Why do we sing when we meet together as church?
“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)
Singing is the way, along with teaching and admonishing, to get the Word in. We sing the gospel of Christ to one another and in praise back to God so that those great realities penetrate deep into our spirits. Singing glorious, deep, authentic gospel truths has immense power to lift our spirits and the eyes of our hearts to the throne of grace and so strengthen the church. Many a saint has been kept alive in a dead church by the rich theology of the hymns of Wesley, Newton and Toplady.
So singing is just as much Word ministry as faithful Bible teaching. If we really believe that, what difference does it make?
- We’re seeking music ministry not music performance, edification not entertainment.
- Music ministry is very important – whether in Sunday school or ‘adult church’. We don’t just use it as a ‘filler’ while people arrive or as something to do when we’ve been sitting down for too long.
- We want gospel music – not in the sense of a style but in terms of content. Songs where the emphasis is on what Jesus has done and his hold of us not on our devotion and grip on Him.
- We’re looking for music to stir us at the deepest level through the truths of the Word – exactly the same as the sermon. It’s not that the music stirs the emotions by the Spirit and the sermon stirs the mind by the Word. In great songs the Spirit stirs the mind, emotions and will by the Word.
- So it really really matters what words we sing – just as a preacher must chose his words with the utmost care. A heresy in a song is as bad as a heresy in a sermon. Banal, weightless or vacuous lyrics are as bad as having nothing much to say in the pulpit. And if we don’t understand what we’re singing (it took me 30 years to get what ‘lo he abhors not the virgin’s womb’ meant) then it’s as bad as not understanding what the preacher is saying.
- Which means preparation is important. Just as preachers need ministry training and theological study, so musicians. Just as the preacher must spend hours preparing the message, so the music leader will need hours to chose songs with great tunes and great words which reinforce the message of the sermon and theme of the meeting.
Let’s be appreciating and praying for our musicians and singers in their Word ministry.
And a few of my current favourites…