Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Singing and Understanding

Recently, Cole's dad, Rick shared a very interesting story with me.  But first let me give you some background.

Rick grew up attending a charismatic church, that uses popular style musical accompaniment, soloists, choirs, etc. in worship.  Rick was one of the soloists.  Rick married, Gina who grew up attending a non-denominational acapella Church of Christ.  Rick attended with her often, but remained loyal to the way his parents raised him.  A few years ago Rick and Gina began attending with us.  After a few months, Rick said he had some questions for me.  We met in my study before worship on Sunday afternoon.  He questions were great but that is another blog.  He surprised his family and to the delight of all here, he came forward and obeyed the Gospel that evening.  Rick now leads in worship in many different areas and teaches our young teens on Wednesdays.

Now back to Cole.  Because Rick's family (parents, brothers, etc) are still part of the other group Cole and his brother Brooks will occasionally visit with family and attend worship where they assemble.  After one such visit, Cole told Rick and Gina, "That was a cool church.  They had a band with drums, guitars, it was great!"  Rick asked Cole a simple question, "What songs did they sing?"   "I don't know," Cole replied, "but it was awesome."

After the conversation had changed Cole interrupted, "We did sing, 'It is Well with My Soul,' it was good too."  Rick later discovered that the reason Cole remembered that one song was it was the only one the whole congregation sung acapella.  The message came through when the instruments were silent.

Now I wonder how Eph 5, Col 3, and 1 Cor 14 would fit into this event?

Scott

8 comments:

Samantha Moore said...

We spend/spent a lot of time attending bluegrass festivals. Many of the songs are songs of praise. I've noticed over the years that when a band really wants to get a message through they will sing the whole song or at least a portion of the song accapella. There are no distractions and the message gets through. Thanks for this one! What a wonderful example and what a great way to show the reasoning behind Gods command to sing with the heart.

Michelle Fuller said...

Great food for thought! I tell my children we don't always have to know the REASON for doing things the way God says, but we do need to know to DO what He says. I read The Morning Drive with our children this morning and we had some good discussion. Side-note: Cole and Brooks do such a great job leading the congregation in song.....Rick, too! :)

Anonymous said...

I certainly appreciate acapella music. I've been in a chorus group before, and learned a lot of the intricacies involved, and even own some music by the group Acapella, which is absolutely fantastic. There is something very much worth while in this form of singing.

Yet I can't help but think that the representation of this child's experience is a faulty one. Don't misunderstand - I do believe a lot of modern evangelical Christianity essentially has the same feeling as Cole. They don't get the message, they just enjoy it like they would a concert. While I don't see anything wrong with music with a Christian message being entertaining, I do believe that if that's all you get out of it, you're missing out majorly in a lot of important areas. And for a lot of people it seems that is all they're getting out of it. They get emotionally charged, but there's absolutely no depth to it.

My point is, the problem is not with instruments. I also enjoy Christian music that uses instruments. And I can tell you that I have personally poured out my heart in these songs and received the messages of them just as much as other songs. So the problem is not with the music, it's with the people. And that's just one of the things that frustrates me so much about the instrument debate: it tends to take the focus off the problem.

That is to say, just because someone remembers the song doesn't mean they got anything from it. While I have no problem with instruments personally, I worship at a non-instrumental congregation, and I always have done so. And despite the numerous congregations I have attended, it is rare for me to experience an emotionally charged worship service in those conditions. No one sings to each other - a habit which the NT church was definitely used to, seeing as in synagogue worship this was normal (not to mention part of the verses you quote at the end, e.g. "speaking to one another..." or as the ESV states "addressing one another"). We sing straight ahead to no one in particular. If there is any encouragement, it is on a completely individual level, which rather defeats the purpose of corporate worship. And worse, the staleness of our worship is in the minds of many the proof that our worship is genuine and with understanding.

Far be it from me to judge the hearts of everyone around me, but I know for myself and for many others I have talked to this is an issue. And that's exactly the point - the issue is people, not the type of singing. That's what really pulls a lot of people to instrumental worship - the fact that when they worship with it they feel more connected, like they can really pour out their heart. If we would cultivate that attitude in non-instrumental congregations, I don't think so many people would even want to leave anyway. But we've got to let go of much of the rigidity that we have held on to for so long if that is going to happen.

Now this of course is a totally different topic than whether or not instruments are actually sinful. As I already mentioned, I don't think they are, and I'd be happy to discuss that point further, but whether that is the case or not, I think my previous points still stand as something worth noting.

-K

Scott said...

Sam and Michelle thanks for your observations. Sam -- I miss hearing Richie play that fiddle, and the sausage festival too.

-K, Thanks for sharing your point of view. I agree that much of the issue is the heart of the worshiper. One can miss worship complete even when there are no instruments present. I also agree that traditionally we have messed up what singing to one another is all about. Many of our buildings are designed for the congregation to focus their attention on a stage much like any other auditorium. I am glad to see many newer building build in a semi-circle or angle shape so that Christians can see each other's faces and sing to each other. I have also had the experience to sing where the "song leader" did not stand before the congregation, but started the song from where he sat with his family. That experienced helped me focus more on the message and not the leader. I also come from a choral background and had become dependent on the song leader to direct like a choral director instead of letting the lyrics and music work together as we all sang to one another. Now years later, I can finally (most of the time) focus on the message where-ever I am. As you hinted, the heart of the worshiper is key. If I concentrate as I worship then I am singing with understanding. Worship is both individual and collective when we assemble together.

The sinfulness of non-sinfulness of using instruments is a topic for another day, but I will simply state, that since I do not see authority for them in the NT church, I will continue to not use them in worship and pray that God is gracious.

Scott

For your consideration let me suggest a book written by a Baptist preacher - 'Old Light on New Worship' In this book John Price presents his personal study about instruments and worship. His conclusions are worthy of note, though I am not in 100% agreement with all of his application.

Falantedios said...

The message came through, or he remembered the name of the song because he'd sung it before?

How many people Cole's age understand "Night With Ebon Pinion" regardless of whether it is a cappella or instrumental?

"Here I raise my Ebenezer?"
"Let The Lower Lights Be Burning?"

There's a critique to be made here, Scott, but I don't think it's about the instruments.

The message of "I Can Only Imagine" comes through just fine - too bad I'm not allowed to sing it with true Christians.

Scott said...

I agree that there are certain songs that the message comes through even with accompaniment. I like "I Can Only Imagine." I do not know why we cannot take songs like that one and rearrange them for unaccompanied singing, we have in the past. Take a look through most of our hymnals (songbooks) and you will see that many are written for instruments.

If you visit with us at Parrish, you will find a mixture of the classic hymns you refer too and newer ones such as "Come Share the Lord," "We Will Glorify," and others that we sing acapella that groups down the road sing accompanied.

I will ask Rick, but if Cole visited where I think he did, they sang Gaither and Stamps-Baxter hymns, just with a band. Probably not Mercy Me, Tobymac, Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, or Skillet.

Scott said...

Guess I should clear the air some and admit to listening to and enjoying some Christian Contemporary Music outside of worship. One of my favorite CD's of all time of and all genres is Steven Curtis Chapman's "The Great Adventure."

Samantha Moore said...

Scott,
We've been blessed over the last several months to have our great nieces and nephews attend church with us. They are not used to attending worship and range in age from 3 to 10. If we make eyeb contact with them and hold their hands as we sing then they sing (make a joyful noise with us) I so agree that we many times have failed to sing and encourage one another. Some of the most meaningful praise and teaching I've been blessed to be a part of has been at camp and in chapel, standing beside a teen who was using that time to visit rather than sing and encouraging them to sing with us. In return, I was the one encourageed by the sweet young voice offering praise to God.
P.S. Your advice at that sausage festival was one of the reasons Rich and I stayed together and I've been blessed with a husband whose goal it is to see us all get to heaven. Lots of love to you and Amy!