Although screen monitors are used these days, I remember the interaction while sharing a hymnal and singing together with the person next to me in church – pointing out each stanza on each staff to keep up.
There was something about congregational singing that was wholesome and you could feel it in the air and in your heart. Many churches today have either abandoned or just don’t know or don’t care about the value of congregational singing.
On today’s church circuit, it’s not uncommon to hear a choir director or song stylist shout, “Get your praise on,” as if we were at the Super Bowl. Yes, we should worship in joyful praise, but the focus seems to be more on them, the individual, than on Him, the God we serve.
With many so-called singers doing what I call “vocal acrobatics,” there seems to be a thin line between what’s sacred and what’s secular. Many of today’s award-winning gospel songs are improvised in such a way that many choir members fail miserably when they try to emulate them.
In congregational singing, there’s nothing like singing along-side “Jim,” who’s a little off-key, but jubilant; or “Mary,” who’s typically shy but singing at the top of her voice. Like marching soldiers singing a battle song, we sing together as soldiers of the cross.
Songs like “How Great Thou Art,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “What A Friend We Have In Jesus,” and “In The Garden;” – are the type of songs that linger. I find myself humming them throughout the day long after the church service is over, and they seem to keep me in fellowship.
Hymns (hymnody) and psalms (psalmody) go way back. The earliest song on record is the Song of Moses (Exodus 15: 1-18). Corporate singing is found throughout the Bible. God inhabits the praises of His people, and fights our battles.
When King Jehoshaphat learned that his enemies were coming against him in great numbers, he appointed men to sing praises to God, and God caused the enemies to turn on one another, so that the people of Judah and Jerusalem did not have to fight at all. The battle was not theirs, but God’s (II Chron. 20: 21-23). Corporate songs of praise can be very powerful!
True songs of praise and worship break down barriers – they transcend ethnicity and culture. Think of familiar songs like “Because He Lives,” “He Touched Me,” and “There Is Something About That Name” written by Bill and Gloria Gaither (a white couple); and others like “Through It All,” “To God Be The Glory,” “Soon And Very Soon,” and “The Blood Will Never Lose Its Power” written by Andraé Crouch (a Black man).
The same goes for “Precious Lord” by Thomas A. Dorsey (a Black man). All of these songs are well-known in most churches – white, black, or otherwise.
By the way, it’s been just a little over a year since Crouch passed away. Reportedly, he wrote “The Blood” at age 14. Billy Graham once said of Crouch that he was, “The greatest hymn writer of our age, the modern day John Wesley.”
His songs, and the others mentioned will live on forever.