A Few Thoughts on Singing to Get Us Started

Singing is an odd thing to do. At least, it is in this day and age.

Of course we sing lots in private, or vicariously through our pop stars, and some people enjoy choirs but they are a minority. But these activities just make it all the more apparent that only the skilled are really allowed to sing in public. Most of us would dream of singing in the presence of others and would be embarrassed if someone did it in ours.

When it comes to the church, we’re in another one of those funny positions. Many’s the time I’ve read the comment that Christianity was birthed in song and that this was a distinguishing mark of Christianity, its inherent freedom and joy. Rarely do you hear any question raised in Christian circles about the place or value of music and signing.

Given all of this, several things occurred to me yesterday. Firstly, the modern worship service has evolved from the same sense of modern embarrassment noted about singing above. This could be partly why the contemporary worship looks so much like a rock concert. A rock concert is one of the few places where we feel freed to sing – partly because the music is so loud you can’t hear yourself or anyone else singing. Oddly enough, this makes the modern worship service individualistic because your singing is essentially for your own pleasure and affects minimally those around you. Of course, a rock concert is a great community event, as is a contemporary worship service, and in many concerts the microphone is turned on the audience for the great sing-along moment. But this is an exception: you’re not going to the concert to sing to each other and listen to each other – you’re going to listen to the artist.

But, secondly, here’s the thing. Granted we still have this sense of the oddness of singing, would it still not be better for singing to be genuinely corporate, where your participation matters – following the 1 Corinthians 12 paradigm to which we keep coming back. If this is true, then we need to hear each other sing and we need to realise that this is more important than the professionalism or quality of our worship leaders. This is because we sing as a body – at every point we remember that we are a community and not merely a gathering of individuals.

Even now more thoughts are popping into my head: if we listening to each other when we sing, how does that relate to God. Are we ever properly singing to God or each other. Are our songs prayers (individual or corporate?) or more akin to teaching where we tell each other truths? Perhaps we need a study of the variety of the Psalms, but that needs a discussion of the connection between Old Testament worship language – easily used – and language that would be appropriate for us as the body of Christ.

But that’s enough for starters.

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