singing worship2It is an oft-heard complaint of Worship Leaders and Pastors who are paying attention. “Our people are not singing in worship.” What are we “doing wrong? What can we do?”

Common questions with all too common answers. Quite often they are answers that address the practical side of the problem, but miss the mark. Let’s take the question of “what can we do?” Reactions include the following:

  • New songs
  • Old songs
  • New updated arrangements
  • Modernized instrumentation
  • Relax the atmosphere
  • Change the lighting
  • Pump up the volume of the band
  • Turn down the volume of the band
  • Have the organ play louder
  • Have the organ quit playing – or just can the organ
  • Get a new leader that is younger with more experience – huh?
  • Send the Worship Leader out to observe worship in “successful” churches and do what they are doing

And the list goes on. We could debate the objective of each of these, and certainly could debate the observable results ‘til the proverbial cows come home. (it’s an old farm expression, millenials).

Can we hit pause a minute and consider biblical instruction? What do we do when our people are not singing in worship? Our inclination is to do what we can do. Quite frankly, we have been doing what we can do with abysmal results. I have heard it said that some churches can do what they do without the Holy Spirit. If this is so, and where it is so, surely we have completely lost our way. Pastor and hymn writer, George Atkins had it right back in 1819, “All is vain unless the Spirit of the Holy One comes down.” Only the Spirit can bring us together in unity, place on display the power of the Gospel, and minister to everyone at once. Consider what the Word says to us:

18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21) Italics mine.

Note the first exhortation here, don’t get drunk, be filled with the Spirit instead. Also note the repertoire of “psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs,” and the spirit of submission to one another – serving with a thankful heart. What a picture! Serving and singing. I would go as far as to say serving by singing. There is no press here for new, old, loud, or soft. The New Testament addresses the spirit of our singing, and the Spirit in our worship.  Our need is for singing in spirit and truth – and in the Spirit there is truth. One of the activities of the Holy Spirit is to reveal to us the truth of the Word. Remember what Jesus said to the woman at Jacob’s well at Sychar?

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:23-24)

Verily I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. (John 14:12)

Hear what Pastor J.D. Grear says in his book, Jesus Continued, “The Holy Spirit was given to harvest what Christ’s death had purchased. Jesus had ransomed for himself a people from all nations, and the Holy Spirit had come to gather the harvest.” (pg. 52)

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

Consider, in our worship. The Spirit guides, speaks, and moves. In Acts the disciples are merely trying to keep up. “At their worst, they are obstructions. In fact they seem to spend a lot of time in Acts arguing with the Spirit (Acts 9:13-14; 10:14-16) (Jesus Continued pg. 26)

Jesus believed the Spirit would be a better teacher than even he was. “The Spirit could apply the Word more powerfully than he did, because he would speak it into the deep recesses of our heart at just the right moments.” (John 14:25-26; 16:5-14; 1 John 2;27-28) (Grear 26)

Apart from me, you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

Holy Spirit, fill us with Your love and power that in our worship our singing might bring glory to You, Father, Son and Spirit. Give us faith to trust You as the sole source of power. Let our leaders apply the skills of their craft as You direct.

Let us love our God supremely, let us love each other too

Let us love and pray for sinners, ‘til our God makes all things new

Then He’ll call us home to heaven, at His table we’ll sit down

Christ Himself will gird himself and serve us with sweet manna all around.

                                                                        – from Baptist Hymnal 2008

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