If you have ever been to a church service, you have noticed that these two things are always present: preaching of some sort and singing of some sort. These may look and feel different at different churches, but they are always there. It makes sense that someone would spend part of a service preaching the Gospel and explaining from the Scriptures what it all means for our lives today. But why the singing? Does the Bible require it?
Music Has Always Been Considered Important to Worship
Music and singing have been a part of Christian worship since the very beginnings of the faith. We know that Jesus sang with the disciples on at least one occasion (Matthew 26:30) and since he was an observant Jew, it is a given that Jesus sang regularly as an act of worship.
Singing was an integral part of early Hebrew worship, with songs scattered throughout the Old Testament, and comprising the entire book of Psalms, which is at its heart a poetic songbook for worship. (sidenote: speaking of the Psalms, we no longer know what these songs may have sounded like - the original musical notations are lost to history. Knowing how much we fight over musical styles, I think that God in His wisdom allowed that to happen).
We Are Designed to Sing
“Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise.” - Psalm 47:6-7
If this is not an instruction to sing our praises to God, I don’t know what is! Throughout the Psalms, we are repeatedly encouraged to praise God with singing. This is because human beings are basically designed as wind instruments. Think about it - we are uniquely created to breathe in and breathe out in such a way that air from our lungs creates diction and musical tones through our voice. Many animals can ‘sing’ (birds clearly come to mind), but no other creature on earth has the ability to make such unique sounds as we do in the way that we do with the emotion that we do praising God as we do.
What if I’m Not a Good Singer?
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation”. - Psalm 95:1
Have you ever been so excited about something that you just can’t hold it in? Singing for joy and shouting aloud are the results of a soul that is redeemed from sin and knows exactly how great a grace we have been shown. It is a cry of triumph, victory, and thanks from the deepest recesses of the heart. In our response to God, it is expected that we would shout and sing, filled with thanks to the one who created us to sing. There are no ability requirements.
This is why I love Psalm 33:3, “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.” If you are going to involve an instrument in worship, there is a certain degree of skill requested. That’s only polite. But in regards to singing? Joy and shouting are more than enough. Anyone can sing!
We Encourage One Another with Music
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” - Ephesians 5:18-20
This passage clearly emphasizes that when we sing, we are accomplishing two things at once; lifting praise to the Lord and encouraging one another. As mentioned earlier, music and singing have a component of emotion, which is a component that some don’t like, or feel is a threat to the seriousness of the Gospel. Yet music gives us more than emotion. It gives us a perfect opportunity to unite the emotions of being saved by grace with encouraging words of Scripture and good doctrine.
There Is a Unifying Force in Singing
“that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” - John 17:21-22
When people from different backgrounds, different abilities, different places in life and different...everything... join together in song, there is unity. Singing gives us an opportunity to live out the words of Jesus in a unique way that only singing can do. It requires only a desire to worship with our voices and the opportunity to do it together. It can happen in any setting, and it brings us together in a way that involves the very breath that keeps us alive.
It can even happen in any language. No matter the words, we can be united by a familiar melody.
Heart, Soul, Mind, and Strength
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” - Mark 12:30
When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, this is his response. It is a response that leaves little room for inaction, and singing is a wonderful way for us to fulfill this command.
Music is emotional, and so it involves our heart.
We sing to a holy God who redeemed us from sin, and so it involves our soul.
We sing lyrics that point us to Christ, give him glory, and give us a way to memorize Scripture, so singing involves our mind.
Finally, singing is a physical activity that requires effort on our behalf, and so it involves our strength.
Was Jesus thinking about singing when he gave this response? He was clearly thinking about the words of Moses in Deuteronomy 6, and this passage involves the idea of surrounding ourselves with the words of God, and speaking of them pretty much all the time (Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.). With all that in mind, utilizing singing as just one more way to do this is not a far reach.
As a worship pastor, I have heard many thoughts on what worship music in the church should and should not be. Everyone has an opinion about it, and opinions are okay just as long as those opinions are filled with grace, truth, and based on Scriptural doctrine. The bottom line is that wherever you are, you can worship in song!
The truth of singing in worship is that the worship of a Holy God is deeper, richer, and more meaningful than whatever it is we often try and make it out to be and singing is a meaningful way to worship our Holy God.
Photo Credit: ©Sparrowstock/David Clark
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and member of the worship team at matthias lot church in St. Charles, MO. He spends his free time hanging out with his family, exploring new places, and writing about the experiences. Connect on Facebook or at JasonSoroski.net.