I recently began reading “Sing for Your Life: A Story of Race, Music, and Family.” The book chronicles the life of Ryan Green, winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. At one very low point in Ryan’s life, while locked up in a juvenile detention facility, he began to sing along with the radio. Singing, he said, took him to another place – a place free from trouble and pain. This natural human inclination is indeed a gift that can transport us – especially when we sing together in worship.
So, why do we sing? The question seems simple, but too often in our society singing is becoming something that others do – often relegated as entertainment … for our listening pleasure. In his book “The Singing Thing,” John Bell points out 10 reasons for why we sing. As you read them, reflect on how you also view singing – especially for purposes of worship.
- Because we can. Singing is natural – you are the instrument!
- To create identity. Are there songs that you sing that express who you are or where you’re from? How much greater are these moments when done together?
- To express emotion. From our deepest sorrows to our greatest triumphs, singing together can lift our hearts.
- To express words. Try speaking the words to “Happy Birthday” at a party without singing – let me know how that goes.
- To revisit the past. Ever heard one of your old favorites on the radio? Do you recall the first time you heard it? Singing can take us back and help us remember.
- To tell stories. Think of what you know about the birth of Christ. How much did you learn from singing Christmas carols?
- To shape the future. What we sing helps us learn and grow. Singing is not a neutral exercise – it affects the mind!
- To enable work. Many cultures have examples of singing together while working. The rhythmic movement can strengthen and enhance the group.
- To exercise our creativity. Each time we sing, something new and wonderful is happening. Creativity is at work in every singer.
- To give of ourselves. Each voice raised together in song contributes to the unique moment. We become a part of something greater.
Bell goes on to list an 11th reason: To obey a command. Whimsically he writes … “Moses didn’t have enough room on the stone tablets to engrave the final one, so God had to wait until David came along and let the forgotten decree be heard: ‘Sing a new song!’” I believe God created us to be a singing people. Something special is happening when we join our voices together. Now, there are obviously reasons many give as to why they do not sing; however, I think the good outweighs the bad.
Singing ultimately saved Ryan Green’s life – being a part of something greater gave him hope. We also have hope for something more, and when we sing together, we begin to bring that more – God’s Kingdom on Earth – into the here and now. So, don’t hold back – sing out! Soli Deo Gloria! Tim