I’m a choir member now, but for a long time, I was in the pew. In fact, I was in the very last pew in the very back of the Church. But, there was never a Sunday when I wasn’t singing… taking my lead from those standing in the choir loft.
Finally, one Wednesday night, I did it. I. JOINED. THE. CHOIR.
There were many reasons behind my decision to join – my wanting to serve, my love of singing, my desire to honor a promise I made to God, but there’s one reason I don’t talk about much… I wanted to be one of the choir members smiling down from the loft and generally looking like I loved what I was called to do — joyfully singing my praises to the Lord. Why? Because I wanted those looking up to see engaged choir members leading in worship.
Which leads me to today’s “View From the Pew”: Why don’t choir members smile? Seriously, why aren’t they smiling?
Psalm 33:1 says, “Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him.”
Notice, it doesn’t say sing solemnly. Or sadly. It’s says, “Sing JOYFULLY.” By definition, joyfully means: showing or expressing joy, as looks, actions, or speech. And what better way to show joy than to smile.
So I ask, “How many times have you sat in the pew, looking up at the choir loft filled with choir members, and wondered, ‘Why aren’t they smiling’?” Or at least looking like they are praising God. Or taking to heart what they are singing. Yeah. Me too.
Now, to be fair, I’m Southern Baptist to the core. Raising hands and clapping were just not how I was raised, so I get it. But a little smiling, even crying, can be seen all the way to the back of the Church. I promise.
So here’s what I know: It’s almost impossible to tell the Minister of Music that his choir needs to smile. It’s definitely impossible to tell a choir member they need to look like they want to be there. In fact, I’m fairly certain only an 80-year-old woman can get away with that!
So, as choir members, knowing there could be a millions reasons why we’re not smiling, what can we do to help each other sing joyfully to the Lord? Because no one else is going to tell us (except maybe the 80-year-old lady).
Be excited to be part of the choir. It is a privilege to lead from the loft each Sunday. Your heart will show… all the way to the very last row. Really.
Be encouraging to fellow choir members. If you see they’re struggling, encourage them. Remind them why they are there… to lead others, but to also be led.
Listen to the music. From the favorite hymns to the praise-filled anthems, the music sets the tone of our worship. Whether it’s joyful or reverent, let your face, gestures and presence show your emotion.
Think of those in the pews. They are watching you sing. Whether you’re singing joyfully or tearfully, these are precious moments God uses to bring His people closer to Him. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will SEE and fear and put their trust in the Lord.
And the last (and most important) Fifth step:
Remember to whom you are singing. Would you stand in front of Jesus and sing without enthusiasm or emotion? OR, would you stand in front of Jesus and sing with all the love and joy in your heart?
As someone that sat in the pews for a long time, I can tell you, I wanted to see the choir singing with emotion – whatever that may be – joyfully, reverently, or tearfully. Just know… every smile, every praise, every tear makes a huge difference to those looking up from the pew. Even to the very last pew in the very back of the Church.
Beautifully Blessed and Truly Thankful,
Side note to Ministers of Music and Worship Pastors: You have a tough job… and we are so thankful for your service. All of the above applies to you as well, but even more so… with more steps. From rehearsals to productions and everything in between (devotions, team building, announcements, and more…), remember music is your language, not your message. Therefore, it is incredibly important to teach your choir members how to lead worship. As my friend Mike Harland once said, “Choirs full of people giving their worship to God are choirs that will lead the worship of others in a powerful way.”
Chasity Phillips is the Marketing Strategist for LifeWay Worship. She’s also a choir member at Brentwood Baptist Church AND an EVERY Sunday nursery worker. She loves being creative. Her “Happy Place”: Worship Music + Creativity (add a palm tree, and that’s how she imagines Heaven). She also loves social media… so BEWARE, you might find yourself on the pages of LifeWay Worship’s FB page or Twitter feed. Outside of LifeWay and Church, she can be found at a baseball field somewhere…watching her three baseball-loving boys (husband, Brent and two boys, Peyton & Palmer) play baseball OR cheering on her Alma Mater, The Florida State University Seminoles. Psalm 143:8