Growing up, I never really could sing well and did not like it. I was not really musically inclined, except playing the coronet in the junior high band, which ended my musical career. Sometimes I could carry a tune, but hitting the notes on paper was always fairly impossible for me. Then I became a Christian at the age of 19 and something changed.
As soon as I was saved, I loved to sing. No one had to tell me. I began singing the hymns and praise songs. But for some reason, I liked the hymns better. I felt that the praise songs had some life, but the hymns also had depth, content, and life. I began to see there was a depth in the hymns that the "7-11" songs did not have. You know what 7-11 singing is? Someone said its 7 words repeated 11 times.
The truth is, repeating "Oh, You're so good!" thirty times to a monotonous tune won't take you deeper in the longer scheme of things. Those four words really are true, but much more than that is needed in singing for the long haul in the Christian life.
I saw early on that the hymns just were better, so much better. So I was singing from the time I was first saved and have loved the hymns now for 37 years. Since then, it has been onward and upward, singing as I go.
This past year, I was in a conference, where the pastor of the church knew I loved hymns. Without asking me, he spontaneously called me to the pulpit with him and when I walked up, he announced that he and I would sing a hymn together for the church. My heart said, "Oh, no! What has he done? How could he do that to me? What will I do? This is bad, really bad."
I had a choice to make. I could either make a scene by declining and embarrassing him or I could trust God. So I chose to trust God, even when life was hurting. He even picked the hymn. I had previously thought this brother was a wise man. Now I knew better. I was on the spot, with the choice to try to please Christ and not be a distraction. So he and I sang. We did not miss any notes (any music teacher present might disagree). We got through it and it became a blessing to my heart, even if to no one else. But I believe it was also a blessing to Christ.
In the end, it wasn't not about me. It was only about Christ. The pastor and I sang about Christ. We were not trying to perform or sound impressive (certainly an impossibility). We were not trying to entertain anyone. We were worshipping. And perhaps someone there worshipped during those 3 minutes. It was only about God, not us.
Since then, my own church has not asked me to sing any special music. They are very smart. I am not a good singer. But when it comes to the corporate time of singing together as a body, I have realized over the years that its not a personal, individual, optional thing. It's a God-thing. It is a divine command of Scripture and a corporate responsibility upon the body of believers to sing together to the Lord.
God takes very seriously every Christian's responsibility to sing or the Bible would not speak so much about it.
In my Christian journey, I have observed something very interesting. Men, more than women, are especially hesitant to sing. Hesitant may not be the right word. Some men will not sing in church. Instead, they sit or stand there and are silent. They look down and won't look up. Looks like they are either reading or are far off in a dream somewhere. They just won't sing. They come to church and seem to fellowship with others well and benefit from the messages. They love the brethren and love the preaching. But when it comes to singing, they won't do it. Why?
Its a personal carnal thing. They are afraid. Its a bondage of fear. Some of us men know we couldn't carry a tune in a bucket the size of Texas. So we are afraid, embarrassed, and bound up in ourselves. Slaves to our own inhibitions about singing. Some men are so afraid about singing out loud in public, they feel sick inside when faced with doing it. So they won't. They remain in bondage about it and self-defeated. Its a self-centered choice to put themselves before God. The unwillingness to sing in church is self-centeredness, which must be faced and overcome by God's grace and help.
A man might say, "Well, I'm not called to preach and I'm not called to sing either." Wrong. He may not be called to preach, but if he's a Christian, he is already called to sing. Every Christian is called by God to sing. The entire Bible gives that call.
I have seen people text-messaging during sermons and during singing. They ought to be brought up for church discipline, as far as I'm concerned. Turn it off and sing. If you are that self-centered rather than being God-centered, then there is much heart searching to be done.
Every Christian is called to sing. No excuses. It is wrong to sit there in church and remain silent while others are singing. It is wrong to sit there and read your Bible while the saints are singing the praises of God. There is a time for all things. When its time to pray, then pray; when its time to read the Bible, then read; when its time to hear the message, then give attention. And when its time to sing, it's not time to pray, read, or listen to something else. It's time to sing.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was big on this subject. He preached about the Christian's responsibility and privilege to sing in worship.
In a sermon he said:
"But how can I make melody in my heart?", someone asks, "I don't feel like sining." My friend, consider Him until you do! Ask the Spirit to so reveal Him until you cannot keep silent. This is what you must do, says the apostle, "Be filled with the Spirit." And as you are led by Him, you will look at the Son and you will not be able to contain yourself. You will burst forth in praise.
"Let those refuse to sing
That never knew our God;
But children of the heavenly King
May speak their joys abroad."
- Isaac Watts
Do you sing or do you say, "Why are you spending time telling us these things we already know? Why don't you deal with the present international situation? The world is in a terrible state." I will tell you why. It is because we don't sing about those things! I sometimes wonder whether I should not go on just repeating this Sunday by Sunday until we are all singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord.
There is not greater insult to the person of Christ than to forget him because you are so interested in the state of the world and so on. It comes near being blasphemy. Let us be not among those who, in their ignorance, refuse to sing. Rather, we want to say:
Brightness of the Father's glory,
Break, my tongue, such guilty silence,
Sing the Lord, who came to die!
- Robert Robinson
-- D. M. Lloyd-Jones (taken from his book Singing to the Lord)
God wants you to sing and make melody in your heart. You are the only one who can offer Him your own praise. It is sinful and shameful to hold back and not sing. The tragedy in not singing is that you withhold praise and glory from Him, and you withhold blessing, growth, and peace from yourself.
So here's the question pure and simple. In church, do you sing or are you silent? Your answer determines if you are pleasing God in worship or not. You and I are either singing with the saints or sinning with the singing saints by our silence. When our brethren around us are singing and we are silent, we are in sin. And the reason is self-centeredness-- just too proud and self-centered to open our mouth. It's wrong, and the main reason it is wrong is because it is grieving the Holy Spirit.
So, this Sunday, look at those songs, look at the words and open thy mouth! it doesn't matter how it sounds--just sing. Rare back, put to death your comfort zone and just sing. You are not singing for others-- its for Him and for yourself. Start singing this Sunday and never stop. Singing with the saints is not an option for the Christian who wants to grow and please Christ.
There's a hymn called "Trust and Obey"- that is exactly what those who don't like to sing need to do. Trust God for the grace to begin singing and just obey- just be a man, shake off thy guilty fears, rare back, and begin to obey God. Sing. Just sing. It won't hurt, I promise.
What a joy it becomes to sing the songs of Zion-- it's a fragrance to God in worship and a liberating sanctification to the singer. So begin to sing, then sing on, and never stop.
- Mack Tomlinson