The lost joy of singing

Published 12:07 pm Saturday, February 7, 2015

by Andrew Book

When I was in high school I was in the youth choir at my church. We had some good singers in that choir, but I was not one of them. In fact, I was such a poor singer that the choir director looked for songs where the bass part I was singing was as simple as possible. Even so, at some point in high school, I made a decision that, even though I was not a great singer (or even a good singer), I was going to continue to sing simply for the joy of singing.

In the years that have passed between then and now, I have sung a lot. I love to sing as a way to worship God, as a way to talk to my kids (we make up songs about everything in our house) and simply as a way to enjoy the gift of music.

The years of singing have actually helped to train my voice so that my singing does not sound like a frog in a box anymore. I am no virtuoso, yet I will still confidently sing out during worship, unconcerned that someone might hear me because singing is one of the best ways I have found to put my emotions, prayers and words together.

Unfortunately, my commitment to song is one that I do not share with many people. It was not long ago that people regularly gathered to play music and sing together, but that experience has been relegated to the past. Listening to professional musicians (either recorded or in concert) has replaced singing and playing together, but the experience of listening cannot compare to the joy of creating music and the power of expressing ourselves through music.

In college I played in a worship band led by Dave Haywood (one-third of the well-known country band Lady Antebellum), so I can say confidently that there is nothing fundamentally different about making music with a professional. Our band led worship for a Sunday morning worship service at a local theater in Athens, Georgia, and we had a good time doing it, but there was nothing different about playing with that band and singing in those worship services than singing to God in the many other places and times where I have sung my faith with the church. Singing is powerful when we put our hearts into it. Simply listening to someone else sing will never have that power!

As a pastor, I stand in front of the congregation at Courtland United Methodist Church every Sunday and lead the congregation in singing. From my vantage point up front, I can see people who sing with all their hearts, others who seem to sing from a half-hearted sense of responsibility and others who stand awkwardly in silence waiting for the worship service to move on to the next portion. We sing the great hymns of the faith and newly composed praise songs, but regardless of what we are singing it is clear from my position at the front of the congregation that those who are truly singing are able to be engaged in worshiping God in a much fuller way than those who are spectators. There is something powerful about singing!

Something else I can tell you as a pastor who stands in front of people singing each week is that no one cares how you sound. As long as you are not shouting above the rest of the group, no one is listening to see if you hit the right note. No one cares if your voice cracks on the high notes (mine does every time). No one notices if the low notes sound more like a bullfrog than a song. No one is listening to see if you know the tune exactly. I hope that truth can free you up to sing out in worship, the shower, or wherever you find yourself.

This Sunday at 11 a.m. we are continuing our series at Courtland United Methodist Church on “Why We Gather” by looking at “Why We Sing Together.” If you are wondering why the church keeps inviting you to sing even when the rest of society has moved towards simply listening to professional singers, you may want to join us. Whether you join us for worship or not, I hope you will sing out this week. Song is a powerful way to express your joy, anger, hope, frustration, or any other emotion you are feeling, so sing out. I promise I won’t be checking to make sure you hit the right notes!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or