There never has been in the history of the world a more urgent need than there is now for the mobilization of all forces at our command in the proclamation of God's message of saving grace for human beings. The power of music has a potency for good or evil that few of us realize. Since it is one of the strongest potential forces in soul winning, it behooves us to examine again and again the means of directing it toward the greatest gain.
Evangelism should be considered in its broadest sense. The word usually connotes to most of us the evangelistic effort, or series of meetings under a tent or in a public hall where we spare no means to attract seekers after truth. This is, of course, probably the most popular approach to public evangelism in our ministry today, and it will be one of our purposes in a subsequent article to examine the uses to which music is put in this area.
It is a modern tragedy oft repeated, however, that we forget the evangelistic potential that exists in every function of the church, and we forget that there are those who sit with us in the pews every Sabbath day who are in need of conversion, which is the primary function of evangelism. Not only do interested unchurched or other-churched visit among us, but numerous church members have become cool spiritually, doubt ridden and insecure in the faith, in some degree backslidden, continuing with the church more out of habit than because of beliefs. These chuch members standing in the peril of eternal loss are as much in need of evangelism for their individual souls as are those who have never heard the message of hope we have to offer. And what of our children who will be the church members of tomorrow—and what of the youth and junior youth in their adventurous and perilous teens, an age of world-shaking consequence for them?
Any realistic program of evangelism must reach out continually through the various agencies of the church to bring full conversion and Christian maturity to these folks who are all too often taken for granted, and often eventually lost.
There is evangelism in a discerning, deeply spiritual church worship service, even though its functions are quite different from the evangelistic service. Eternity alone will reveal how many souls in the valley of decision have decided for or against following the light of truth while they watched the minister and the members of his congregation in the corporate act of divine worship. The relative simplicity or formality of the service is not as much the point of influence here (though this matter deserves evaluation) as is the spirit with which all enter into the several parts of the worship service. Each of us soon reveals whether he is or is not convinced of the efficacy of his worship, whether or not he is truly aware of God.
Evangelism in Congregational Singing
Evangelism is the province of every believing member who sings the congregational hymns of the church with meaning.
The melody of song, poured forth from many hearts in clear, distinct utterance, is one of God's instrumentalities in the work of saving souls.1
The way in which church members sing their songs of praise can have a telling effect on the prospective convert. He soon judges whether the worshiper is entering into the tribute of praise with a sincerity motivated by love for God and a reverence for His realized presence or is otherwise merely mouthing the words mechanically, the mind obviously functioning with no significant cognizance of the nature of his act. If among the worshipers the tendency is toward carelessness in the singing, or in the attitude during prayer, or in the attention given the words of admonition from the minister, the prospective convert has a right to assume that here is a religion possessing a form of godliness but an unawareness of its power. On the other hand, caught up in the spirit of worship among sincere and discerning worshipers whose singing and praying and reverence bespeak a loving acquaintance with the Father and Son and a personal experience of God's saving grace, the observer will be led more readily to assume: "This is God's place, His people, His message of salvation for me."
Mrs. White urged congregational singing, favoring it somewhat over the singing of a few.' Her appeal was that all singing be done with the spirit and the understanding' and that in our songs of praise we "approach as nearly as possible to the harmony of the heavenly choirs," 4 avoiding rasping and unpleasant singing.' "Some think that the louder they sing the more music they make; but noise is not music. Good singing is like the music of the birds—subdued and melodious." While these and many similar exhortations were doubtless directed toward the improvement of this important avenue of expressing praise and adoration to God, one can readily discern the evangelistic by-product of a worship that has thus been made more acceptable to Him.
Couched effectively in music and sung in clear, distinct tones, the truths of God find ready lodgment in sincere hearts. Moses taught basic truths to the children of Israel in song, "that in strains of melody they should become familiar with them, and be impressed upon the minds of the whole nation, young and old. . . . It was a continual sermon." David composed psalms, not only for the use of the priests but also for the people to sing in their journeys to the national altar at the annual feasts.
The influence thus exerted was far-reaching, and it resulted in freeing the nation from idolatry. Many of the surrounding peoples, beholding the prosperity of Israel, were led to think favorably of Israel's God, who had done such great things for His people
The Saviour's Songs of Praise
Would that we as individuals might fill our lives with evangelism simply by carrying a sacred song in our hearts and on our lips! Our Saviour has taught us the value of such a practice by His own example:
The early morning often found Him in some secluded place, meditating, searching the Scriptures, or in prayer. With the voice of singing He welcomed the morning light. With songs of thanksgiving He cheered His hours of labor and brought heaven's gladness to the toilworn and disheartened?
Often He expressed the gladness of His heart by singing psalms and heavenly songs. Often the dwellers in Nazareth heard His voice raised in praise and thanksgiving to God. He held communion with heaven in song; and as His companions complained of weariness from labor, they were cheered by the sweet melody from His lips. His praise seemed to banish the evil angels, and, like incense, fill the place with fragrance. The minds of His hearers were carried away from their earthly exile, to the heavenly home.1°
It is thus within the province of each of us to carry with us an atmosphere that will disperse in our own hearts and in the hearts of those around us the clouds of any negative attitudes and prepare the way for the working of God's Spirit. This is evangelism!
And is there a more effective means than in song to evangelize our children for a lifetime with Christ? Look again to the example of our Lord:
When Christ was a child like these children here, He was tempted to sin, but He did not yield to temptation. As He grew older He was tempted, but the songs His mother had taught Him to sing came into His mind, and He would lift His voice in praise. And before His companions were aware of it, they would be singing with Him. God wants us to use every facility which Heaven has provided for resisting the enemy.u.
Moses realized the value of song as an avenue for fixing the law of God in the minds and hearts of the children.
While the older children played on instruments, the younger ones marched, singing in concert the song of God's commandments. In later years they retained in their minds the words of the law which they learned during childhood.
If it was essential for Moses to embody the commandments in sacred song, so that as they marched in the wilderness, the children could learn to sing the law verse by verse, how essential it is at this time to teach our children God's Word! Let us come up to the help of the Lord, instructing our children to keep the commandments to the letter. Let us do everything in our power to make music in our homes, that God may come in?"
I praise God for the parents in the homes, and the teachers in our schools, who recognize the evangelistic power of sacred song for the young lambs of the flock. Years after we have forgotten most of what we have learned through formal years of study at school, the songs that we learned in those first tender years at home, in the classroom, and at Sabbath school, return to assist us along the paths of Christ's righteousness. Accordingly we are instructed:
Let there be singing in the home, of songs that are sweet and pure, and there will be fewer words of censure and more of cheerfulness and hope and joy. Let there be singing in the school, and the pupils will be drawn closer to God, to their teachers, and to one another."
In recognition of the special need of evangelistic music for evangelistic meetings, I would urge the ministry to present to the members of their respective flocks the direct and effective part in soul-winning evangelism which they may individually have through the means of sacred song. Our church services will have more evangelistic power as we heed the counsel of the Lord and learn to sing as unto God, with spirit and understanding. The message of truth and the love of our God will have renewed vitality as it is thus lifted up in song. The life of the Christian will be sweeter and more successful as he carries a sacred song into his life at home, and on the job, and when temptation presses in upon him. All around him, his loved ones, friends, and business associates will know Christ better because of him. Infinitely more will be accomplished through his evangelistic medium as we educate our believers and make them aware of its power and its availability to each one of us.
1 E. G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 493.
2 Ibid., vol. 9, p. 144; Letter 157, 1902; Letter 49, 1902; White, Education, pp. 167, 168.
3 White, Evangelism, p. 508.
4 Ibid., p. 507.
5 T estimonies, vol. 1, g. 146; ibid., vol. 9, pp. 143, 144.
6 Evangelism, p. 510.
7 Ibid., p. 497.
8 White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 711.
9 White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 52.
10 White, The Desire of Ages, p. 73.
11 Evangelism, p. 498.
12 Ibid., p. 500.
13 Education, p. 168.