Housewife Theologian

The Gospel Interrupting the Ordinary

Singers Aren’t the Only Ones Who Can Sing

Written By: Aimee Byrd - Jun• 18•12

Tim Fall submitted this article to me in a very timely fashion, as I have been drowning in my kid’s sports schedule. All-Star softball is no joke! And my oldest, going into the 8th grade, gets to try out for the high school freshman volleyball team. So thank you, Tim, for this lovely article about making a joyful noise.

Evensong at Canterbury

 I was an atheist.

Raised in a liturgical church, by the time I finished up college in California and went overseas to study in England, I was an atheist. Still, I sang a lot of hymns along the way and had even sung in the choir back home for a while. I enjoyed those hymns even after deciding God didn’t exist. Maybe that’s why I wanted to attend the Evensong service at Canterbury Cathedral.

I was traveling around England on Christmas break with a couple of young women from California that I had recently met. They happened to be Christians. They talked a lot about Jesus. I talked a lot about atheism. They wanted to go to the Evensong service. I wanted to hang out with a couple of cute girls. So off we went.

This place is a cathedral, so it’s huge. Only a few people showed up, though, and the folks running the show had us all sit in the choir loft. The three of us Americans made up about 25% of the attendees.

Evensong has lots of singing, as you probably guessed for the name of the service. I was looking forward to that part. As we went from one hymn to another, I sang out, even taking a harmony here or there; since I’d sung in a church choir, I figured I was qualified. I may not have always been on the melody but I felt sure I was contributing to the richness of the songs.

Behind us and to the left was an older man who also wasn’t staying on the melodies. He wasn’t hitting any of the harmonies either. He was loudly and tone-deafly blaring out the words to the hymns, but without regard to any of the hymn writers’ original intentions for the tunes. The man had gusto, but that was about it.

I left that night thinking I had done more to contribute to the service than he.

I was wrong.

The Faithless Noisy Gong

God gave lots of abilities to lots of people in this world. It’s all part of that common grace thing Jesus was talking about when he pointed out that God “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45.) Being able to do something well doesn’t mean that it’s guaranteed to please God, though. Here’s why:

 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6.)

Unless you have faith, pleasing God is impossible. And what was I at the time of that Canterbury Evensong service? Without faith! I no more pleased God with my singing than I pleased him with my atheism.

So what was I really doing at that service? I was a noisemaker:

 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1.)

That was me, a faithless noisy gong.

The Loving, Approving Father

I got the impression that the older gentleman in the cathedral’s choir loft that night had faith in Jesus, the love of Jesus, a belief in the truth that God exists. What did I have? Nothing.

So to God, his voice that night sounded infinitely better than mine.

If you feel reluctant to sing in church, fearing you can’t sing well enough, remember that God loves his children. He thinks they sound wonderful, whether they hit the right notes or not. Just as it is impossible for those without faith to please God, it is impossible for those with faith to come under his disapproval. (Romans 8:10.)

He thinks you – and your singing – are beautiful.

 [Biography: Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids (one in college; one just graduated, woo-hoo!) his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California.]

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  1. Aimee Byrd says:

    ” I no more pleased God with my singing than I pleased him with my atheism.”
    Great line, Tim. And great encouragement to sing joyfully to our Lord!

    • Tim says:

      Thanks Aimee, and thanks for letting me have a spot at HWT today. I hope the games and tryouts go well, and that everyone has fun along the way!


  2. Laura says:

    Loved this!

  3. ugh, as much as I see your point and do understand how you were lacking in faith while this man may have loved Jesus so much and was excited to praise Him, I think about how we should praise God with excellence in our instruments (including voices).

    I have a worship leader at my church who can’t sing one bit. In fact everyone knows it but him but because he has such a heart for worship and loves Jesus so much, people are afraid to tell him because it will break his heart. Instead they turn his microphone way down.

    I am a huge lover of harmonies and if I hear no harmonies I have a hard time worshiping, or at least if I hear a lack of power in the worship and see people seemingly dead in facial expression, I honestly have no longing to worship and feel like I will fall asleep. Christ is filled with power and our praise should be done with power and all our hearts! I don’t know what else to say. . . .

    • Tim says:

      Victoria, those are such good issues for us to work through as faithful followers of Christ. When it comes to leading others in something, I think the Bible is clear that we should look to those who are skilled. Why else would Paul go on at length about the qualifications for Elder, for example. And what’s the deal with God assuring Moses that Bezalel and Oholiab were skilled and up to the task of leading others in carrying out the building plans for the taernacle if there weren’t a need to give the job to those best able to carry out the duties?

      Song leaders are in the same boat as far as I can tell, and should be chosen from those who are among the most qualified in talent and spiritual maturity. But when it comes to participating in singing praises, I think the Bible tells us that the tone deaf have as much reason to sing out loud – and loudly – as those of us who carry tunes well. After all, if we needed to tamp down the less-than-pleasing-to-the-ear singers, Psalm 100:2 wouldn’t say “Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs.” It would say “come before him with melodious songs” or something. ;-)


    • Keefe says:

      The object of worship is Christ not the others beside you. The facial expressions can be merely the focus factor on the words and music. Also some churches choose hymns that most people do not know.One hymn maybe a week that is unfamiliar but not most of the time now that will zap some joy. So we strain to sing them.

      • Tim says:

        When it comes to introducing new songs to a congregation, I wonder what the people of Israel thought whenever David would write a new psalm?


        • Keefe says:

          When is the last time someone wrote a new song in your church and it was introduced to the congregation to sing?

  4. My kids used to tell me all the time that I couldn’t carry a tune. I loved singing praise songs in the car, and my almost-on-key melodies used to drive them batty.

    I told them that my songs sounded pitch-perfect to God.

    We all enjoy the platform-ready performance aesthetic of a musically-gifted worship leader, but your post is a wonderful reminder that God may enjoy the offering of a tone deaf singer more than all that polished perfection.

    • Tim says:

      “… my songs sounded pitch-perfect to God.”

      And that’s it in a nutshell, Michelle. And you know that polished perfection you mention? I bet it sounds like a tin horn compared to the heavenly choir. That’s when we will all be truly pitch perfect.


  5. Thank you for these wise words Tim. Do you have a blog? I think readers could benefit from a regular dose of your insights.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks much, Adriana. I don’t have a blog of my own, but I do guest posts here and there. Many gracious bloggers have allowed me to visit their places, and I am so blessed to have people like Aimee here at HWT encourage me along in this writing stuff.


      P.S. If you’d like a list of some posts, I can email them to you at your classical quest address.

  6. KSP says:

    This might be one of my favorite posts by you, Tim. For one thing, it hits close to home (I CAN’T sing, but have always loved singing along anyway, best as I can.) But more importantly, I think you illustrate here the power of–to put it less eloquently than you do here–”fake it till you make it.” There’s something about DOING that helps us to BECOME what we do. And somewhere along the way, coming to believe it, too.

    • Tim says:

      Doing helping us become. Great way to look at it, Karen. Was it Aristotle and Socrates who wrestled with whether be is as do, or do is as be?

      One thing I know is that God loves our heartfelt praises borne of faith here and now just as much as he will love the ones we sing in eternity!


  7. Margie says:

    Over the last few years, it’s been my pleasure to share my hymnal in worship with a young gentleman that is “mentally challenged” (?). He can’t read words, much less the notes. But, he sings out from the heart, just making a joyful noise (literally). My eyes have often watered while singing next to him, knowing that the Lord is hearing a beautiful melody coming from his lips.

    • Tim says:

      Amen, Margie. There’s a young woman in our church who can’t read notes or words but can sing the songs from memory. She sings with gusto, though, and I have the same impression of how her singing sounds to God’s ears. Beautiful.


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