[this was originally published in Worship Leader Magazine, March 2014]
Oh sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2
We have a problem in our churches I like to call the American Idol Syndrome. Because of our culture’s obsession with American Idol, The Voice, and other “reality” singing competitions, our congregations oftentimes come to worship services with two preconceived ideas: 1) they expect the worship team singers to sound like the latest competitors on television; and 2) they feel minimized because they don’t sound like the competitors on television.
Have you ever heard someone in your church tell you they can’t sing? Over my years in ministry I have heard many Christians say they can’t sing. And they believe it. Either they were told so at a young age or they just don’t feel confident when they sing. My response is always the same: “That is a lie from the pit of hell.” I believe this is one of the greatest lies the evil one has convinced us of. Satan knows the power of singing God’s praises, so he has convinced us that we can’t, or shouldn’t sing. We must stop believing that lie! When we buy into the lie, Satan is victorious.
Our congregations must be instructed and encouraged to use their voices, no matter how they sound, for the glory of God. Singing is an important part of offering our worship to God.
Singing Is A Scriptural Command
Scripture commands us to sing to the Lord. This is not an option, nor a recommendation. It is a command that everyone has the ability to fulfill. It doesn’t matter how old you are or if you have any formal musical training. There are no prerequisites. The song of the church is to be sung by everyone.
In the Old Testament, singing was an important mandated element of worship in the temple. The Levites were instructed to sing and to lead the people in song; and the people were expected to join in the singing. There are numerous psalms that command the worshiper to sing (68:4; 96:1-2; 105:2; 149:1; to name a few). The Apostle Paul encouraged the New Testament church to sing (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Christianity is a singing faith. From the Old and New Testaments to today, the church of God has always and will always be a singing faith. Worshipers have no option but to sing. As Constance Cherry states in her book The Worship Architect, “The crucial question is not, ‘Do you have a voice?’ but ‘Do you have a song?’” (p.154).
Singing Allows Us to Rehearse God’s Story
Congregational song is the heart and soul of all worship music. As we gather for worship, the songs we sing remind us of God’s story. We remember all God has done for us in the past, recall the blessings he has permitted for us in the present, and anticipate all God has promised to accomplish in the future. Singing the story of God joins us with the saints of old and the heavenly hosts.
I will sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me,
How he left his home in glory for the cross of Calvary.
Yes, I’ll sing the wondrous story of the Christ who died for me,
Sing it with the saints in glory gathered by the crystal sea.
(Francis H. Rowley, public domain)
Singing Forms Us Spiritually
The songs we sing in church embed themselves into our minds as truth. I have had conversations with people about faith and they begin, without realizing, to quote song lyrics as a defense for what they believe. The words of hymns and worship songs sung over the years have become an important part of their belief system.
Plato once said, “Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” He understood the power of songs to shape the beliefs and lives of people.
Singing Has the Power to Unite
Singing is an important aspect of communal worship as it has the power to unite groups of people. Even within secular settings, singing has the powerful affect of uniting people: strangers sing together as they gather to remember someone at a memorial service or fans sing “Sweet Caroline” at a Red Sox game. Within the Church, singing together is the quickest way to unite a gathering of individuals, no matter how large or small, into one corporate worshiping body: the body of Christ.
When it comes to the musical worship of the church, instruments are great tools to enhance our worship, but it is the voice by which the congregation can offer their praises to God. Singing provides the church with the chance to fulfill Scriptural commands, rehearse the story of God, allow the Holy Spirit to form our lives, and unite with others in worship and praise.
St. Augustine once stated, “He who sings prays twice.” Let us lift our voices in prayer and praise.