Why We Sing Together
Anyone who's been to a church worship service recently knows that singing takes up a substantial portion of most gatherings. In fact, music for congregations to sing together has become an enormous industry, with songwriters and "worship artists" (a uniquely 21st-century phrase) churning out album after album of music intended for churches to use in their worship services. When you go to church, you're probably expecting to spend a decent amount of time singing.
At its most basic level, this is simply obedience to Scripture. The Bible contains around 50 direct commands to sing in response to God's revelation of himself and his acts in history. So in some sense if we do not sing as a means of worshiping God, we are not obeying his Word. But I believe there's also deep significance for Christians in the simple act of singing together. Singing in a corporate worship gathering is not arbitrary conformity, or just carrying on an old tradition.
Here are a few reasons Christians sing together when we gather to worship God:
1) Singing together expresses Christian unity.
The gospel places everyone in the church on the very same ground: hell-bound sinners rescued by grace and adopted into God's family. When we sing the truths of the gospel together, it reminds us that we are deeply united to each other by the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. When we can all say the same words together, and are confident that they are true, we are shaken out of our self-absorbed perspective and assured that we have been given brothers and sisters with whom to share our earthly journey.
Emphasizing this unity is the reason that worship services at Imprint aren't dimly-lit and highly-amplified. We want you to be able to see each other, and to hear one another's voices. When the church gathers on the Lord's Day, we aren't just a bunch of people in the same room having private devotions. We are the people of God "speaking to one anotherin psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs" (Ephesians 5:19) about the glory of God and the wonders of his love in the gospel. Singing together is a wonderful way to express and enjoy that unity.
2) Singing together teaches us the gospel.
There are few discipleship tools as effective as music. Our minds engage and retain song lyrics in a different way than the ordinary spoken word. I can barely recount to you the main points from my two or three most recent sermons; but I assure you, I can recite the lyrics of all four verses of "In Christ Alone." You're probably not going home repeating my sermon outline to yourself; but you may well find yourself humming "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing," even hours after the service is over. Songs stick.
And because songs stick, they also teach. That's why we're very careful that the songs we sing at Imprint are not only biblically true, but also saturated with the gospel. When we sing about the glory of God and the wonders of the gospel, we engage our minds, strengthen our hearts, and nourish our souls with the most important truths in the universe. Singing together helps us learn and absorb the gospel.
3) Singing together anticipates heaven.
If you've read the vision of eternity that the apostle John records in Revelation, you won't be surprised to hear that heaven is a musical place. Consider this glorious scene from Revelation 5:9-14:
And they sang a new song, saying,
“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!”
And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Our weekly gatherings to worship God provide an opportunity to practice for heaven! In that day, we'll never tire of singing the praises of the Lamb who was slain, and the joy and beauty will be something we can scarcely imagine today. Singing together helps us anticipate the joy of worshiping around the throne of God in his eternal kingdom.
Most of this is probably not new to you. But take it as a reminder that what we do when we gather each Sunday is not arbitrary, automatic, or accidental. Of course there are other elements in our regular worship of God (More on these later!), but congregational singing is an important part of our church's life together. I look forward to being with you again this Lord's Day, and I can't wait to celebrate the glory of God and the wonders of the gospel by singing together!
Hope to see you there.