“Let the word of Christ dwell richly among you, in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another through psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” – Colossians 3:16
Some of us may not give much thought to singing as part of our worship. We may have a favorite hymn or two, and we enjoy listening to the singing even if we don’t think we have the voice to contribute to it. But have we considered the purpose of singing?
I’ve been privileged to be a song leader for fifty years, with congregations from just a few to more than a thousand. Like everyone else, I have hymns and songs that speak to me more than others. But I’ve come to understand what I do is more than just starting on the right pitch and keeping everyone at the same tempo (more or less). I am engaged in a ministry just as important as the one presenting the sermon.
We tend to focus on the music, particularly the harmonizing. Small groups sometimes envy larger ones because of the quality of the vocal harmony. It’s natural to be moved by the power and beauty of acapella singing. But if that’s our focus, we’ve missed the purpose of why we sing.
Paul tells us in the above verse why we sing as the Lord’s church. Let us consider:
- We are teachers and encouragers. When you sing a hymn, you are teaching those who hear it and encouraging your brothers and sisters to strengthen their faith. We may not think of ourselves as teachers, and we may be intimidated to think of sharing our faith with anyone else. But that’s exactly what we’re doing when we sing.
- We are expressing our thanks to God. Our worship is our expression of gratitude to God for the multitude of blessings he pours out on us each day. It is reflected in all aspects of our worship, but especially in our singing. We sing with joy in thanks to God. It is as much a gift as putting our contribution in the collection plate.
If we consider what we sing is a source of instruction and encouragement, we understand the importance of having our hearts and minds fully engaged in the process. The quality of the singing is not as important as the enthusiasm and effort because our focus should be on lifting one another up and giving the best of ourselves to God.
Each of us has a preference for a particular type of song, be it the traditional hymns or the more contemporary praise songs. Both have their place, and both can bring us closer in our relationship with God. The value is not in the melody but the message they express. If our singing is to be a ministry to each other and a praise to God, we need to be mindful of the message we are sharing through our song.
I encourage each of us to think about what we are doing when we sing. Let the words of each song speak to us as we sing them to each other and God. Sing with joy, recognizing the privilege of expressing our praise and thanks to a God who has relentlessly sought us and paid a horrible price to call us His own, a God who tenderly cares for us constantly and has promised to always be with us. Let His awe overwhelm us and then let our voices express it.