Listening for the call?

Dr. James Cleland used to tell of a certain minister whose church had a problem with its choir, or rather with its lack of a choir. It was a large church of some 600 members but the choir was pathetic. One Sunday there would be a choir of six, the next Sunday eight, the next four, and when only three showed up they went out and sat in the congregation. And without a choir the congregational singing was far from what it should have been.

The entire membership was aware of the shortcoming. It was commonplace to hear on Sunday mornings and among the membership during the week such comments as “I don’t know why they don’t do something about our church choir!”

The choir director tried. He wrote some cute ads for the church newsletter. It was to no avail. The minister begged for support from the pulpit. No response. Things continued to go from bad to worse.

Then it happened. One beautiful Sunday morning as the choir and congregation was struggling through the processional hymn, an old man seated on the far side of the filled sanctuary moved out of his pew, hymnal in hand, walked down the aisle, up across the chancel and took his place in the choir.

The next Wednesday evening over 40 people were on hand for choir rehearsal. Today that church has three choirs and every Sunday and especially at Christmas and Easter the music stirs the hearts of all who come to worship there. It all came about when an old man stopped complaining about the problem and did what he could to help.

It is a strange thing. Church growth experts tell us that a small, inadequate choir actually drives prospective members away. A small congregation is no problem. In fact, most people are attracted to a small congregation rather than a large one. But if the choir is not what it should be they look elsewhere for a church home.

It’s true: “There’s a place for every worker in the vineyard of the Lord.” And so often all that is needed for those places to be filled is one person willing to lead the way. In Rudolf Friml’s operetta, “The Vagabond King,” there is this rousing chorus: “Give me some men who are stouthearted men, Who will fight for the right they adore.

Start me with ten who are stouthearted men

And I’ll soon give you ten thousand more.”

Could it be that God is calling you?

Rev. Nichols is Minister Emeritus of First Christian Church, Temple, where he was senior minister for 23 years before retiring. He writes a religious column for several newspapers.

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2012-09-13 digital edition

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