“The Importance of Song Worship”
We have seen a tremendous shift over the past fifty years in how denominations approach song worship. Fifty years ago, the common practice was congregational singing along with choirs and musical accompaniment, a deviation from the Scriptural pattern of the churches in Acts but a pattern which had not changed since the Victorian era. Today, this “traditional” approach has fallen out of style if favor of something completely new. Why the sudden change?
Popular books like Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church— which claims to be a church-growth handbook—advocate making the assembly more “seeker-sensitive” by removing the expectation for visitors to sing. The worship, therefore, is conducted more like a concert where visitors can feel comfortable observing. While it is good to be sensitive to visitors to the assembly (a principle Paul teaches in 1 Cor. 12:20-25), God is the “seeker” we must be most sensitive toward (Jn. 4:23). When it comes to our worship, God is seeking heartfelt participants not mere spectators. Following are six reasons why singing in worship is still important today.
Our worship is a sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15 says, “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Under the Law of Moses, faithful Jews would offer sacrifices to praise God. Those sacrifices were active (not passive) and intentional (not accidental). One did not worship God merely by experiencing the ambiance at the temple. The act of sacrifice engaged the mind and senses. Worship under the new and better covenant is also a “sacrifice,” albeit a living one! (Rom. 12:1) The words we sing with our “lips” are our heartfelt sacrifice to the Lord (Mt. 12:34).
Our worship is an expression of joy. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.” Singing praises to God gives us a vehicle to express our joy and directs that joy heavenward. Expressing that praise in song not only acknowledges the origin of our joy but also completes our joy. When we experience something wonderful, we are compelled to verbalize it.
Our worship is an outpouring of the word. Colossians 3:16 says, “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.” A heart filled with God’s word overflows with grateful singing. This has the added effect of “teaching and admonishing” others around you. As a side note, this passage also instructs us to select hymns with rich Scriptural content.
Our worship is a symbol of authority. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” The words “whatever you do” would certainly include the method and manner of our worship. Coming on the heels of the previous verse, this is by no means a stretch in application. Acting ‘in someone’s name’ means both representing him and being empowered to do so. We can be certain that we have the authority from Jesus to worship him by singing. Let us not add to that command in any way so it can truly be done “in his name.”
Our worship is a sign of the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18-19 says, “…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” In context, Paul is teaching Christians to imitate God’s character. He compares one who is “drunk with wine” with one who is “filled with the Spirit.” The influence of wine leads to “debauchery” while the influence of God’s Spirit leads to a list of positive ‘spiritual side-effects,’ among them, singing spiritual songs together. This, along with the parallel passage above, teaches that one is filled with God’s Spirit as one is filled with God’s word.
Our worship is a display of unity. Romans 15:5-12 is part of the climax of Paul’s teaching on unity among Christians in Rome. The world was previously divided between Jews and Gentiles until Jesus came to fulfill and remove the barrier which separated them, the Law of Moses (Eph. 2:11-22). Paul’s goal was to see a unified Roman church that could glorify God “with one voice” (Rom. 15:6). He quotes a series of verses from the Old Testament inviting the Gentiles to praise God along with the Jews. Singing together as one spiritual family is an expression of that unity; it says, “We are together. We are in agreement. We share a common goal.”
The harmony we make with our lips is a physical expression of the spiritual harmony we enjoy together in Christ. Our singing should be the result of our living peacefully with one another and together with God. May God help us to protect our relationships and cultivate our unity together so that our singing can truly be “with one voice.”