“Let Us Sing!”

“Let Us Sing!”

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Monday’s Column: Neal at the Cross

Neal Pollard

I counted 96 people present for the singing at the Waddells’ home Friday night, sitting in our camping chairs in their beautiful backyard. Beyond the hospitality and tasty desserts, this was such a wonderful, needed time of fellowship and singing. There were babies up through senior saints, with a whole lot in between. It was exciting to see visitors, several who have been attending but have not yet placed membership, elders, deacons, and so many others. Though the air was surprisingly chilly, you could not help but feel the warmth and glow of brothers and sisters enjoying life together. It felt so first-century!

While it is extremely valuable for us to make as a goal improving our singing, from training our song leaders to becoming better, more attentive followers, it is even more important to understand what God is trying to do for us and through us in our singing. Notice just a few of the objectives God achieves through those who follow His will by singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

  • We communicate to one another in a special, spiritual way (Eph. 5:19).
  • We teach and admonish one another with all wisdom (Col. 3:16).
  • We express gratitude in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16; cf. Psa. 28:7).
  • We proclaim God’s name to our brethren (Heb. 2:12).
  • We praise God’s works and nature in a unique way (Rev. 15:3; cf. Exo. 15:1,21; Psa. 68:4).
  • We offer up a sacrifice of praise by the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name (Heb. 13:15).
  • We help others see and fear and trust in the Lord (Psa. 40:3). 

Certainly, much more is implied concerning the power, effect, and blessings of saints singing together. But, it is helpful for us to consider the value of singing on its own. As a sacrifice of praise, singing is, of itself, worship. Worship is ” to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure” (BDAG 882). From “I Need Thee Every Hour” to “Holy, Holy, Holy” to “You Are My All In All” (and literally hundreds more), we prostrate ourselves before God as an act of reverence, fear, and supplication (Louw-Nida 217).  Our Creator designed us to connect to words and their meanings in a unique way through singing. We memorize better when we set something to music. We connect music to events and people, forming deeply touching memories and recollections. We touch our own hearts and those of others in a crucial way through melody. It is not just “filler” between prayers and the Lord’s Supper. It is a profoundly meaningful act God purposed for us to help us grow and be strong. By doing it together, we are connecting our hearts and encouraging one another’s spiritual lives. 

So, think about what you can do to make this act of worship so much more effective.

  • Clear your mind and focus intently on the message of each word of each song.
  • Focus on the people around you, deliberately trying to teach and admonish them.
  • Sing out so that your teaching and admonishing can be heard (forgetting yourself and how you think you “sound” to others).
  • Put forth effort, not just with your vocal cords but with your heart and mind.
  • Do not be afraid to connect your singing with your feelings.
  • Consciously work to communicate to God your praise and adoration each and every time you sing.
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly by your singing.

Do you remember when government mandates suggested that church goers not sing for fear that virus germs might be spread? Will you consider that God intends for something vital to be spread through our psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs? His Word! It should spread to our own hearts and to others. It should even reach the throne of God in heaven! Whether you are worshipping Him alone or with your physical family in song, assembled on the Lord’s Day, or gathered with saints in other places, let us sing!

Photo Credit: Shedona Tillman
Singing With The Understanding–Miscellany* 

Singing With The Understanding–Miscellany* 

Neal Pollard

We are a diverse group who gather to sing for worship. We vary in age, education, religious background and literacy, race, and doubtless other factors. Some of us have been singing the same hymns for decades, while others may be seeing those hymns for the first time.  There is a mutual responsibility, one for the song leader and one for the participant. Yet, I would argue that the leader has the greater obligation to assist the participants in offering better worship. Mindless participation is the fault of the participant, but being led to speak and teach words they don’t understand is not.  What can the song leader do to increase the effectiveness of “singing with the understanding.”

Engage In Thoughtful Preparation. When picking out songs to lead, opt for simplicity. Archaic or technical words can hang up and distract the worshipper. It is fruitful to ask the question, “How will this be comprehended by the average participant?” Does the song read like we speak today? If we’re not careful, we can tend to speak through song in mystical terms that help disconnect the mind and the mouth. Do we know what it means to “vanquish all the hosts of night”? Do we know what “cassia-dipped” garments are? Do we know what’s referenced “where Eden’s bowers bloom”? How do I “launch my bark”? These are lyrics from songs that are sung every week in congregations across the land, but words I’d venture to say that many, if not most, do not comprehend. We must give thought in preparation.

Engage In Adequate Explanation. Something that can help in song leading is to point out words or expressions we’re about to sing, defining and explaining them. This does not necessitate a second sermon, but as part of preparation we should be ready to clarify obscure or difficult words. For example, from songs we often sing, we find:

  • “Repining”–To feel or express discontent; to fret
  • “Guerdon”–A reward
  • “Warble”–To sing (especially used of birds)
  • “Fain”–Gladly
  • “Trysting”–Meeting 
  • “Essay” (as used in I’ll Never Forsake My Lord)– To attempt
  • “Cloven”–Divided
  • “Garish”–Bright and gaudy
  • “Fen”–A swamp

While some songbooks, like Praise For The Lord, have footnoted some of these difficult words, many worshippers don’t pay attention to them. So many of us project our hymns in worship. The onus (i.e., duty) is on the leader to explain.

Engage In Balanced Variation. Everyone has their favorite type and genre of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Song leaders are no different than worshippers. How important it is to balance out old and new hymns, considering the typical “audience” present to participate. 

Engage In Heavenly Petition. Anyone who leads in worship should season their preparation and participation with petition to God. Pray about doing what you’re tasked with doing as effectively as possible. 

What a blessing to have willing, talented worship leaders. We have a powerful opportunity to show God’s wisdom in singing according to the authority of the New Testament (cf. Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19). Let’s capitalize on that by putting everyone in the optimal position to sing with proper spirit and understanding!

*–Miscellany–A group or collection of different items; a mixture

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NOT JUST A PROBLEM FOR THOSE WHO FAVOR INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

NOT JUST A PROBLEM FOR THOSE WHO FAVOR INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC

Neal Pollard

People who have rejected the teaching that singing in worship must be without the addition of mechanical instrumental music have appealed to culture, to the permission of silence, to aesthetics, to emotion, to tradition, to preference, and the like. As we examine Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5, seeing the imperatives in each place (“let the word of Christ richly dwell within you”—Col. 3:16; “be filled with the Spirit”—Eph. 5:18) and the participles that reveal how to obey the imperatives (Eph.: “speaking…singing…making melody…giving thanks”; Col.: “teaching…admonishing…singing”), we rightly say that God specifies what He wants and through such excludes what does not fall within these categories. No one will successfully build a case for Divine authorization or approval, and church history will have turned centuries of pages before it is even found introduced in Christian worship.

Having said that, we have at times failed to step back and look at some of our own attitudes toward the music portion of our worship that may reveal some deficiency in our musical offering to God. As a musical instrument may drown out, overshadow, or become the central feature of worship music, so may our own minds and attitudes. How?

  • Being distracted by the age of the song (it’s too old or too new)
  • Being distracted by the pitch of the song (it’s too high or too low)
  • Being distracted by the pace of the song (it’s too fast or too slow)
  • Being distracted by the notes of the song (the song leader is leading it wrong)
  • Being distracted by who the song leader is or his appearance
  • Being distracted by how many verses are sung (too many or too few)
  • Being distracted by the aesthetics of the song (thinking about how it sounds more than what it says)
  • Being distracted by our own ability (proud of how good we sound or so embarrassed at how we think we sound that we keep quiet or fail to speak, teach, etc.)
  • Being distracted by the person/people next to us (concerned about what they think of us rather than what the message of the song is)
  • Being distracted by our familiarity with a song (frustrated that we don’t know it or knowing it so well that we sing from memory without engaging the heart)
  • Being distracted by matters outside the song (people-watching, thinking of other things, etc.)

Though I’ve never heard it said, have we constructed a theology that believes the only sin in our worship in song is adding an instrument to it? If we refuse to sing, sing with improper attitude, sing without heart and mind engaged, and the like, do we believe we are OK since we did not add to what God authorized.

In Matthew 15:9, Jesus condemned the Pharisees and scribes for worshipping God in vain due to their “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” Context reveals the specifics of their wrongdoing. But that word vain means “pertaining to being without any result; to no avail” (Louw-Nida; “to no end,” BDAG). Review the examples of distraction above. Can those render worship in song with no result, avail, or end? Absolutely! Perhaps we need to emphasize within our own assemblies how equally necessary it is to be worshipping God “in spirit” as it is “in truth” (cf. John 4:24). The bottom line of this whole matter of church music is striving to please God in our worship. That is not limited to a single issue or somebody else’s issue. It is as individual and personal as each of our own relationship with God.

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He Can Carry What’s Too Heavy For You

He Can Carry What’s Too Heavy For You

Poem inspired by this beautiful new song by Jeff Wiant, member at Bear Valley.  Click on the link below to hear it:

CLICK HERE: Jeff Wiant’s “Won’t You Come”

Neal Pollard

We struggle and strain to carry our load
We buckle as it gets heavier on our backs
We fall and hurt on this rough, rocky road
The weight makes us stop in our tracks

Looking around with a face full of pleading
We wonder who is observing our pain
We’re wounded, weary, broken and bleeding
Set to surrender from the stress and strain

Tears flow freely, we have been here before
We know how the journey seems endless
Certain we can’t make it alone to the door
We feel solitude, helpless and friendless

It’s bigger than us, crushing and enormous
And the contents shameful and unsightly
We’ve borne it so long it’s begun to conform us
To a stooped struggler holding on tightly

A voice calling gently, “Bring it over to Me,
I can help you and give you My best,
Your burden is heavy, I know you are weary,
Come to Me and I will give you rest.”

Could you double down, wincing and worn,
Grit your teeth and ignore His free aid?
Eventually, it will bury you after making you mourn
You know an exorbitant price must be paid.

He is able and willing, but waiting for you
To seek what He offers you without reservation
Let Him do for you what only He can do
Give your burdens to Christ with no hesitation.

Think of the journey, partnered with One
Without limits in power, purity and pity
Who’ll stay with you until your journey is done
As together you arrive at His heavenly city.

Dockers de Cap-Haïtien

Love The Lamb

Love The Lamb

NOTE: One of our brand new Christians (Jeff Wiant) has an extensive music background.  He has written a song, “Live Like Jesus,” that we will be learning at Bear Valley very soon (Kathy Petrillo is doing the musical note composition for his melody now).  I’m very excited for you to learn it! While the following will probably be adjusted by Jeff with his considerable knowledge of meter and music, here is the poem that will at some point become a hymn.

Neal Pollard

When Moses and the Israelites were crying and enslaved

God shared His plan to free them and help them to be saved

The plan spelled the difference, and none of them were lost

But the way of their deliverance must come at a great cost.

The price was a little animal, flawless and innocent and young

He lived with them for four days before his blood was hung

Across the door. And through that step the obedient were spared

The lamb that saved their lives showed them that God cared.

They loved the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,

They killed the lamb, And their faith passed the exam

No other way would have saved them on that night

The cherished sacrificial lamb led them to the light.

Each year the lambs were slaughtered to take care of their sin

Thousands upon thousands, a river of blood again and again

But God had a better solution, though more costly than them all

His Son, a Lamb without defect, who would save us from our fall

He came and lived among us before His blood was shed

The people, filled with anger, hung Him until He was dead

And by the gift of His perfect life, God gave us a door of hope

If we will follow His great plan, we have the way to cope.

Do you love the lamb, The gift of the Great I Am,

Do you see His love, the love of that Precious Lamb,

No other way can save us from sin’s dark night,

Obey the lamb to walk in the Son’s pure light.