singing

For what it’s worth

“And they sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the lamb” (Revelation 15:3, ESV).

Jerry McDade and his wife were out walking one Sunday morning when they heard singing so beautiful that they just had to stop and listen. Both were from the Church of England, and had heard beautiful choirs sing. What made this so startling was that it was congregational singing. Ordinary Christians raised their voices in adoration with such feeling that it compelled visitors to come in. It wasn’t long before they were baptized into Christ.

Some time ago I was in a church building that had a screen in the front where words were projected for songs without printed music. This seems to be a brotherhood-wide trend. I spoke to one of the members and this is what he said: “We might as well have only the words to songs. Most people can’t read music anyway.”

I thought: “When did we concede the point?”

I know this is only a preference, but permit me, please, to express one.

You must remember that I have worshiped many times in Africa with neither hymnbooks nor multi media capability! It’s not the technology that worries me.

I am afraid we will lose our capacity for congregational singing. We need to train our young people to sing. We can develop our own ability further. We can learn new songs. There are singing schools in the region that would benefit our young people greatly. It is important to remember our objective. We aren’t training members to sight-read Gregorian chants or Bach’s quartet music. In congregations across the land, however, we have always had this ability; when a song leader introduces a song, there have always been enough members with the ability to pick out the harmony so that the new song takes hold and becomes a part of our worship in song. That’s a precious heritage indeed.

And one more thing. A century ago, when the organ was brought into churches of Christ, the reason given was: “Our singing is so bad that this will improve it.”

I never want that to happen to this fellowship that I love again, do you?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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5 thoughts on “For what it’s worth

  1. Amen! I have worried about this for years. We are a small congregation and, yes, we have a projection system. But our elders at least bought the software that has the notes! I have been in large congregations who have many more resources than we do who didn’t even spring for the better software.

  2. good thoughts Stan, but more importantly we need to return to using singing schools and many of our congregations in the large cities are no longer or rarely having singings, and especially when we invite congregations to join. It is a dying fad it seems

  3. we as grandparents, need to be singing the hymns we know by heart to our childrens children and get them familiar with them. A lot of our grands are not living in Christian homes and they will only hear it from us!! (PS..WHAT? a century ago the church of Christ had an organ?!? )

  4. When kids are young they sing with great joy. When they get older the joy seems to leave because of the pressure by peers to be “good singers.” When the kids can read the words we need to teach them the music also. Instruction on teaching, prayer, and music do not seem to have the attention of leaders.

  5. Good points, Stan!

    The best spiritual memories that I’ve had in life were with people singing, with glad and sincere hearts.

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