Each week congregations are full of people who don’t sing.
There are any number of reasons. Perhaps they don’t know the song. Maybe they don’t think they can, or have been told they can’t, sing well enough. It could be they don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ yet and are observing. Or maybe they are crabby about what’s happening.
Or perhaps they just don’t understand the role of singing in worship. Maybe they haven’t been taught or been mentored about the importance and role of this aspect of the Christian life.
I have come to believe that worship and discipleship go hand in hand. One cannot happen apart from the other. The person who is growing as a disciple will be a worshiper. The continued engagement with God and His Word will be shaping them and drawing responses of thanksgiving, gratitude, and adoration for who God is and what He has done out of them.
Singing has been a part of people’s response to God since the days of the Old Testament (along with offerings, service, how they live, obedience, etc).
Consider these examples:
- Moses and Miriam sang in response to God’s deliverance of the Israelites.
- David regularly sang of God’s faithfulness, greatness, and glory. There’s a biblical book full of songs David wrote. Plus from the stories of his life.
- Jesus and his disciples sang. We know this specifically because they sang at the Last Supper as part of the meal.
- Based on the writings of the Apsotle Paul, extra-biblical writings, and the discovery of song collections like the Odes of Solomon, we know the early church sang.
Singing is not a part of worship services just to give someone a job or an opportunity for people with musical skills to play their instrument. It’s not about allowing enough time for late comers to arrive in time for the message. It’s not done simply because some people “like” music.
So, why do we?
Here are four reasons why we sing:
1) We are commanded to sing. The Bible clearly gives singing as an appropriate response to God and expression of worship. Not the only one, but one nonetheless. And in both the Old Testament (Psalm 33:1, Psalm 96:2) and the New Testament (Eph. 5:18b-20).
2) Singing impacts our understanding of God. The songs we sing help to inform, shape, and reinforce our understanding of who God is and what He has done. I once heard our “song books” referred to as the theology book for average church member. The reality is that people in congregations remember the songs and their words more than the points of a sermon. That is why it is so important that the songs we lead people in are true, right, and formative. They can also be expression and responsive, but they can’t be untrue. The words matter (Col. 3:16).
3) We can do it together. As much as we have an individual relationship with God through Christ, we have a communal identity as the Bride of Christ. As much as we engage in individual activities to foster and develop our relationship with God, we should also be engaged in communal activities. Singing is one of the ways we can express worship to God together. Scriptures such as Psalm 95:1 and Psalm 149:1 call us together (not me individually) to sing to the Lord.
4) Music helps us express the deep things. As vast and complex as our language system is, there are some things that just can’t be expressed fully with plain words. Both the pains and the joys, the failures and the successes, the losses and the gains. Sometimes music (and singing) can help us to express the deep things in our hearts to God in ways that simple talking can’t. Sometimes in singing we are able to give voice to what’s going on inside. It provides opportunities to express a response to God that, honestly, sometimes we don’t even know we may need to provide (at least it does for me, anyway).
That’s why we sing. Or at least why we should be singing.
I realize that there are two types of people that read this blog. One group is those that have responsibility for leading a congregation in worship. The other group is those that participate in worship. Both groups can approach singing as something we just do together because that’s what we do. And both can benefit from a greater understanding of why we sing.
My intent in providing these thoughts isn’t so we can “beat up” or “guilt” those who aren’t singing yet. Remember, worship and singing are part of the discipleship journey. And by understanding these things we can help others to grow as well.
Why do you sing?
What other reasons do we have to sing together?