At Redemption Church, we sing at the beginning and end of every service. This is commonplace among Christians who gather to worship. Though the style of the music varies from place to place, one thing does not. Christians sing.
But why? I'd never truly considered this question until I encountered someone who didn't think it was necessary. For them, the singing was merely window dressing to the actual meat and potatoes of the service, the sermon. Nothing else really mattered. It was through the preaching of the text that the Eternal One encountered humanity.
While it is true that God encounters us through the preaching and teaching of the Scriptures, we would be short-sighted to think that the rest of our worship rites were unimportant. While we cannot reduce all of our worship down to singing, singing as a form of personal and corporate worship has been a constant throughout the history of God's people.
So after giving it some thought, here are three reasons we sing and why you should join us.
1. Music Matters to Us, and to God
It's vital to recognize the place music holds in the lives of humanity. We are surrounded by music. It's in on our commutes, our movies, and at our restaurants. Music emotes a layer of richness and complexity to life that would otherwise be lacking. It directs our inner selves towards something simultaneously internal yet larger than us. There is something about the poetry, rhythm, and harmony that conjures up truth where simple prose falls short. It affects us deeply, meaningfully, and mysteriously.
Step out of the church for just a second and think about the most iconic moments of cinema. Erasing the music changes everything. In a way, it rips the soul out of each scene. Music is not the scene but enhances and highlights it. It forces us to feel things in a way the imagery and dialogue alone cannot. Or perhaps consider your own personal catalog of songs. Songs that hold a special place in your life are almost assuredly associated with powerful memories. In an instant, an intro or a melody can transport you back to a time, place and feeling, even decades later. We are creatures who have been created to both speak through and be spoken to by song. Music matters to us. So it should come as no surprise that music matters to God.
When we sing songs of praise, we are singing them for God. As ones who believe there is nothing more we can offer God that would somehow outdo the work of Christ, we recognize that our praise will have to do. We put our hopes, fears, doubts, and truths into music and deliver them to God as honestly and faithfully as we can. It's not that we think God somehow needs these praises. He doesn't need our acclaim any more than a Mother needs her toddler to affirm her. A mother delights in this moment. Not because she needs to hear the words, but because she loves the child. We are not somehow appeasing the Divine by our songs; instead, they are a delight to our God because we are a delight to our God. The Eternal One delights in our taking something beautiful and bringing it to God.
2. Music Matters to God's People
There is something to be learned from centuries of tradition that can help us tap into something we may have otherwise not discovered on our own. For the Church, singing is one of these traditions. It's something the Church has done for thousands of years, spending countless hours in the composition and singing of music. This same tradition we find ourselves in tells us that singing is somehow an essential part of worship.
Jesus Himself participates in the singing of songs in Mt 26:30 Mk 14:26. It is not a stretch to imagine the Son of God, creator of all things visible and invisible singing more than in this instance. Especially given the place music holds in the Old Testament.
The Psalms were written to be sung as prayers. They contain beautiful Hebrew poetic structures and would be accompanied by music. Music such as this was used in both the personal and corporate prayer lives of Israel (1 Ch 15:16). The Church carried on this tradition of worship in song from its inception up until today.
3. Singing Changes Us
When we sing, we do not merely sing, we "sing to." Perhaps it would be better to say we "sing for." We sing believing that our singing actually does something. Our songs of praise engage us with a God who renews and remakes. Singing is not an emotional placebo but plays an important role, vital to spiritual health.
The Church's consistent use of song in worship served to teach essential tenants of Spiritual and Theological truth. With the majority of Christians throughout history being mostly illiterate one of the ways the Church teaches what it believes was and is through song. Songs of worship catechize the people of God, discipling us by teaching us who God is and what Jesus has done for us. So when we sing, we sing for the community. We remind each other of what we believe to be true. We tell each other the nature of God and His great love for each one of us week in and week out. This shapes and forms us as a community. It disciples us and rightly situates us before God and in the world we live in.
But we don't only remind each other, we remind ourselves. Worship serves to prompt and challenge what we believe. As we sing songs of praise, we encounter the Divine and are reminded of His goodness and love, often in the face of the previous week's experiences. And this is precisely the point. Worship has an orienting effect on each of us if we will give ourselves over to the process.
So Let’s Sing!
Worship through song shapes our hearts and minds. It points us towards God and reminds us and one another of who He is. Together as we stand and sing we not only please the Lord who gave His life for us, we also proclaim the unity we have in Jesus. We lay aside our differences, and we declare that in Christ, there is no man or woman, no slave or free, but we are one.
So each week, we gather together and participate in this critical work of renewal and restoration. We engage and stir our hearts and souls by singing to God who delights in His children coming to Him in earnest attempts to create beauty and goodness on His behalf. We join our siblings of the faith who have gone before us as we sing to one another, reminding each other of God's work and plan for us. And we sing so that we are personally renewed, revived, and regenerated through the God who meets us in our worship and transforms us by grace. Will you join us? Will you rightly see each aspect of the Sunday service as an essential element of worship and give it its place in your life? Will you sing to the Lord?