I was watching her Apologetics speech when I heard it.
It had been a fairly typical speech: explain the meaning, explain the significance, so on and so on.
She started singing.
In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This cornerstone, this solid ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My comforter, my all in all
Here in the love of Christ I stand.
As she sang, I was deeply moved. Hearing spoken words that affirm Christ’s worth and glorify his sacrifice is always beautiful…but listening to these sung words was simply incredible.
The judges were moved as well. One lady even shed tears.
That was my introduction to Lyrical Apologetics.
Lyrical Apologetics: “An Apologetics speech in which part of a song or hymn is sung by the competitor.”
Singing in Apologetics?!?!
Admittedly, this article is a bit more off-the-wall than most I write. Most of you have probably never heard of Lyrical Apologetics (likely because I just made that term up).
But I promise that you’ll benefit from reading…even if you can’t sing.
(Because I have ZERO musical ability, and I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t personally benefited from Lyrical Apologetics. Apparently the Good Lord has seen fit to reserve my singing voice for heaven.)
So sit tight and enjoy the ride!
The Biblical Basis for Singing in Apologetics
Singing in Apologetics rounds is in perfect line with a proper theology of singing. Believe it or not, the Bible has quite a lot to say about our singing.
In Psalm 100, the Psalmist calls upon the entire earth and everyone in it:
Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the earth!
Serve the LORD with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:1-2 ESV)
This verse is a favorite for people like me: “Look—we’re supposed to make a joyful NOISE! It never says it has to be on-key!” 🙂
In Psalm 150, the Israelites are called to accompany their singing with loud crashing cymbals:
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!
Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 150:5-6 ESV)
Don’t worry, I’m not going to say you should bring cymbals into your Apologetics round. 🙂
Paul mentions singing multiple times in his epistles. Notice the connection between the Word of God and singing in Colossians 3. Great truths (like the ones you share in Apologetics) should lead us to sing:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
(Colossians 3:16 ESV)
Moreover, in Ephesians 5 Paul specifically commands us to sing to one another.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
(Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
This last passage is where I believe singing in Apologetics rounds most naturally fits in. It’s “addressing one another in…spiritual songs”, in competition.
Now, I’m not saying that Paul originally had this in mind. Nor would I argue that Lyrical Apologetics is a Biblical command. Instead, I would submit that using spiritual songs as part of your Apologetics speech is a God-glorifying action, fully in line with a proper theology of singing.
Why Would I Do This?
A couple reasons.
1. To differentiate yourself. Singing in Apologetics is very uncommon. If you do it, you will stand out.
Speaking from my personal experience as a judge, it is hard to distinguish between speakers. At the end of a 90-minute round in which I’ve listened to 8 speakers, I struggle to remember who said what. My notes help, but even then the speeches begin to blur together. I typically rank the speakers because of 1-2 things they said or did. (And I don’t think my approach is unusual.)
Lyrical Apologetics is memorable and distinctive. Being remembered by the judges as “that person who sang” in and of itself increases your chances of a high ranking.
2. To add emphasis. God has wired us so that music moves us. The same words sung rather than spoken have a different effect.
I hear the Savior say,
“Thy strength indeed is small;
Child of weakness, watch and pray,
Find in Me thine all in all.”
Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.
Now listen to it sung by Kristian Stanfill [first verse starts at 0:32]:
Why is that more powerful? It’s the nature of music. Martin Luther had some incredible thoughts about music:
The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them…. In summa, next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts, and spirits…
Then, as only Luther can, he gives his opinion of people who fail to understand that God created music for our enjoyment and his glory:
A person who gives this some thought and yet does not regard music as a marvelous creation of God, must be a clodhopper indeed and does not deserve to be called a human being; he should be permitted to hear nothing but the braying of [donkeys] and the grunting of hogs.
Singing is memorable and gives emphasis to your Apologetics speeches. That’s why you should consider doing it.
So How Does This Work, Anyway?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Here’s my proprietary Lyrical Apologetics 2-Step Process for you!
Step 1. Find Songs
You can do this while writing your cards. If you’re writing a card on the holiness of God, search Google for songs about holiness. (Maybe “Holy, Holy, Holy”? Just a suggestion.)
Sit and think about your favorite Christian songs and hymns. What themes do they include? How can you tie those themes into your Apologetics cards?
Selecting songs is also a great waiting-outside-the-competition-room activity. The friend whose singing I described above would do this: I remember sitting outside a competition room with her and brainstorming hymns that she could sing in that round.
Step 2. Present Songs
Next you must present the songs. That is, actually use them in-round. You can do this in two ways:
1. Sing them!
They are songs, after all.
2. Speak them!
This is useful for people like me. I have many gifts, but singing ability is not one of them. I shall sing perfectly in heaven, but for now my singing is a reminder of how far I have to go.
That said, I have used songs in Apologetics rounds before. Speaking is not nearly as powerful as singing, but the lyrical arrangement of truth is still incredible.
When in your speech should you present the songs? What songs have I personally used? What songs would I recommend to other Apologists?
All good questions.
All too many to be answered in this one post!
Next time, in Lyrical Apologetics (Part 2), I’ll answer those questions. You’ll finish reading with a firm grasp of singing in Apologetics, and a list of songs you should consider using.
Til next time…
Sing your heart out!