How To Sing A Song In Church

"Singing is part of our enjoyment and embracing of a holy, loving God who sent His Son to die on our behalf."    

One of the strangest things that Christians do is get together in the same room and sing. For someone new to a church service, it's an odd idea. It's clearly not a concert (hopefully), so it's not so much singing along with your favorite band. It's more like the band is playing so you can sing. It's not really karaoke, even though there are words on the screen, because no one is showing off or drawing attention to themselves. (Plus there's no weird images behind the words.) The closest category most people have is singing kumbaya at kids camp, but there's no campfire and people in church aren't singing for fun, they're singing for keeps.

For Christians, though, singing is very normal. Even for those who aren't naturally musical, singing together quickly becomes an everyday kind of experience. Most people find that singing together is actually pretty fun, especially when the people around you think it's socially acceptable. Humans have always made music; it's built into us on some level. Once we get comfortable with singing in a room with other people, we tend to just go with it.

Sometimes singing together in church can get too normal. It becomes part of the background scenery of our worship service—the stuff that we all know we're going to do, and we hope is enjoyable, before the real stuff, like the sermon. But the Bible tells us that our singing together is more than background scenery and more than something we should just go with. Singing is part of our enjoyment and embracing of a holy, loving God who sent His Son to die on our behalf. It is one way that we "let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing songs and hymns and spiritual songs..." (Col 3:16). When we sing we are leveraging the power of music to open up our hearts together, declare the truth about the glory of Jesus, and press it into our souls.

How do you sing this way in church? Here are a few ways:

1. Use the Words.
Don't just sing the words, use the words. The songs we sing at Cornerstone are selected because of the way they express spiritual truth from scripture. It's easy to just sing along, bouncing from one familiar Bible phrase to another. But when we sing "how deep the Father's love for us, how vast beyond all measure," we we are putting what God has declared to us in front of our eyes. Use these words to remind your soul what God has done for you. Meditate on the depth of the Father's love. When you sing "that he should give His only Son to make a wretch his treasure," bring those words together with your heart. Declare them to yourself, sing them into your soul as a reminder of the size of God's love for you. And as you find yourself responding—as you find your heart warming to God's truth—sing them from your soul as a declaration to yourself, others, and the whole world of the depth of Jesus' sacrifice and the vastness of God's grace. Don't just sing the words, use them.

2. Use the Music.
There is a reason we don't just read lyrics aloud. Melodies, harmonies, instruments, and arrangements all pair with the lyrics to help us engage with the truth we are singing. There is a reason that the music for In Christ Alone sounds like victory and the music for Lead Me To The Cross sounds like an earnest plea. It's because that music helps us take those words and press them into our soul. We need to be careful not to think music has some special mystical power, but we also need to be careful not to discount music's ability to help us engage our whole selves with God's truth. When you are singing, don't just enjoy the music, and don't think of it as that stuff we have to have so we can sing the words. Use the music as you are singing to help you respond to the truth from your heart. Let the victory music of In Christ Alone help you declare to your heart that "no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from his hand." Use the pleading melody of Lead Me To The Cross to convince your soul that "everything I once held dear, I count it all as loss...lead me to the cross!" Even in instrumental breaks, where there are no words, use the music to take the truths of the song and meditate on them.

3. Sing With Us.
When the Bible talks about singing, it assumes Christians are doing it together. In fact, the New Testament passages that talk about songs say that we are actually singing for each other. In some places, Christian singing looks like trying to forget there are people around you. The Bible says the opposite—you are singing because there are people around you, for the people around you. Instead of trying to sing by yourself in a room full of people, sing with us. We don't just use the words and use the music on our own hearts. By singing, we use the words and use the music on one another! We are meant to be encouraged by those singing around us, and to be an encouragement to those singing around us. When we sing "Praise the one who paid my debt and raised this life up from the dead" we are declaring to one another that he is worth our praise. Singing together is a way we help one another remember the goodness of God in Jesus Christ. Don't just sing alone, sing with us.

This Sunday, we'll have songs in our service. Come use the words and use the music to sing with us and grasp more of the love of God.

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