Musical worship must be manly...

How do you get men to sing in worship? And I mean really sing.

Sing of God's judgment. Of His justice triumphing over wicked men...

The Sea Island Singers' "Sign of the Judgment" (No. 48) is an example. In the old days the Day of Judgment was a frequent subject of the church's hymnody. Today it's rarely mentioned.

"Hiding Place" (No. 3 here) is Good Shepherd Band's fearsome contribution to the genre. Here's a similar piece by Boston Camerata titled the "Harvest Hymn." Click on the "Listen to Samples" link and check out number six.

Then too, men understand the Imprecatory Psalms. Check out "The Psalms of David, Vol. 1." Click through the "Listen to Samples" link and check out No. 11 which is Psalm 130, "By the Waters of Babylon."

Shout singing, Anglican chant, shapenote singing, bluegrass (here's one of my favorites), electric guitars and drums are what is needed in Reformed churches today if we're ever to have our hymns, songs, and spiritual songs yoked together with our preaching to the strengthening and masculine zeal of both.

Too, there's always a capella. It can be very manly, especially if we stick with unison like Bonhoeffer suggests in Life Together. Unison enfranchises even atonal men.

Have you ever listened to the worship of the Manchester United men? They sing their guts out in praise of their impotent god. But listen to the video at your own risk. Likely a good bit of it is obscene, but I think you're safe through the first two minutes.

In his classic A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law points out that, despite what any man gives as his excuse for not singing in worship, no man born has ever been a non-singer because there's no man alive who doesn't sing when he's in the pub with a few under his belt.

If you can't take any of the positive steps outlined above, here's an excellent negative one that may start you down the road to the positive.

Get rid of the femmy tickling of ivories and half-hearted fifty-year-old guy strumming his guitar behind the comely woman with the mic who's breathily sighing of her "passion" for Jesus. It's the genre of something I don't want to say and should never ever be allowed in the Household of Faith. Kill it in the service of God.

Another idea: start holding a Lord's Day afternoon gymanfa ganu (more here) like we took part in when we served a yoked parish of Presbyterian churches near the Welsh community of Cambria, Wisconsin. Good listening(TB)



>>How do you get men to sing in worship? And I mean really sing.

Give them a father who sings as if he believes what he is singing.

The reason I can't sing fully in worship is that the pitch of the tune is set too high. It hurts my throat to sing the upper notes. Our church sings out of the Trinity hymnal, but because there has not been any musical training in church or in school for decades, nearly everyone sings the soprano line in unison. I'm not skilled enough to sing the bass line, especially when there is no one else around me that I can lean on for support, so I sing the soprano line an octave lower, but that is generally too high for me to sing comfortably. I would sing more enthusiastically in worship if the songs were set lower.

Can anyone vet this song for me? We sing at at my church. It has the stamp of approval from one elder I talked to.

Excellent song, we use it in family worship, albeit in non-glitzy format.

The words speak for themselves:

n Christ alone my hope is found;
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all—
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone, Who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save.
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied;
For ev'ry sin on Him was laid—
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death—
This is the pow'r of Christ in me;
From life's first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No pow'r of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home—
Here in the pow'r of Christ I'll stand.

Another good Stuart Townend hymn is How Deep the Father's Love:

How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that left Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

#3 - #6. Agreed. I have sung this song at a number of churches.

Actually, David, I think this is the first time I have agreed with you about anything! :-)

While I'm here. This is something Promise Keepers made much of - getting men to sing - and although PK is hardly flavour of the Reformed month, someone at least gave it a go.

Is there any book or, better, webpage out there which systematically goes through well-known hymns and points out any theological deficiencies?

Tricky business as a number hymns have been revised and are in different editions in different hymnals. Most extreme example? "A Mighty Fortress" in the Roman Catholic hymnal which retained the title and tune and had altered all of the text of the hymn. It had something about flowers blooming or something like that.

Joel -- If you use the Trinity Hymnal, you probably have a pianist and/or organist in the church. Would one of those musicians be able to help you learn to sing the bass line?

Hymnwriter Philip P. Bliss (1838 - 1876) used to travel around the state of Pennsylvania teaching "singing schools" -- training and instruction in reading music, singing 4-part harmony, etc. How we need that kind of instruction today!

And speaking of setting hymns in lower keys, the Trinity Hymnal actually does that. The editors of that hymnal have lowered many hymns one-half step from their traditional key. Such a practice wreaks havoc with pianists and organists who have learned to play hymns in their traditional key, but it does help the singers.

Dear Joel,

I was wondering, do you use the old blue Trinity hymnal? Those keys are often set higher than the new Trinity.

Does anyone else find it as funny as I do that Roman Catholics sing "A Mighty Fortress" in their worship services?


I did chuckle.



We use the newer Trinity. But a half-step lower is nothing. I'd be most comfortable singing the soprano line a fifth (plus an octave) lower.

I'm actually a trained musician, but the mouth is not connected to the brain. My sightsinging teacher in college was astonished that I could easily identify intervals played on the piano but could not sing them.

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