What If I Can’t Sing?

Editors’ note: 

This is an adapted excerpt from Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new book, Sing!: How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church (B&H, 2017).

Sometimes we meet people who say, “I can’t sing”—as in, “The sound that comes out of my mouth when I try to sing is not what I was hoping for.”

Perhaps this is you, and you can recall an awkward conversation as a child when you were asked to mouth the words, rather than sing them, or you were told that being a member of your school or church choir might not be the “best fit” for your gifts.

But if you can speak, you can sing. God designed you to sing and gave you everything you need to sing as well as he wants you to. He’s far less concerned with your tunefulness than your integrity. Christian singing begins with the heart, not the lips (Eph. 5:19).

He Treasures All Voices

When our young daughters sing together, the older is more confident than the middle one, who is in turn more fluent than the youngest. This may change as they all get older, but the point is this—to their parents’ ears, each voice isn’t only as important as the others; each is as treasured as the others.

Your heavenly Father cares whether and what you sing, but he doesn’t mind how well you sing. While we may have choirs within our churches made up of voices who have expertise and ability, the congregation of a church is the ultimate choir, and it is without auditions—everyone can and should be in it.

The congregation of a church is the ultimate choir.

The beauty of such a congregational choir is that our voices and hearts are knit together in praise. It’s exhilarating to be part of a body of believers singing truth together.

We recently met with a missionary to China who was home on furlough in America. After the singing, he said how wonderful it was to be able to sing freely with other believers again, for the part of China he lived in imposed heavy restrictions on such a thing. “Oh, how my heart misses the singing,” he said.

Your voice may not be of professional standard, but it is of confessional standard.

Make the Most of What You Have

It’s worth adding, though, that the more we practice something, the better we become at it. And we seek to improve in what we truly value. To learn to walk takes time, and we first must learn to press down on our feet. To learn to speak takes time, and we must first open our mouths and make sounds. To praise God in tuneful song takes time, and we grow better at singing by singing.

And once we’ve reached our peak, if it’s still some way short of the tuneful heights, a sense of humor is a useful ally. Some people do have a special gift of singing absolutely every note slightly off pitch (which is, ironically, hard to do). Since we sing to encourage and praise, not to impress and earn praise, we can smile about that and sing anyway.

Your voice may not be of professional standard, but it is of confessional standard.

One of our band members, Zach White, recently told us of the inspiration his dad has been to him and his siblings when it comes to singing in church. Mr. White is always the most passionate singer in the congregation, despite only having three notes he can actually sing (all lower than his namesake, Barry), and none of them in tune. But it never holds him back. He has grasped what congregational singing is, and is not, about.

Kristyn’s vocal coach for the last 14 years, Kim Wood Sandusky, has several decades of experience in training professional singers across genres. She points out,

We are all singers. Some of us have talents that allow us to sing with beautiful tones and good pitch, while others have talents to sing with their soul. What a beautiful sound we all make as singers to our heavenly Father’s ears.

There are those of us who may have vocal constrictions that come through health struggles or have been there since birth. If you can’t speak but sing by signing with your hands or through whatever means God has given you, you bless the community of believers as we join with one heart and one voice until the day all tongues will sing to him. We’re so grateful for the work of signers who enable the whole congregation to so meaningfully engage in the lyrics we sing.

Church, let us sing!

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