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FIRST-PERSON: Lessons learned in choir rehearsal

NEW ORLEANS (BP) — “Come before Him with joyful singing” (Psalm 100:2).

During the time I sang with the choir at our church, I loved singing for the worship service, but had to make myself go to rehearsal.

Rehearsing songs — whether for church or school assembly or for the juke joint down the street — is hard work.

Gradually, I began to see some patterns forming. Eventually, those shapes merged to form life-lessons that have remained with me all these years.

I do not like new songs.

The minister of music would say, “Joyce, pass out the new music,” and I would cringe. I did not read music and did not do well trying to negotiate my way around these clotheslines of blackbirds. The piano is picking out the melody of the song and I’m working to get it. This is no fun. It’s work.

But a funny thing happened. The following week, when the director passed out that music for the second time, I was interested in that piece. It had possibilities. And the third week, I kind of liked it. By the fourth week, I was in love with it and had been humming it all week.

But you know what happened, I expect. At rehearsal, the minister handed out some new music once again. And again, I cringed. “I hate learning new music.”

We sound better together than we do separately.

Even the good singers, when called on to do a little solo in rehearsal to help the others, were not all that great. And of course, I was the very definition of mediocre. But a funny thing happened. When we all joined our voices together, the result was something magical.

I wonder if that’s the reason for church. We work better and worship better and pray better in concert with brothers and sisters than we do alone.

I sing better and learn faster when standing near a good singer.

Larry Andrews, our minister of music, would place the non-music-reading singers next to solid singers. And we would pick up the notes from them. Later, once we got the hang of the song, we could stand anywhere.

Encouragers and examples to those who are new to the faith are worth their weight in gold.

Singing can transform your mood.

That 100th Psalm calls for us to “enter His gates with thanksgiving.” There is the clue as to how to “come before Him with joyful singing.” We start by giving thanks to our Lord for His abundant blessings. Do that –“count your many blessings, see what God hath done” — and the darkness of the blues seems to dissipate. Soon, you’re singing and doing so quite well, thank you.

Those who bless us on Sundays are the ones who did the hard work of rehearsing during the week.

Just this week, a pastor told me about his worship ensemble. “I cannot get them to come to rehearsal. They love to sing on Sunday, but if I announce a rehearsal, only one or two show up.” Not good. I suspect they enjoy gathering fruit from crops they did not plant or cultivate, too. That kind of laziness is common. Something inside me feels the same way.

Rehearsing is work. But for those who know how transforming an hour of worship with God’s people can be, it’s an investment of faith.

When done right, a rehearsal for worship is also a time of worship.

Many a time, I have left the choir rehearsal with my spirit lifted and my heart full. The fellowship with friends was great. Some of us hugged one another, and we laughed a lot. We fell in love with some songs and learned to express our love for our Savior more with them.

Singing is as much a faith enterprise as praying or giving.

Anytime we do anything by faith — believing, worshiping, giving, praying, going, serving — we do so regardless of what we have or do not have, what we know or still question, those nagging doubts and the discouragement from others. The operative word is “regardless.” When we pray or drop our offering into the plate, we do so regardless of seeing the results in our lifetime. And with singing to others, in church or assembly or a classroom or nursing home, we must not look for immediate results.

Paul and Silas showed us how this is done in Acts 16:25. Beaten and their wounds left untreated, then locked into stocks in the interior of the Philippi jail, they began to pray and sing hymns. “And the prisoners were listening to them.”

They’re always listening to us sing.

In the case of Paul and Silas, God did some amazing things that night, all of them instigated by their faith-singing.

What will He do with your singing? I have no idea. But count on it, friend, He will use it for His glory.

So, go ahead. Join with me now. “I love you, Lord. And I lift my voice, to worship You, O my soul rejoice. Take joy my King, in what you hear. May it be a sweet sweet sound in Your ear.”
Joe McKeever, on the Web at www.joemckeever.com, is a Baptist Press cartoonist and columnist, a former longtime pastor and former director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

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  • Joe McKeever