You know the scene. It is the end of the date. Boy and girl, face to face, nervously rocking back and forth, inching closer, fumbling about, both wanting to, but neither one quite bold enough to make the final move for the first kiss. Someone needs to be courageous and pucker up or it is not gonna’ happen. And if they both start inching backwards, playing coy, expecting the other person to make the move, the likelihood of a first kiss, shrinks away even faster.
But if the timing is right and someone is bold, sparks can fly! That first kiss can be a beautiful thing!
I wonder if the same can be said about congregational singing.
Now before you think I am off my rocker, comparing congregational hymn singing with an end of date first kiss, hear me out.
When a congregation gets together to sing, someone needs to take the lead. The right balance between music and voice needs to be established for the song of the Church and God’s people to happen. When it all comes together, wow!
But what happens when congregational singing ends up more like a first kiss gone wrong or the kiss that was missed altogether?
Consider this, if the musical accompaniment is overpowering (too loud or moves too fast), or if the musician has made the song all about them, the congregation will probably fall out, they will struggle to keep up. They can quickly become spectators, their voices missing from the song of the Church.
But the pendulum can swing too far the other way and the music becomes timid or hesitant – too slow and too soft. When this happens, voices will again diminish, and the people will get quieter and quieter out of fear of over-singing the music, getting ahead of the beat or being unable to hear the rise and fall of the musical notes, not knowing which notes to be singing. It is a vicious cycle when the voices get quieter and the musicians get quieter in response. The music and the song seem to fizzle and die. It is akin to that end of date first kiss, when both parties keep backing away from each other, hoping someone will take the lead, but nothing ends up happening.
“Ain’t that sad
It’s such a shame, too bad
You’re gonna’ miss the girl…” – Sebastian the Crab
This should not be for God’s people, especially His Bride, the Church. When the voices of God’s people and the sound of melody combine, it is a beautiful thing!
The Psalmist writes, “O come, let us sing for joy to the Lord, let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psalm 95:1-2).
When it comes to God’s people in song, it is not about a performance to God or showing off to each other. It is about raising voices as one, declaring to the entire world what God has done for us and all Creation. The voices do not have to be perfect or even in tune, after all, the Psalmist does declare we are to, “make a joyful noise,” unto God, so being perfectly in tune is not an absolute necessity.
When it comes to the congregation gathered to sing, musicians and voices, be bold, sing loud! Find that perfect balance!
Music professionals, take the lead, empower God’s people to sing by playing boldly. Do not overpower, do not be timid, but confidently lead God’s people in song!
People of God, lift up your voices and sing the great praises of God. Tell the world what He has done. Do not be afraid to add your voice to the mix! Do not be timid, step up! There are few things in this world more beautiful and stunning as people united in song.
Martin Luther famously wrote, “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. The gift of language combined with the gift of song was given to man that he should proclaim the Word of God through music.”
Music is such a tremendous part of what makes us human. It brings us together. When we lift our voices in song, powerfully, boldly, we are proudly declaring to all the world the great love of God!
So get your timing, find your voice, raise the roof, let the sparks fly, and be bold. The song of God’s people is a beautiful thing!