Photo by JF by Pixabay.
“It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing
together. It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you,
as a member of the Church, may share in its song.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Whenever and wherever God’s people gather, as brothers and
sisters, as the unified Body of Christ, we raise a song together. And because,
as Bonhoeffer implied, it is a fearful, beautiful, holy thing that we
struggling pilgrims put words on the lips of the Bride of Christ, we do well to
carefully consider those sung words. Singing for the King is an honor, but it
is also a responsibility to be shepherded well.
WHY We Sing
Scripture demonstrates countless instances of congregational
singing within the church, but, in a nutshell, God’s people gather to sing for
two primary reasons: to praise God and to encourage one another in the truth. In
terms of worship songs, we typically categorize these as vertical (sung to God)
and horizontal (sung to one another about God).
Begin with the Old Testament and the Psalms, then lean into
the epistles to find exclamations of praise and prayer sung directly to God the
Father and to Christ. His people lift praises for His unchanging nature, His power
and goodness. He is worthy! We also call out in tune with desperate petitions and
sung prayers to the God who hears those pleas and welcomes them.
Also, while we gather, we sing as a means of remembrance and
encouragement, to look into the faces of our church family and retell the
Gospel again and again. Our good God knew we would need to remind one another,
in our fallen flesh and blood, day in and day out, that the redemption story is
true, and one way we do this is through songs sung together.
WHAT We Sing
Scripture is our guide. We determine what sorts of songs, words
and phrases are to be put on the lips of Jesus’ Church by looking at THE Word. So,
with regard to the songs we sing, we must ask:
“Is it true?” and “Does it honor
Much like all aspects of our walk of faith, the songs within
the Body must be measured against what Scripture teaches. Heaven forbid (literally)
that we mouth any untrue words about our God within our songs. It’s good and
worth the time to comb through lyrics used in worship and root out anything that
might contain error. Teaching is happening when we sing, so we must hold firmly
It’s also important to honestly consider the focus of each
song, whether we are honoring our God or ourselves. Often called “me-centric”
worship songs, many verses have been penned that zero in narrowly on the gifts
and hype the recipients (us) far more so than the great Giver. May we be more
forgetful of ourselves and keep our hearts directed toward the Father in the
things we sing to Him.
HOW We Sing
Yes, we sing with open hearts and seeking spirits, but the
HOW category is a tricky one, because it’s also where we deal with the style of
the music we use in our churches. It can become a difficult and divisive topic
among a diverse people because style preferences vary from person to person, neighborhood
to neighborhood, nation to nation and era to era. I personally was raised on
heavy metal and Motown, so most of the songs we sing don’t quite fit my
But here’s the thing (and this is just my own opinion): If a
song meets the “true” and “God-honoring” criteria laid out previously, style is
going to be a secondary issue, one of preference and expediency for the
congregation and the musicians serving. To incorporate various musical styles,
when possible, can be a beautiful thing. It’s also beautiful and crucial to,
when necessary, sacrifice a bit of our personal preferences to facilitate the
united worship of God’s people.
Friends, it’s a big, glorious deal that God calls His people
to sing together. What an honor to honor Him in this way! In a world ripe with self-seeking,
individualism and division, a group of people getting together to lift voices
in united song can seem a bit strange to the outside population. A bit “not of
this world.” Good. As such, let us continue to meet together, get loud with
praises and give words of life to one another as we demonstrate to the world
just how worthy He is to receive these songs.