When Lee was in the seventh grade, he sang in a small quartet at school. They were singing at a talent show for the school and were some of the youngest participants of the night. To say they were a little intimidated to sing before a packed house of older students and parents would be an understatement.
The song they were singing was a cappella – one of those classic quartet numbers where the lead singer would sing a line and the other three parts would answer. It was all going just fine until the lead singer lost his nerve – right at the start of the second verse. Well, since it was unaccompanied and the lead singer had to lead out to keep it going – and he was frozen on the spot – the whole song just came to a halt. For at least 20-30 seconds, the four guys just looked at each other… shrugging their shoulders, paralyzed with fear. It started feeling like a comedy routine, and the audience started to giggle. Every second that went by got a little more awkward and a little funnier. And my son – the born leader – slapped the lead singer across his back and emphatically said, “Sing!” And the boy started back up like a lawn mower, and they finished the song. The house erupted with laughter and applause! To this day, people that saw it thought it was all planned out that way – that they were trying to be funny. But I knew better. It still makes me grin when I think about it.
Lately, there have been many Sundays when I’ve wanted to do the same thing Lee did – slap the collective “backs” of the congregation and emphatically say, “Sing!” Because increasingly, fewer and fewer of our congregants participate in singing.
Many leaders have written on the subject of why people don’t sing – I won’t do that here. But, I do want to point to a psalm in which the psalmist does the very thing I’ve wanted to do – emphatically say, “Sing!”
Read Psalm 150.
Basically the psalmist is saying, use any and every way possible to express your worship – play something, hit something, use your very breath. Give praise to God! Some might say, “I can worship God inside my own heart. I don’t have to be outward with my praise.” Well, I suppose there is a place for that – but not in Psalm 150.
The word that starts and ends the Psalm – translated “Praise the Lord” or “Hallelujah” –has a very special nuance about it. In Hebrew, the word has the connotation of something visible, audible, or expressed outwardly. In one sense, it means to “put on a show.”
Now, to be sure, our worship shouldn’t be just a show. But in every believer, there should be those times of corporate worship… when you demonstrate, in a manner that can be observed, that you are engaged and your worship is being expressed outwardly.
If that is seldom or never true for you in your experience, I’m afraid something is wrong with your experience. Ask God to show you why you are not following the admonition of the Word to be expressive in your praise, and ask Him to help you grow in this spiritual discipline.
Come on Church – “Sing!”
Mike Harland is the Director of LifeWay Worship. When he’s not directing 30+ employees, you’ll find him leading worship at various churches around the country, writing/arranging worship songs and/or, writing his next book. In his spare time, he loves playing basketball and spending time with his family. Mike can be found on Twitter @MikeHarlandLW and on facebook.com/Mike.Harland.37.