What the Bible Has to Say About Singing, Part 3

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Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. - Colossians 3:16 (NASB)

Colossians 3:16 instructs us about congregational singing in at least 7 ways.

  1. The CAUSE and COROLLARY of our singing is God’s Word

  2. God’s Word should be the CONTENT of our singing

  3. » Singing is a COMMUNITY activity

  4. Singing is a COMMAND

  5. There are a variety of CATEGORIES of congregational songs

  6. The CORE of singing is the heart attitude behind it

  7. The CULMINATION of singing must be God’s glory

Singing Is a Community Activity

"...with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another..."

Though the aim of Christian worship, singing included, is the glory of God, He is not merely glorified directly as He hears and enjoys our praise. God has also designed singing for our benefit as we sing to one another. Another way of putting it is that singing has horizontal as well as vertical aspects. Have you ever noticed that some of our worship songs address the Father, Son, or Holy Spirit directly, while others address one another? Here's an example of a hymn where we speak to other believers:
And all ye men of tender heart,
Forgiving others, take your part,
O sing ye! Alleluia!
Ye who long pain and sorrow bear,
Praise God and on Him cast your care!
O praise Him! O praise Him!
Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia!
- From "All Creatures of Our God and King"

As we sing to one another, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ with the precious truths of God's works and ways, we bring glory to God. He has designed singing as a wonderful way for those who are strong in the gospel to encourage those who are weak as they give witness with their lips and body to the reality and power of what they are singing about. Even as a song leader, I have had many mornings where I was inwardly struggling to believe and appropriate the gospel. God often uses the sound and the posture of the congregation to help get my attention off of myself and my individual spiritual walk and be encouraged at His work amongst our entire congregation.

We also notice from this passage that God commands us to sing, not simply make music. In fact, the New Testament does not include a command or example of believers using instruments to praise God. While this short article is not the time or place to explain why I believe it is good and right to praise God with instruments, one thing that we can conclude from this command is that singing is of primary focus in public worship, not simply instrumental music. This command is not simply to individuals, but to the Christian community as a whole. While we can certainly sing to one another by presenting solos (and by the active listening and attentiveness of those hearing), in our gatherings we should encourage, foster, and nurture congregational singing by everyone.

If congregational singing is to be the main focus of the singing we do to one another during public worship, that has some implications for the kind of songs we use and how we present them. Song leaders, you should seek to choose songs that are singable for a congregation: songs that can either be read (if your congregation reads music), picked up relatively easily by ear (repetition is key), and have an accessible range. Many people in today's culture, especially men, don't do much singing and may feel downright embarrassed about their perceived lack of singing ability. Let's do all we can to encourage everyone to sing.

Your brothers and sisters in Christ need to hear you singing; it is your act of service and encouragement to them. Isn't it a blessing to hear and see someone singing loudly to the Lord from their heart, even if they aren't a Pavarotti? Isn't it equally discouraging to see someone who isn't singing, particularly when they have a grumpy look about them? Let's sing with all our hearts and voices to the Lord and do whatever we can to encourage others in our churches to do the same.

Next time we’ll explore the fact that singing is not an optional part of the Christian life.


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[...] his third post, David highlights the fact that “Singing is a COMMUNITY Activity.” He writes: As we sing to one another, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ with [...]