Music: Another Evangelist

Music: Another Evangelist

Pastor-Evangelist, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference

It was my privilege to be invited, while engaged in singing evangelism, to spend several days in one of our junior colleges discussing and demonstrating various techniques employed in winning souls through the ministry of music. One of my great burdens was to place before these future evangelists the importance of the singer in this field.

First of all, I took a piece of chalk and placed on the blackboard the words "singing evangelist," and above, the words "speaking evangelist." By crossing out the words "speaking" and "singing" in both, I had two words "evangelist" remaining. Singing is a means to an end; the singer is another evangelist. I have found that a carefully arranged and coordinated program moves so smoothly that a break will not be sensed between the work of the speaker and that of the singer. Properly done, it is merely handing over to the speaker an audience that has been transformed into a congregation with hearts warmed and waiting in deep anticipation to hear the Word of God expounded and to be captured for Christ.

The singing evangelist, like the speaking evangelist, will have a carefully planned day's activities. Bible study and prayer are a must. No true minister would dare invade the holy precincts of the desk without this daily experience, and I also believe that no singer can touch hearts without first touching God's Word. To attempt to talk to the people about God without first talking to God is a mechanical process only, and will accomplish no lasting good. The voice may be on pitch as far as key is concerned, but may be flat spiritually.

Have a Theme

How tragic would be the results if the speaking evangelist were to come to the time of the meeting and then hastily prepare some hodgepodge conglomeration of pious platitudes and Bible texts to present to an unsuspecting audience! His burden is a message, which forbids such hit-and-miss methods. Messages stem from careful thought, meditation, organization, and prayer. Likewise the singing evangelist will prepare his outline of thought and song, unless he wishes to be merely a fill-in until something worth while begins. A carefully planned listing of songs around a central theme, with short and concise remarks at the beginning, opens the program with the proper atmosphere.

After extending greetings and making reference to the speaker who is to follow and our anticipation of his message, I announce the opening song of the song service while the pianist plays softly. Let us say the theme of this song service is growth in grace. I then choose "Higher Ground." As the audience finds this song in the books I make some appropriate remarks about the message of the song, or tell a very brief story that may point up its mes sage. With the song "Higher Ground" I usu ally tell a story that points the thoughts of the hearers to the fact that as we come up on higher ground we come daily nearer to the place of refuge found in the presence of Christ.

Nothing will ruin a song service more quickly than too much talking on the part of the song leader. On the other hand, for him simply to announce one song number after another makes for an equally poor service of song. Choose your remarks carefully and say enough but not too much. Even though we are not to be entertainers, our program can be "intensely interesting," as the Spirit of prophecy says evangelistic meetings should be. Variation will produce this effect. Boredom comes from monotony. The monotone song service can be avoided by choosing songs in different keys. If it is possible to do so, a pleasing effect can be attained by starting in a key low in the scale and ascending, for in stance, A flat, B flat, C, E flat, F, et cetera. It may not always be possible to accomplish this. As far as the meter is concerned, if we start in 3/4 time, we would follow with 4/4 or 6/8or 6/4, et cetera. A distinct contrast in tempo is also most helpful, as for instance contrasting "Nearer, Still Nearer" with "Onward, Christian Soldiers." And here a good connecting thought can be expressed by saying, "If we draw nearer and still nearer to Christ, we will be glad and willing to march forward as good Christian soldiers."

After the first number in this song service, "Higher Ground," is sung, it must be followed by another number carefully chosen to blend with the theme thought. "He Leadeth Me" works splendidly; and with a smooth transition, carefully worded, the build-up will continue. Announce the number and proceed as before by saying, "With anxious hearts we ask, 'How can we come up on higher ground?' J. H. Gilmore has given us the answer in our next song, 'He Leadeth Me.' Isn't it a 'blessed thought' to know that if we will let God lead in our lives, He will lead us day by day onto higher ground? Now let us all sing with a willingness in our hearts to be led by Him."

An Audience Transformed Into a Congregation

After this song I find a pleasant respite is to sing a carefully chosen chorus. Some deplore the too-free use of ill-chosen choruses, and so do I. But sensibly used, the chorus can become a powerful instrument in our hands. Audiences fluctuate, with many new faces appearing nightly during the early weeks of a series of meetings. This poses a problem, for instead of a "congregation" we have a heterogeneous "audience" a group of people who have no co-exception of their interest in the anticipated subject of the evening. The problem is to transform such a heterogeneous, conglomerate audience into a homogeneous Christian congregation that begins to sense the wonderful fact that even here on this earth "the fellowship of kindred minds" can be "like to that above."

The chorus is easily learned, and once learned can be used antiphonally by dividing the audience into two or three sections. We should be careful not to do this merely as a novelty, but with a Christian purpose. It is a good thing, once they have learned the chorus, to encourage them in the words of Scripture to "exhort one another" by having one section of the audience sing the chorus to the other, and then having the other section answer back fervently with the same message. This little act of exhorting one another, together with the fact that as a group they have learned a new chorus, will begin to transform your audience into a congregation. Following the thoughts presented in the songs "Higher Ground" and "He Leadeth Me," a good chorus to use would be "Let Go and Let God Have His Wonderful Way," No. 44 in Gospel Songs and Choruses, No. 6, one of the Singspiration series:

"Let go and let God have His wonderful way, Let go and let God have His way; Your burdens will vanish, your night turn to day. Let go and let God have His way."

Its message ties in beautifully with the fore going songs, and here again some appropriate remark can be made that if we will truly let go and let God have His way, He will lead us day by day onto higher ground in our daily living. I have seen people who sat coldly through the first part of the song service melt down and take part in this feature, and before the evening was over they even became enthusiastic. On the other hand, we must be care ful not to offend discriminating people in our audience by using trivial choruses in a cheap and exhibitionistic manner.

The audience welcomes a rest. At this moment I regularly make a practice of reading an outstanding poem with musical background.* The response has been very good. Many shower me with poems to be read. It has been a high spot in the program. The audience also appreciates a special number at this time.

Picking up the theme of my song service again, I follow with another song or two. Just before the theme song (cue for the evangelist to enter) I tell my congregation that I want to "preach" a "one-minute sermon." This always arouses curiosity. I simply give some out standing quotation. It might be something like this: "A happy Christian is one who enjoys his Christianity rather than endures it." I pause a moment with a genuine smile and then repeat it. Much interest is always manifested in these brief sayings. The Cream Book (50 cents, from Keith L. Brooks, Box BB, Eagle Rock Station, Los Angeles 41, California) is an excellent source of short sayings.

With this type of song service used consistently and prayerfully night after night, I have found little difficulty in preparing the minds of the people so that they are receptive to the message of the evangelist, which of course is the main object of the meeting. But I have also found that a carefully planned song service of this type creates unusual interest, and soon the majority of the people get into the habit of coming early so as not to miss the service in song. I find too that when I visit the homes of the people they receive me, not just as a singer, but as a man who is also capable of dis cussing spiritual themes in other words, an other evangelist. I take no credit for this plan. I believe God gave it to me.

The singing evangelist must, however, in planning such a program always keep in mind that his part of the evangelistic meeting is subservient to the sermon of the evangelist, and he must never encroach upon that time. He must also guard against unconsciously forming the opinion that the song service is the main part of the service. A well-organized and well-planned musical program will draw additional respect for this part of the service from those with whom you are associated; namely, the evangelist, the pianist, and fellow evangelists.

"Throughout the ages, God has been particular as to the design and the accomplishment of His work. In this age, He has given His people much light and instruction in regard to how His work is to be carried forward in an elevated, refined, conscientious manner; and He is pleased with those who in their service carry out His design." Evangelism, p. 67. (Italics supplied.)

"Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns, and speak with power and assurance of the Saviour's love." Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 233. (Italics supplied.) Paul said, "This one thing I do," and this must be our experience. This work of evangelism is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:5: "But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist." Singer friend, are you just a song leader, or are you another evangelist, a singing evangelist?


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Pastor-Evangelist, Arkansas-Louisiana Conference

June 1953

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