Why We Must Sing Corporately

Martin Luther once said, “Next to the Word of God, the noble art of music is the greatest treasure in the world.” Have you ever wondered why we sing during corporate worship gatherings? Ever cared to ask, “Must we sing?” And does God ever sing alongside us when we sing? Do our melodious tunes matter to God? 

I have met professing Christians who don’t mind showing up to church late and missing out on the singing because, according to them, the sermon counts more. Perhaps worse are the ‘worship leaders’ who’ve left me with the impression that they had no clue why we sing in church. Indeed, to many Christians, singing is merely part of what completes the church liturgy (the order of service) or a tradition we found, picked up and carried on within our churches. The result is that many church-going folk will not engage actively with the songs sung corporately, approaching singing as some routine to be participated in without any care or thought.

Why do we sing? Is singing so essential that a church service would be incomplete if it were not done? Does God instruct us to sing? Why is singing a beautiful thing to be cherished and embraced by Christians? How does singing serve a Christian?

Created to Sing

Music is a gift God gave to his creation. We are singing creatures. Creation is musical. Singing unites us with the rest of God’s creation. “The first noise you heard when you woke up this morning if it wasn’t a vehicle or a small child, was probably the dawn chorus,” writes Andrew Wilson. From its beginning, creation sang (Job 38:7), continues to sing, and will always (Revelation 5:13) sing to its maker. The song of creation reveals God’s glory and creative handiwork (Psalm 19:1-4). All of creation–the trees, the ocean, the clouds, the animals–sings a tune that points to its Creator. I love how Keith and Kristyn Getty remind us of this truth in this song:

Creation sings the Father’s song;

He calls the sun to wake the dawn

And run the course of day,

Till evening comes in crimson rays.

His fingerprints in flakes of snow,

His breath upon this spinning globe,

He charts the eagle’s flight,

Commands the newborn baby’s cry.

Pause and listen to ‘Creation’s Song’. All Creatures of our God and King are created to sing; thus, let us lift our voices and join in creation’s chorus. Praise him, who is our Creator! Praise him who sustains us! Praise him, for he is worthy of praise (Psalm 145:3).

God Sings

Our singing not only unifies us with the rest of creation but also with God. We are created in the image of God, and he is a singing God. Zephaniah records the joy of the Lord upon his people’s restoration. He rejoices with gladness and song over them:

“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17)

Exhorted to Sing

Recently, I learned that singing is mentioned over 400 times in the Bible. Scripture is filled with song: Moses leads the Israelites to sing after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15); the Israelites’ song of victory over the Canaanite army (Judges 5); songs of David in the Psalms; Paul and Silas’ singing in prison (Acts 16:25); the song in Heaven (Revelation 15:3-4), and many more. There is singing throughout Bible history. We sing today, and John foretells the song of the future in Revelation. There are over 50 exhortations for us to sing. Singing is essential for the Christian. It is an act of Worship to God. We sing as a response to who God is and what he has done through Christ on our behalf. Scripture encourages us to sing to God, for he is worthy to be praised (Psalm 96:4). The exhortation is that we need to SING! (Psalm 96:1-3, 149:1-2). Singing draws us nearer to God. To echo the words of Kenneth Mbugua, “It is important for us to realise that songs are ordained by God. They are one of the ways that God has dictated for us as his people to draw near to him.”

Hiding God’s Word in Our Hearts

Singing, along with reading God’s word and imbibing it by means of preaching and teaching, is a means through which we hide God’s word in our hearts. Theologically rich songs can preach and teach. Because singing is memorable, lots of what we sing remains in our hearts and minds. Singing can transform our hearts and minds. Consider Paul’s exhortation to the saints at 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

Paul exhorts us to have our lives filled with God’s word in all its richness. How do we do this? Through teaching, certainly. But also through singing! We know that we sometimes struggle to remember details until we put them in song. That children learn better and faster through song is a known fact. Adults are no different when it comes to committing things to memory: we would never repeat the words we’ve read or written with similar accuracy as the words we’ve sung.

Isn’t it amazing, for example, that I still recall, with hardly any effort, the fruit of the Spirit as taught in Galatians 5:22-23 because that was taught to me through song?

If we sing songs filled with truth, we are sure they will remain in our hearts and live to transform and renew our minds. Are you struggling to hide God’s word in your heart? If you are, try singing it. 

Singing Unifies the Body of Christ

“…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Ephesians 5:19)

The people around you singing on Sunday are not a distraction from your singing to the Lord. They are singing with you, they are singing to you, and you ought to be singing to them.” We sing, and not just in our bathrooms, but with fellow saints because in singing together we get to listen to the same words sung to us by all the witnesses surrounding us. Paul exhorts the church in Ephesus to address/admonish/exhort one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Corporate singing is not just for ourselves but also for the one to our right, left, front, and back. It’s God’s gift for our “one another.” Scripture is filled with many “one-another” exhortations for the body of Christ, and singing is one of them. It is how we build each other up, encourage, disciple, and sharpen one another. Imagine the encouragement one who is in the midst of a lengthy struggle with sickness or some other thing would draw from a multitude of voices singing:

“Great is Thy faithfulness

Great is Thy faithfulness

Morning by morning, new mercies I see

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me”.

How about the joy of one who’s been delivered from a besetting sin as they sing:

“Nothing can for sin atone,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

Naught of good that I have done,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus”?

I could go on and on. Our singing, however, does more than unify us through our admonishing one another. It is also a declaration of our unity in Christ. We affirm that we are members of one body, gathered in one accord to the God of our Salvation (Romans 15:6). And it does not end there. In the words of Matt Boswell, “Singing is a means of disciple-making.” We know that on Sundays or in our small-group meetings, some among the gathered may not yet believe. So we sing to declare the gospel to them (Psalm 96:3). Our singing is one way we minister to unbelievers. 

Singing Prepares Us for Our Singing in Heaven

Revelation 19 gives us a glimpse of how music, and more so, corporate singing, is and will be part of our response to everything God has achieved for us. When the Bride is finally reunited with her groom, she sings praise to God. So we sing today in anticipation of the promised hallelujah songs that the Bride sings. We also sing in joining with the heavenly hosts as they adore our Creator God. We sing as we await the day when every tribe, language, people, and nation, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9), will sing Holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty.

References

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-unifying-power-of-singing/ 

https://www.faithward.org/the-theology-and-place-of-music-in-worship/ 

https://www.graceforus.org/the-latest-news/post/bidirectional-corporate-singing 

https://www.9marks.org/article/sing-to-one-another/ 

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