WORSHIP SINGING THAT EMBODIES THE GOSPEL

group_singing  It is one thing to study the song of worship – lyric and music.  It is quite another to consider what occurs when we sing worship.  Much more has been addressed regarding the former than the latter.  It seems incumbent on worship ministry planners and leaders to relentlessly give thought to both, since the song and the singing intersect and influence one another in the incarnation of the worship being expressed.  Healthy practices in Christian worship do not divorce the “what” from the “how.”  It is the very juxtaposition of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  So, the question is, “When it comes to our worship singing, do we practice what we preach?”

Songs used for worship should surely be subjected to scrutiny as to their biblical affinity.  We won’t rehearse the regulative vs. normative principle of worship here, but at least call attention to a need for clear biblical sensibility when selecting lyrics to place upon the lips of a worshiping congregation.  While words of songs do not need to be word for word the text of the Bible, sola scriptura, it is only reasonable to think that the words we sing would be in keeping with the teaching of scripture, and certainly would not directly conflict with known biblical revelation.  Credulity would demand us to sing worship songs whose lyrics are not contrary to basic biblical doctrines of the congregation that is being asked to sing them.

Just as ironic would be singing that ignores the effectual nature of the gospel it claims to announce and celebrate.  Singing that tends to foster attitudes and dynamics among a people that are contrary to biblical teaching would seem to be just as harmful as singing words of heretical texts.  So, how can we sing in a half-hearted manner when our Bible clearly tells us to sing with our whole hearts?  What’s more, leaders, how can we allow this half-heartedness to be common practice (even expected) without so much as even calling it to worshipers’ attention, much less exercising appropriate admonition and leadership?  Could it be that we have found gratification in our own musical performance such that we have forgotten the congregational purpose, the communal aspect of worship singing?  Have we substituted decibel level and performance of platform personnel for biblical singing of worship? Paul tells us to sing with thanksgiving and to make melody in our heart, filled with the Spirit.  Biblical worship singing would surely reflect such attitudes as well as encourage the same.  And what about unity, hospitality, and preferring of others over ourselves?  Surely these characterize biblical worship singing.  Not much room there for “give me what I want” dimensions.  Worship singing by those who have been redeemed and given the ministry of reconciliation would surely resonate with triumphant tones in singing.  Such singing that would never obsess over its own experience, but rather, draw attention to the One to Whom the whole world is to be reconciled, and sing in a spirit that might awaken spiritual affections in neighbors whose need is for reconciling to God.

While little is said in scripture that would help us know anything at all about acceptable music styles for worship singing, there are many more clear instructions, and descriptions regarding aspects directly related to how we sing, the spirit with which we worship.  The psalms are replete with calls for us to sing joyfully, to sing a new song, to sing with shouts of joy and praise, to play skillfully, to make His praise known among the nations, and to pass on the spirit of praise from generation to generation.  The Bible tells of musicians called out and set apart to lead in worship singing (Levites).  We see songs sung in response to times of the Lord’s blessings and deliverance (celebrations like the Red Sea song with Miriam) and also in times of deep lament and despair (in the night, and by the river in a strange land).  We sing with triumphant procession entering into the temple (the gathering of believers) of worship.  We sing with remembrance and thanksgiving in the presence of the Table of our Lord.  We see singing in the face of adversity, even in prison.  The Apostle Paul instructs us to sing with head and heart as we worship in an orderly manner.  And we gaze upon a vision of singing into eternity around the throne.

For our worship singing to embody the Gospel, surely we who are singing will reflect (mirror) the love of Christ, the spirit of grace, God’s concern for all the world, and clearly desire His glory above all desires, including our experiential satisfaction.  Although it may find variations in ethos and piety from one denomination to the next, even from one congregation to the next, the central truths that characterize the great themes of the Gospel must surely be evident in gatherings of Christian worship.  The gospel must be embodied, not only by what words are sung in worship, but how that worship is sung, and what occurs as result.

When in our music God is glorified,
and adoration leaves no room for pride,
it is as though the whole creation cried
Alleluia!

How often, making music, we have found
a new dimension in the world of sound,
as worship moved us to a more profound
Alleluia!

So has the Church, in liturgy and song,
in faith and love, through centuries of wrong,
borne witness to the truth in every tongue,
Alleluia!

And did not Jesus sing a psalm that night
when utmost evil strove against the Light?
Then let us sing, for whom he won the fight,
Alleluia!

Let every instrument be tuned for praise!
Let all rejoice who have a voice to raise!
And may God give us faith to sing always
Alleluia! Amen.

Words: Fred Pratt Green
Words © 1972 by Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.

Explore posts in the same categories: Choir Ministry, Church keyboard players, Church Music, Congregational Singing, Leading Worship, Music Ministry, Singing Worship, Spiritual formation through singing, Worship Leaders, Worship Pastors, Worship Reminders, Worship theology, Worship thoughts, Youth Worship

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