Singing has always been a part of my life. My past includes singing in church, singing in high school madrigal choir, and singing in theater stage productions.
As a young boy, I loved to sing. But I soon learned that singing with exuberance is bad. Our Sunday School always began in general assembly. Mrs. DeFrega played the piano and led all of us 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders in singing classic children’s songs like “Deep and Wide,” “This Little Light of Mine,” “I’ve Got a Mansion, Just Over the Hilltop,” “Is the Flag Flown High in the Castle of Your Heart,” and of course, “Jesus Loves Me, This I know.” One day, as my older brother and I walked home from Sunday School, he told me that he would beat me up, if I didn’t stop embarrassing him by singing out so loud. He told me that he didn’t like to sing and made it clear that I shouldn’t either.
18 years later, during our first year of marriage, I was the president of a 100 voice choir and orchestra at church. My young bride tried to compliment me after services each Sunday, saying “I heard your voice out of all the others today.” I finally ended up telling her that this was an insult, because I wanted to blend. (Our music pastor wanted that, also.) Patti’s desire was to encourage me; she meant well. But, like my Sunday School experience with my big brother, it only inspired me to withdraw in singing and be self-conscious.
You may have an experience from your past that influences the way you sing in public (like a church service.) You might be able to recall something that makes you put forth tepid worship, instead of the exuberance that the Psalms call for. My hope is that this short writing might influence you to leave it all in your past. It’s time to move on. Our God is worth it - even if you don’t think your voice is very good. (Besides, my big brother is 900 miles away and unable to intimidate you.)
Singing is essential to the Christian life and essential in the life of congregational worship. This is not a matter of my personal opinion. The Scriptures teach quite a bit about why singing is essential when God’s people gather as a congregation.
There are a multitude of commands, exhortations, and encouragements to sing and praise the Lord in vocal participation as a congregation. Christian author, Bob Kauflin, says that the Bible has over four hundred indirect references to singing and at least fifty direct commands to sing. Below is a small sampling.
- Psalm 149:1, “Praise the Lord! Sing a new song to the Lord, And His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.”
- Psalm 22:25, “From You comes my praise in the great assembly; I shall pay my vows before those who fear Him.”
- Psalm 57:9, “I will praise You, Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to You among the nations.”
- Psalm 111:1, “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart, In the company of the upright and in the assembly.”
- Psalm 47:6, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; Sing praises to our King, sing praises.”
- Psalm 96:1, “Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord, all the earth.”
- Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16b are addressed to congregations instructing them to sing (speak) to one another through music.
Genuine Worship in Singing is produced by the Holy Spirit. True worship isn’t about the external music, the ‘act’ of singing, frequency of singing, or number of songs on Sundays. True worship through singing comes from the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s heart. Here is a passage that is key to our understanding of where worship emanates:
Ephesians 5:18-19 (ESV)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,
True worship supernaturally emanates from the heart (v. 19) of a Spirit-filled life, which connects back to a life of walking in obedience to Christ (v. 18). In other words, v. 19 is a result of v. 18. A Spirit-filled Christian has a praise-filled heart toward the Lord.
Colossians 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 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. 17 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.
John MacArthur (in his commentary on Ephesians) says it this way:
“The Spirit-filled life produces music. Whether he has a good voice or cannot carry a tune, the Spirit-filled Christian is a singing Christian. Nothing is more indicative of a fulfilled life, a contented soul, and a happy heart than the expression of song.”
Every Christian should be a singing Christian, and every voice in the congregation matters. You could even say that your voice is essential.