The Frightening Sound We Make When We Stop Singing In Church


You’re not supposed to feel out of place at church. I did.

I couldn’t have been more than ten-years-old. I was about to sing my first and only solo. Man, I was nervous.

I still remember my line.

“Believing you can light up the sky.”

There were two other kids and an adult with me. We were supposed to be shepherds. Singing shepherds. The kind that only existed in church Christmas musicals from the 1980s.

The adult that was with us worked on the air for an Atlanta radio station. This was nothing for him. He had one of those golden voices that, no matter what he was saying, you knew that he was created for radio. And church Christmas musicals from the 1980s.

The other two kids were also designed for this sort of thing. They were a little older than me. I think that the girl had been taking singing lessons since she was in the womb. I’m not sure about the boy’s musical training. All I remember about him is that he had a perm. Boys with perms are great performers.

And then there was me. I just wanted to get this over with. I was tired of Saturday evening practices that cut into my pro wrestling viewing. I didn’t want to sing in public. I didn’t have a perm. I had no musical training.

Well, I guess I did have some musical training.

There were two ladies in charge of the kid’s choir at my church. Mrs. Scott and Mrs.Tingle taught me pretty much everything I know about singing. That’s not much. But what I learned, I still carry with me today, almost thirty years after my first and last official solo.

Mrs. Scott was very formal. I don’t think that she ever had a hair out of place. Mrs. Tingle was much older. Arthritis had gotten the best of her crooked fingers and hands. But, somehow, she still managed to play the piano. And for some reason, these two ladies saw fit to make me sing a solo in a Christmas play.

So there I was, waiting back stage for my musical debut. The radio guy was calm. The guy with the perm was, well, permy. Is that a word? But the girl, the one who I thought had been taking singing lessons since the womb, was nowhere to be found. Eventually, someone found her. In the bathroom. Sick.

This did wonders for my nerves. If Julie Andrews is throwing up, what should I be doing?

The show went on and I worked my way through the solo. When it was over, I went and sat with my mom. I’m sure that she was proud. Not proud in the sense of, “When they invent American Idol in a couple of decades, my son should try out.” It was more of a, “I can’t believe that he didn’t throw up all over himself” proud.

Last Sunday, just before I stood up to preach, I thought about that solo. There were kids all over our sanctuary’s stage, singing a song. None of them had a solo. None of them had a perm. But they were all singing. Together.

I still remember the words to their song.

“Ho – Ho – Hosanna! Everybody praise the Lord.”

Two of those kids were my sons. I was proud of them. And it wasn’t the, “I can’t believe that they didn’t throw up on themselves” kind of proud. I was proud to see them singing. They were learning the same lesson that I learned in my church when I was somewhere around their age.

Great truths are meant to be sung.

I haven’t intentionally sang a solo in church since that 1980s Christmas musical. But I have done a lot of singing. And every time I do, whether it’s an old hymn or a new song, I think about Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Tingle and all that they taught me.

Great truths are meant to be sung.

Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Tingle are in the church that I pastor. They’re much younger and they have different names. But their impact is still the same. They are the volunteers who are teaching kids how to worship Jesus. Most of the kids in our church may never grow up to be great performers. But they can grow up to be great worshipers. All because of what they learned from the ladies in their church.

At some point in our transition from childhood to adulthood, something frightening happens. We stop singing. It’s as if we believe that singing is just for kids and trained professionals. As if someone might get hurt if they try to sing without the proper credentials. And so we see congregations full of adults looking down at the floor and mumbling when it’s time to sing. That’s one of the most frightening sounds you’ll ever hear in a church building.

Mrs. Scott and Mrs. Tingle showed me a better way. Ladies in the church that I pastor are doing the same thing for our children. They are teaching more than music theory.

They are teaching that great truths are meant to be sung.

And it sounds beautiful.