The song leader makes the first contact with the audience; and since first impressions are lasting ones, one can readily see that this part of the service is truly a vital addition to our work, ought to be taken seriously, and should be properly planned. Of course one never knows just what procedure to follow in detail until he sees his audience, but there are some blanket rules that will suit every occasion and have a good effect upon the audience. Let these procedures be original, and given in all sincerity and with enthusiasm.
It is my custom to encourage all to sing when I am leading the singing, and I call out, "If you can't sing, sing anyway." This does not always bear fruit on the first night, but if such a call is made night after night, one can see that those who are too reticent to sing will gradually move their lips, then in a short time will be singing lustily.
On one occasion several years ago while leading the singing, I made the usual call. Finally, one night I heard a lusty, booming bass voice to my right. Upon looking in the direction of the voice, I could see and hear a rather elderly man intently and unashamedly singing and loving it. After the meeting I made it a point to contact this man, and while talking to him about the meeting and asking him how he liked the talk, he told me that he thought the meetings were grand.
"But say, Graham," he hastened to ask, "how did you like my singing ?" I assured him that I thought it was fine.
"Would you believe it," he told me, "I haven't done any singing for nigh on to fifty years. But when you kept telling me to sing whether I could sing or not, I finally took you seriously and I find that I have a fine bass voice." Thus a new world was opened to this man. He knew that his voice was desired, and was grateful. The method paid dividends.
Many who love to sing have been told by thoughtless friends or parents to "stop that noise." They have received a deep wound and in almost every instance an inferiority complex. That hurt, deep and painful, may be covered up in various ways and never be healed until some thoughtful soul untangles the threads by inviting them to sing, and keeps at it until they believe him and break down and sing. It may not be the most beautiful singing, it may be off key, it may be a deadly monotone, but it opens the heart and gives someone a chance to express himself.
The song service is the audience's chance to express itself, and more important still, it is also time when the audience relaxes and is prepared to hear the blessed gospel. "Wise as serpents and harmless as doves," is counsel that can be practiced in many ways.
Now a word to the song leaders. If the evangelist does not seem to appreciate you and forgets to tell you that you are doing well, if you seem to be just plugging along, don't become discouraged, for someone from the audience will tell you that he appreciates the singing. He will say that some song or phrase touched his heart and brought him closer to God. If you will pray through and see the songs as God sees them, then you will receive a blessing. But don't forget to talk to your audience and get close to them in a dignified way. Win them to the song service, and you will win them to listen to the marvelous message to follow. Always remember, the message is the thing they are there to hear, and the singer's task is to prepare them for the words of life. Invite all to sing even if they can't sing.