“Singing a lie?” A different perspective on an old belief

No doubt, if you grew up in the Black church, you’ve heard the saying “You can sing a lie just as well as you can tell a lie”. It’s a saying that’s been around probably as long as the church has been around. And while it comes from a place of good intent and well meaning, I think it bears taking a look at in a less literal way.

As Gospel and Christian singers, we sing music that goes far beyond entertainment. Inspirational music has the power to up-lift, encourage, heal and restore. In order to have effective ministry, Gospel singers must be able to reach people through the ministry of music whose story may not be their own. Imagine for a moment if you could only sing songs with lyrics that describe something you’ve been through personally. Only songs that are your personal experience.
It would be nearly impossible, wouldn’t it? Even in a song that does describe some personal experience of yours there is bound to be some parts that in fact don’t speak to a personal experience of yours. Jesus used parables almost exclusively in His ministry. Yet none of them were actual stories based on His own life or personal experience. They were simply stories He used to illustrate a point. In much the same way, Gospel singers often need to sing a song about something that may not be their own personal experience in order to bless someone in the audience that God has placed there to hear it.

Though I haven’t spoken to her personally, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no such person as “shouting John” in Shirly Ceasar’s famous “Hold My Mule”. I could give several such examples, but the point is that often the message in a song isn’t for us, but for people in the audience. To tell a story about, for example, over-coming something that we ourselves may not have been through, is not “singing a lie”. It’s singing a message about something someone else has been through. The fact that I personally may not have gone through it doesn’t make it any less true for someone.

So how do you handle singing a song that isn’t your personal testimony? Simple. You have to first understand that as Gospel singers God uses us to bless others. The song we sing is seldom for us, but for someone else. You must find your own truth in every song. Your own personal spiritual connection. The beauty of Gospel music is that there is truth for every believer in every Gospel song that has it’s focus centered in Christ. So even when it’s not your personal story, you can connect with it spiritually and sing it with the conviction of truth, knowing that even if it’s not your story, to tell that story in song for someone else that they may be blessed, is not “singing a lie” any more than the parables told by Jesus was a lie for Him.

Take care!

Ron

 

 

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9 Responses to “Singing a lie?” A different perspective on an old belief

  1. MJ1257 says:

    Our understanding of singing a lie or not Biblically based were songs like, “I’m Going Home on The Morning Train” and “Fill Me Up Til I want No More.

  2. J. Nicole says:

    There’s a difference between singing “a lie” and singing something you don’t understand.
    Whether a child or an adult, if the context is beyond an understanding it may lack sincerity.

    Hold my Mule by Shirley Caesar vs having a 9 year old child who has never seen nor heard of a mule makes a difference.

    • Ron says:

      Absolutely there’s a difference J. But what’s the article about? Because if you really understand the subject matter and the point of the article I’m not sure how your example relates. Note do I see how singing about something you don’t understand fits into the conversation. I do appreciate your point of view, I just want be sure we’re both discussing the same topic, rather than just making points simply for the sake of disagreeing. I hope that makes sense.

  3. alyce says:

    Music is an art form. A poem written or a landscape painted may be the vision and/or the heart of the artist as they were so inspired. In early school years we would read and learn about fables. They always had a lesson to impart. They weren’t true. It teaches. It taught, in a way, values. I do not like or appreciate all art. “My” opinion means its subject to my interpretation. But thank God for interpreters and stylists of the arts.

  4. Lynn Pearson says:

    I remember an ENTIRE rehearsal being dedicated to this topic as a child. I even remember my mother screaming “That’s not true!” at me for singing along to certain songs in the car. We have really put people in bondage in something that should be setting them free…

  5. Akowuah says:

    Breakthroughs on the way

  6. Thank you, Ron! This is an excellent article! I loved the conciseness and clarity.

  7. Kimberly says:

    This article is so true. I love the way it’s worded. On point!

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