Church Choir: The Great Democracy of Worship
By Robin Zaruba
If you take a look at 1 Chronicles 25, you will see an incredible picture of the importance of music and worship in general, and the choir specifically. King David’s choir directors and music leaders alone numbered 288. Imagine the size of the choirs they were directing. This was no small thing! This was a highly selective group – only Levites need apply. And only certain Levites at that. Worship in the temple was an incredibly important job, and the outward expression was almost as important as the inward work it implied.
In the New Testament, however, things look radically different. During Jesus’ earthly ministry he met a woman at a well in Samaria (John 4). She made sure to point out the difference between her people (Samaritans) and the Jews. She pointed out that Jews worshiped in Jerusalem, the Samaritans did not, and that this distinction (among others) created a vast divide between the two peoples. Jesus’ answer is striking and instructive, ” … a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.” Not where, not when everything is perfect, and certainly not just for those who belong to a certain group or club. God is no longer confined to a Temple, behind a veil in the Holy of holies. He lives in the heart of every Christian!
That is what I love about a church choir. The choir represents all that worship and worship leading should be. Lawyers, homemakers, educated musicians, amateurs, psychologists, construction workers, middle school students, and college students, white collar, blue collar – all can participate and raise a joyful sound to the Creator. In fact, if I could, I would call the choir “We the People … ” It is the great democracy, one might say. Other than the desire to worship God through music and the ability to hold a pitch, there are no great hurdles to overcome. I liken the choir to the Minutemen of old. All that was required of them was that they own a gun and be ready at a moment’s notice. The choir is on the frontline of worship leading. All that is required is a willing heart. (The band members are like the Hessians, but that is another article!).
Ignatius of Antioch, an early church martyr, instructed:
“Your accord and harmonious love is a hymn to Jesus Christ. Yes, one and all, you should form yourselves into a choir, so that in perfect harmony, and taking your pitch from God, you may sing in unison and in one voice to the Father through Jesus Christ. “
Ignatius wasn’t talking about the mass choir that met every Sunday and Wednesday at his church. He was speaking of all believers singing (praying) together. Whether you are on the stage in the choir, or part of the “choir” that is the congregation, we are all worshiping and “praying” together. After all, musical worship is basically prayer set to music. This is what the Psalms are.
Martin Luther once said, “Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men … The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God.“ Worship is very powerful, and very important. It is the soundtrack that accompanies God’s healing work in our lives. The church choir is a beautiful picture of the leading of that soundtrack.