Wow - there is just really so much I can say about this - good and bad. One of the first thoughts I have on the subject is the time a pastor said (only 1/2 joking) that he was pretty sure when Satan fell he fell in the choir loft. I knew just what he meant. Singing can be such a pride trap. It's often self-serving and individuals, yours truly included, get caught up in the performance and leave true worship behind. Often I can spot right away the ones who are there for themselves, probably because it's familiar to me, and I have very little patience for them. Some times I'm just plain old fooled into thinking someone is the real deal only to discover they're not.
I remember my first solo. I was 16 years old at Ardmore Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, NC. We'd just come back from a retreat and the Youth were asked to lead the service. Someone asked me to sing the first few lines of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" and the rest of the church would join in. Trust me - I had no self-serving goals here - I just didn't want to ruin the service for everyone. I made it through but still clearly recall the nerves.
But somewhere along the way, I got derailed. After having enough people tell you you're good at something, you buy into it. We were in a church that was televised and I started having strangers greet me and tell me they'd seen me sing one thing or another and like it. Wow, it felt good. Because t.v. was involved I began to care (a lot) about what I wore on solo Sundays and if my nails were done cause you know, the camera would zoom in and that really mattered. (ahem) And then it was about the dress and the hair and the makeup... and choosing just the right song...to show off my voice.
Now hear this loud and clear. I don't think there's a thing wrong with looking your best for church and/or t.v. There's nothing wrong with nice nails, dresses and makeup. However comma there's a lot wrong with doing it all for the wrong reasons, trying to impress people and forgetting why you're really there. I thought singing was my spiritual gift and that it was my great ministry donation to the church. MANY MANY singing types believe this even if they don't admit to it. And that's when things start to go wrong.
I wish I could tell you exactly when God got a good hold of me and turned this around. I remember accepting a leadership role for a women's retreat and saying yes to leading their music (oh, so proud!) without ever praying about it and having to go back and retract my "yes" knowing God had not led that decision. That was plenty humbling. But really, I suppose it became quite clear when I finally studied what the Scriptures say about spiritual gifts and realized that singing in the choir wasn't on the list. hmmm. What now?
I studied the Word and it became clear to me that the Holy Spirit had gifted me with exhortation and teaching. SO ... I now had a new understanding of my role in church and it wasn't singing per se, although there's nothing wrong with singing either. Are you getting my drift? I, like you, had ministry responsibility that involved using those gifts in my weak, flawed self and letting the Holy Spirit work through me. I began studying the Word more and teaching Bible Study (after some time learning to study) and encouraging people to step up to the line and walk according to the Word. And... when I was asked to sing, I sought songs that did the same thing. Songs that were based soundly on the Scriptures and encouraged me in my walk. And ... when I sang I was humbled by the request and sought to help us as a church fix our eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Each time it became less about me and more about God ... in MY heart. And I believe that has made me a better singer.
I've seen great vocalists who weren't that worshipful - even though they did all the right moves. I've also seen marginal vocalists who were incredibly worshipful even though they did nothing noteworthy but humble themselves. BUT, I've also seen fanTAStic singers, with great hair, nails and makeup who were totally humbled before Christ and not full of themselves at all.
This singing in church thing is a tricky deal and we who sing must be aware. We can get caught up in the flattery of it all and lose the worship just. like. that. Pray for me, for I love to share the music God lays on my heart. Sometimes the Lord pours out an extra blessing on me and brings my voice up a notch (or several). I pray that I always remember how hard I have to work to sing good notes (No, it's not easy for me. I tend to sing flat and push too hard.). I pray that I always seek to glorify God and lead people to look at Jesus not me. AND I sincerely pray, that if it becomes about me, God will remove me from that ministry. It's not worth it. Worship is not music alone. Some of my most meaningful worship happens in a silent room with no one but me around.
Today, I had the privilege of singing at my new church home for the first time. I started falling into some old traps because I want everyone to like me yada yada yada. I yielded that to the Lord in prayer, but had another problem. My body was flat worn out and I'd chosen a flashy HIGH song to sing. Fearing a great humiliating "performance" I planned on the way to church to change songs to something less demanding. My voice was just too tired to do the work required. I went into rehearsal and offered the first song (because it was relevant to our study in Revelation) knowing I'd probably have to change songs. However, the moment I began to sing, I knew that the Lord's blessing was on it and I'd have the high notes when I needed them (it wasn't that way in the car, trust me). I KNEW I didn't have this in my own ability, but God provided in a big way. I got such a personal blessing seeing afresh that He can do things we can't imagine. If you're not a believer this might not make much sense to you. I just believe He wanted us to be reminded of His great majesty which is what the song is about and decided it was worth it to Him to help me along. I know I do not sing like that on my own. What a blessing! No temptation to get the big head when you know your limits. Thank You Jesus.