It is good to sing praises to our God. (Psalm 147:1)
Two hypothetical comments convey prevailing attitudes about congregational singing.
One goes something like this, “I don’t get anything out of singing at church. When the music starts, I mostly check out because, honestly, I don’t really like to sing. I guess I just don’t engage with God that way.”
And the other, “I love how my church creates a worship experience for me. When the band starts and the lights are low, it brings me into the presence of God. I find it easiest to sing to God in church when I can shut everyone else out and worship my personal Savior.”
On the surface, these two comments sound very different. The first downplays the significance of congregational singing, while the second seems to exaggerate it. However, at a more fundamental level, both attitudes share a common issue: a failure to comprehend what the Bible says about singing in the local church. Such unfortunate perspectives misconstrue the purpose of our singing together.
So for clarity, let’s ask the most basic question we can: Why do Christians sing together? I believe Scripture provides us with six primary reasons.
(1) Singing is commanded.
“Sing to the LORD!” is a constant refrain in the Bible. In fact, Scripture commands us to sing approximately 250 times. Now I’m no literary expert, but when something is mentioned that frequently in a body of literature, the author is trying to make a point. And the point here? God is really serious about singing.
(2) Singing engages our affections.
In Ephesians 5:19, Paul admonishes the church to make “melody to the Lord with your heart.” Something about singing stirs the soul. The manifold glories of God are so thrilling that merely talking or thinking about them will not suffice. No, there must be singing. Or as hymn writer Isaac Watts once put it, “Singing was given chiefly for this purpose: that our own warmest affections of the soul might break out into natural or divine melody, and that the tongue of the worshiper might express his own heart.”
(3) Singing expresses our unity.
The world can be a polarizing place. But God has provided a remedy through the gift of congregational singing. Paul prayed that the church in Rome would “together with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:6). Singing portrays the bond of peace we share as members of one another (Eph. 4:3; Rom. 12:5). It strengthens us as we strive in the Spirit to maintain a culture of Gospel unity.
(4) Singing teaches and admonishes.
As we sing with the church, we participate in its teaching ministry. In Colossians 3:16, we’re told, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Each week, we sing to teach and be taught the Word, to admonish and be admonished in the faith. Congregational singing is resonant discipleship.
(5) Singing reflects the image of God.
Hebrews 2:12 quotes Psalm 22:22, attributing it to the risen Christ: “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” This was to show that, at the right hand of Majesty, Jesus is singing with us. Not only that, but Zephaniah 3:16 says that God exults over His people “with loud singing.” Therefore, when we sing together, we mirror the stunning reality that the God we worship is Himself a Singer.
(6) Singing makes God’s glory known.
When the Bible commands us to sing, it is often for the express purpose of proclaiming God’s glory and goodness to the world. For instance, Isaiah 12:5 says, “Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.” Therefore, our singing ought to have a missional objective of declaring God’s glory among the nations in order that people would fall on their knees and worship with Him us (1 Co. 14:24-25).
Though I’ve only given six, there are countless reasons for us to sing together. In fact, we will never run out of reasons to sing the praises of Jesus Christ. So as LifePoint gathers this Sunday to behold Him in His breathtaking glory, I pray that we will respond by enjoying the gift of congregational song for all it’s worth!
Liturgy for Sunday, November 22, 2015:
Call to Worship: Psalm 117
Confession & Assurance: 2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1
Benediction: Romans 15:13