If you know me, you know I love to sing. I may not have the best voice, mess up the tempo, and get a little off key, but singing is still one of my favorite things to do. At church camp, we would always circle up at the canteen and sing after the evening ball-field devotional. We would sing devo songs, camp songs, old songs, and learn new songs. It really was and is one of my favorite pastimes. My family would even get together with others for New Years and other events to sing together.
In my heritage, we do not use any kind of instruments in our assemblies. Instead, everyone sings out together. While I no longer believe that this is the way it absolutely has to be done, it is my preferred method of worshipping God, so I don’t see myself ever trying to incorporate instruments into the Sunday morning assembly. For one, the potential division wouldn’t be worth it, and, plus, I just prefer to sing.
So, when I visited North Broad in the Summer, I was excited to learn that they have a praise team. A praise team, for the uninitiated, is a group of people who have microphones at their seats, usually one or two for each part.
Growing up, I heard of different churches incorporating praise teams in their singing, but I never really got the point of them. If it was good enough for the apostles, it’s good enough for me, right? But really, what was “good enough” for the apostles, like singing without air conditioning, may not be what’s best for me. As much as I want to follow in their footsteps, I don’t think that includes turning off the projector, throwing away our HVAC, and cancelling our power service.
So, why do I love our praise team?
I can learn new songs easily
At North Broad, they sing a lot of songs I have never heard before. I never really got into the Zoe Group except for a few of their earlier CDs, so when I came here, I didn’t know probably 2/3rds of what they sing. Being able to read the music and listen to the bass, I could pick up on the songs a lot more quickly than usual.
Growing up, if you wanted to learn a part for a song, you would go sit in front of or beside someone who knows that part. If I wanted to learn bass, I would sit beside one uncle, but if I wanted to learn tenor, I would sit closer to the other.
With a praise team, you don’t have to move around the building to crowd around one person who knows the song; you can follow along from where you are.
It sounds good
I know that the audience is God. God was also the audience when David played the harp, and I bet he was no slouch. While God certainly accepts everyone’s worship regardless of their abilities, God also appreciates beauty.
For example, in the Old Testament when God was delivering to Moses the designs for the tabernacle, He told him to find those who were skillful workmen to build the structure, spin the material, and decorate the interior. David was called a skillful musician (1 Samuel 16:18). And Chenaniah was in charge of the singing because he was skillful (1 Chronicles 15:22).
Certainly God accepts all of our voices, but that doesn’t mean that those who have beautiful voices should keep them hidden out of fear of judgment from those who say things like, “Well, they just want to be heard over everyone else.”
The temple had 288 people who were trained to sing and glorify God with their voice. When we “showcase” certain people, it is not an elevation of them but an elevation of God who gave them their talents. The preacher may be a talented orator, but all the glory goes to God. As my friend Dallas says, God is a lover of music.
It is edifying
While I love to sing, I am a bit self-conscious about my voice. So being able to belt out as loudly as I’d like to the Lord feels great. The praise team helps this because I don’t feel like I’m dominating the assembly. I can focus on my worship to God by singing out and singing proudly without worrying about scarring the eardrums of the people around me.
But there is also something about listening to people who really know the song they are singing. There just seems to be more meaning to it when you aren’t just reciting words. These are people who pour their heart and soul into the song selection, practice, and understanding of these songs. The notes matter, but the words matter just as much, and it shows when you really listen to their voices.
At the end of the day, it’s all about praising God, and whatever a congregation feels like they can do to make it easier for them to do that should be considered. For me, praise teams are an excellent way to assist in the singing, help people learn songs, and edify the members. Praise be to God for giving people beautiful voices! Let God’s handiwork be heard!