Average read time: 3-5 minutes.
Have you ever heard the (very true) story of Florence Foster Jenkins? Long story short, she was a wealthy philanthropist who absolutely loved to sing, even though she couldn’t, and created a musical career for herself out of her poor voice. Most people attended her performances and purchased her recordings for her voice’s comic value, but she continued performing with the belief (and some say the self-delusion) that her singing brought people joy and beauty.
The 2016 biopic starring Meryl Streep paints a comical picture of Florence’s career, to include close friends encouraging Florence in her “talent” and live performances. However, the movie leads the audience to believe that she adored music so much and found such beauty in it that she had to sing. At the end of the film, the audience is left with the hunch that the silly events around her successful career all transpired because Florence’s passion for music could not be contained—the only way to fully express her love for it was to participate by making music herself.
As a worship leader and music lover, I couldn’t help but be inspired by her story. This lady loved music so much, she was compelled to sing, in order to physically express her love for music itself . . . much like I feel compelled to passionately give everything, without caring what others think, when I worship Jesus.
So, what’s stopping us from uninhibited worship as Christians? Are we just not “feeling it”?
I had a friend in college that had a very poor voice, but every time a song came on the radio that she loved, she would turn it up loud and belt it out boldly and dance while driving. I loved this about her. There was absolutely no shame in her off-pitch, crackling voice and only pure joy in every note she sang. It was the best.
This same friend wasn’t a Christian and visited a church service with me once and stated, “I just don’t get the singing thing. Like, why do people do it?”
Here we are, in a world full of Florence Foster Jenkinses that sing their hearts out because they love music or a particular song, despite the sound, tone, pitch, but some of us are afraid to do so during a worship service.
While we know living a life full of worship is much more than just singing or lifting our hands, we are commanded to make a joyful noise unto the Lord and come into His presence with singing—but sometimes, for whatever reason, we just don’t. In fact, we are commanded regularly throughout the Bible to sing together in worship and adoration of our Heavenly Father. Just check out James 5:13, Psalm 5:11, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:12–16, Psalm 96 . . . the list could go on.
And not only are we commanded to worship through song, but God himself sings over us. Can you believe that? He loves us so much and takes such delight in His creation that He sings over you and me.
Admittedly, sometimes it’s difficult to approach the throne corporately or individually in uninhibited worship. Whether it’s the routine distractions of life, work, or putting on the worship service, or whether it’s grief or guilt or exhaustion, it can be a challenge for our hearts to feel “ready.” For me, sometimes it’s grief and sometimes it’s that I need to clean the kitchen. It can be helpful for me to remember and concentrate on, even in times of sorrow, all the goodness Christ has provided and all the freedom I have in Him. Not only that, I praise Him for the things that He is working on my behalf that have yet to come. If it’s guilt or feelings of unworthiness, I remember the truth about who I am in Jesus and how He made a way for me to spend time with Him in worship through the Cross. If it’s exhaustion, I remember how refreshed I feel after spending time in His presence worshipping Him.
Have you ever felt ashamed to participate in worshipping God because “you can’t sing”?
As someone who loves to sing, and to Jesus in particular, it’s true that it’s hard for me to understand why we wouldn’t be confident in singing about His goodness. And as a worship leader, it gives me no greater delight than to worship with my brothers and sisters in Christ. When the congregation enters into a place of focus and adoration, humility and passion, and when people lift their hands or kneel reverently, close their eyes or lift them forward, and sing to the Creator of the universe, my heart rejoices. My spirit lives to witness these moments where Christ’s name is glorified and people enter together into a time of intimacy with Jesus.
But when I get to sit in the congregation, when I’m not leading from the front, I get to hear all the individual voices around me. It brings my heart into a state of pure and raw and intense joy when I am near someone who is singing passionately and is not a “good singer” by our world’s standards. That person, in their uninhibited and devout praise, unknowingly leads me into worship with my Heavenly Father.
If I love and get so much joy from hearing your squeaky, lifted voice and seeing your outstretched hands and witnessing you kneeling or dancing in a time of humble intimacy and adoration of Christ, can you imagine how much more He adores your praise?
Oh, so very much more. Infinitely more. Way way way way more.
If you are feeling discouraged or ashamed because of your physical voice or what others might think of you if you unashamedly worship Jesus during a worship service, I encourage you set that aside. Because your praise makes Him glad, gives Him joy, and brings Him honor and glory. Because when you sing to the Lord, it’s not a (maybe delusional) Florence performing for a laughing audience at Carnegie Hall; you’re joining in with all of heaven and earth and giving glory to God on high.
No one’s laughing, and all of Creation is singing with you.
Your passionate worship is powerful. How much more uninhibited should we be in our singing than Florence? We sure can learn a bit from her crazy story. Let’s be wild and free and passionate, setting society’s opinions or expectations aside. Let’s be a little more like Florence Foster Jenkins in our worship.