“He who sings prays twice.”
This post was contributed by worship leader Mike Hale.
Some will recognize that statement as a reminder from St. Augustine of the rich blessing and importance of singing to God. Or in light of a Christ-centered incarnational theology, we might even say the blessing and importance of singing with God—being included in the prayers and praises of the risen and ascended Jesus in the heavenlies.
Yet when it comes to congregational singing, some folks are (or at least seem to be) reluctant to participate. My old friend joked recently that he doesn’t have ‘the gift of worship’—said he’s ‘worship challenged.’ Well, at least he’s joking. He’s fully supportive of church worship, but when the music starts, he’s just not the most boisterous worshipper among us. We get it.
I’m not personally a fan of worship leaders pleading with those in attendance in an attempt to coerce more participation, more volume, more smiles, more intensity, more this and more that, during a worship service. (For one thing, I kinda like what Joseph Garlington said to me one time about church goers who arrive late for the service, “I’m just happy they came at all!” But there are some theological reasons too.) Yet we do well in preparation each week to consider how we might best bless and serve God and the people of God—the particular persons he has chosen for us to be with as a worshipping community—and we consider what songs and practices might allow for greatest meaningful inclusion in that particular setting.
The subject of Congregational singing is explored on the CRG (Congregational Resource Guide) website—a guide to books, articles, interviews, surveys and comments on many aspects of church life. Click here for a link to the recent blurb on the subject, and on hymnodist Brian Wren’s book Praying Twice: The Music and Words of Congregational Song, as well as a link to an interview with Wren from Reformed Worship magazine. [Thanks to Ted Johnston of the Surprising God blog for recommending CRG.]