Good evangelistic choir and a consecrated song leader are half the battle these days in an evangelistic effort. Choirs are not born ; they are made. When entering upon an evangelistic campaign in a city where we have a church, one of the first things one must do is to bring before that church the necessity of a godly life and of much prayer. Then show the church members the value of a choir that comes night after night. With the fullest co-operation of the evangelist, solicit the entire congregation to participate in the singing. Thus far it has been my privilege to work with evangelists who believe in music and lend their entire co-operation to its success. It is too bad when a minister does not appreciate the value of singing, as this is sometimes the reason why enough interest is not manifested in a series of meetings.
To swell the ranks of the choir, I always try to draw upon those not of our faith who can sing. These new members become very much interested in the meetings and generally accept the third angel's message. We give invitations in our advertising and also from our pulpit for all singers to join the choir. I often think of the statement which the late A. G. Daniells is reported to have made: "I am always sure of one convert at the close of a series of meetings when I secure a pianist not of our faith." It was my privilege during one effort to see thirteen persons baptized who had attended the choir night after night.
The larger the choir the better the impression it makes, even though the members are not all trained singers. It is well to have trained voices in a choir, but I would much rather have a singer with an untrained voice, and the right kind of spirit, than a trained, critical singer who does not manifest the proper attitude. This is one reason why we solicit from the entire congregation. as to do so helps to eliminate trouble.
After you have gathered the choir for practice, then with kindness and tact weed out those who ought to do other kinds of work, and encourage the rest to take hold of the singing with great earnestness. Always try to get those who cannot sing to help out with other work in the meetings, for in this way you can most easily eliminate ill feeling. It is said that the choir is the battle ground of every church in a campaign. I do not believe this. During the few years of experience that I have had in this line of work, I can truthfully say there has never once been any trouble in my choirs.
Some kind of uniform for the choir is very helpful ; it helps the members feel that they are a part of a great campaign. A dark dress with white collar and cuffs is inexpensive, and such a dress can be worn after the meetings are over. We encourage our men to wear dark suits and ties and white shirts. Such attire gives a dignified appearance to the group, as you can see by the accompanying picture.
Much prayer is a strong factor in the success of a choir. Every night our choir meets promptly at seven twenty-five for counsel and a word of prayer in the choir room. We do not wait for any member who is late, because we believe in starting our music on time. If this is done, the choir realizes that it is important to be there at the appointed time. After our word of prayer, we march in, singing our theme song, "Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It," or "Marching to Zion." I sometimes have the congregation join in the chorus. This engenders greater enthusiasm in the community singing. After the benediction, while the people are leaving the auditorium, the choir sings songs in harmony with the subject of the evening. Thus we help the audience keep in mind the message that they have just heard.
The type of music desired for choir and congregational singing before the sermon should be that of joy, praise, or victory, including one or two short choruses each evening. Such music helps to bring the people together and prepares their minds for the sermon. All special and appeal songs should be in harmony with the subject. No songs should be sung unless they are in keeping with the message. The choir can also be effectively used when the evangelist makes his appeal. This, however, should be done in a pleasing way. The choir members must fully understand the leader's method of directing.
Successful leaders use choir specials several times during the week, so that the choir will feel it is an important part of the meeting. People like to hear such music, and you need not fear overworking this feature.
Singers are held in the choir just the same as people are brought back to meetings night after night. Anyone can get a crowd the first night with good advertising, but it takes real preaching and a godlike life to keep people coming. It is just as true with a choir. I believe it is the duty and privilege of the singing evangelist to visit his choir members as much as possible in their homes and have prayer with them, that God may bless the music to the end that it will soften the hearts of the people.
Enthusiastic leadership and appealing choir music, together with the word of God, will touch the hearts of the people and bring them back regularly. This, I believe, is the success of a good series of meetings.