It is unfortunate that our churches are not noted for their singing. They bear much resemblance to the Israelites that hung their harps on the willow trees, refusing to sing during the Babylonian captivity (Psa 137:2). I have been in countless congregations where a single hearty voice could drown out the entire congregation. This condition dishonors our blessed Lord, and must not be tolerated.
Song services characterized by excellence Under the Law, a shadow of good things to come (Heb. 8:5; 10:1), God related singing to the service of Himself. Singers were appointed, with an elaborate array of instruments and cymbals (; 1 Kings 10:12; 1 Chron. 15:16-27). Once, when the ark of the covenant was restored to the temple of God, the singers and trumpeters joined in harmonious praise to God. Scripture tells us that they made "one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the Lord." At that sound a remarkable thing happened. "The house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the Lord . . . for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of the Lord" (2 Chron. 5:13- 14). It is a noble objective, indeed, which determines to provide an environment in which God is pleased to dwell. Our song service can be such a atmosphere!
Things that detract from singing heartily and with insight should not dominate the song service. We live in a time when it is necessary to elaborate on this point. In many of our congregations, the people are losing the ability to sing skillfully. The introduction of choruses has brought many good things to our assemblies. For one thing, they have brought the singing of Scripture back into the assembly. This is good, and cannot be minimized. There are, however, other considerations that decidedly neutralize this benefit.
Singing with projections of words, the people rarely, if ever, see notes. Unless unusually gifted, those that would normally sing harmony no longer do so. I realize we are not to encourage theatrics in the assembly of the righteous, and deplore such tactics. However, neither should mediocrity be encouraged, that scourge that leads to lukewarmness. I have been in assemblies where eight or ten choruses/songs were sung, and few, if any, of them were known. An outstanding and gifted song leader might enable some progress by leading the chorus five or six times. Yet, it is exceedingly difficult to worship God by singing songs and choruses you do not know. The heart is greatly restricted when one cannot fully sing "with the understanding." The majority of the songs should be familiar enough to the assembly for them to be taken into the hearts and mind. Thus the congregation can sing "heartily, as to the Lord" (Col. 3:16,23). Those that insist on leading us through one new song after another accomplish little for God, because they offer little for the heart. Our song services are not to be learning exercises, but an occasion for praising, teaching, and admonishing one another (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
Having said this, learn new songs and choruses that meet God's objectives. Strive to expand your song repertoire without hindering the ability of the congregation to express themselves freely. The church has a rich musical heritage. Be challenged to capitalize on that heritage to the glory of God and the edification of the church.
Our songs must contain the truth of God. It is no more right to sing a lie than it is to preach one. Juvenility in singing can no more be justified than childish preaching. Approved singing is the result of the Word of Christ dwelling in us "richly" (Col. 3:16a). You must work at keeping the "flesh" out of your song services. It is fashionable these days to simply "have fun" when singing. This has no basis in God's Word, and, candidly, contradicts much of what is proclaimed there. Joying in God and "having fun" are not synonymous. Spiritual joy springs more from the heart, affecting the whole person. "Fun" is purely external, and cannot reach the heart, because "the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63).
Your song service should prepare people to hear the Word of the Lord. It is not an end of itself, but a means to the end. The song leader should present the people to the minister of the Word with clear minds and eager hearts. Christ and heaven should be dominant in their thinking, thus making them fertile soil.