Ministers are supposed to sing. At least that is what I have been told by countless individuals and congregations over the years. I must have missed that requirement in the brochure. Or, maybe, I slept through that part of the recruitment lecture. Either way, since I went into the ministry, I have encountered that myth in every congregation that I have served in the past 30–some years. The joke is . . . I can’t sing!
Let me take that back . . . I can sing, I just sing poorly. Always have. Throughout elementary school I was always given speaking parts in school plays and presentations . . . I just thought I was a really good reader . . . that I was special, but the teachers knew. It was a form of mercy . . . mercy for the audience’s ears. Once, in our church youth group, we were doing a cantata—Noah’s Ark--for Sunday worship. The church’s choir director made me the narrator, and told me that if I had to sing to lip sync—no sound, she threatenly said. In one church the sound people turned my microphone off, others warned me to step away from the microphone. The fact is, I cannot sing. No amount of prayer, laying on of hands, or lighting of candles has yet to produce a musical miracle—I still cannot sing.
I take serious the dictum of the psalmist in the scriptures: “Mak a joyful noise unto the Lord . . .” Though I sing poorly, I love to sing. I just don’t sing when anyone else can hear me. I sing while mowing the grass . . . while driving the car by myself and the windows are rolled up . . . when no one else is in the room . . . and, in church every Sunday morning . . . mind you, I stand three feet from the microphone like I have been taught, sing very quietly, and often with great lip syncing. About the only audience that I have encountered that does not mind my singing are the family dogs . . . at least not yet . . . they howl along with me whenever I sing. Then again, I might be wrong. They are either deaf or my singing hurts their ears to the point they howl in pain!
So, there you have it . . . a contradiction . . . a minister who can’t sing, but loves to sing. Congregations are learning . . . sometimes painfully, but mostly through word of mouth. It is amazing how quickly a reputation can beat a person to a designation. But, it is the truth . . . I cannot sing. Ask any of the congregations I have served in five states and they will vouch for that fact. They will tell you that I cannot sing, that in my letter of calling I must always stand three feet from the microphone when singing or lip sync—it is a noise pollution thing. Though congregations are slow to understand this contradiction, I know that God understands. God digs my joyful noise, while others plug their ears.
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord . . .” That is exactly what I do whenever I sing. God has come to expect this joyful noise from my mouth whether it ever garners me a Grammy Award or not. Even though the congregations I have served over the years will never publically admit, I think they have come to expect it too. Worship just doesn’t sound just right when my joyful noise is not included. It lets everyone know, no matter how poorly or well you sing, you are always welcome in God’s choir. It is music to God’s ears . . . and, to mine. Ha! I might not be able to sing, but I make one heck of a joyful noise . . . and, God loves it!