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.
Have you ever wondered why we sing in our worship to God? Some do. I have encountered some brethren from time to time who have no desire to attend “song services,” worship assemblies which are completely devoted to singing. They say, “Why in the world do we sing? It’s a waste of time. I get nothing out of it.”
It’s sadly ironic that some look at singing praises to God in this way, especially those who value spiritual instruction over singing. They apparently fail to realize that singing is yet another way God has designed for His followers to be spiritually instructed and edified. Look at Colossians 3:16. How does “the word of Christ dwell in you richly”? How do we “teach and admonish one another”? How do we do so “in all wisdom”? How do you show “thankfulness in your hearts to God”?
I think a lot of us forget this. That’s why musical worship has gotten so far removed from what God would have it to be as revealed in His Word. We’ve forgotten the divine purpose for our singing.
Churchgoers tend to go to two extremes with worship. One extreme comes when some might be so self-centered in their subconscious desire to be entertained (cf. Ezek. 33:30-32) that they turn the worship service into a concert atmosphere with choirs, hand-clapping, pianos, guitars, drums, and dancing in the aisles. Reverence to God – making Him the focus – goes flying out the window, as does any desire to simply give Him what He asked (as revealed in verses like Colossians 3:16). This mindset is the reason behind the error of instrumental music in worship, which we’ll discuss in greater detail in a future article. Yet even those who sing a cappella may still be guilty of focusing on self while doing so. For example, what are we doing if we focus on whether a song chosen by the song leader is one which we like? What are we doing if we put more emphasis on making sure we harmonize than we do on the message of the lyrics? If we focus on what entertains and pleases us about the song, does the song really help “the word of Christ to dwell in us richly”? If one focuses on making sure that they’re singing the bass part just right, how can they pay attention to any “teaching” or “admonishment” which they may need to hear in the lyrics of the song?
The other extreme is the exact opposite of the concert atmosphere: somber, mournful ritualism. This happens when a song of thanksgiving (Amazing Grace, Sing and Be Happy) is sung with the sorrowful tones and mood which would be appropriate for Night With Ebon Pinion. Song leaders regularly report of seeing somber, moody, sorrowful faces in the pews, no matter how joyful the lyrics may be. Some song leaders look mournful themselves as they lead singing, showing none of the enthusiasm or happiness which, if seen, might motivate those in the pews to feel the same. This extreme comes from a desire to avoid the entertainment atmosphere…but it might also come from a ritualistic approach to worship which is equally wrong. We tend to take for granted what we do regularly for a long time. That certainly can happen in worship services. When it does, it becomes easier for our minds to wander while we sing.
Jesus condemned this kind of worship (Matt. 15:8), and rightfully so. When we think of other things while singing, how can “the word of Christ dwell in us richly”? If our mind wanders why we sing Angry Words, how can the lyrics “teach and admonish” us to control our anger and watch what we say? How can we be filled with the “thankfulness in our hearts to God” which the lyrics of It Is Well With My Soul call for when we’re not even thinking about what we’re singing?
Worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24) requires self-control (Gal. 5:23), the conscious decision to give God honor and reverence while singing. We’ll examine this further next week…