Vol.VI No.III Pg.4
May 1969

Worshipful Singing

Robert F. Turner

Two distinct types of "worshipful singing" prevail among "our" brethren and each has its staunch supporters. The matter is difficult to discuss because I have neither right nor desire to impose my judgement upon any congregation; and I know that this article may seem to do just that. I write reluctantly, and only because I believe I detect a degeneration in the quality or class of songs being sung when saints gather for worship. There seems to be an increase in use of the "hop, skip, jump" songs — once known as "convention songs" — with an attendant increase in secular spirit.

But what is worshipful singing? Advocates of the "hoppity-hop" songs say there must be "feeling" in the song — and they do not get the feeling unless the song has after-beat, syncopation, etc. Advocates of the more sedate (they call it "worshipful") songs also seek "feeling" — and find it only in a better class of music. I think both groups may be looking for the wrong kind of "feeling".

God-worship is God-directed. The "feeling" which is legitimate to man, in a God-worship situation, is outgoing — God- ward. Such inward satisfaction as is (and should be) derived from worship must not be confused with sensual pleasure felt in self-satisfying activities.

The "convention-song" advocates cite JOH.4:24 ("spirit and truth") and contend for "spirited" (rapidly moving) songs. The advocates of a more deliberate tempo cite JOH.4:24 as reason for more "spiritual" (aesthetic) singing. Neither use is inherent in JOH.4:24. Here worship is said to "center in the worshiper's own 'spirit' and spirit nature" (Lenski) rather than in external places or forms. Singing "with the spirit" and understanding, (1CO.14:15) refers to use of miraculous spiritual gifts, and the necessity for making all public teaching understandable to hearers.

The "form" of the song neither guarantees nor denies worshipful singing — except as the taste of the singer is repelled, to the point of being unable to concentrate upon divine matters. But I must not allow my taste in music to lead me to conclude that others are not worshiping, simply because they do not sing the type of songs I would choose. However, good taste should prevail in sound, color, and order of things having to do with public meetings, even though there may be those present who have little discrimination in such matters.

The crux of this whole matter is in our purpose — singing to worship God rather than to please ourselves. When either the aesthetic or rhythmic appetites of man dictate and motivate our singing, we cease to worship God. My plea for less "hoppity-hop: is on this basis: I feel the "convention spirit" (singing for personal pleasure and as an exercise of skill) is predominate in such singing.

Just how "hop skip while jump repeat others sing differently altogether" contributes to "teaching and admonishing" or in praising God, I have never been able to see. Surely we need not have hiccups to worship God.