My great uncle Marvin loved to sing in church. Back when I was a kid, I remember that he would lift his voice as loudly as he could when he sung along with the hymnals and praise songs. In fact, he was one of my singing role models.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
That never stopped him, though - and it wasn’t the reason I loved his singing. When the service started, my uncle Marvin would enter into an attitude of worship unlike anyone I’ve ever known, and he would be compelled to take part in the music in the best way he could. He wasn’t singing for the benefit of the people around him - because even my young ears could tell the difference between in-tune and out-of-tune. He didn’t even sing for the benefit of himself. He was simply worshipping God, and perfectly exemplifying what it means to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 98:4).
The voice is a gift from God to each of us, and enables us to resonate with the Holy Spirit in an act of worship that is nearly universal. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we see that music, both vocal and instrumental, was a staple of religious gatherings and personal spiritual growth. In fact, there is no known culture in the history of the world that has not known music in some form. Many scientists argue that music is a fundamental part of being human - and of course, it is, because we all at some point feel compelled to sing to God
Singing in church is beneficial to us because it allows us to engage in relationship with God in a concrete way, and anytime we meditate on praising God is glorifying to Him. It’s the absolute core of what we were made to do as human beings (Isaiah 43:7).
After years of experience in music and church education, I can say with confidence that virtually everyone - yes, everyone - can learn how to sing “properly” within the confines of Western music theory.
The problem is that the voice is such a personal instrument, produced by our own God-given bodies, that we see criticism of our ability to use this instrument as a personal attack. Because of this, people often live in fear of being told that they can’t sing.
People deal with this in different ways. Some get right out in front of the issue and insist that they can’t sing from the get-go, and then never allow themselves the opportunity to improve. Others refuse to raise their voices above a whisper because they’re afraid their neighbors might hear them, thereby protecting themselves from the possibility of negative reactions - but they also denying themselves the chance to truly get involved in the worship music. Still others just don’t sing at all.
But when the Spirit moves you through music, denying yourself the chance to participate is simply a shame.
It is true that at any given moment, everyone is at a different skill level with their singing voice. Some people are natural musicians. Others have trained for years. Unfortunately, because of the way music education is going in our public schools, most people simply don’t know the proper way to sing. It’s the same as our personal testimonies, actually: There are those who have grown up in Christ, those who have come to Him from other walks of life, and then everyone else who simply hasn’t heard of or engaged with Him yet.
However, by focusing on our singing skills, we’re missing the point: Worship music in church isn’t about training people to sing about God. It’s about lifting up the name of the Lord through music and glorifying Him. It’s about joining together corporately and meditating on the fact that God is good. It’s about engaging with God on a deeper level.
So next Sunday, when you’re sitting in church - or when you’re listening to K-Love on the radio - don’t be afraid to raise your voice. Sing along like the only person who’s listening is God. After all, His opinion is the only one that truly matters, and if you’re singing to Him, I can tell you with absolute certainty that it’s music to His ears
Worship & Media Director
Riviera Baptist Church