Sunday, November 29, 2015 am                                            Perfection 2015 Index

Our Public Worship (4)

     As we continue our study of worshipping to the best of our ability, today we want to address our singing.   As with each of these lessons, our goal is to give God our best.  What I am presenting is not intended as a personal criticism of anyone in particular, but to make observations that can help us make our singing it’s very best. 

 I.                    Singing in Truth

a.        Singing is an act of worship.  There is little debate as to whether or not singing is an act of worship.  It is almost universally accepted as such. In fact, in some modern churches, it is considered the focus of their worship (designed to stir the emotions and prepare them for the rest of the service which they may or may not call worship). 
The Bible gives several passages that address our singing in worship - Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, 1 Corinthians 14:15 – specifically relate singing to our worship.

b.       What is the purpose of singing in worship?

                                                   i.      It is NOT to entertain us or to display and challenge our musical talents. 

                                                  ii.      To praise God – Hebrews 13:15, 2:12

                                                iii.      We are teaching and admonishing one another – (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19)
This is why our songs must be 1) scriptural and 2) designed to teach us in some way. 
Do not let the tune detract from the message. 

c.        Singing only – in the New Testament we are commanded only to sing.  There is no authority for instrumental music.  There are two types of music – vocal and instrumental.  Singing ONLY fits in the category of vocal – it is using our voices.  Instrumental music is a different kind! 

                                                   i.      The above 3 verses all mention only singing.

                                                  ii.      Consider New Testament examples of brethren together – Matthew 26:30, when they had sung a hymn; Acts 16:25, at midnight Paul and Silas were singing – in the examples of singing that we have, nothing of instruments is mentioned.

                                                iii.      Other passages to consider:

1.       Romans 15:9 -  from either 2 Samuel 22:50 or Psalm 18:49

2.       Hebrews 2:12 – a quote from Psalm 22:22

3.       Hebrews 13:15 – the sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips (would include singing)

4.       James 5:13, is any among you cheerful?  Let him sing

5.       Notice how in each of these texts, the command is simply to sing.  NOTICE also that occasionally, the Old Testament is quoted.  There are many passages in the Old Testament that address using instrumental music (it was a part of Old Testament worship), but not ONE of those passages was referenced in the New Testament addressing our worship to God.

d.       Singing to one another

                                                   i.      It is congregational singing - Colossians 3:16 (teaching and admonishing one another), Ephesians 5:19 (“one another” in most versions, but the KJV which says, “speaking to yourselves”, but even that is a plural word indicating that each one is involved in the singing)

                                                  ii.      As noted, scriptural singing is not about entertainment – choirs, special groups, “praise bands”, beat-bopping and imitating the sounds of instruments, etc.
It is simply congregational singing to one another.

e.       What are we to sing?

                                                   i.      Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 5:19

                                                  ii.      Psalms are songs of praise (some equate psalms to songs based directly upon inspired text), such as the hymns we have in the book of psalms (and others of like quality);

                                                iii.      Hymns are described as a song of praise and thanksgiving to God;

                                                iv.      Spiritual songs are songs designed to teach and build us up.  The word song (ode) is generic.

f.         These qualities are a summary of HOW we are to worship God with singing.

 II.                  Singing in Spirit

a.        Every act of worship is unique and has its own qualities.  Singing is unique in that it is something we all actively do together.  As such, it behooves us to recognize our part in this act of worship and to ensure that it is done with a proper spirit.  We need to have a proper attitude in our singing.

b.       It is making melody in your heart – Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16 – it is singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.   This implies that while we are singing together, EACH of us needs to strive to have our hearts attuned to the songs we sing.

c.        We are teaching and admonishing one another – Colossians 3:16.  One of the things that can be accomplished in our singing is that we encourage each other toward faithful living. 

d.       1 Cor. 14:15 – we sing with the spirit and with the understanding. We must consider the words being sung.  We need to understand the words we are singing and they need to convey truth in some way.  (This is one reason we examine songs from time to time). 
It is in this, that singing is a form of edification (cf. 1 Corinthians 14).

e.       How is your attitude when it comes to singing?

 III.                Preparing for singing

a.        The leader –

                                                   i.      Since we are to be singing together, we need the resources to do so (to avoid confusion, i.e. 1 Cor. 14:26 – it is NOT a competition).
This is why we use song books (and their authority) and a song leader to LEAD US in this act of worship.

                                                  ii.      As a leader, he has responsibilities.  He sets the tone often for the rest of worship since we begin with (or once we begin) singing.  That he should be striving to do his best is without question (Colossians 3:23) – as we have been noting throughout this study of worship (and all that we do).

                                                iii.      There are things he can do to help our singing be its very best.   The following are some SUGGESTIONS (not commands) to consider:

1.       Have a desire to lead singing – not everyone can lead singing.  Some do not have the ability to do so, and others do not have the desire.  But if he does, he should seek to be the very best he can.  Be willing to learn and to improve.  There are ways to develop your talents in these areas. 

2.       Prepare before you lead – determine what songs and verses are going to be sung. 
Make sure they are scriptural and understandable.  Are there words or thoughts you need to clarify. 
Are the songs appropriate for the occasion?  Is it really a song preparing our minds for the Lord’s Supper?  Is it really an invitation song?  It is designed for Sunday?  Etc. 
Are they “themed” either on your own or to the lesson at hand?  (NOTE: Such is not mandatory – it can be beneficial in directing the minds of the congregation, but ultimately as you lead, you must lead what you are comfortable with)

3.        Practice as needed – as you choose which verses and special instructions (chorus at the end, slow down or change volume, etc), make sure you can lead ALL the verses – e.g. sometimes there are words (or syllables of a word) that need to be combined with a certain note.  Practice helps you find these trouble spots and work through them.
Also consider learning new songs (to you) so that you can expand the number of songs you leads.  Considering how much we sing (at least 11 songs per week – more than 500 songs a year), variety can help our songs from becoming “vain repetition.”  Try to learn and incorporate one or two songs that are not frequently led into your rotation.  That will add more variety to our songs.

4.       Lead them for the audience, not just you.  You get to pick which songs, but you must still make sure they are appropriate for the audience.
NOTE: The MESSAGE of the song is most important!  Is it scriptural?
However, singing is not just the words.  Remember singing involves a tune – and we are authorized (even commanded) to sing – to one another.  SO, the tune needs to also be appropriate for the audience you are leading.  

a.        Announce the song to be led (and any special instructions).  It is recommended that such is done at least twice and said in a different way (e.g. 59, pause, five – nine).  This ensures all are there. 
SPEAK UP!  In every act of worship, speak up and lead the congregation!  Lead so that the person in back can follow along!

b.       Consider the pitch – there are reasons songs are pitched to certain key signatures.  IF the author of the book has done his job, he has tested these songs and determined what is most comfortable for most people.  If a song is pitched too high or too low it can become difficult to follow and the straining of voices can distract from the message of the song. 

c.        Consider difficulty of the song – there are some songs that have a wonderful message, but the tune or harmonization is difficult and thus it is avoided. 
Other songs are more about the melody (with little substance) and/or require so much mental effort to sing properly that the message becomes secondary.   NOTE: This does not mean we cannot use songs with responsive parts or more than simple melodies.  But it DOES mean that we should learn them as a congregation BEFORE we start incorporating them into our worship (hence song nights, home singings, etc.)

d.       Consider your volume!  Again you are LEADING the congregation.  Your volume (and other abilities) can control the tempo (how slow or fast) of a song.  Practice.

b.       As we sing –

                                                   i.      Participate – singing is not something all do naturally.  Not everyone enjoys singing (while others sing all the time), but it is STILL something we are commanded to participate in and we should do so to the best of our ability.  Seek to “blend in”!

                                                  ii.      Give your best – NOT perfection, but the best you can do. 

                                                iii.      Follow the leader (don’t drag him down) – look up.

                                                iv.      Sing with understanding – follow along with the words.  Seek to apply them to your life.

                                                  v.      Sing with enthusiasm and joyfully.  Singing is a commanded act of worship, but it is also an expression of your gratitude for how God has blessed you.  Let you singing reflect this!

 As with every act of worship, singing is one way we praise God.  Are you giving God your best in these things too?