It seems every time we congregate as a church, we do many of the same acts of worship like pray, fellowship, listen to a sermon, and sing! Singing (though I am biased) is my favorite of these acts of worship. It has been extremely difficult not to be able to sing with my church family these past few months.
As worship leaders, one of our main purposes is to invite the congregation to participate in singing together. We cannot force anyone to sing nor can we be perfect in our execution. We are not rock stars, we are not entertainers, and as we say often as a family “we are not consumers; we are worshippers.” Even through our recent livestreaming, we have encouraged our family to sing with us because it is important to do.
But why? Why and how is singing an act of worship? Here I will list some reasons why singing is worship and how it can help us get through this pandemic.
- God does not just invite us to sing, but He commands it. However, this command comes with a promise: when we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, we are promised that the Word of Christ will dwell in us richly.
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart – Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV
- When we sing together, we sing deep theological truths grounded in God’s word. Paul beautifully lays out an exhortation to let God’s Word dwell in us, and then he preaches for us to live out that command. First, he discusses teaching, but then he teaches us to sing! Singing is one of two main ways that His word dwells in our hearts.
16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. – Colossians 3:16 ESV
- When we sing, we build one another up. When we sing together as a church family, we are hearing confessions of faith all around us! We are hearing hundreds join with us and sing words like, “In Christ alone, my hope is found!” “I was once lost but now I’m found!” Again, in Ephesians 5:19 it says: “Addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” We see the same thing in Colossians 3:13-16 ESV:
13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
- Finally, you may be asking, “But how does this apply to me today? I cannot go to church, I am feeling lonely, I am frustrated.” But I want to encourage you even if you are stuck singing via Livestream or by yourself. Remember this, when you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trials. We often associate singing with happy and good times. But singing also brings strength for trials. We see this in Acts 16 when Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of spreading the Gospel, and what do they do during this trial? They SING!
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. – Acts 16:25-26 ESV
These persecuted missionaries showed strength and courage through singing. It brought them closer together, gave them hope, and God made a way for them to be set free. Even in their suffering, they sang! When we suffer, God suffers with us. God is always with us.
Pastor, theologian, and martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was imprisoned during WWII for his intense resistance of the Nazi Dictatorship. He was arrested in April 1943 by the Gestapo and imprisoned at the Tegel prison for one and a half years. During this time, he wrote some of the most theologically rich letters, books, and hymns for the church to date. As a professional musician, he knew the power of music and how the power of singing hymns would strengthen him during this trial. Here are some of the lyrics he wrote:
Stretched out upon my prison bed, I stare at the empty wall.
Outside, a summer evening, regardless of me, goes singing into the country.
Softy ebbs the tide of the day on the eternal shore…
In the stillness of the night, I listen. Only footsteps and shouts of the guards,
A loving couple in the distance, stifled laughter.
Can you hear nothing else, you sluggish sleeper? I hear my own soul totter and tremble…
Truly, when we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, we are promised that the Word of Christ will dwell in us richly. Singing is one of two main ways that His word dwells in our heart. When we sing together, we build one another up. When you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trials.
I encourage you to keep singing during this time. We will be together again soon, and it will be a glimpse of what Heaven will truly be.
Associate Worship Pastor