Have you heard any statements like this recently?
Singing right now is just not smart.
We are asking our congregation not to sing in the corporate worship gatherings.
The Governor has decreed that singing is not allowed in worship gatherings for the foreseeable future.
Chances are, you have heard statements like these in recent days of COVID-19 and other statements even more ominous. Most churches have found a way to gather, in small groups and multiple services, with the removal of seats to ensure distancing protocols, wearing masks, and more.
How Do We Sing?
But how in the world can we sing?
Opinions vary on whether singing is a super spreader of the COVID-19 virus or not. You won’t find me making any big statements of my opinion on that subject and I would caution any church leader to be careful about their opinions on the matter as well. We just don’t know.
And be careful assuming spiritual authority on a question like that by saying something about how God commands us to sing and that we should just trust Him with the outcomes as we follow His command. It isn’t as simple as that. You can twist your argument and find Scripture to explain any position you want to defend.
So, should the church sit and stare during the corporate worship gathering until we all have a vaccine? After spending a lifetime exhorting God’s people to sing, am I now left with asking them to not sing and just listen?
Look to Scripture
Maybe Ephesians 5:19 can help. It says, “Speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord.” Maybe it’s time for us to get over how we sound in singing and learn to focus again on what it means to make music and melody in our hearts.
The psalmist can help at this point. Psalm 40:3 says, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and they will trust in the Lord.” This verse tells us that the song comes from the Lord and is something He puts in the mouth of the believer. But it also helps us see that the song is not only heard, it is seen.
The writer of Hebrews contributes as well. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching.” Hebrews 13:15 says, “Therefore, through him let us continually offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.” This idea of praise on our lips is an exhortation to the whole church that is gathered.
So, what do we know?
We know that the redeemed should gather and have been given a song to sing. We know that everything we do is for the betterment of the whole. We are convicted that corporate worship is an essential part of the life of a follower of Jesus and that singing is a vital part of that experience. My whole life has been an effort to influence believers—and not just singers—to realize the vital connection that singing in worship has with spiritual health. I’m convinced that healthy Christians sing.
But we also know that singing feels threatening to many among us. We know that singing while wearing a mask is challenging and, at the very least, not that pleasant for the singer or the listener. If singing is risky, then choir rehearsal turns into a Petri dish. It’s enough to make us lower our heads and go back to the choir room to pout.
I love the story of the strong-willed pupil who kept refusing to sit down despite the repeated commands of the teacher for the child to take a seat. The teacher says with authority, “You WILL sit down.” Finally, in exasperation, the teacher finds the right threat of punishment and the child responds by sitting down. The teacher says to the child, “See, I told you I would be able to force you to sit,” to which the child responded, “I may be sitting down. But, in my heart, I’m still standing up.”
Singing in Our Hearts
We are believers, and there is a song God put in our hearts that demands to be sung.
We are neighbors who care about each other and want to relate in ways that feel non-threatening.
We are wearing masks and missing choir as we take every precaution our leaders have given us to take.
We may be wearing masks, but we don’t have to put one over our hearts when we worship. The songs we sing might not be heard the way we are used to hearing them, but they can still be seen.
COVID-19 can tell us not to sing.
But in our hearts, we are singing louder than ever.