Helps for Worship #10: Psalms and Hymns (Part 2)
"Where's the choir?"
In the Old Testament, one group of Levites was dedicated to the work of singing in the temple (see 1 Chron. 9:33; 25:1-8). With the coming of Jesus Christ (whose person and work were foreshadowed in the Old Testament templesee John 2:19-21), the Old Testament temple and its worship are superseded by the church as the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 2 Cor. 6:16; Eph. 2:21). There is no indication from the pages of the New Testament or the earliest records of Christian church history that there ever was (as in the Old Testament temple) a separate choir in Christian worship.
During the Middle Ages, as worship was more and more removed from congregational participation, choirs separate from the congregation developed.
But the Protestant Reformers returned singing to the congregation, arranged for the printing of psalters and hymnals for use in the churches, and encouraged a wholehearted response of praise from the entire congregation. Indeed, congregational singing of Psalms and hymns became a hallmark of Protestant churches.
In our congregations today, we should build upon this historic Protestant emphasis. "Where's the choir?" you ask. The answer is: "It's sitting in the pews!" The entire congregation is the choir.
This has many practical implications:
- We should have "choir practice" in our homes during personal and family worship, and on other occasions when we are gathered together for meetingsfor example, during the prayer meeting.
- We should use tunes that are learnable and singable by every age group in the congregation. "Young men and maidens together, old men and children" should be able to praise the Lord in song (Ps. 148:12-13).
- We should remember that God is listening to the choir, that is, the congregation. He should be as pleased to receive our praise as we are to hear praise sung in our hearing (1 Pet. 2:5).
- How does considering God as the "spectator" of your worship affect the way you sing?
- How can your home be a better place of weekly "choir practice"?
The author is pastor of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Franklin Square, New York. Reprinted from New Horizons, July 2006. First article in series. Next article. Index.