The congregation I am meeting at has, on the last Wednesday night of the month, a singing night. We don’t have classes that night. We come together in the auditorium and sing songs, pray and someone gives a short ten-minute lesson.
We let the boys get up in front of the congregation with their fathers and lead songs. This gives them the feeling of standing before an audience. Getting them ready for when they will do this on their own.
The problem was one Wednesday night, the boys picked children songs. I have nothing against the children songs. But the problem was that one song was ‘This Little Light of Mine’ and in one part of the song the kids and some of the adults were not singing but making blowing noises and waving their hands all around. Another song, I forget the entire title, something about ‘Who is the King?’ and during this song, the kids and some of the adults started to thump on their chests and go ‘Who, Who’.
At our next business meeting, which happened to be the very next Sunday, I mentioned this and said that I saw no difference between banging on the chest and banging on a drum. The only difference was the direction. I also thought that things were not being done in an orderly fashion. I also stated that we have no command, example, or necessary conclusion for this practice. Also that the specific ‘sing’ rules out everything else including instruments, using our bodies as instruments or body noises.
I said that I did not think this was proper for worship. At which time, a couple of the other members said ‘Well, is that worship?’ I told them that my thoughts were that it was. Since, we sang, prayed and evangelized. The only things we did not do are take the Lord’s Supper and contribution because the examples we have are on Sundays.
The men decided not to allow the boys to do this again and research it some. But nothing has been finalized about it.
Someone brought up the point is it wrong for them to do this. But that leads to other problems. If it is wrong, then we must teach our children that they can not do this in their classes or at home even. I personally see nothing wrong with it except during worship service.
My main concern is that we do all in the name of the Lord. I do not want to be over picky, but at the same time, I do not want to go beyond the word of God. I do not want to bind where God has not bound, but I honestly see this as overstepping our authority.
I see three basic questions that need to be addressed:
- What constitutes worship?
- Can male children lead singing if they haven't yet become Christians?
- Should biblical songs be accompanied by "theatrics?"
What constitutes worship?
Worship is a distinctive action that man does to honor and praise God (John 4:21-24). To be appropriate worship, it must be done in ways authorized by God (Matthew 15:9). Man cannot decide what God will accept as worship; God tells man what man will do to worship his Creator. Worship must also be done with the proper attitude or spirit (Matthew 15:8).
When Christians offer up worship as a church, they gather together in a local place to unite together in worship. "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25). Some elements of worship are only authorized to take place in such a gathering. For example, in speaking of the Lord's Supper Paul said: "when you come together as a church" (I Corinthians 11:18). This section of I Corinthians 11 is sprinkled with phrases indicating that it was done at a gathering (I Corinthians 11:17,18,20,33).
Can male children lead singing if they haven't yet become Christians?
I Corinthians 14 contains regulations on how a church's worship services were to be conducted. The rules are for when "the whole church comes together in one place" (I Corinthians 14:23). Things are to be done in a decent and orderly manner (I Corinthians 14:40). Because the church had come together for worship, the command was "Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church" (I Corinthians 14:34-35). Worship by the church is only to be conducted by the male members of the church. Women are not allowed to lead a congregation in worship because that would be usurping authority not granted to them (I Timothy 2:12). If women are not permitted to do such things as leading a congregation in singing, then what right does a congregation have to allow young children, who have yet to obey Christ, to lead the same group in song? Where can we find authority for such a practice?
Should biblical songs be accompanied by "theatrics?"
When teaching small children songs, it is understood that a child's mind is not fully developed: the words of the songs are kept simple, the points being made by the songs are kept simple, and the melodies used are simple. Though we have known this instinctively for centuries, small children communicate better through motion than through words. Small babies can be taught and can use sign language long before they are able to speak. Hence, motion is intertwined with children's songs so the child both understands what is being said and so he will remember the song longer.
I wouldn't want to make a rule that singing must be done vocally only because such would exclude deaf people who speak with their hands. However, worship by a church is done by Christians to our God. Becoming a Christian means we are mature enough to understand God's will. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD" (Jeremiah 31:34). Since we are mature, it would be time to leave childish things behind. Even though Paul is making a point about the maturing of the church, his proof is appropriate: "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things" (I Corinthians 13:11). Worship shouldn't be dumbed down to make it entertaining to children.