In the last month I’ve spoken at churches in Indiana, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine and Vermont. Although they varied in size, denomination and worship style, I noticed one common factor in each church:
Hearty congregational singing.
Note that I did not say “hearty congregational worship.” I meant singing. Hearty, enthusiastic, deeply-felt singing in which the whole congregation takes part. To me hearty congregational singing is one mark of a healthy church. (Several years ago I wrote abou this in a blog entry called How to Spot a Health Church Quickly. I also wrote about it in My Perfect Church is a Singing Church.)
My travels over the last month have reinforced that notion. A congregation that loves to sing helps make a visitor feel comfortable. It’s contagious. Even if I don’t know the words, I am drawn in by the singing of those around me.
Recently I spent time with a friend who is planting a new church. I only gave him one real piece of advice:
“Teach the people to sing.”
I told him to tell his worship leader, “If they don’t sing, you don’t get paid.” That will focus his attention immediately.
Great singing builds a great church. Use hymns, use choruses, use gospel songs. Learn to sing the words of Scripture. Teach your children and your young people to sing. Preach about singing. Christianity has been a musical faith from the very beginning.
It’s high time that our churches recaptured the importance of congregational singing. “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19) is not just good advice. It’s a command from God. Blessed are those churches who take it seriously.
Dr. Ray Pritchard is the founder and President of Keep Believing Ministries.