Praise doesn’t have to be in tune

By Karl Terry: PNT columnist

To the youngster two rows in front of me, it sounded beautiful. To his embarrassed father, it likely sounded like a mad tomcat trapped in a sack.

On a recent Sunday morning in church the little guy — probably about 2 and likely not even talking real well — joined in singing a hymn with the rest of the congregation. Real words weren’t coming out, but he was getting pretty good volume and “making a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

The father, barely able to contain his own chuckle, was trying to discreetly put his hand over his son’s mouth without a lot of success.

I was in a great spot to witness the scene and was disappointed when the young man’s harmony ceased. He stopped, not from his dad’s efforts, but simply because he got interested in something else. It hit me right then that the little boy was motivated by joy and a need to share his feeling with others. We ought to have the same motivation when singing in church or anywhere else.

I’ll be the first to admit my own vocal abilities are never going to make me famous and may even get me some strange looks. My voice box is the only instrument I’ve ever been able to master though and, like the little boy, I’ve never been too ashamed to use it.

I sing in the shower, in the car and I’ve even led singing in church when things got desperate.

I attend a Church of Christ where acappella song service — no instrumental music — is the rule. That fact leaves the little boy and I even more exposed and out there without an organ or band to cover our inaccuracies in pitch and note selection.

I grew up without instrumental music in church and that’s what feels right to me. I’ve visited churches with organs, guitar accompaniment and full-on bands. I never quite feel comfortable with it. Let me explain why.

I have always felt like the song service was one way we offered praise to God. Without accompaniment I feel like I’m concentrating on making that praise offering the best it can possibly be.

I’ve seen a lot of people enjoying the church music when the organist was at her best and not even singing, I’ve also seen a lot of people in my church’s acappella song service who were just along for the ride.

Neither is too engaged in worship if they’re just listening.

While the little boy was cute and momentarily distracted me from my worship, I’ve also known lots of other folks who didn’t do a lot better. I could mention a few names here, including family and song leaders. Instead I’ll just let folks wonder. I believe those people were all doing their best and the Lord appreciated it even when it brought some of the rest right down to their level.

It’s all evened out it seems when I manage to sit near someone who hits what I believe is the perfect balance with my voice. When everything is right there’s nothing better than the harmony of human voices.

Since I’ve yet to hear a choir of angels, I say we should all forget our inhibitions and belt out the hymns like it was our tryout for that chorus. I may chuckle to myself or move a little distance away, but I’ll never condemn your effort for any reason.