Why do armies sing?

In 1981 I woke up one morning to a sound as beautiful as a nightingale and as frightening as a cobra. When I looked outside my window I saw about five hundred Zimbabwean soldiers singing as they marched. Now I don’t know about the singing quality of five hundred American or British soldiers, but these men sang in four part harmony with a sound as rich as a Johannesburg gold mine. Here they were, men in the prime of their lives, trained in the ungentle art of war, yet they sang with such beauty as they marched past my house and down the road. Continue reading “Why do armies sing?”

How to improve your congregation’s singing

We all respond to good singing in worship. We recall with delight a night when the singing was “really good,” or visiting a congregation where we enjoyed the singing. We’re human, after all. This raises a question, therefore: So how can we improve our singing?

1. Get right with each other (Matthew 5:23,24). Note that the Lord expresses this as a priority – “First, be reconciled with your brother, then come offer your gift.” It’s hard to sing with zeal when you’re singing with people you resent. Continue reading “How to improve your congregation’s singing”

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! Continue reading “Songs in the night”

Be filled with the Spirit

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:15-21 NET).

As Christians, there is a distinct way we need to live. Continue reading “Be filled with the Spirit”

Richly dwelling

What if I was to say that the preacher and the song leader had similar responsibilities in worship? Would that assertion surprise you? Many song leaders would probably say, “No, I don’t want to speak in public. That’s one of the reasons I lead singing! All I have say is the numbers when I announce them!”

Still, the song leader bears much the same responsibility as the preacher for the congregation’s spiritual and nutritional health. Just as the preacher ought to preach “the whole council” of God, that is, a healthy and balanced spiritual diet (Acts 20:27), so must the song leader be conscious of feeding his congregation an edifying and biblical diet of songs. Continue reading “Richly dwelling”

Speaking to one another

I think all of us have found ourselves “going through the motions” when we sing hymns in worship. Perhaps we are distracted by something in the auditorium – a restless child, or perhaps it is a song that we have sung so often that it is possible to allow our minds to go into “neutral” as we sing the familiar words.

Of course we know this is wrong, and we try to wrest our attention back to the matter at hand – worshiping God. It is worth asking how we might make our worship in song more meaningful. Continue reading “Speaking to one another”

His lovingkindness is everlasting

After Jesus and his disciples observed the Passover, they sang a hymn and went out toward the Mount of Olives and Gethsemane.

One commentator said the hymn Jesus and his disciples sung was probably “The Hillel” or Psalm 136. Though it has 26 verses, it is a fairly easily memorized Psalm because each verse ends with the same last words: “For his lovingkindness is everlasting.”

Do you think the disciples understood what they were singing with Jesus? Continue reading “His lovingkindness is everlasting”

God’s song

If you were to drop by my garden unexpectedly while I’m working in it, you’d have a good chance of finding me singing. I’m not warning you ahead of time in order to avoid your calling Animal Control about a bobcat on the loose. I am simply trying to make the point that being close to nature puts a song in one’s heart.

There are many hymns that invoke the sounds and sights of a garden. At every turn in a natural setting, one might find a horticultural treasure that inspires a person to break out in a song of praise. Continue reading “God’s song”

In five years time

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

It was 1992 and I had just overheard a conversation between a senior saint and a young song leader. The older man declared: “We have eight hundred songs in our hymn book. Why would we need any other songs?”

To which the young man replied: “In five years time we will be singing none of the songs in that hymnbook.”

Here are some of my reactions: Continue reading “In five years time”

Garai nesu

I can hear and smell it as much as see it; there is the crackle of sparks from a fire, the pleasant aroma of wood being burned. The African sky is silhouetted by acacia trees, a billion stars light the night.

African Christians, perhaps a hundred strong, are singing in their native Shona language: “Garai nesu, garai nesu, neku singaperi.” This is the chorus, sung slowly, stately, a primal plea: “Stay with us, stay with us,” they cry out to God, “stay with us forever.” Continue reading “Garai nesu”