Wesley on congregational singing


Our church family enjoys a good reputation for congregational singing. No brag, just fact; thank God! But with that being said, for sure we have much room for improvement. Often as I cast a glance around the room while we sing on any given Sunday, I can’t help but notice that many either do not sing, do so only occasionally, or if at all, hardly audibly.

What sort of praise and sacrifice are we laying on the altar before our Lord when we either fail to sing or sing only half-heartedly?

I dare say, it wouldn’t take much effort to improve our singing. As surely as anyone who has a quite visible or “public” role in our public worship gatherings surely prepares a bit ahead of time in anticipation of the moment, we surely all need to prepare to sing and to begin that preparation in our mind before we even gather to worship together.

With that in mind, let me share with you some thoughts of John Wesley that I came across just today on this very matter. He penned these words two hundred and fifty years ago (1761) but, they’re just as applicable today. Be challenged and grow. “Sing to the Lord!”

Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up, and you will find it a blessing.

Sing lustily and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of its being heard, than when you sung the songs of Satan.

Sing modestly. Do not bawl, so as to be heard above or distinct from the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

Sing in time. Whatever time is sung be sure to keep with it. Do not run before nor stay behind it; but attend close to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can; and take care not to sing too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first…

Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

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