“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” ~Ephesians 5:19
“There are different kinds of gifts… given for the common good.” ~1 Corinthians 12:4-7
There are times within the context of congregational worship for us to be edified by others. To be lifted up and encouraged by the singing of others. To be taught, to be inspired, to be challenged by the songs of others. There are times when the God-given abilities of one or two of his children should be used in a congregational setting to benefit the entire church body. We do it all the time in Bible readings, in prayer, in preaching, in worship leading, in teaching, and in making talks at the Lord’s Table. But we in our Church of Christ heritage have generally steered clear of that in our singing.
We have always upheld very strongly the concept of a congregational chorus. No choir. No robes. No select group of people standing up in front of the church and singing. Traditionally, that’s been our stand. Our idea is that everybody participates in the worship of God. We’re not gathered to be spectators; we’re here to worship. I, too, applaud that reasoning and support the theology behind it. However, traditionally, (as long as I can remember, and longer) we’ve taken the idea so far as to deny the exercise of God-given talents in God-ordained ways.
We’ve said ‘no’ to all choirs in our congregational settings. We’ve rejected the idea of quartets or duets. We won’t even have a discussion about solos. No one is to sing — ever! — in a congregational worship setting unless everybody is invited to sing. Whether it’s two dozen people in a choir or a trio of three, nobody can sing in church unless the whole church is singing. Traditionally, that’s been our view. If it’s not been our view, it’s certainly been our practice. And that position cannot be defended anywhere in our Scriptures.
If you’re banning choirs or forbidding the use of duets or solos in your church on Sunday mornings, you can’t use the Bible to justify it.
Regarding spiritual gifts such as singing, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians that they are to “edify the church” (14:4). The Christians in Corinth are to be careful with the exercise of their gifts, keeping in mind the number one objective is “so that the church may be edified” (14:5). The apostle claims we should “excel in gifts that build up the church” (14:12) and refrain from practicing things by which “the other man is not edified” (14:17).
What could be more lovely than a young woman who’s been given an amazing voice by our Father using that voice to glorify him and inspire the church? What could be more appropriate than a group of several dozen Christians teaching and encouraging the congregation through their gift of song?
That man was given that talent by our Creator; let him use it to praise God! Let him use it to minister! And let us be ministered to. Let us listen and enjoy. Let the song take us to the throne of God. Let it inspire us to live better lives. Let it remind us of what our Father has done in our lives and in his world. Allow the man with the gift to sacrifice it to God for the sake of God’s glory and for the benefit of the church. Allow us to affirm the goodness of that gift and the greatness of the One who gives it by listening, by appreciating, by applauding the free use of that gift.
We are so blessed here at Central to be led by a group of shepherds who allow and even encourage a great variety of expressions of praise to God. We’re diverse in the ways we encourage one another in our assemblies. When we’re together, we reach for the fullest manifestation of the gifts of God’s Spirit.
A couple of weeks ago, it was a trio during our communion time. Here in a couple of weeks it’ll be a duet as we close. Yesterday it was Kevin, Johnny, Kelley, and Dick in a quartet getting us ready for the sermon. They sang a medley of songs that included “O Holy Night,” “Mary, Did You Know?” and “I Am” to prepare us for the lesson about partnering with God in the mighty salvation deeds he initiated at that little stable in Bethlehem.
And it was fabulous. Spiritually stimulating. Wonderful.
Now, don’t you dare come at me with “But, that might be perceived as entertainment” or “Aren’t you elevating one group of people over another?” Don’t say, “You’re turning it into a show or a performance.”
To quote Paul again from 1 Corinthians: “Brothers, stop thinking like children!” (14:20)
There need to be planned times in our assemblies to “just listen” to song. The same ways we “just listen” to preaching and praying and Bible reading.” Songs are strong. Music has the power to move people, to motivate and inspire, to encourage and comfort. There need to be times when a brother or sister with God-given abilities can use those abilities in a public way to bring glory to the Father and encourage the church. We need to be blown away every now and then by the talents God’s given us.
Speaking of singing to one another, Carrie-Anne and I were suprised last night at our new house by a gaggle of Christmas carolers from our Central Youth Group. It seems those gathered at Tanner’s house decided to take the party on the road and wound up stopping by half a dozen houses to sing Christmas songs. We were thoroughly honored. And duly impressed. Not so much with Tanner’s Christmas tie and sweater or Spencer’s reindeer solo or Barrett’s improvised falsetto at the end of “Silent Night.” More so with the idea of sharing their gifts of song and fellowship with others.
On Friday they issued a “Blizzard Watch” for Monday and Tuesday. So we’ve been on alert. Yesterday while Carley and I were stirring paint together in the dining room, the Police song on our classic rock station was interrupted by the harsh tones of a National Weather Service alert. You know, that noise always makes me think thunderstorm or tornado watch. That was my first reaction. But the computerized voice alerted us that the blizzard watch had been canceled. Carley and I looked at each other with a little bit of disappointment. But the voice went on to let us know that a blizzard warning had now been issued for our parts of Randall and Potter Counties in the panhandle.
We’re expecting 12-16 inches of snow over the next 24 hours. North winds gusting to 45-50 miles per hour. Temperatures in the 20s. Whiteout conditions. Visibilities down to nothing. Four and five foot drifts.
I have no idea what that’s going to look like. I don’t know what it might to do to the city here. I’ve never experienced anything even close to this. But we’re excited about it. It’s brand new for us. So our attitude at Stanglin Manor right now is “Bring it.”