Effective Christian Singing

Eph 5:19 and Col. 3:16 give information and instruction regarding Christian singing. The verses are not specific to congregational singing alone but apply to individual, group and congregational singing.
Christian singing has two audiences; others and God. When we sing to others, according to the above mentioned verses, we are teaching things from God’s word and correcting non-Christian behaviors (admonishment).
An example of a song that attempts to correct behavior is the song, “Angry Words”. An individual, group or a congregation can sing this song to correct behavior. Imagine that a Christian has inappropriate anger and the recipient of that anger starts singing, humming or whistling the song… message delivered.

The teaching aspect of singing is huge and effective. Remember when we were kids in Bible classes? So many Bible concepts, including learning the books of the Bible, were taught with a song. It’s a shame we relegate those kids songs to small groups in the classrooms, they really are powerful teaching tools.

When we sing in the assembly we must remember that the primary goal of singing is teaching and admonishing. Sounding good is important but not as important as teaching and admonishing. There are at least two areas of responsibility in congregational singing; individual and leadership. Elders in congregations are responsible for overall teaching. They must provide the tools and song leaders who can effectively lead the congregation in teaching and admonishing by song.

Songs are written and set to music to provoke an emotional response. There are songs designed to produce reflection and sadness and songs that are designed to produce happiness and hope. An ineffective song leader can kill those emotions. In general, song leaders need to select songs that the congregation knows and loves. Technical difficulty can render a song useless in teaching and admonishing. That’s not to say we should never learn new songs. At Parkway we learn new songs that are tremendously effective but hopefully we are not learning them for the first time on Sunday mornings.

There are both objective and subjective ways to measure the effectiveness of a song leader. Objectively we can measure things like the ability of a song leader to pitch a song, pay attention to dynamics, lead songs the congregation knows and maintain proper tempo. Subjectively, congregations do tend to respond to the energy, passion and emotions of the song leader. My advice to song leaders is to select songs that affect you emotionally and get lost (emotionally) in the song.

Over the years I have written down the songs that were led at funerals of our church family. Those songs will provoke emotion. I really have a tough time when I lead songs that were sung at my dad’s funeral. Like…

“Seek ye First the Kingdom of God”
“Does Jesus Care”
“He Leadeth Me”
“How Great Thou Art”
“Victory in Jesus”
“Amazing Grace”
“Blest Be the Tie”

Let’s work hard to be more effective in our singing.

By Rob Perkins

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