The Songs We Sing

In a previous blog, we discussed why corporate singing is essential. In this article, we discuss the kinds of songs we sing in our gatherings. As a congregation gathers, the music team should carefully consider the songs they choose to lead worship. This is crucial because what we sing matters, as God uses it to grow and edify the Church. 

You may have heard different “musts” on congregational singing, which may have left you wondering, so what must we/not sing? Some have argued that we must only sing hymns or Psalms in Church. Different churches have different relationships with hymns. Some sing hymns exclusively, while others sing them occasionally. Hymns open God’s Word to us, his character, and works poetically. Hymns help us learn what we sing, as do biblically grounded spiritual songs and the singing of Psalms. Some denominations sing Psalms only. While nothing is wrong with the exclusive use of hymns, psalms, or spiritual songs, we must be clear that nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to pick only one over the other exclusively. Through his Word, God urges us to sing hymns, psalms, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), with no restrictions on using any in corporate gatherings. 

While we should incorporate old and new songs (Psalms 96:1) into our congregational singing, we should carefully consider what we sing. What specific things should we ensure in the songs we sing?

Theological Richness

Truths sung are more memorable than truths preached, hence the absolute need for theological depth in our songs. The songs we sing must have substance. Paul Washer once said: “Our music ought to be brought under the same rules as preaching.” Sound doctrine shapes and drives everything we do in corporate worship. Paul instructs Timothy and Titus to ensure that the elders in the Church teach sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:10, Titus 1:9, 2:1), and this instruction should also apply to our music. What does having songs centred on sound doctrine look like practically? 

Let us consider Paul’s instruction to the Church in Colossae, “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).” From this passage alone, we can conclude that our music should be scripture-filled and aimed at teaching God’s Word. The songs we sing express what we believe. Our songs should be biblically accurate, not contradicting or misusing Scripture. 

We must remember that not every song that mentions God or Jesus Christ is centred on the gospel. God, in his Word, warns us against false doctrine since it leads to destruction (2 Peter 2:3). This does not restrict us to songs that only have words of scripture word for word. Think about the Psalms, the songs of Scripture; they do not take away or add to the truths of Scripture; they only affirm them. The songs we sing need to leave those gathered pondering on God’s character, his works, and nature; his holiness, mercy, and grace displayed at the cross of Christ. Examine your choice of songs and hold fast to what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The only way we can know if what we sing aligns with the truths of Scripture is by being faithful students of God’s Word. Scripture equips us to discern (1 John 4:1-3) whether our songs align with Scripture. Matt Boswell wrote, “Singing for the Christian is formative and responsive, and therefore must be informed by Scripture.”

Singable (Congregational Friendly)

Good songs should be easily sung by a group of people. Corporate singing is an expression of the unity of the gathered body of Christ. Our songs must be unifying, participatory, and not “performance-based.” Churches are no place for an individual to gain fame or be popularized. Cooperate singing is one way we live out Paul’s admonition to count others significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Our corporate singing is to God and each other. In Ephesians 5:19, Paul instructs us to “address one another in Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.” One of the ways we, as a body of Christ, are equipped, nourished, sanctified, and unified is by singing to each other. Our choice of songs must be well thought out, ensuring that those gathered can at least sing along. This does not mean that worship teams should not pick out new songs; the consideration should be if the songs’ arrangement (melody/rhythm) allows room for many people to sing along, even untrained and unskilled singers. Some songs today are easier to listen to than sing along to. The easy-to-listen-to, hard-to-sing songs are not congregational-friendly. What makes a song congregational-friendly? The melody or tune should be singable. We can ensure this by:

  • Choosing a generally comfortable key for the majority to sing on.
  • The melodic line is not ‘spoken-like” but more rhythmic and accommodates many voices and not one.
  • Have more predictable rhythms. Songs that change rhythm or structure are challenging to keep a gathered people engaged. 

Our singing should ensure our unity of mind, heart, and thought (1 Corinthians 1:10). In our choice of songs, let us pursue what leads to mutual growth (Romans 14:19). 

Musical Accompaniment

This may be a divider for many. However, we should remember that the goal is to encourage those gathered to enter the Lord’s presence with joy, gladness, and singing (Psalm 100:1-5). When we come together as believers, we are encouraged to use our voices and sing to our God (Psalm 68:4, 81:1, James 5:13). We are free to incorporate as many instruments as possible. However, we must give priority to the voices of the congregation. Matt Merker once remarked, “If we treat musical and vocal accompaniment as a way to facilitate and enhance congregational singing, it keeps the focus in the right place. Church musicians are not performers; they’re servants whose job is to accompany, elevate, and beautify the congregation’s ministry of song.” I love a full-on band accompanying music, but they need not be too loud or overwhelming. 

Every time we sit to think of the songs we will sing on Sunday or any other moment of corporate singing, we should remember that singing is not just a personal way to praise the Lord. It is a way for people to teach and admonish one another. Our music must always be focused on praising God and teaching others. It must always remain grounded in the Word of God. Let our singing be instructive and unifying to the praise, honour, and glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 


Merker, M. (2021). Corporate Worship: How the Church Gathers as God’s People. Crossway 



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