunday around the world in a bewildering variety of styles, languages, tones, tunes and lyrics using every instrument imaginable–and sometimes with no instruments at all. Worship styles change because the surrounding culture changes over time, and wise is the church that finds a way to keep the best of the past while moving courageously into the future. But even that is not my point.
I want to be part of a church that loves to sing, that regards congregational singing as a central part of the worship service, that finds a way to engage the heart and soul and mind and body in singing to the Lord. God is exalted in the praises of his people. Because music touches the heart, unbelievers are impacted by a congregation that sings with all its heart and soul.
In my perfect church, the people would sing with joy, and the worship leader and the worship team and the choir and the orchestra and the pianist and the organist and the drummer and the guitarists and the violinist and the tambourine man and everyone else in the music ministry would know that they are not there to perform (even though excellence is vital) and they are not there to “lead worship” in the usual sense of that phrase. But all the music people would know that they are there to help the people sing. If the people don’t sing, then the music people aren’t doing their job. If they do, they are. Simple as that.
I surprised myself by writing this, and I am surprised at how strongly I feel about this. You would think that I would put prayer or preaching or something else first. But in the last year, I have come to see how important congregational singing is for the life of the church. So there it is. I’m not saying that singing matters more than prayer or preaching. But since this is my list, it comes first, and I’m surprised and happy about that.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
New readers of this weblog may not know that I started writing about congregational singing last May. Here are my entries:
Whatever Happened to Congregational Singing?
Does Congregational Singing Matter?
More Thoughts on Congregational Singing
Worship at Bethlehem Baptist Church
Helpful Feedback on Congregational Singing
Singing Through the Lord’s Prayer, Part 1
Singing Through the Lord’s Prayer, Part 2
My Ten Favorite Hymns
My Ten Favorite Gospel Songs