THE SINGING EVANGELIST
Sacred music is one of God's greatest gifts to men, to be returned in glorified service to Him. And in no sphere has it greater opportunity or possibility than in ardent, aggressive evangelism today. The three discussions following unfold vital principles and sound conclusions reached by men who have successfully operated under the test of varied circumstances. They have demonstrated the feasibility and value of successful teamwork between evangelist and singer. There is a place — a large and needy place — for the Spirit-filled musician whom God has gifted for leadership in this field. Atheism is songless, as is also heathenism. Let Christianity's soul-stirring song evangel be fostered to its fullest extent.
L. E. F.
His Scope of Responsibility
By John E. Ford
In order to make the music serve the best interests of the evangelist, it is essential that there be close, sympathetic contact between the speaker and the music director. The barrier of exclusiveness and stiff formality proves fatal to success. It is also essential that absolute freedom be accordcd the music director to plan and carry out the musical part of the evangelistic program in harmony with his individual characteristics, just as the evangelist must have freedom to follow the methods which he considers most effective in his work.
Music alone is not the entire field of responsibility occupied by the singing evangelist. He should plan to take an active part in as many lines of endeavor connected with the evangelistic campaign as his talents and time permit. My experience along this line touches the following activities: (1) Holding special meetings for young people; (2) reporting for newspapers; (3) distributing weekly advertising folders; (4) division of territory for Bible workers; (5) mailing literature; (6) direction of ushers; (7) personal interviews and house-to-house visiting.
Some music leaders are adept at playing musical instruments, and make this an outstanding feature of their work. Others emphasize the organization and directing of large choruses, or specialize in congregational singing. Still other leaders emphasize the artistic singing of gospel songs. In my work in connection with evangelistic efforts, I have found the following methods most effective, according to the order named:
1. The Gospel Solo.— If rendered in an appropriate manner, the gospel solo yields greatest results in drawing people to the meetings, and also proves the most effective musical appeal to the heart.
2. The Choir.— Of next importance is choir work and congregational singing.
3. The Chorus.— I endeavor to organize as large a chorus as possible, for the purpose of rendering special music several times each week.
4. Cantatas and Oratorios.— To stimulate interest in choir and chorus work, it is well to make a-study of one or two cantatas or oratorios during the time of the evangelistic campaign. It may be appropriate to charge admission to the rendering of these special studies, and the financial returns will afford substantial help in meeting the general expenses of the meetings.
As to qualifications which the singing evangelist must possess, I would place primary emphasis on —
I. Humiiity.—"Big-headedness " spells defeat for the singing evangelist.
2. Accommodation.— A willingness to please the audience by singing " special request " numbers is always commendable.
3. Wisdom.— The right song, at the right time, sung with the Spirit and with the understanding, reaches the heart and draws the soul to Christ.
4. Prayer.— There are times when the director recognizes that his voice is not in good condition for rendering a song as it should be sung. A silent prayer of faith, at such a time, has often made the rendering of the song most effective in results.
His Qualifications for SuccessBy E.M. Eklund
It takes more than a recommendation to make a singing evangelist. We are living in an age of specialists, and as in all professions, the singing evangelist should be thoroughly trained in the science and technique of music, and in the still more important art of making music the channel of communication with the soul and the conveyer of the good news of salvation.
The Seventh-day Adventist singing evangelist should be a true leader, with a positive personality which marks a master of assemblies and commands the respect of the congregation. He must be able to detect the varying moods of the people, be quick to develop interest from a thousand scattered points, and prepare the mass mind, for the message which is to be conveyed by the evangelist. He is the servant of the people, and while he does not pander to whims, he should endeavor to choose songs which will serve to give expression to the hidden sorrows, the smothered hopes, the timid aspirations, and the yearning faith of the people. He should be a man of kind personality, possessing an even-toned, well-modulated voice. His chief function is to aid the evangelist in making the meetings rich in spiritual values.
The singing evangelist should carefully plan his program in advance. The song service should be full of good cheer. This does not mean that the service should be noisy, but that all songs should thrill with life,— songs of joy and praise for the power of Christ to save and the victories gained through faith. Monotony should be avoided. Two songs are usually sufficient, and these may be supplemented by special musical numbers, the telling of a story of the birth of a hymn, or giving the narrative of the experience of some famous hymn composer.
Success to a large extent depends on holding the interest of the people. Keep the scenes shifting; compel the audience to think along the lines marked out. The Spirit of God uses the song as a means of quickening spiritual life in the hearts of the people, which breaks forth in rapture and joy. The wise preacher knows that shorter sermons will suffice when once the tides of spiritual song have begun to roll.
The spiritual purpose of the meeting must never be forgotten in the selection and rendition of music. We must not expect to reap spiritual fruit from worldly music. While avoiding the cheap, sensational music of the day, we must ever maintain the high standard of music, and seek to develop public sentiment in favor of the best. A recent music review published the statement that $385,000,000 is spent annually in America for music, not a small part of which is spent for sacred music. America is awakening to appreciate the better forms of sacred music. On a recent date the Dayton Westminster choir gave an entertainment in the city of St. Louis, to which there were nine thousand four paid admissions. This is a significant inkling of the tendency of the people to appreciate what is best in sacred music.
There is perhaps no part of the evangelistic service which tests the tact, and skill of the leader in music more than the altar service, when the call is made for individual decision. Then, above all times, " music for its own sake " is worthless and sacrilegious, and the singing evangelist senses his need of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The appropriate invitation hymn wings to the trembling, hesitant soul, putting to flight the devils of fear and self-consciousness. Then comes the responsive stanza — what power it has, and what a benediction it brings upon the closing moments of the service!
Much depends upon the musical help which the singing evangelist finds available. First, the musical resources of the church are to be utilized to the fullest extent. It is one thing for a music director to stand on an empty platform and endeavor to 'get the people in the audience to sing, and quite another thing when he has a large group of singers behind him upon whom he can depend to set the pace for the congregation to follow.
Then there is that all-important question confronting every singing evangelist, " What shall we do about the pianist? Should it be expected that any one available, even though possessing but a hammering knowledge of the instrument, will suffice? " Our answer is, unqualifiedly, No. The best-trained and the most versatile person should be selected for this important work. In justice to our objective, we cannot afford to employ an unskilled pianist. Much might be said regarding the various duties of the pianist,— regularity of rehearsal, prepared at all times to render offertories, preludes, interludes, and postludes; with proper understanding of doubling the bass notes in congregational singing, tact in accompaniment, co-operation, et cetera; but to sum it all up, one thing is certain,— the power is gone from the music when there is a poor pianist at the instrument.
In reviewing the lives of successful leaders in religious work in every age, we find that these men always recognized the value of music in dealing with souls. Luther, the Wesleys, and other Reformers of their day come to mind. D. L. Moody once said, " I always feel added power when Sankey is with me." The preaching of Paul and the singing of Silas were an effective combination in the early Christian era. There is not a successful evangelist to-day who would consider conducting a series of meetings without the best musical assistance obtainable, for he recognizes that music has a power to draw and to hold the people. But beyond this, music serves as the greatest medium of the deepest and most sincere expression in worship. Not in vain has music been called " the handmaid of religion."
Elkins, W. Va.
His Field of Service
By Henry De Flutter
The value of the part which the singing evangelist renders in connection with a series of meetings is governed by the consecration, ability, and adaptability of the individual. It is possible for the director of music to make himself of inestimable value in the success of the meetings, and indispensable to the evangelist in meeting the heavy duties involved. For example, when there is close co-operation between the evangelist and the director of music, the matter of advertising can be planned together, and all newspaper write-ups cared for by the latter in a more appropriate manner than by the speaker himself. It is also possible for the music director to relieve the speaker of a large part of the preliminary service, such as making announcements, calling for the offering, referring to literature, et cetera. Frequently it may be appropriate for the opening prayer to be offered by the director of music. At the close of the service, when the call is made for individual response, speaker and singer should stand side by side and be united in their efforts to extend the invitation through personal appeal, song, or prayer. Then, in the matter of visiting the people in their homes, if they are accustomed to seeing the evangelist and his music director working together in all the public services, it becomes natural to expect to see them together in making personal calls. In these visits, the singer may not need to take much part in talking, but there is decided advantage in united personal work in the homes.
The song service, for which the director is chiefly responsible, should never be regarded as merely for the purpose of entertainment. The audience is made up of people from all walks of life, who come to the service with diversified minds — some sad, some happy, some disconsolate, some discouraged and perplexed, some at peace, some with anger and bitterness in their hearts. The purpose of the song service is first of all to bring the mass mind into a harmonious unit, and cause each individual to forget, for the time being, the various disturbances which controlled the mind when he entered the tabernacle; then each succeeding song should lead the mind into the channel of the subject to be presented by the evangelist. If God's Spirit is in control of the music leader, the choir and the audience will catch the inspiration, and hearts and voices will be united in oneness of thought and purpose, thus preparing the way for the speaker to launch effectively into his subject at once.
It is a good plan to have a large choir, but caution should be observed so as not to overdo the " special music " feature. Most of the singing should be en masse, rendered by choir and audience. Songs to be sung by the congregation should be chosen with care. The last song of the service should be of a deeply spiritual nature, and if possible have a direct bearing on the subject which has been presented. In seating the choir on the rostrum, seek to avoid disorder. It is a good plan for members of the choir to meet in the choir room, where brief prayer is offered before the service, and all march to their seats on the rostrum in order, where, instead of being seated at once, the choir remains standing while singing a special selection. After this initial rendering by the choir, the announcement of the first hymn is made, in which the congregation and choir join.
The song leader should seek to avoid stiff formality and maintain a sympathetic touch with the audience. The main qualification, however, is entire consecration. How can one sing the songs of Zion out of a heart estranged from God, with any more joy and confidence than could the Babylonian captives take down their harps from the willows and " sing the Lord's song in a strange land "? To sing the songs of Zion in an effective manner, the heart must be unfettered from the bands of sin and under the complete control of Zion's King.
To all inexperienced, aspiring song leaders, I would advise:
1. Be yourself.
2. Don't imitate.
3. Develop your own method according to Christian principles.
4. Don't be dictatorial.
5. Work closely and sympathetically with the evangelist.
6. Seek God's blessing on every song service.
(Conclusion of Round Table Discussion. See December issue.)
A Union Conference President: Public prayer should be simple, brief, and direct. I recall the occasion of attending a commencement exercise when the prayer offered was as long as the address itself. The address was unusually short, and the prayer was unusually long, and so they were about even. We are told that " brevity is the soul of speech." Many speeches do not have a soul, according to this standard; but on the occasion of this commencement address the speech had the soul — it was good. I do not, however, believe that a prayer of such length as was offered there, was the proper thing.
On another occasion I attended a service at which the speaker was a man of prominence in our denomination, and a number of general workers were present. The prayer at the opening of the meeting was lengthy, and made up of bombast, labored sentences, and abnormally big words. The unfavorable effect of this prayer was quite noticeable. At the close of the service, one member of the congregation said to another, " Did you hear that prayer? " " Yes, I did," was the reply, " and I hope the Lord didn't feel about it as I did." The first speaker then said, " I don't think the Lord heard it! " and I am not sure but there was truth in that statement. I don't believe the Lord wants our prayers to be of that nature. We are told to be brief, to come right to the point, and not to preach a sermon by long prayers, but to ask for the bread of life as a hungry child asks bread of his earthly father. In the " Testimonies," Volume II, page 581, we read:
" Christ impressed upon His disciples the idea that their prayers should be short, expressing just what they wanted, and no more. He gives the length and substance of their prayers, expressing their desires for temporal and spiritual blessings, and their gratitude for the same. How comprehensive this sample prayer! It covers the actual need of all. One or two minutes is long enough for any ordinary prayer."
Reverence in Prayer
A Conference Worker: Let me sound a note of warning against the flippant and careless use of God's name in prayer. I do not believe that we understand how important it is that we reverence the name of God. Notice what is stated by the servant of the Lord:
" Some think it a mark of humility to pray to God in a common manner, as if talking with a human being. They profane His name by needlessly and irreverently mingling with their prayers the words, ' God Almighty,' — awful, sacred words, which should never pass the lips except in subdued tones and with a feeling of awe."—"Gospel Workers," p. 176.
" Angels, when they speak that name, veil their faces. With what reverence, then, should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon our lips! ""Prophets and Kings," p. 49.
I have heard prayers in which nearly every sentence contained the expression, "O Lord," and I believe that any minister who has formed such a habit, either in prayer or in sermon, ought to take himself in hand and break the habit. A short time ago I read a letter which was written by a layman to a minister, concerning this very thing; and although I think it was hardly justifiable, it shows the need of being more careful. I will read a portion of the letter to which I had access:
" Do you know that in the prayer you offered you called upon the name of the Lord forty-eight or fifty times? It seems almost unbelievable, but after you started to pray I began to count, and you called upon God so frequently that I could hardly keep up counting. You repeated, Lord," Lord God,' et cetera, until it made me think of the worshipers of Baal when they wanted their god to bring down fire from heaven. It seemed to me irreverent, and pained me. . . . Do you know that the next night, when you dismissed the meeting, you called upon the name of the Lord nine times in the benediction alone? I know there is a tendency for ministers who are constantly handling the word of God to become careless and irreverent, both in speaking the holy name of our Lord and also in handling the Bible. This should be overcome speedily, for it puts one on dangerous and unguarded ground, and causes angels to weep, and turn away their faces in shame."
Posture in Prayer
[The discussion of this phase of the topic was of such a decided and constructive character as to lead to the presentation of a definite resolution by the Plans Committee, which was unanimously adopted by the Atlantic Union. (For this particular resolution, see column two, page 8, of The Ministry for June.) It seems appropriate to give the names of the speakers who took part in this phase of the discussion, as we believe the action taken by the Atlantic Union is timely and worthy of imitation throughout the field. — Editor.]
Elder E.K. Slade: In the early days of our work, when there were but few of us, it was the invariable rule, under all circumstances, to kneel in prayer. As our congregations have grown larger, and we have held meetings in tents and in other places where kneeling is not very convenient, we have varied from this rule a good deal, sometimes standing during prayer, and at other times remaining seated and bowing the head as prayer is offered. Personally, I like the old way of kneeling in prayer, where conditions are favorable for it. I fear that we are drifting away from our standards, and that a spirit of carelessness is coming in. We are too largely following the standards adopted by the popular churches in the attitude of prayer. I remember what Sister White says:
" Both in public and in private worship, it is our privilege to bow on our knees before God when we offer our petitions to Him. Jesus, our example, kneeled down, and prayed.' . . . Paul declared, ' I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. In confessing before God the sins of Israel, Ezra knelt. Daniel kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God.' "—" Prophets and Kings," p. 48.
So it does seem to me that the minister should kneel in prayer, except in special instances where it is advisable to follow another plan, and that the members of the congregation should kneel. I am also convinced that greater care should be given to the announcement of the prayer season, so as to secure uniformity of action and avoid confusion. On many occasions I have seen an individual step forward on the platform to lead in prayer, and because no definite statement was made, part of the congregation remained standing, a number sat down in the pews, while others knelt in prayer. In conducting our meetings,— camp meetings especially, and the same is true in our churches,— I think it should be understood that the one, leading in prayer should make it very clear to the congregation what is expected to be the attitude in prayer — whether to stand, kneel, or be seated. This is an important matter which needs to have more general attention.
There is still another phase of the question which I think should have more uniform attention, and that is this: I believe that the ministers on the platform should kneel facing the congregation. It does not seem proper for the minister to turn his face from the congregation. One hardly realizes,- unless he is seated in the congregation, the effect of a whole line of men coming into the pulpit and kneeling with their backs to the congregation.
Elder O. Montgomery: When I was in Australia and New Zealand, I observed that ministers, when coming upon the rostrum or platform, always bowed in silent prayer with faces turned toward the congregation; and in public prayer they always knelt facing the people. This is a rule to which there is no exception, and I must confess that it made a strong appeal to me. The people in the pews always kneel forward.
For some years the tendency has been growing among us to stand during public prayer. It is always a grief to me to follow this form, and I cannot get away from the counsel of the spirit of prophecy, which, as has been stated, terms it our " privilege " to kneel before the Lord in prayer. I count it a high privilege. I always find it a difficult matter to pray while standing. There is danger of our leaning toward the popular idea in this as in other things. I wish we might get back to the old advent form in many of these things. I think there are times — as at camp meetings, when the ground is damp and conditions unfavorable — when we ought to invite the people to stand. There may be other places where conditions do not admit of kneeling in prayer, and under such circumstances we may stand before the Lord with bowed head; but wherever possible, let the advent people bow before the Lord.
I should like to see all our ministers everywhere make it the accepted custom, when they walk into the desk and engage in silent prayer, to kneel facing the congregation; also, when the public prayer is offered, let all kneel facing the people, the same as the one offering the prayer. At the same time it would be well for the members of the congregation to kneel facing the minister, that the whole assembly may bow before God in uniformity of attitude as well as of heart. As we pray that the Lord will come into our assembly, it is not consistent to turn our back to the heavenly Guest. I have been in homes where it has been the custom in family prayer for all to kneel facing the center of the room. I believe this is an appropriate attitude in prayer.
Elder A.T. Robinson: I remember a very impressive incident which occurred when I was in Australia. It was At a Sabbath afternoon meeting at which Sister White was present. The minister who was asked to lead in prayer, remained standing and began to pray. But Sister White knelt down, and as the minister started to pray, she called to him by name, and said, " Kneel down, Brother —; kneel down and pray! " Of course the brother knelt down and finished his prayer, but it was an occasion which probably none of us present will ever forget. I believe that we should " kneel before the Lord our Maker."