Congregational Singing as a Model for the Body of Christ

November 28th, 2012

To sing is to proclaim faith openly, publicly, and courageously.

Singing obviously has a long history and prominent role in the church because it allows us to express our faith openly and grow in our discipleship. For many of us it is only thought of as a talent that we either possess or not, and that self-diagnosis causes us to use our voices creatively or squelch them altogether, never to utter another musical tone—especially in the presence of others. Ultimately, congregational singing can teach us some monumental truths about ourselves and what it means to be the body of Christ.

Before we start looking at our ability to sing together, we must each ask ourselves the question: Who am I? In order to see what role we play in the body of Christ, we need to know who God has created and shaped us to be. Have you ever thought about your identity? What makes you unique? What gifts do you possess? I oftentimes hear parents counseling their children to be themselves and not worry so much about what their friends are doing. However, I don’t often hear that advice passing from adults to other adults. God has created each of us to be a person with exceptional qualities so we can work together and use all our gifts to build up the Kingdom of God in the world. No matter who we are, God gives us the strength and, over time, can build up the courage within us to do wonderful things in the name of Jesus! And so, it is here that we can learn some valuable lessons about the sometimes daunting and challenging, yet rewarding task of singing.

We need God’s love and support.

Put simply, it is not fun to be vulnerable. Let’s face it—many insecurities are tied to musical skills (or lack thereof), and music-making is a very difficult process because we open ourselves up to our own scrutiny and the criticism of others. As a performer, confidence is a skill I have learned over time, and it truly takes a lifetime to become comfortable playing or singing when all ears are listening to me. However, this is where congregational singing differs from mere performance. In worship, we ask for God to surround us with love and support so we may experience a divine encounter and give thanks for God’s unfathomable grace. God comes to us—each one of us—and offers us a chance to share our load and never be alone. This is incredible! Therefore, God is an active partner with us in worship, and we are called to participate in a covenantal relationship with God. Just remember—in the midst of singing, you are not a lone performer on an empty stage. You are partnering with God.

We need each other.

In addition to the support we need from God, we also need support from each other. I once read an article in National Geographic magazine that examined the concept of swarm theory in nature and how corporations around the world use swarm theory as a mathematical principle to become more efficient. I remember one remark about how completely inept one ant can be if given a task. Usually, the ant does a lot of wandering and searching, oftentimes returning empty-handed with no concrete results. However, if an entire colony of ants is given the same task, the efficiency with which the job is completed is amazing! They are practically unstoppable. The body of Christ is no different. We need the strength of one another to do great things for God.

Bishop Bill McAlilly has recently reflected in his blog on “the power of we.” We can do great things! But, we must approach all our tasks with the confidence knowing God is with us. Singing is something that takes courage, fortitude, and a willingness to learn and grow. Sure, it may be an easier skill for professional musicians, but you do not need to be a professional musician to sing (in the same way that you are also able to do other tasks without being a professional in those areas). God desires to have your offerings of praise, and the Holy Spirit will lift you up to sing in the presence of your church. We need each other, and our singing is greater when more people are an active part of it.

Put simply, singing brings us into the presence of God. It’s not like God is absent from us when we are not singing, but we are ushered into a sense of the divine when we work together with God and one another to share in music—one of the most precious gifts in the entire cosmos.

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