Moving away from thinking “Nobody Wants to Hear Me Sing”
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy! Know that the Lord is God— he made us; we belong to him. We are his people, the sheep of his own pasture.Psalm 100 (CEB translation)
Yes, I do want to hear you sing. No matter how much you might insist otherwise, I really truly do want to hear it. I know the reality: very few people truly feel secure with their singing voice. It feels risky to do it where someone else can hear it. We expect to feel judged, because we are quite aware of all of our shortcomings. I still want to hear you sing. More and more our culture tells us that if you are not good enough to be a professional at something, you should not even bother trying. Fewer and fewer people are willing to sing with other people around, fearing they are not good enough. Yet in worship, we do not sing to sound good before others. We sing to praise God. Beyond that, it is good for us to sing out. When we sing in worship, we participate in the worship more wholeheartedly. It also makes us feel happier and more connected with others, at least if we can put aside our insecurities. We do not need to excel at something for it to be meaningful and worthwhile. To think otherwise is to put our pride ahead of our worship in God, and also to put our pride ahead of our own well-being. We should all do things that we are at best mediocre at but enjoy. We are more joyful people when we do.
My first summer as a camp counselor was a member of the staff that I now consider to be one of the best song leaders I have ever met. In a staff full of teenagers and college students, he was at the time a 45-year-old middle school science teacher. He had one of the worst voices that I have ever heard. It was loud, froggy, and usually off key. Yet he sang boldly and confidently. This made him a great song leader, because it made everyone else feel free to sing their hearts out. His song-leading rarely led to musical beauty (okay, never led to it!), but it unlocked full and heartfelt participation from the whole group. I daresay that God finds such passionate singing to be more beautiful than any professional but detached performance. That is not to say that there are not times and places within our worship for musical excellence. Most certainly there are. In our hymns and liturgical song, however, full-throated participation from everyone matters much more than precision. It is an expression of our faith.
Yes, I do want to hear you sing, whatever your voice may sound like. I cannot promise that others will not judge, but if our hearts are focused on worship than there is no time for judging others on any matter, and especially not their singing voice. Come and sing out; join the song!