Choirs and Solos
By Kyle Pope
Iread with great interest Ken Green’s
article in the June 2004 issue of Biblical Insights, entitled “Balancing
Faith and Tradition: Congregational Singing.” While I appreciated many of the
points brother Green made, I question the conclusion he has drawn that choirs
and solos fall within New Testament authority.
It is true
that any position that would hold that every voice sing every note of every
song, would be impossible to apply consistently. Many hymns we sing in
assemblies of the church have bass, tenor, alto or soprano leads and even
duets. Four-part harmony itself requires different voices singing different
things. We have all seen times when a sore throat or laryngitis has caused
someone to mouth the words of songs when they cannot sing. Neither of these
constitute a rejection of Biblical authority or the nullification of our
brethren’s sound worship. Brethren are still “speaking to one another” in song
(Eph. 5:19) and “teaching and admonishing one another” in song (Col. 3:16).
It is also
true that in funerals and weddings there may or may not be collective singing.
In these functions groups or individuals may be asked to sing alone or with the
assembly. We should note that weddings and funerals, although they may include
members of a congregation and elements the church practices in worship to God,
they are not works of the church. We find no authority for the church to set
before itself a casket with the body of the deceased, a young couple exchanging
vows, bride’s maids, groomsmen, unity candles, or the call for those assembled
to speak in objection to the couple’s right to marry. These are largely civil
ceremonies which have come to be viewed as religious “services” largely due to
the false doctrines of Catholicism that teach marriage and last rights as
“sacraments” of the church.
are free during any function to sing, pray or study the Bible. We should not,
however, imagine that such makes the function a work of the church simply
because an element of worship is observed. Nor should we assume that the
restrictions that apply to the church assembled apply at all times. If so, the
bride could not speak to say “I do” (cf. I Corinthians 14:34).
to the world to return to the Bible calling them to come out of all religious
backgrounds, reject all practices not found in the Bible, be obedient to the
gospel and unite in what we do and teach. This is possible. Churches can
restrict their behavior only those things necessary to worship God. We can work
together without forcing anyone to do anything they cannot do in good conscience.
Do we find
in the Bible any example of a group of Christians or individuals being set
apart to sing before a congregation? Is there any example of an individual
standing before a congregation and singing a solo? In fact the only example we
have of disciples singing together (in this world) is the hymn the apostles
sang with Christ before going to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). In this
text, there can be no doubt that it was collective. The plural participle humnasantes
“having hymned (or sang a hymn)” is followed by the plural 3rd person verb exelthon
“they went out.” The same people that sang went out to the Mount of Olives.
Haven’t we contended that approved apostolic examples are binding? Is this not
why we limit the observation of the Lord’s Supper to the first day of the week
(i.e. Acts 20:7)?
issue, as it seems to me, concerns what bro. Green addressed near the end of
his article. He wrote of congregational singing that:
It guards against the entertainment factor which is
a real and present danger in contemporary worship. In many religious groups
performance has taken over. The people in the pews have become spectators
enjoying a show rather than worshipers entering into the spiritual activity of
praising God and admonishing brethren.
Amen! As Christians, we struggle to call brethren
and unbelievers alike to realize that in Christ we are “a holy priesthood, to
offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter
2:5). In singing, prayer and Bible teaching we “offer the sacrifice of praise
to God, that is, the fruit of our lips” (Hebrews 13:15). Unlike the Mosaic
system, no one else can offer worship on our behalf. Every element of worship
is a personal spiritual sacrifice to God. Even Bible teaching is only worship
when individuals in the pew engage their minds in feeding upon God’s word. We
have the approved apostolic example of one brother leading such a study (Acts
20:7). Does a choir or solo serve the same function that a song leader does; to
expedite orderly worship (I Cor. 14:40)? The difference, inevitably, is that a
song leader helps the individuals do as they do. The choir or solo performs.