The ministration of the church service is a unit performed by many whose mutual sympathetic assistance is absolutely necessary to its proper conduct. The choir does not function separately from other parts of the church hour. Its work fuses, blends, and mingles with the other activities of the church.
Music is like the flowers that bloom, from the delicate little spring beauty to the large hardy chrysanthemum, adapting itself in its varied usefulness to all conditions and climes. The mission of music is not alone one of beauty. It also provides nutritious food for the soul. The saying, "You can't eat your cake and have it, too," is not wholly true, for you can "eat" music and still have it. It is like the meal in the widow's barrel; there is always some for the next time. Soul food never gives out. There is an abundance of it.
It would be profitable for those who have the exalted duty of ministering to the church to spend some time and effort in acquainting themselves with this thing called "music." If they would form an alliance for good with this God-given power, they would thereby reap bushels of valuable grain where now they may see only barren stalks.
One good-intentioned brother once said to me, "When the musicians are able to do as effective work with their music as did David in driving the evil spirit from Saul, we'll be ready to give more attention to the art." The experience referred to aptly portrays the peak of the possibilities of music. It is worthy of our prayerful study to endeavor to reach similar pinnacles of service. Let us not forget, however, that even David did not always succeed so well. A little farther on in the narrative we read of the two dangerous experiences which nearly cost his life.
The poison-dipped javelin of sharp criticism is still hurled at the musician who tries to serve the best he knows how ; yet the critic's cynical eye is closed to the increased spirit of worship and devotion which is produced in the hush period of listening to a well-rendered selection.
There are many meaningful references to music in the Bible. Most of us seem better satisfied when we have Biblical proof for matters under consideration. A number of references are made in the Old Testament to the important part played by music in the history of ancient Israel. Here are a few texts that will undoubtedly throw some enlightenment upon music and its connection with the work of the church. Many other Scriptural passages might be cited, but these may serve our present purpose in laying a Biblical foundation for choir or group singing.
Kings 10 :12. Musical instruments part of equipment of "the house of the Lord."
Chron. 6:31. Appointed singers for the ministry of music.
Chron. 15:16-28. Skilled directors appointed to instruct.
Chron. 25:6, 7. Director and choir "for the service of the house of God."
2 Chron. 5:12-14. Music precedes manifestation of God's approval in service.
2 Chron. 20:21, 22. Music service in time of war.
2 Chron. 29:25-30. By divine command, music's part in religious service.
From these references we see how the significance of the service of music in the work of God was impressed upon the author of these accounts.
Appreciation of the work of the singers is absolutely necessary to good rendition. This should come from both pulpit and pew. When the work of the choir does not have wholehearted backing and support, it is a reflection upon the efficiency of the pastor. He should make it his business to spend some of his time in reading about music and studying music appreciation, that the door hinges of his inner chambers may be oiled, and the dark corners lighted and ventilated. The musical part of the church service is undervalued. It is viewed too much as a customary thing that comes into the program to eat up a few minutes of valuable speaking time.
A congregation will soon follow the lead of an appreciative pastor or church elder, and before long helpful remarks from the lay members will multiply. Such an encouraging attitude will do wonders in creating interest and putting life into the choir, and in a short time it will be beneficially reflected in a higher standard of work. Encouragement is an excellent oil for choir machinery. The musical motor will run surprisingly smooth with the crankcase full of this valuable (yet scarce) oil; but the motor will kick, backfire, and overheat without it. It may take effort to develop appreciation for music, but it takes effort to develop any good habit.
Each choir number was painstakingly and prayerfully written by the composer. It passed through the finest scrutiny his ability and training could give it; then it underwent the critical eye of a music editor before it ever reached the church choir. No doubt it received more attention than many a sermon that has been preached. True, it may take but five minutes to render it, but that should be a stanch reason for the kindliest indulgence of every normal ear. We know when the musical selection will end. It would be well if we had similar assurance concerning the sermon.
I feel confident that much might be done to cheer and encourage those who give of their time and talent for the improvement of the church hour. A studied, settled determination on the part of the church pastor to set a good example in his relationship to this musical unit is bound to show good results for himself, his congregation, the choir, and the church service. Surely these many-sided benefits should not be lightly regarded, but should appeal to every church leader to make a decided effort to improve the situation in his own church.