“When I first began leading worship, I served at a tiny suburban church plant in West Fort Worth. The pastor of that church constantly reminded me that folks would never leave our Sunday gathering humming the sermon he preached. They’d leave humming the songs we had sung together. In fact, they were far more likely to have the words we sang rattling around in their minds all week than any words they heard from the pulpit. For whom do we sing? I believe we sing for ourselves and for one another, that we might come to believe more fully the truth of the words we sing and to love more deeply the God to and about Whom they were written.
That belief has transformed the way I personally worship God in song, the way I plan the musical portion of any worship gathering I’m involved with and the way I discern which songs should or shouldn’t be a part of our corporate worship life. If music is, in essence, sung theology, then things like lyrical content and melodic hook become significantly more important to consider.
However, that doesn’t completely quench my desire to know “why we sing.”
If that was all there was to it, then why not just leave the singing to the pros, and attend a musically excellent, theologically rich concert every weekend? Or, for that matter, why not just buy musically excellent, theologically rich music on iTunes and listen to it day in and day out? Why must we gather and actually sing together?
I’ve long been fascinated by the prayer Jesus prays in John chapter 17. He prays specifically for the oneness of those who will come to believe in Him. He prays that we, His people, may be united together; that we might be one just as He and the Father are one.
In the book of Acts, we find the early church living and worshipping together day in and day out. They share what they have. They break bread together. They seek God together.”
…”How many acts of worship are communal in nature? Congregational singing lends itself perfectly to the togetherness & vulnerability that the Gospel demands, deserves and seeks of those living in community. We, together, are the people of God. We, together, are the bride of Christ. Therefore, it’s right and good that we, together, with one voice, should express our affections for our great bridegroom, Jesus.
When we step outside the familiar walls of liturgical tradition and peek back in through the window at all the people standing and singing and raising their hands together, it may look a bit foreign or silly. But, brothers & sisters, as I said, it is absolutely vital to the life of the Church and to the lives of the individual believers therein.
When we gather together, let us lay aside any concern about the quality of our singing voices. Let us lay aside any reservations about whether or not we “feel worshipful” in a given moment. Let us sing. Let us sing as an act of discipline, training our hearts to believe more completely the Gospel of our salvation. Let us sing as an act of community, knowing that the people around us are our brothers and sisters and that they need the truth of the Gospel on our lips to ring in their ears.”
From “What’s the Point of Singing,” by Luke Brawner
I’m reminded of something Paul writes in Ephesians and Colossians:
singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves,
and making music to the Lord in your hearts. …
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
I have had more than one person tell me that they don’t care about the quality of music or musicianship; they just want to feel God’s presence.
That sounds good, but it’s not biblical.
God designed us to worship, individually and together. He calls us to join in unity (Psalm 133) He tells us to sing to each other…
I think this is especially important in a day when people are so isolated. The last thing we need is to go to Sunday Morning Gathering for more of the same.
There is also a synergy that happens when the worship is made up of live voices. It has a vibrance to it that simply cannot be communicated in recorded or streamed music. Joining our voices says, “I’m with you. I know and love you, here and now.” We desperately need that.
By the way, Scripture also admonishes us to dance, raise our hands, shout and declare.
This hymn has been running through my mind this morning. It is such a beautiful expression of God’s love for us!
When I was fellowshipping in the Episcopal tradition, we would sing this hymn on Good Friday.
It is probably my favorite one for this occasion.
Musically, it is beautiful; the words are lovely as well:
My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me,
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.
O who am I
that for my sake
my Lord should take
frail flesh and die?
He came from his blest throne
salvation to bestow,
but men made strange, and none
the longed-for Christ would know.
But O my friend,
my friend indeed,
who at my need,
his life did spend.
Sometimes they strew his way,
and his strong praises sing,
resounding all the day
hosannas to their King.
is all their breath,
and for his death
they thirst and cry.
Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
he gave the blind their sight.
Yet they at these
and ‘gainst him rise.
They rise, and needs will have
my dear Lord made away;
a murderer they save,
the Prince of Life they slay.
Yet steadfast he
to suffering goes,
that he his foes
from thence might free.
Here might I stay and sing,
no story so divine:
never was love, dear King,
never was grief like thine.
This is my friend,
in whose sweet praise
I all my days
could gladly spend.
Words: Samuel Crossman (1624-1683), 1664
Melody: Love Unknown (John Ireland, 1879-1962)
If you would like to hear this hymn, go to: