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Why You Should Sing in Church
Public singing on Sunday morning isn't mere filler. It's vital for your spiritual life.
I’ve been singing in church since before I can remember. As a kid, my mother would dress me up in a suit and tie and our family would attend church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday. The church I grew up in was pretty conservative, singing only out of the hymnbook, with a simple piano and all four verses of every hymn.
Today I don’t wear a suit—even when I preach—and we often sing a mix of hymns and new worship songs to a lively band. I enjoy contemporary worship and often become emotional when the lyrics and music hit my heart. But I’m thankful for the gift my parents gave me in learning those old hymns, singing words that at the time I barely understood but now are like a reservoir of gold in my soul, to be drawn up and applied to life’s hardships and triumphs.
Often, in the churches I’ve served, attended, and or have been invited as a guest preacher, I’ll look around and see folks not singing. I don’t want to judge. There have been times in my life when I was too emotional or too overcome with life’s sorrows to get the words out. Yet, most of the time I sing and I think you should too.
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges the church to be “speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).”
There are four main benefits to public singing:
You speak to God. When you sing in church, you are not just going along with everyone else and you are not merely participating in entertainment. You are singing to God. You are lifting praise to your Creator with your voice. Psalm 33:3 is just one of many psalms that urge us to sing to God: “Sing a new song to him;
play skillfully on the strings, with a joyful shout. For the word of the Lord is right,
and all his work is trustworthy.”
We shouldn’t be silent. We should speak to the Lord through song. Sometimes our worship is rejoicing at God’s holiness, goodness and mighty acts. Sometimes our worship is in the form of lament and crying out for mercy or for help in the midst of distress. So, on Sundays and whenever we gather as a body, we should not hesitate, we should not be silent. Even if you don’t feel you have a good voice, God hears your best attempts to sing and considers it praise.
You speak to yourself. Music has an amazing ability to help us memorize key truths. Science has shown that we remember music almost more than anything else. Last year, Time Magazine published an article that featured a study of people and the lyrics they could remember. It is remarkable.
Singing in church, week after week, year after year, over a life helps embed truth in our hearts that can be drawn from in important moments. I cannot tell you how often a lyric from a hymn will flood my memory, a lyric I began singing as a little boy. When you sing in church, you are singing to yourself. You are declaring God’s truth right back to your heart, a heart prone to wander. After a week in the world, beat up by life, encumbered by heavy burdens, you have the opportunity to refresh yourself with music. Singing is catechesis for the heart.
You speak to your brothers and sisters in the Lord. The passage above tells us that in corporate singing, we are “speaking to one another.” It might seem awkward for you to sin. Again, maybe you don’t feel you have a great voice. That’s ok! Your fellow church members need to hear you declare the Lord’s praise, they need to hear you cry out for mercy, and in repentance, they need to hear you lift up the name of Jesus. When you sing you are speaking words of truth in their hearts and in doing so, you are joining the worldwide body of Christ in worship on Sunday. Don’t hold back. Don’t be shy. Speak to your brothers and sisters through song.
You speak to the world. I’ve been to several college football games with diehard fans of their team. The most fun part is pre-game and half-time, with all of the songs and rituals of the home team. I didn’t know any of the words and didn’t understand the hand motions, but I came away thinking, “Wow, they must really love their team.”
Even more so when God’s people gather to worship on Sunday. When we scrape ourselves out of bed, rustle up the kids, and gather with our brothers and sisters in the Lord to worship, the world hears us. We are declaring with our whole selves and with our best ability that Christ, not the lesser gods, is Lord of the Universe.
So, in singing, we speak to God, we speak to ourselves, we speak to our fellow church members and we speak to the world. Be willing to be a bit awkward, to let go of yourself some in worship, and sing this next Sunday.
Reminder, my latest book, Agents of Grace: How to Bridge Divides and Love as Jesus Loves is available now.
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