How to improve your congregational singing while we can’t sing
When trying to encourage our congregations to sing, we will sometimes reach for illustrations and examples from the few other places where people are comfortable singing nice and loudly in a crowd of people. These normally include watching your favourite band in concert or supporting your favourite sports team.
The argument goes something like this: You are passionate about those things, and therefore you are quite happy to sing nice and loud in those contexts. So – if you are passionate about Jesus and what he has done – why would you not sing nice and loud in the church congregation? That makes sense, and sometimes does encourage people to sing up a bit more. But there’s a missing ingredient.
The thing is – if we take the example of singing at a football match – it’s not just the case that you as an individual are passionate about the team and therefore willing to sing. That does lead you to want to sing. But the thing that really enables you to lift your voice, is knowing that everyone around you is just as passionate as you are (or even more passionate). There is no need to be ashamed of joining in the song because you know that these people beside and behind and in front of you are on the same team. They are wearing the same colours. They have been through the ups and downs of supporting your team for however long, as well as their own personal ups and downs.
In the UK, we’re approaching a year of living with government guidance stating (more or less) that congregational singing should not take place when we gather. As we look forward to fully-fledged congregational singing returning at some point, perhaps we’re nervous about what it will be like when it does re-emerge.
One way we could strengthen our corporate singing while we wait is by encouraging a genuine, sacrificial, loving interest in one another. In this way, we will be following Jesus by serving others (see Philippians 2), and we will build deeper connections with one another that can only help our singing together in the long run.
If we’re already working hard on these things, then let’s be optimistic about what congregational singing will be like when it returns. If we as individuals have been focusing on King Jesus and living for him during restrictions, then we will want to sing his praise and will lift our voices when we can. But consider how much richer (and even louder) our singing together will be if we have lovingly walked alongside as many of our brothers and sisters as possible during times of lockdown.
Yes, it’s hard, and we’re all fed up of Zoom, but picture the day when we can sing together again. Will you be nervous about singing in the congregation, or raring to go? Imagine looking round and seeing a brother in Christ who you prayed with when he lost his job during Lockdown 2.0. His trust in Christ has been a real example to you. And the sister in Christ in front of you, grieving the loss of a loved one, who really appreciated your chat when you phoned. She is not grieving without hope. And the senior saint you haven’t seen in the flesh for months but have prayed for regularly and corresponded with using these ancient tools called letters and cards. He’s had his vaccine, and he is overjoyed to be in the gathering of God’s people.
Yes we will sing because we want to praise the name of Jesus. But if we lovingly invest in serving others now, our singing will be all the richer then. The confidence to lift our voices will only be strengthened as we look around at our spiritual family who have shared this journey with us, and as we think to ourselves, “Sing up! You’re on the same team.”