Why We Sing In Church

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Lots of people sing along at concerts, or sing along with their favorite songs on the radio or iPods. Some even manage to sing our national anthem at the beginning of the game. But, why do we always sing in church?

Some people are just naturals at singing, even playing musical instruments. Even before the flood, there was Jubal “the father of all who play the harp and flute.” (Genesis 4:21). But, there are others who seem to have a natural aversion to singing, especially in church. I knew one man who called the music part of our worship service “the preliminaries” before the message. He would not come into the auditorium until I began preaching. That attitude really bothered me.

Some people sing in church only when their favorite song is played. In fact, you can pretty well classify American churches by the age of the songs that are sung, regardless of what they believe about the Bible. For example, a lot of newer churches attract the age group that like the happy, clappy, repetitive, theologically shallow songs cause the songs have great tunes and catchy beats. A lot of older churches that have a solid Biblical theology and sing just hymns will soon close their doors because the hymn-lovers will die off and will not be replaced by the next generation of younger folks will not come to a church that sings just hymns. These older churches find it difficult to recruit enough people to have a choir, or even have a music leader who knows how to lead a choir. The newer churches have praise bands with more instrumentalists than singers. I don’t think they could have a worship service if there were no electricity.

Our church tries to resolve this division by first making sure we are Biblical in our theology. Then, we try to blend all styles of music (that have Biblically sound lyrics) into a worship service that helps us understand and apply the message that we teach one Bible book at a time, verse-by-verse. Blending the music styles means both young and old won’t like to sing each other’s favorite songs. All of us are challenged to serve one another by singing “their” songs.

Sometimes I think that those who demand hymns only prefer the hymn book to the Bible. Do they think the European hymns from the last two hundred years were sung by Jesus? New songs were written by every generation and were resisted by their previous generation.

For example, the great old hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, though solid in its Biblical theology, was set to a tune that was first and often song in the local taverns of Germany. Martin Luther wanted the Protestants to learn and remember theological truth. So, he wedded great theology with a tune popular in his culture to help believers remember the lyrics. Though the tune was at first a jolly, upbeat, beer-drinking song, over time church leaders had to slow down the beat so that the song had time to echo off the newly built cathedral walls and ceilings. But, now some think we don’t really worship unless we sing Luther’s beer-drinking song as a somber dirge. Go figure.

But, those who prefer new songs only can be just as dense. Limiting ourselves to the newest catchy tunes that don’t help us think rightly and deeply about Biblical truth and theology, we become spiritually malnourished, and don’t really know or remember what the Bible teaches. There are many great hymns with have great singable tunes that can help us grow in our knowledge of the Lord.

For example, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” is a hymn with several verses worth singing and remembering. I find myself worshipping the Lord in my time alone with Him, even when I’m on the river casting for steelhead, singing this song to the Lord and thanking God for His unshakable dependability. That song helps me experience His peace in my most intense struggles to keep on trusting Him.

So, at our church we sing hymns and new songs at the same time. The risk is that nobody is pleased with singing in church because we didn’t sing just our favorite songs. The benefit is that old will serve the young, and new-song singers will serve the old-hymn lovers. The blessing is that we will worship God together as one multi-generational family. The body of Christ will be built up so that we all reach unity in the faith. God will be glorified by our unity not our uniformity. That’s why we sing in church.

It is good to praise the Lord
and make music to your name, O Most High,
to proclaim your love in the morning
and your faithfulness at night,
to the music of the ten-stringed lyre
and the melody of the harp.
For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord;
I sing for joy at the works of your hands.
How great are your works, O Lord,
how profound your thoughts!
Psalm 92:1-5

For His glory,
Pastor Mike