In our last article, we were reminded that worship includes both divine revelation and human response. I suggested that if a church has any hope of experiencing worship renewal, it must prioritize the faithful communication of God’s story through his Word. But churches must also provide opportunities for congregations to respond to God’s revelation. We explored prayer as one type of response, and today we’ll consider another: singing.
Singing has always been a vital part of Christian worship, just as it was for our Jewish forebears. Scripture includes at least 50 commands to sing and an additional 400 references to singing. We have both biblical precedent and biblical commands. Still, some of us may wonder, “Why? Why does God instruct us to sing in worship?”
While there are many valid answers to this question, here are four reasons to consider.
Singing engages the head and the heart. Christians have long debated the importance of intellect versus emotion. But, in reality, both are indispensable facets of the Christian life, because both profoundly shape and influence our devotion to Jesus. Singing is crucial because it simultaneously stimulates both sides of our brains—conveying content while at the same time stirring our emotions. In fact, because singing releases our bodies’ natural endorphins, lifting our voices in song acts as a natural anti-depressant. When we sing, we learn, but we also feel better.
Singing helps us remember. God’s people in the Bible were forgetful. We are, too. Graciously, God created a form of communication—indeed, an art form—that is more memorable than plain speech or written text. From the “ABC’s” to “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know,” what we sing, we remember.
We sing to engage physically. Singing involves our bodies—our mouths, diaphragms, lungs, and so much more, all working together in harmony to produce God-glorifying sounds. If we add standing, clapping, swaying to the beat, raising our hands, or even holding a hymnal, we are employing our bodies and stimulating our senses. Worship was never intended to be merely absorbed by observing and spectating. We are physical creatures, and we learn best and internalize most fully when we engage in physical activity. Singing provides just such an occasion.
Singing is communal. Singing is one of the few worship elements where we all engage together in the same activity. We have been adopted by God, and by virtue of our salvation through Christ, we are now part of the same family. We need, therefore, to do things together as an expression and picture of our unity.
Next week, we’ll consider additional reasons singing is such an indispensable part of Christian worship, followed by some practical ways to strengthen our corporate song.