Choir members must understand that, in order to lead effectively in worship, they must come prepared spiritually as well as musically. They must come to their place of service having walked with and worshiped God throughout the week, that they might be ready to invite others to join in corporate expressions of adoration.
Expressiveness in the choir’s public ministry must be genuine, arising out of the heart’s response of praise to God; and it must be directed, intended not as an end in itself, but rather as a gift of adoring gratitude to God and as a winsome invitation for others to respond in like fashion.
Expressiveness can begin on the musical level, with articulation and coloring which do justice to the texts being sung. In addition, physical expressions are an appropriate response to God in corporate worship, though, as leaders, those up front must strike a delicate balance between genuineness of expression and sensitivity to the particular congregation and its range of “acceptable ” expression in corporate worship. (Though that range can and probably should be expanded, that must be done over time and not in a way which offends or distracts or alienates, thus detracting from the main focus for gathering together: to worship God as a corporate entity.) Facial expressions are certainly acceptable in even the staidest of congregations; and it should never be assumed that more boisterous displays are necessary in order to communicate one’s feelings either to God or to other worshipers. Indeed, the expressions on the faces of those in the choir can be a real inducement to worship, if those expressions communicate a deeply-held faith in the truths being sung, an abiding joy in reflecting on the things of God, and an obvious experience of genuine worship.
Besides musical offerings, the choir can contribute other verbal declarations of truth to worship services. In responsive readings, the choir can serve as another group separate from, and alternating with, the leader and the congregation. Other Scripture readings, in unison or in alternating groups, may also be assigned solely to the choir (choral readings); this can be especially effective over a musical crescendo from the instruments. The choir can even interject accentuations to a leader’s reading (for example, reinforcing each of the series of nouns attributed to God in a reading of Revelation 5:12).
In her book Worship Evangelism, Sally Morgenthaler states:
As a rule, choirs are neither trained nor used [in an] intensive enabling role. Their contribution to the weekly service is usually limited to performing an anthem or two and perhaps adding fullness to congregational singing. … I believe choirs can be used to teach and lead worship … if the appropriate training is given and certain adjustments are made. … It is doubtful that a choir’s abilities in teaching and leading will ever quite match that of a trained worship team; but there is certainly a potential here that is not being tapped at present. (p. 236)
Morgenthaler at least sees more possibilities for the choir than are usually realized; but I believe she still underestimates the potential and power of a choir leading corporately in worship.
Before we too readily scrap the choir for praise teams (because of an assumed greater flexibility or ability or mike-ability), let us give careful consideration to the multitude of ways in which a well-trained and well-taught choir can rise to the occasion of true leadership in worship. Praise teams can do many of these same things; but let us not too quickly give up on the choir or assume that they are incapable of keeping up or of learning something new.
At our church, the members of the Worship Choir (as we have named the adult choir to reflect its true purpose and goal) have learned to see their role of leading in worship, and indeed are esteemed and appreciated as worship leaders by the members of the congregation. No recruitment gimmicks are needed: God raises up those who aspire to the incredible privilege described in our Worship Ministry’s purpose statement:
to honor God by preparing and prompting His people in corporate and individual expressions of adoration to our Redeemer.”