The following post was inspired by an article from Bob Kauflin, author of Worship Matters and Director of Worship Development at Sovereign Grace Ministries. I’ve added some thoughts specific to my own experience and ministry, but you can find the original post at desiringgod.org.
Corporate Christian singing is unique — and strange. Where else, unless you work in a school, do you gather to sing for thirty minutes every week to sing together? It’s an odd tradition in the world we live in. But we don’t do it for odd or unknown reasons. We do it for gospel, God-centered reasons.
As Christians, we sing to remember, respond, and reflect.
1) Singing helps us remember God’s word. In Colossians 3:16, Paul ties the word (the gospel of Jesus) and our singing together in an exceedingly clear way. Why? Because it helps us remember Christ long after the specific points of a sermon have left our mind. We’re hard-wired to connect and remember in melodies and rhymes. We “dwell” (as Paul puts it) in song. But lyrics and progressions aren’t the end of our singing. The word of God is. It only must be supreme ingredient in our signing.
This is why Scripture plays such an intimate role in our services. Not that we get it right all the time, but we do know that singing without the guidance and girding of the Bible is vainity. It’s also why Scripture must play such an initmate role in our own lives. Coming to corporate worship without spending individual time in the Scriptures is neither loving to Christ nor his bride.
Work this week at being a disciple who is rooted in the truth of Scripture.
2) Singing helps us respond to God’s grace. If singing helps us remember the Scriptures, it also helps us correctly respond to them and the hope of salvation we find in them. In Matthew 15:8, Jesus makes it very clear to us that mindless and heartless worship is of no use to him. It is not worship at all. We must honor God with our heart, with our mind, and with our emotions. Emotionless singing is an oxymoron. There is something sacred about Christian singing that gets at places in our being where words or reason alone can not take us. That’s why God gave us the gift of song — to lift our voices in praise and thankfulness to him. No other earthly means can do that for us.
The danger here is to work ourselves in to a frenzy and put on a performance of thanksgiving to God when we gather to sing. This, just like music without Scripture, is vanity. Our hearts are just as far from God if we try to act our way into a response as they are if we do not respond at all. It’s the Pharisee and tax collector metaphor all over again. But we can avoid this trap by being people who are in intimate relationship with God and are overflowing with genuine thankfulness.
Work this week at being a believer who is authentically grateful for the gospel of Jesus.
3) Singing helps us reflect God’s glory. As Colossians 3:17 says, we sing and do all other things in the name of the Lord Jesus — to bring glory to the triune God. Singing glorifies God as it unifies us in one voice and helps us anticipate the joyful worship waiting in heaven. We can most clearly declare what God has done in us and is going to do for us through corporate singing. It’s hopeful and honoring to God.
As a worship leader, it’s difficult some weeks to not want to ‘borrow’ some of the glory given for myself. That’s a prideful tempation of my flesh as I desire attention and appreciation from others. Maybe that same temptation is alive in you as you decide whether to come to church each Sunday, where to sit, or what to do with your hands. But the truth is that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. We need not try to steal the show or resist giving God what he deserves. He alone is satisfying and worthy of all praise.
Work this week at being a child of the Creator who realizes how gloriously worthy of worship he is.
Finally, the worship services you attend this week are not for music lovers. They’re for God lovers. And who cares whether you can carry a tune in a bucket? You know you have been given a song of praise, so lift your voice in remembrance of God’s word, in response to God’s grace, and in reflection of God’s glory.