Monday, March 5, 2012

Courageous Singing

John Wesley loved to give directions.  He couldn't help it.

As a matter of fact in Select Hymns (1761), Mr. Wesley went so far as to publish his "Directions for Singing".  He was apparently distraught with how the people were singing the hymns that he and his brother Charles were so actively writing.  The early Methodist hymns had a very revival-like quality.  The Wesleys knew that music was a tool sent to us from God to bring God's people together, so they took the craft of musical composition for the church very seriously.

The wise Hymnal Revision Committee for the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal reprinted John Wesley's Directions just inside the hymnal and I'm always rereading them to make sure I measure up!

My favorite one, number 4, reads like this:

Sing lustily and with a good courage.  Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength.  Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.
As a worship pastor, it's my job to get people engaged in the songs of the church.  But sometimes congregants just refuse.  That's the half dead people Mr. Wesley was talking about.  How can you not smile when it's time to sing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee?  Maybe somebody told these people that their God-given voice wasn't worthy.

When it comes to the music in worship, there are as many opinions as there are people.  And I don't have the data to back it up, but for a whole lot of people the quality of the music is a huge decider in the church that they choose.  The Wesley's knew this, and they were writing music to start a holiness movement, a revival.  The congregational singing in our worship is a primary way that the people work together to praise.

So sing with the voice God gave you.  Be courageous!