Commandments Concerning Congregational Singing

And upon the times that shalt gather thineself and thine children and thine manservant and thine maidservants and thine Pentecostal neighbors who don’t really know Jesus together into the church (never less than three times per week if thou wouldst thrive) then shalt thou sing the songs of Zion suchlike as Zion has never really actually sung. And thy song leader shall raise his hands aloft and shall beat the air with them in the manner of a man who is fighting bees and the piano and the organ and the trumpet shall give of their uncertain sounds and all the people shall lift their voices if not their hands. So shalt thou worship God as he has commanded all white, middle class Americans to worship him.

And if it shall come to pass that the spirit shall move upon the song leader then he (for it shall always be a he) shall observe to do some shenanigans such as shall make the hearts of all the people glad. And he with great joy inform them that upon the third verse the ladies alone shall sing and on the fourth verse the men alone shall sing. But upon the second verse shall nobody sing for it is an abomination in my sight and of great naughtiness.

He also shall insist that the people attempt to stuff as many “pow’rs” as possible within a line of that (not very) old hymn and the people shall rejoice for this is what passes for fun amongst us. He also shall instruct that everybody shall “watch me on the last” and that it will be worth it all when thou shalt draw out the line and hold it until thou shalt feel a bit lightheaded what is possibly the Spirit’s moving but more likely just a lack of oxygen. So shalt thou praise the Lord Most High for He doth greatly delight in the implied fermata and the hidden ritardando.

And everybody shall smile at the song leader and say what a great job he has done and feign surprise that he has never had any formal musical training at all even though it’s obvious that he has pretty much just copied what he’s seen other song leaders doing. For no matter how bad the song leading shall be at least it isn’t a liberal praise team or a band.

Independent Baptist Book of Everlasting Rules and Requirements p 663.

106 thoughts on “Commandments Concerning Congregational Singing”

    1. And now that that’s out of the way, the “and the people shall rejoice for this is what passes for fun amongst us” part gave me a good laugh.

  1. Awesome sentence! “So shalt thou worship God as he has commanded all white, middle class Americans to worship him.”

  2. Question: Is it an IFB thing to have the pastor making conducting motions with his hands (I think its called keeping time?). I’ve seen at least one pastor do this.

    1. Every church I’ve ever been in or visited had a song leader conducting. The exceptions are the two non-IFB churches I recently visited which were lead by the pianist or guitarist (is that a word?).

      1. Ah. I see I misread your post. I have only seen a pastor make the conducting motions at a more “country” Baptist church. He was just getting into the music. The rest of my experience is from the Bob Jones University crowd, and most pastors there frown on showing that much emotion, so they usually just held their hymnal.

    2. @Heretic Husband You mean while the actual songleader is leading the singing?

      Yes…I’ve seen this too. Sometimes I think the pastor is just getting into the spirit of the song. Other times I think it’s his inner control freak coming out…he doesn’t want to cede power or attention to anyone else for even a short period of time. πŸ™„

      1. Actually, it works this way:

        1) Wave hands to start musicians and to get people to stand
        2) Continue waving until music stops.
        3) Introduce Pastor

  3. Parenthetical “not very” statement was over the top! Darrell you dost killed it today!

  4. The multiple “Powers.” I remember those. Especially deadly if you were required to sit in the “splash zone” at the front of the church…..

    1. We had a rip-roarin’ time at IFB youth rallies stuffing in the “powers”. La, how it made us laugh…

  5. Kudos Darrell, that is a very funny (and very accurate) description of fundy song leading…

    “thou hast done well, young grasshoppaa….”

  6. That sounds about right, lol.

    (Now I’m going to have all those powers going through my head all day today.)

  7. I hate it when they tell you to sing 8 powers into “There is Power in the Blood.” There are a few other songs they tell you to change words or add to, like the song “Bring them in” they want you to sing “Bus them in” on the last verse. I hate that song anyway and that change always annoyed me. On others you’re supposed to add in a Hallelujah in the chorus. Of course if you decline to do so you’re in “rebellion.” I wish they wouldn’t take what was really the only enjoyable part of the service and add their fundy nonsense to it. Just leave the songs alone. And for heaven’s sake quit making us stand up for every song. If I had a dime for every time they said stretch your legs and your diaphragm I’d be very rich by now! πŸ‘Ώ

    1. All the churches I attended could only manage four “powers”. (My favorite version of “Power in the Blood” has to be Damaris Carbaugh’s.)

      I’ve noticed that in some hymnals, the “Hallelujah!” is printed in the song “Lily of the Valley”. A few other churches actually had it pencilled in the hymnals.

      I’ve only attended one IFB church (in West Palm Beach, Florida, back in the 1980s) where they sang the song “Pentecostal Power”. Despite singing the song regularly, the church services were quite “orderly”.

      1. I Love Damaris! And I have met her in person, she is very nice. I remember thinking how great it would be to have her come and do a concert at my former fundy church and then thinking, yeah that will never happen… their loss… πŸ™„

      2. When I was in one particular fundamentalist church in the song “The Bible stands” we had to sing “The King James Bible stands” in the chorus.

    2. Like in Victory In Jesus. “He sought me and he bought me with his redeeming blood PRECIOUS BLOOD!!!!” And “Isn’t the love of Jesus something wonderful YES!!! wonderful YES!!! wonderful YES!!! And they completely butchered that “When the battle’s over we shall wear a crown” song. What was worse was when the church was visiting another church for some special meeting and they sang one of those hymns as the congregational, and the people from our church insisted on adding all the shouting words in the songs even though the church we were at didn’t do it…

      1. β€œHe sought me and he bought me with his redeeming blood PRECIOUS BLOOD!!!!”

        You apostate. Everyone knows that you shout “PRAISE GOD”. :mrgreen:

    3. Back in the day, I managed to get 12 “powers” in there. Three on each beat of a measure.

  8. That is hilarious! Very, very true and now I will have “Power in the Blood” stuck in my head all day. Awesome use of King James verbiage, Darrell!

  9. I’m yet again reminded of just how appallingly liberal the fundies of the USA are! Accompanied singing! singing songs other than metrical Psalms! even letting women sing when the Apostle Paul says that they should be SILENT in the assembly. Have you no standards? Next you will be telling me that your side of the ocean women are allowed to pray without being veiled.

      1. When communicating with those in another country, I think we ought to clarify that fundy women don’t wear TROUSERS! πŸ˜‰

  10. I must read these commandments in the likeness of the brother who reads from the book of Armaments to know how to use the holy hand grenade of Antioch in Python’s Holy Grail. Go ahead and try it–it makes it even more fun!

    1. Yes, because Bible waving is a very spiritual thing to do… πŸ˜•

  11. When I was little I personally enjoyed the fact that when people were busy trying to say power really fast they all sounded like machine guns

    It gave me joy joy joy joy down in my heart πŸ˜†

      1. just wait till we get to the “wunnerfuloveamiblessedredeemerwaydowninadepthsamihart” verse

        1. Oh my gosh!! They were singing, “BaptistbeliefsthatbaffletheBuddhists”!?!? WOW! I had no idea so I always mumbled my way through that one… I’m so embarassed to have been a part of that!!! 😳 😳 😳

        2. I have the miraculous message that mortifies Mormans……
          I have marvelous manual that muffles the Methodists…
          I used to work with a guy (christian school principal) who would make up these verse.

  12. “…and the people shall rejoice for this is what passes for fun amongst us.” Darrell, this is not only sad on the surface but it is also sad that nobody, not even the Fundy, believes that this is actually fun. But what of that? Your participation in the Fundy fun keeps you above suspicion. πŸ‘Ώ

  13. “But upon the second verse shall nobody sing for it is an abomination in my sight and of great naughtiness.” Funny, funny stuff.

  14. “I have the wonderful joy of my blessed redeemer way down in the depths of my heart” Where?

  15. Another very well-written, twitch-inducing post, Darrell! I absolutely abhorred fundy worship leading style. The guy has a choir, so leave the people in the pews alone and stop trying to manipulate them while they are trying to worhip, interrupting the singing with comments, telling the women only, etc to sing, stop to give the “right hand of fellowship” to people who didn’t bother to acknowledge you before that then scurry back to sing the last verse, yeah draw out the stinking note till it’s painful, making us sing obscure utterly boring “new” ancient hyms from the new hymnals you justified wasting money on… they are especially arrogant when they are actual musicians and love to throw around their own praise in how ‘god honoring” their music is… YUCK, YUCK, and more YUCK. I’m so glad that is all in my past! πŸ™„ πŸ™„ πŸ™„

    1. May I ask what is behind your screen name, headnotbowedeyeswideopen? It is giving me flashbacks to revivals every summer with Don Hardman. :/

  16. ” . . . and the piano and the organ and the trumpet shall give of their uncertain sounds.” – Darrell

    Was that an intentional jab at the standard IFB exegesis of 1 Corinthians 14:8?
    Β “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”

    If so, that is awesome.

  17. Dear Joe R,
    You say, “yeah, well. . .uh, our women don’t wear pants. Suck on THAT!!”
    I had to resuscitate my husband (who I obey in ALL things) when I told him that. You mean to tell me that fundy women your side of the Atlantic are allowed to go around without knickers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Are there no limits to the depths of your depravity?

  18. My dad was song leader and choir director for years and years, and I played piano for him for many of those years. He did take some training, so he knew what he was doing. He in turn trained me. Most folks in the pews don’t get the whole arm-waving bit, but it is so important to keep the instrumentalists together with the leader. I’ve played for song leaders who don’t know what they are doing, or worse, don’t even attempt to direct. I play songs the way they are written unless the director indicates otherwise. If the director…doesn’t…those implied formatas and hidden rollatandos are killers (brilliant, BTW, Darrell!)! And the pianist is always the one left looking like a fool.

    1. Kate, I’ve also played piano for directors who don’t direct. It’s not easy! Especially since I didn’t know most of the songs that particular hymnal. I had no idea how fast to play or where to put those hidden fermatas.

      It works to not have a director only if the band or group accompanying have had a rehearsal so everyone is on the same page.

  19. Haha! Bravo Darrell. This served for great laughs. πŸ˜› I remember when I went to Golden State’s “college days” and they had a song-leading class. An actual class where we were taught how to wave our hands to the “correct” time (not the beats that would cause people to want to dance) and were taught to lead the congregation to sing those very “fun” ways of which you wrote. Of course, women couldn’t actually TAKE this class…we were just allowed to “sit-in for fun” at college days. It was more fun than I could handle. πŸ™„

  20. At my old IFB church, I pleaded that the church buy the hymnal arrangements for other instrumentation. It was a mistake, because they bought the books, but everything was in unison. So we had a flute, clarinet, trumpet, and euphonium all playing in unison. It was stupid. It was a mistake. Just more unison noise.

    Grandma organist was over there playing wrong notes all the time. What was worse was that during the sacred “alter call”, she would play HORRIBLY wrong notes. I still can’t believe she was allowed to continue to play – fundy or not – during the alter calls.

    1. I went through this in a church also. The leadership refused to tell the lady that she should give up playing for fear of “hurting her feelings” – she had played for many years there.

      She was probably an outstanding player in her day, but when I attended, she was struggling.

      I think they waited until she had a stroke or something and then replaced her.

    2. I’ve seen these hymnal orchestrations that merely duplicate the four parts in the hymnal. How inspiring! Orchestrations in most hymnals (along with a part specifically written for that instrument) give the option of playing the melody line, but if you are not a beginning player, why would you want to?

  21. Did nobody have to punch in the air to each “Power”? Ugh..

    How about a lift in your step during “love lifted me”… hehe.

    1. Uggghhh. Yes, our fundy church did the “Love Lifted Me” step. Our song leader who was morbidly obese would flap his tiny arms like he was a little bird being “lifted”. SO awkward… Also, when we sang “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” people in the congregation would “lean” from side to side on the leeeaaaning’s. So annoying. Though, the teenagers liked it, they could “lean” into each other and not get in trouble. πŸ˜†

      1. Isn’t that, like, dancing??! OMG, the fundy church is going all heathen on us…. 😯

  22. Excellent post. My fundy church was, and still is, small and country like in a town that started out as a retirement community, the music was the same every week. However, there was a special emphasis placed on power when that song was sang, and the waiving of Bibles in the air during the chorus of “Hold the Fort”.

    1. ………and I won’t tell you what we used to jokingly sing (not in church of course) for “Hold the Fort” when we substituted the last word for a similarly sounding word.

        1. If it was getting on toward dinner time, we would start singing hold the fork instead of hold the fort! Fun memories.

      1. HA! I remember my dad making out the list of hymns one Sunday morning and Hold the Fort was among them. His handwriting is not great, and his “o” looked more like and “a”. I thought Dad would split a gut laughing over that! Good thing we were still at home when he discovered his penmanship flaw and not at church during the song service. Or not. πŸ™‚

        1. OH, that reminds me! One time I quickly wrote out an order of service and abbreviated the second word in the title, “Blessed Assurance.” The piano player, who was in about 7th grade, pointed it out to me, with a broad grin across his face, of course!

  23. Wow, we’re doing it rong. We just stand up for better breath control, open our books, pause to let the reader specify any verses that will be skipped (or which will be sung before the Gospel reading and which after), pause again to let the pianist play it through once . . . and then attempt to sing in harmony, in time, and on key.

  24. Well, I liked the song-leader’s keeping time; it helped everyone stay together. I’ve been in churches with dry, dead singing, and churches with joyous singing.

    In the fundy church I was at the longest, they would NEVER sing all the verses, usually skipping the 3rd verse. I didn’t care for that. But in general, I have a good impression of the music and songleading in most churches I’ve been in.

    Perhaps I’ve just been blessed.

  25. I was following what was written until it said, “the fundies idea of fun”. What! Fundies having fun. Thought that was against the rules. We have to stay away from frivolity and maintain a ‘sober mindedness’ — that’s Bible!! πŸ˜€

  26. This brought back memories, many of them good, πŸ˜† even though most of what you applied to us. 😳 Keep up the good work.

    Wait. Flashback. Alert. Alert.
    Twitch. Must go listen to some CCM. πŸ˜€

  27. I absolutely abhor fundy worship. I am almost certain Jesus hates lame ass music. My heretical non fundy church worship band plays everything from skillet and thousand foot crutch to evanessence and linkin park. My children would probably claw their ears out if they heard a fundy choir. we probably wouldnt be allowed in anyway with our acdc concert t shirts, hair length and color plus our peircings.

  28. Are you objecting to the 2nd verse of this specific song? Or all 2nd verses? Because it is actually the 3rd verse that is typically skipped.

  29. How about when the pastor gets up to preach and says something like…..”Praise God. We just sang Power In The Blood. My sermon today is titled Power In The Blood. That is more than a coincidence. Amen?”

  30. When singing “Power” in a small southern, store-front, Independent, Fundamental, 1611 King James only, Pre-Trib/Pre-mil Baptist church it shall sound like “Pie’R”
    There is Pie’R-Pie’R-Pie’R-Pie’R, wonder workin’ Pie’R.

  31. Hmmm… I wonder what’s on page 666 of the Independent Baptist Book of Everlasting Rules and Requirements?

    1. That would be the Antichrist page.
      Filled with the Rogues Gallery of IFB power Brokers. A Who’s Who of IFB M-o-g who have built their empires and reputations using Churchianity and their charisma, to create a Cult of personality centered around their capacity to coerse and control, all in the name of Christ. πŸ™

  32. Darrel,
    Thanks for the reminder of the mess. When I was first converted, the old time songs were all fresh, except a few from my presbyterian upbringing, like Holy, Holy Holy. And some of the words were powerful to my soul, but then the longer I was there, the more trivial they became with the kind of silly, banal way these songs were sung and repeated. We never introduced any new music and the songs were so worn out, so they were trying to make them “fun.” Funny, when I came to Jesus, it wasn’t so I could have fun. I had lots more fun when I was a beer guzzling, pot-smokin, poontang chasin college student.

    1. Wow, I haven’t heard the word “poontang” since I was a teenager… I’ve had plenty of fun as a believer, just not with fundys… :mrgreen:

  33. Let not forget going up and down on the pitch for the word “roll” on “floods of joy o’er my soul like the sea billow roll………………..” or “He lives” three times at the end of the song “He Lives”.

    1. YOU AAASK me HOW i KNOW He lives…HE LIIIVES within my HEAAART!!!! Amen, I like that one! :mrgreen:

      1. When the rolllllllllllrolllllrolllllllrollllllllll is called up yonder……..


  34. OK, I’ve never commented before, and that brought me out of the shadows to say that was hilarious. I used to play piano for my IFB church, but this brought back good memories. Funnier for its applicability. Well played, sir. Well played.

  35. And while we’re on singing..let’s sing the last verse…one more time…no once more, no music….AGAIN, sing it from your heart…the pastor would almost always on the last “invitation” type hymn as he closed the service would start the chorus line acapella and we’d wind up singing it with him that way, from the heart, two or three more times..depending on how much he wanted us to think about it…

  36. And thy song leader shall raise his hands aloft and shall beat the air with them in the manner of a man who is fighting bees…

    I cracked up in my office and got a few weird looks from people walking past in the hallway. Thankfully coffee was not spewed all over my keyboard. And as one who had two or three semesters of various conducting courses, I’m allowed to laugh hysterically at that one. πŸ˜‰

  37. ” and all the people shall lift their voices if not their hands.”

    What? You leave open the possibility that some time, somewhere, in some IFB church, white, middle class American right-believing truly born-again Christians (the only kind there is, Amen?) MIGHT lift their hands like those Pentecostal neighbors who don’t really know Jesus! You should have said, ” and all the people shall lift their voices BUT not their hands.”


    1. Haha! I noticed that too and thought it must be a typ-o. I recall a woman, a “new convert”, at church who once lifted her hands during a song AND had her eyes closed. 😯 I thought it was so spectacular to watch the men on the stage freak out like they had to quickly stop this free expression of worship. πŸ˜† It was a one-time occurence. My guess is they explained to her afterward how hand-raising & eye-closing is heathen. πŸ™„

  38. I had completely forgotten about that song. I’m going to have it in my head forever now. This made me laugh a lot.

  39. I am so shocked by the 99% dead-on description of IFB “Praise and Worship”. How can they all be the same, yet Independent? Heh.
    We always skipped the third verse, too.
    I call the sit down, stand up, sit down, stand up the “Baptist Aerobics”.
    My favorite rebellion was during Amazing Grace.
    I refused to sing “When we’ve been there FOREVER MORE…”
    There is nothing wrong with “ten thousand years”! That we will be there forever is covered nicely by the rest of the verse!
    Oh, and the hands…I have seen it at an IFBC we visted. It was a Winter Camp/Revival, so she must have been a stray Pentecostal. πŸ™„

    1. Uggghhh, I hate the Baptist aerobics! And when they added insult to injury (to my poor arthritic knees!) by saying stretch your diaphragm, which is WRONG. You can sing just as well sitting down as standing up. And be a lot more comfortable doing it, but the song leader has to stand so he thinks everyone else has to stand as well. And if I’ve heard “You can’t stand on the promises while sitting on the premises” one time I’ve heard it ten billion times. Yet everyone laughs as though that’s still funny. It wasn’t funny the FIRST time much less the ten billionth time!

      As if all the stand up/sit down for songs wasn’t bad enough, my former fundy church in Michigan ought to have been called “Sign Up Sheet Baptist Church” because every service they passed around sign up sheets for this and that. There were often 5 or more of them and could they pass them all at once so you only had to get up once to pass it to the people at the other end of the pew? Nooo. They had to do them separately so you had to stand up 5 times! I got more of a workout at that church than at the gym! πŸ‘Ώ

      1. I’ll have to admit as a song leader, I do have the congregation standing almost all the time. I don’t do it for the reason you mentioned though. You can sing just as well sitting down. But practically speaking, at least at the church I attend, people tend to not participate when sitting down. Since the goal of congregational worship, Biblically speaking, is congregational participation in both mutual edification and in glorifying God, I choose to help people participate. There are those in the congregation with knee and back issues; they stay seated and participate.
        The other reason I have them stand is that I want to stay out of the line of sight. I don’t lead from behind the pulpit, but from the lower floor. Since we use a projector, when the congregation stands I am not a distraction. If they were sitting, I would be the spectacle making odd facial expressions in the room.

        1. Does the congregation accept that some are sitting down and not give them dirty looks? This does not happen in a fundy church. If you remain seated others give you the evil eye as though you were showing disrespect for the leadership by not obeying them.

          In the first fundy church we were in we stood for the first song, which was ok, but then the pastor would come up and bloviate for 15 minutes before finally getting around to praying while everyone was still on their feet. He could’ve prayed first, then after everyone was seated start in on his first comments but no! This was especially irksome on Wednesday nights when there were people there who had worked on their feet all day and would’ve preferred to sit and rest. πŸ˜₯

        2. Nobody minds others sitting down. We are fundamentalist but not “fundy.” We don’t really fit any of the cliches.

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