When a minister speaks to a congregation, he measures his sermon by the attention accorded his words and by the negative or positive reaction which he receives, as recorded in the faces of the hearers. I have also found this to be a comparatively safe guide to follow in the service of song in our evangelistic meetings. The most important part of our task as singing evangelists is to interest all present to such an extent that they will enjoy participating in the music and be receptive toward the message to follow.
One of the most potent psychological factors in gaining interest is the art of doing something different. People hate monotony and yet we must remember not to get too far away from the way they like to do things. Adaptability is a priceless trait to be cultivated by every song leader. Let us consider a few things that might help to keep the song service on a wide-awake basis.
The chorus-song, "Roll Your Burdens Away," has a catchy tune, is very easy to learn, and the rhythmic pattern is regular :
"Roll, roll your burdens away,
Roll, roll your burdens away,
Jesus has promised to take them all;
Roll, roll your burdens away."
The second time have them sing it, "Smile, smile your burdens away," and make them smile as they sing. The third time, "Sing, sing your burden's away," and have them emphasize the "ng" of "sing." The fourth time, have them quietly sing, "Pray, pray your burdens away." This is very effective.
I enjoy using the hymn, "Nearer, Still Nearer," in this way. Have the congregation sing the first stanza, encouraging the singing of all four parts. Then have them hum the second stanza while the pianist or some solo instrument, plays the melody. The choir or the song leader then sings a stanza, and the song is always ended with the audience participating.
A poem or a story about a song always fits in well between stanzas. Do not be afraid to teach the audience a new song once in a while. The songs we love so well now were once new songs.
Evangelist Griffin and I have found a very effective theme song that we sing together immediately preceding every sermon he preaches. As we start for the pulpit together, the pianist plays a short prelude, and we quietly sing the first stanza of "Jesus Whispers Peace."
Working closely with the evangelist is very important, especially when an invitation is made. Don't wait until he has to call for some music. Have it ready and sense the right moment to bring it in. Make the beginning of the invitational music quiet and unobtrusive, either by the piano or by the choir humming. If the minister prefers, let the audience also participate in this part of the service. We sometimes use a mixed quartet, singing, "You Must Do Something Tonight," for the call.
A masterpiece of art is always enhanced by the right kind of frame. The music of any service is the frame that must never detract but always add to the' beauty of the message presented.