While recording a podcast earlier this week, I was asked: “Are all Christians required to sing?”
I replied that yes, scripture indicates as much. Not every believer is called to music ministry as a vocation, but every saint is, fundamentally, a singer.
The calls to song that punctuate scripture are not only directed to all people, but all of creation. The mountains clap and the rocks cry out. The heavens and the skies proclaim God’s glory. Plants and beasts in and under the earth and sea will praise the Lord at His returning.
Our Creator, too, is a singer, rejoicing over His image-bearers as they rejoice in Him.
But what of people who are tone-deaf? Or shy?
I realized as we spoke that these individuals are called to song, perhaps in a more powerful way than those of us who have had musical training or are confident in our voices. To sing as an act of selfless obedience is an act of worship—of sacrifice—that surpasses the self-assured songs of professionals.
To prioritize a spiritual discipline that does not come easily is more praiseworthy (and more praise-giving) than only practicing those endeavors which we find pleasant and natural. I wish I’d had more time to share an example from my own life, but I’ll share it here. As my dad’s birthday was yesterday, this seems a fitting tribute.
My mom is an accomplished singer and her parents continue to be ardent supporters of congregational singing. My brother inherited this gift, growing to have a lovely bass voice. I, however, was shy of my vocal abilities for most of my life. Honestly, I still am, but my work requires me to pretend otherwise.
Still, I sang, and I attribute my musical persistence to my dad more than anyone else.
My dad claims to be a poor singer. This is untrue; he has a decent ear and good tone. However, being more introverted, he is not going to harmonize in church or belt out choruses with the rest of us. And yet, he sings.
When I was a baby, he introduced me to my first hymn. Before I could speak, he hummed “Amazing Grace” for me and taught me how to praise God with my heart before my tongue.
As I grew, my dad would sing along to my Disney cassettes on car trips, and introduced my brother and me to The Beach Boys and Willie Nelson.
Quietly and consistently, my dad showed us that worshipful singing is meant to build others up and to obey God. Through my dad’s example, I learned that not every worship leader is on stage with a microphone and a band. Sometimes the most impactful leaders in worship are humble, selfless, and even unheard—the saints who sing not of or for themselves.