What started as an ordinary Sunday at Christ Church Midrand, with relatively eager congregational involvement in the first and second song, suddenly changed. The third song had a good introduction, the lead singer inhaled, ready to start and after the first two words, had to stop.

All the singers in the band held back too as the sound of the congregation rose above the amplifiers and a choir of voices could be heard declaring their belief in Jesus. It hit us like a wave. It was stunning. Moving. It was a taste of what Heaven will be like, with all the multitudes praising God. The band was not leading the church. The church was leading. It was great!

It’s every church band’s dream to have that kind of congregational response at every service. This was one of those rare occassions when our loudspeakers – and they’re strong loudspeakers – were just not enough for the roar of voices in our auditorium. We rehearse and rehearse, week-in, week-out and generally, the singing is good and then, out of the blue there is this wonderful response.

Sometimes, however, when we are most prepared the singing is flat and the team feels disappointed. Was it that God was not present, or that we were not relying enough on God’s Spirit? Absolutely not! I believe on the occasion where this song just worked, there was a practical reality at play.

Our church band recorded that song last year and for sure, the congregation had been listening to it. The majority of people knew it well. It also happened to be a really great congregational song. There are amazing Christian songs out there, but they’re hopeless for congregational singing. This one was just right. (Because He Lives (Amen) – Matt Maher).

Here are some things you can do to contribute towards great congregational singing:

1. Learn the songs

If you’re not really a fan of singing, let’s use a sports analogy. I’m no sportswoman, but I think I’m right in saying we most enjoy watching the sports we play ourselves. After a much-anticipated Premier League game, a Rugby tournament, after Wimbledon or the Comrades, people hit the courts, the track, a field, their back garden and feel inspired.

When your favourite band comes to town, you listen to their albums for weeks leading up to the big night and you wait for the whole concert, hoping they’re going to “do” your favourite song.

Singing in church can be the same. Fortunately for me, the Bible does not instruct us to play tennis or soccer or to run, but we are instructed to sing; to encourage one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19 and Col 3:16). The best way to do it and do it well, is to take note of the names of the songs we sing in church, buy the albums and internalise the lyrics.

2. Meditate on God’s Word in song

In the old days, when churches sang from hymnbooks, everyone knew the songs. There was a limit to the number of new songs that could possibly be introduced.
Today, Christian music has found its voice in almost every possible genre. Rock, Pop, Hip-hop, Jazz, Gospel (yes, there are non-Christian gospel artists – loads of them) and Rn’B all have Christian representatives.

As Christians, our hearts should be committed to Jesus and to meditating on His words day and night. (Psalm 1:2). God-honouring music is a helpful tool.

With so many online platforms now available for accessing new music, we should be feasting all week on lyrics that are pure, lovely and admirable. (Philippians 4:8). It is a healthier alternative to some of the lyrics on popular radio, which can easily lead our hearts astray.

Stuart Townend (In Christ Alone) once said that a congregation is more likely to leave the service remembering the words of the songs they sing than the words of the sermon. If this is true, then, as long as the songs we sing in church are rich in theological truth, it is a wonderful way to allow our hearts and minds to be transformed. (Rom 12.2).

3. Be prepared to sing

Music can be an idol. Some people refuse to sing in church if they can’t have their favoured musical style. This is self-centred and idolatrous. It’s difficult in a church like ours, which is rich in diversity, to cater for everyone’s tastes. Remembering that church is not just all about us, and that it is our responsibility to encourage each other, it is important that we support our musicians; encourage them too – it’s not as glamorous as it looks, being at rehearsals through the holidays and arriving at church while everyone else is still waking up. The best thing a congregation can do for their musician brothers and sisters, apart from praying for them, is to sing.

Church musicians also need to be constantly reminded that music-making is never for themselves; it is to draw the rest of the congregation in to admiring and exalting God. When the band plays well and the congregation responds well, the temptation to develop a big head is huge. “It’s a bit like those who begin by admiring the sunset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset.” (Worship by the Book, 31).

4. Start listening

If, up to now, you have limited your musical exposure to talk radio, here is a list of some congregational Christian songwriters with YouTube song links, to get you started. This list is not exhaustive and there are many other Christian artists worth listening to. In my opinion, these writers’ songs are most often rich in Biblical truths – worth singing and internalising – and while I am by no means a groupie, their posts on Facebook and elsewhere are more often helpful quotes from Scripture than selfies:

1. Matt Redman (Dove award winner for “Blessed Be Your Name”, Grammy Award nominated for “Our God” and two-time Grammy Award Winner for “10 000 Reasons”) for “Abide with me” and “Father’s Song”.

2. Christy Nockels for “Freedom song” and “Let it be Jesus”.

3. Chris Tomlin (He is a prolific writer of popular congregational songs) for “At the cross (Love Ran Red)”.

4. Life Worship – UK for “Dance Again”.

5. Passion ft. Kristian Stanfill for “Even so come”

6. Hillsong for “Man of Sorrows” (Brooke Ligterwood and Matt Crocker) and for “O Praise the Name” (Marty Sampson, Dean Ussher and Benjamin Hastings)

7. Kari Jobe for her adaptation of “Be still my soul” and “I am not alone”. Also worth dropping in at 6’30” to see the poet she included in “Forever”.

8. Brenton Brown (Grammy Award Nominated and a South African) for “Soul on Fire” as sung by Third Day.

9. Newsboys for “We believe”

10. Also try Israel Houghton, Toby Mac, Casting Crowns, Lauren Daigle, Brandon Heath, Laura Storey and Paul Baloche.


Written by Bronwen Anderson. Original Article can be found here.