This past week I read an article titled “Nine Reasons People Aren’t Singing in Worship.” The author gave several reasons—from disengaged worship leader, to complex hymns and arrangements, to entertainment driven worship—as to why the regular member doesn’t “just sing.” This didn’t come as a surprise as I have witnessed similar articles and struggles in the past few years. Even recently there was a symposium with a variety of popular speakers titled “Sing!” in an effort to encourage engagement in worship. No doubt, this is a struggle that the church of Christ experiences as well. Yet, as I read these articles, I couldn’t help but be thankful for our practice of congregational, A Capella singing.
Sadly, every year it seems we experience more congregations renouncing this great, spiritual heritage. I am afraid that, if we aren’t careful, we can become like Israel of old: adopting patterns simply to be like “the nations around us” (Deut. 17:14). Occasionally, we need to remind ourselves of why we “just sing.” Here are a few reasons.
Because its Biblical. As Christians, the New Covenant/Testament is our guide. The words of Christ and His apostles are our foundation (Eph. 2:20). Therefore, our first answer is always “What does the Bible say?” or “What do the scriptures teach?” Within the New Testament we witness commands to sing (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), yet we are met with silence when it comes to the use of instruments. In the Old Testament, God was very specific about when and in what context he desired instruments, but within the New Testament not a note (pun intended) can be found. This should give us pause. Surely there were capable musicians within the early church which could have used their talents in this way. If not, the Spirit could have equipped them with such gifts to bless the church (1 Cor. 14:26). Yet, we don’t see this occurring. This specific command, coupled with absolute silence, is what we refer to as the “silence of scriptures.”
Silence in this instance would be prohibitive, not permissive. Similar to when God gave Noah the specific command to use “gopher wood” (Gen. 6:14) and yet was silent on any other wood (oak, cedar, ash, etc.). God didn’t have to make a list of woods Noah couldn’t use; the simple command, coupled with absolute silence, informed Noah on what wood God desired.
If we want to please God in all that we do (and I know that’s your desire as well), then we must seek out His truth concerning worship (John 4:23-24). That being the case, the Biblical pattern for New Testament worship is the congregational singing of God’s people without the use of instruments.
Because its Basic. I know this may seem like an odd point to bring up, but the more I read about the complicated worship assemblies that the religious world employs—and the resulting problems from that—the more I appreciate the simple, congregational singing of God’s people.
Many church groups tend to have the “worship by proxy” model; that is, allowing someone else to entertain/worship on your behalf while you “experience” the event. Yet, worship has never been a spectator’s sport; it involves the entirety of our being. God wants the the church engaged in mind and spirit with worship (1 Cor. 14:15).
Not everyone can play the guitar or piano, or even get on stage and sing with great talent, but everyone can sing. Even those who claim to be tone deaf must recognize that it’s the “tune of the heart” God is looking for (Eph. 5:19). This practice also insulates us from the many problems associated with such extravagant assemblies—as well as the resulting lack of involvement from the church that we mentioned earlier. If someone can worship for you, and do a much better job, why not just sit back and enjoy the show? The basic Biblical model, although simplistic from worldly standards, stands as a substantive alternative to rock concert Christianity of contemporary worship.
Because it is Beneficial. The longer I am a Christian, the more I realize how much I need worship. By the end of the week, my spirit needs to be refreshed. I need to hear the chorus of God’s people, singing with one voice to their King. What a beautiful thing it is.
Paul speaks of the benefits of singing to each other in Ephesians 5:18-19 and Colossians 3:16: we are filled with the Spirit; we address one another (with truth and love); we remind each other of how much God has given us through Jesus (giving thanks); the word of Christ “dwells in us richly”; and we teach and admonish one another in all wisdom. In view of this, we can’t help but realize what we are robbing ourselves of when we refuse to worship! Paul informs us that worship is more than “just singing”—something transcendent occurs when we praise our God together.
While I realize this may not convince some to reject the use of instruments within Christian worship, I do hope it helps to remind us of the beauty and blessing of this basic, Biblical, but beneficial practice.