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Singing That Is Special To God

Some anonymous person told about a barbershop quartet in their hometown, and said, "They became known as 'The Local Prison Quartet.' " The teller of the story went on to say, "That always seemed like a strange name to me. The men were not prisoners, and we didn't even have a prison in our town. I finally asked my mother one day why the quartet was known by that name. She said it was because they sang behind a few bars and they were always looking for the key." That some singing and some singers are "better" than others needs no proving. But when it comes to singing when the church assembles for worship, God may not care nearly as much as some of us do about how we sound and/or about how others sound! Let the Bible speak: "Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing" (Psalm 100:1-2). God directs us to sing, but when we sing in worship He isn't just listening to the sound that comes out of our mouths — He is listening to the music that is being made in our hearts! Let the Bible speak again: "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord ... Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord... Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 13:15). These and other verses call every worshiper to participate in singing and praise. But in many religious groups, "special music" and "special singing" is all the rave. By these terms I mean choirs, quartets, trios, duets, solos, pianos, guitars, horns, drums, bands, etc. My point here is not to offend or be "stuck-in-a-rut" or pick a fight. Neither is it to deny that some folks have a voice that can make your hair stand on end and leave you in awe at the emotional power of a beautiful voice coupled with mechanical instruments of music. There is no denying that much religious singing accompanied by instrumental music is amazingly beautiful to the ear, or that such songs and the people who sing them are "special" to many people. But the question is not is the music special and pleasing to people. The question is does it please God? Is it what He desires in worship and authorizes in His Word?

The late Hugo McCord wrote about "special music" in the church's worship services: "Special music changes worshipers into two classes, performers and spectators. Special music changes the auditorium into a theater." The New Testament calls each worshiper, acting as a priest to "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5, 9). Singing is a part of those offerings, and if the Scriptures are allowed to guide, each wo shiper joins all others in singing to give God praise and to teach and encourage one another. God is always pleased when we do what He says do in the way He says do it. When we assemble for worship, the Lord directs each of us to sing and make music in our hearts. We know that that kind of music is special to Him, because that is what He clearly authorizes us to do. Now, are you involved in that kind of special singing, or do you sit silently while the church sings?

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ