My church’s weekly worship gatherings are marked by two very obvious values. First, we have a high regard for the Bible as God’s powerful Word, seeking to teach Truth in relevant and practical ways. Second, we have a high regard for the role of congregational singing to celebrate and proclaim that Truth.
In fact, as a ministry team and staff, we regularly try to evaluate the success of our musical worship by asking the question: How well did the people sing? Now ultimately, the true mark of successful worship is in the life-transformation of those attending, not in whether they moved their lips, raised their hands or jumped up and down.
So why do we sing at church anyway?
Here are a few reasons that I believe flow from the heart of God and hopefully resonate with you:
1. We Are Commanded to Sing
Did you know that the Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing? Here are just a few:
“Hallelujah! Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise in the assembly of the saints.” (Ps. 149:1)
“Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises!” (Ps. 47:6)
“be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music from your heart to the Lord. (Eph. 5:18b-19)
2. We Are Created to Sing
Our bodies are intricately designed so that our vocal cords, tongue and diaphragm work mechanically together to produce a joyful noise. Not only that, but singing – and particularly singing together – releases oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which is known to relieve anxiety and stress. How much more powerful this is in the Body of Christ: these God-designed responses compounded as we stand on even ground before the cross, linked together by a common grace, proclaiming eternal truth with a collective voice!
3. Singing Together Unifies People
There is something beautifully transcendent that takes place when people join their voices in song. Barriers are broken and there is a vulnerability, a tender-ness and sensitivity. Singing makes us feel that, “HEY, I don’t even know these people, and yet I’m WITH them!” There is a common identification and a solidarity that occurs, even among people far from God.
4. Singing Worship Music Witnesses to the Truth of the Gospel
When guests or visitors come to a church service and see people singing with gusto and conviction, they are powerfully impacted. Robust, joyful singing is highly contagious. It’s attractive and becomes a “sign and wonder” (think Acts 2).
The guest thinks, “Wow! There is something special taking place here. These people must really believe what they’re singing!”
In contrast, what might a visitor/guest conclude when they see passive, disinterested people? I’m not suggesting that we manufacture some kind of forced expression, but I am suggesting that we consider how our participation impacts people who are watching and forming first impressions.
But as wonderful as these things are, when we sing in gathered worship, it’s not to benefit each other. We sing TO and ABOUT the LORD. He is the One who transforms us as we celebrate and internalize the Good News of Christ!
Christina Davidson is the worship leader at Hope Chapel in Sterling, Mass.