Few things in evangelism are more important than music. And yet there is no feature of a service that is treated with more disregard, or perhaps more disrespect. Just because the song service precedes the sermon, it must not be inferred that it is of less importance. With what care the farmer plows the soil in preparation for the seed. That is essential if he expects a harvest. And with what delicate care should the soil of the heart be prepared for the seed of the word of God!
The song service is one of the most effective means for the accomplishment of this preparation. But to do this there must be complete understanding and sympathy between the song leader and the preacher. The whole service should be carefully planned in counsel. Nothing should be left to mere chance or the whim of the moment.
On the other hand, a successful evangelistic service requires a spirit of freedom. To give the impression of things being overarranged is fatal. But that does not mean that there should be no prearrangement or plan. The ease with which one part of the service should blend into the other can be enhanced by wise planning.
The song service is not merely to occupy the time while people are finding their seats. Much less is it to drown out a hum of conversation ! It is a vital part of worship, and when properly conducted, is. a definite means of grace to those who attend. Foolish jesting, levity, and the effort to be clever are always out of place. But friendliness, sincerity, and the ability to interest are imperative. A good leader must have animation, but not artificiality ; rhythm, but not calisthenics. "Bodily exercise profiteth little." I Tim. 4:8.
A song leader is a minister of the gospel. His work is to bring the good news to the people through song, and in doing so, prepare their hearts for the spoken message. The singer and the preacher are partners in the service.
For the preacher and perhaps a group of associates, to walk onto the platform and kneel for silent prayer while the song service is in progress is unpardonable, particularly if they turn their backs to the congregation. It embarrasses the song leader and disgusts the congregation. A little previous planning could make this entrance an act of worship instead of an act of distraction.
Silent prayer is not at all an essential in an evangelistic service, because in reality the worship has already begun with the song service.
At least it should have; otherwise that part of the service is only a waste of time. But if it is intended for the ministers to bow in silent prayer, then is it not better if they appear on the rostrum just as an appropriate prayer song or chorus is being concluded? Then if things are timed properly to allow the song leader to kneel as one of the ministers, it will have a still better effect.
Could it be called worship, or even good sense, if those who are to occupy the seats on the platform elect to come in just when they feel they are ready, and do so at the very time the congregation is lifting its voice in peals of praise? For the song leader suddenly to discover that the audience should be hushed and then by grotesque gesticulation endeavor to calm the assembly, is ludicrous to say the least. Should we not study how to render to the Lord acceptable worship ?
Counsel given this people by the Lord's messenger back in 1885 has some meaning for us today : "Is it not your duty to put some skill and study and planning into the matter of conducting religious meetings—how they shall be conducted so as to do the greatest amount of good, and leave the very best impression upon all who attend ?"—Mrs. E. G. White in Review and Herald, April 14, 1885.
The apostle Paul said, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also." Should we not do the same?
Painting Pictures With Words
A Greek Epigram Reads, "By words alone are lives of mortals swayed." The wise man says, "The preacher sought out acceptable words." Every idea the preacher conveys, he must convey through words. How important then for us as ministers to study the best way to express truth.
Words are the colors with which we paint our pictures, and every sermon should aim at making truth live. No photograph in black and white is true. The outline with the shading is not complete, unless the coloring is there. We may be able to state a truth in simple, terse language, but to find the colorful word, the crisp sentence, and give the concept a clear setting, will put truth on its feet. To take people's ears and turn them into eyes, that is our task. In doing that, we must seek out acceptable words. To be able by a few clear-cut sentences to paint a picture as with a bold stroke, is to grip and hold the people.
A study of words will always repay the preacher.
R. A. A.