I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:15)
Congregational singing is one of the most distinctive aspects of our public worship in churches of Christ. It’s certainly the one that stands out to visitors to our services because it is relatively unusual in contemporary Western Christianity; most religious groups over the last 150 or so years have moved to featuring various instruments in their assemblies. That immediately draws attention to our practice in comparison – attention that can be either good or bad depending on the quality of our song service. Whether we like it or not, whether it is Scripturally or theologically appropriate or not, our public worship is what makes a first impression on outsiders. Our song service is a big part of that. What impression will we make?
Of course, there are far more weighty reasons to be concerned about singing in our assemblies. There are two dimensions to our hymns: vertical and horizontal. That is, our singing is directed toward God in praise – it is worship! – and toward one another in instruction. Both of these aspects are critically important.
In singing, we praise God for who he is and for his mighty acts. We confess our faith in him. We have an excellent practical example of that, outside of the worship assembly, from the jail cell in Philippi where at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God (Acts 16:25). The Hebrews writer talks about our praising God in song: Through Him therefore let us constantly and at all times offer up to God a sacrifice of praise, which is the fruit of lips that thankfully acknowledge and confess and glorify His name(Hebrews 13:15, amp). A number of Psalms also make this connection between worship and singing, not only in that they are songs themselves, but in their content: For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations, and sing to your name (Psalms 18:49).
But even though our singing is offered to God as worship, there is also a benefit to us. There is a conversation going on here. As Paul puts it in Colossians 3:16, 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. The parallel passage in Ephesians 5:19reminds us that we are speaking to one another.
You see, it is possible to sing a hymn, hit every note perfectly, and still miss the point. The focus isn’t on the music – it’s on the words. Words that should teach about God and his mighty acts. Words that should instruct us in how to live lives that please God. Words that should exhort us in our responsibilities to one another. Conversely, you can sing a song, miss every single note, and worship God with every word you sing. The focus isn’t on the quality of the sound – it’s on the quality of the heart.
With all of that said, 6 weeks from now – May 3rd-5th– we are having a workshop to hopefully enhance both our appreciation and quality of our worship in song. Myron Bruce will be conducting sessions on Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as teaching during our regular times on Sunday. There will also be an area-wide singing on Saturday night. A full schedule with more details is posted on the bulletin board in the foyer.
In some cases, particularly Saturday morning, he will be working with song leaders. But even those sessions, and particularly the ones on Friday evening, are designed to benefit the church as a whole. Though he will be teaching some simple mechanics, this is not a technical singing school with a focus on reading music. Rather, the emphasis is on training the heart: understanding what we do when we sing, appreciating the message of songs, and using the heart as well as the voice to communicate in song. It is on singing with the spirit and singing with the mind also.
Mark it down on your calendar. Make your plans to be here for every session. Invite your friends and neighbors – we will have more details on that in the next week or so. Keep this effort in your prayers. And be sure to sing out this morning!