singing 2

Songs in the night

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

Did Paul sing lead and Silas bass? Or was one of them a monotone? I’m sure the listeners had never heard freshly beaten prisoners singing and praying to God! Perhaps curses to the gods but not praises to God!

Notice that the prisoners were listening to them sing and pray: Why were the prisoners listening, you ask? Well, they were … a captive audience!

Our worship in song teaches (Colossians 3:16) and encourages. Christians are heartened and non-Christians, even prisoners, benefit from our worship in song. With that in mind, can I in as practical a way as I can, make suggestions to song leaders and congregations:

Song Leaders:

  • Announce the number twice, and in two different ways: “Song one hundred forty-four. That’s one, four, four.” There are those (OK, I’m one of them) whose hearing is not what it used to be.
  • Wait till everybody gets there. Moms in a titanic battle with kids, elderly saints with arthritic hands turning the pages will appreciate it.
  • Think about the songs, whether they express biblical truth, whether they communicate and inspire.
  • Form many of your song services around a theme (the cross, love, praise to God, etc.). Contact the preacher for his theme.
  • Watch the good song leaders. Ask them questions. For God’s glory, improve your ability.
  • Learn new songs: Go to a Christian bookstore and buy a CD of hymns. Select the CD of songs you don’t know (what good would it do to listen to songs you already know?).
  • Pitch the song up. The altos are complaining (and altos are formidable). Actually, a well-written song aids and abets the words.
  • You are not the show. Do not draw unnecessary attention to yourself; you should be like a light bulb. People only notice when you go out. But you are the leader. Instill confidence in your congregation by singing strongly enough to ensure that no member of the congregation feels he might be the only one singing.

Congregation:

  • Sing the song, even if it’s not your favorite. It might be the song that inspires your sister in Christ, and your stony refusal to sing would hurt them.
  • Sit up and hold the songbook up. Better posture does indeed improve your ability to sing out.
  • When you sing, imagine you are singing to someone in the congregation. Imagine you are telling a discouraged brother to “Be not be dismayed, God will take care of [him].” Imagine you are calling on a sister to “Love one another, for love is of God.” That’s what is intended by the divine instruction to “speak to one another” in songs, hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).
  • If your talent is not singing, sing anyway. The Bible often urges us to make a “joyful noise” (Psalm 95:1). It never commands us to sing like Celine Dion. If your talent is singing, for God’s glory sing so as to help those whose talent is not singing!
  • Thank a song leader. He leads when the congregation is in the mood to sing, and when it is not, when he feels good and when he does not, when he’s discouraged, and when he feels zealous for the Lord.

Someone said that football is a game where 22 men needing a rest play before 22,000 needing exercise sit and watch. Our worship in song, however, is an activity where we participate. This Sunday, sing so that those who need to hear it will.

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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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