Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. (Ps. 95: 1– 3, ESV).
According to this passage, singing is a required activity among the saints of God. It is not mandatory, however, to be a professional vocalist in order to participate in congregational song; God allows His beloved to at least make a ‘joyful noise!’
There are physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits of singing in general. Singing increases the amount of oxygen to the body, and stress is reduced. It can improve one’s disposition, Also, singing with others increases attentive listening, and increases social interaction.1 Music can soften the hardest of hearts: even David’s music therapy worked wonders on Saul’s anguished spirit (1 Sam. 16:14-23).
Dr. Michael Connolly, a distinguished music professor at the University of Portland, wrote, “What a wonder this singing voice we have been given! How amazing that it can reproduce pitch and text in a huge dynamic and emotional range! It is a marvel when the singing voice can affect listeners in a way that speech rarely can.”2
When engaged in worshipful singing, one’s body, soul, and spirit join with other saints in a common key, tempo, and text to proclaim God’s glory. We sing Scripture, songs of His triumphant deeds, and simultaneously we are instructed and encouraged in the faith. Scripture points out that: “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zeph. 3:17, NIV). Don’t let that incredible reality go unnoticed: God delights in us with His own singing!
John L. Bell, an international expert on congregational worship, pointed out several things about singing. He said that we do not need any equipment to sing—it is natural. He stressed that an overwhelming majority of people can sing, and although we cannot all speak together, we can certainly sing together. Congregational singing helps celebrate a faith community’s uniqueness. And of course, congregational singing expresses emotion; it helps communicate deep concepts and thoughts and has an incredible ability to help people revisit their past.3 In his book, The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song, Bell emphasized:
We are creatures of our past. We cannot be separated from it, and although we cannot always remember it, songs will unexpectedly summon portions of it into mind. If this is true of secular ballads, it is even more true of Christian songs and hymns, especially those which have been in currency since childhood.4
The church is instructed to sing God’s praises (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16); Jesus sang with the disciples at the Last Supper (Matt. 26:30), and continues to sing in the midst of modern-day worshipers (Zeph. 3:17; Heb. 2:12); the apostles and the early church persisted in their singing after the Ascension (Rom. 15:9; Acts 16:25; I Cor. 14:15). Singing is incredibly significant in personal and corporate worship.
Scripture directs the Christian to sing to God from both the heart and with understanding (1 Cor. 14:15). Therefore, as leaders in local church ministry, it would be wise to do everything—whether in promoting choirs, reading and writing musical notation, or sharpening skills as vocalists/ musicians—to make the most of celebrating and loving God through the voice. Singing is an important discipleship tool, and with it, the church sings the gospel—the focal story of our worship. Singing biblical, Christ-centered songs helps the congregation learn about God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).
How and when should we sing? Scripture calls us to sing with feeling and understanding. 1 Cor. 14:15 says, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding” (NIV). We must also sing to proclaim the glory of God among believers and unbelievers. Romans 15:9 says that when we live out the gospel and worship Almighty God in song, “…the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, for this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name” (KJV). Paul, through personal example, encourages Christians to sing in desperate times; people see where our hope flows from through our worshipful singing. In Acts 16:25 we read: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them” (NIV).
With singing clearly established as a significant part of daily personal and corporate worship, Tim Keller urges the church to keep the appropriate focus: “The music must not turn the church into an audience enjoying the music but into a congregation singing the Lord’s praises in his presence.”5
1 Sally Garozzo, “Singing,” Businessballs website, http://www.businessballs.com/singing.htm (accessed April 12, 2017).
2 Dr. Michael Connolly, “The Singing Voice: A Basic Operating Manual,” GIA Quarterly, Fall 1991.
3 John L. Bell, The Singing Thing: A Case for Congregational Song (Chicago: Gia Publications, 2000), 13-21; 96.
4 Ibid., 39-40.
5 Timothy Keller, “Reformed Worship in the Global City,” Worship by the Book, D. A. Carson, ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 257.
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