A few weeks ago, my family and I were in South India, in the state of Kerala, to visit my parents and my sister and her family. While we were there, we were blessed to attend the church gathering at my parent’s church, which is held fully in Malayalam, the language of the state of Kerala. Although my wife was not able to understand the language, she was encouraged to hear the people of God sing and to see their joy in doing so. She could not understand the lyrics, but it was the posture of the heart and expression of gratitude that was seen on the faces of those singing that encouraged her heart to exalt the Lord, even in a foreign tongue!
This got me thinking of our Corporate Worship at HBC and the role of singing in our church.
So, what happens when God’s people sing?
Ephesians 5:18-21 will help guide us.
but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
- It proclaims the Glory of the Triune God. When we sing, the triune God is glorified. By being filled with the Spirit, God’s people can sing and make melody to God through His Son Jesus Christ. We are worshiping the triune God when we sing. Songs like “Holy Holy Holy” wonderfully proclaim “God in Three persons Blessed Trinity”.
- We are to sing to the Lord with our hearts. Every song we sing must be God-centered overflowing out of a heart that understands the magnitude of His love for us. There is nothing else that our hearts ought to be drawn towards than Christ Himself and His redeeming work. The Church is to remember that Jesus is its head and as His bride we look to Him and adore Him through the songs we sing. We ought to allow our God-given emotions to naturally flow because of the depths of biblical truths we sing. When we allow the Word to sink into our hearts in song, it is only natural for us to be moved in our hearts to give Him the praise that He alone is worthy of. I can’t help but be moved in my heart when I sing such rich theology. An example of this is the hymn “When peace like a river” in which it states
My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
- We are to sing united: Every time we see footy clubs singing (or trying to) or even when our national anthem is sung, there is a sense of the people singing being united to the cause they represent. Similarly in the church, through song God’s people are united together while proclaiming the greatness and majesty of the God they worship. Ephesians 2:14 states “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. This would mean that sometimes there may be certain styles and arrangements that may not suit our tastes, but when we see our fellow brothers and sisters affirming God’s Word in song, we too are willingly submitting to one another for the unity that our Lord Jesus Christ died to achieve.
Here are some practical steps we can take the next time we gather to sing:
- Be familiar with the songs beforehand: The HBC weekly bulletin is sent out on Fridays and lists what songs we are singing on Sunday. It would be helpful if we could all ponder on these songs beforehand and if they are unfamiliar or new to you, try listening and becoming familiar so you can sing and engage your hearts more easily.
- Call to worship prepares us to sing: I find the Call to Worship particularly helpful to quieten my heart in preparation to sing. Examine your hearts and seek the Lord if there is anything that will hinder you from worshiping Him in spirit and truth. Remember the Lord sees what’s on the inside while man can only see outwardly. Let us come before Him in humility and contrition as we offer our sacrifices, which is pleasing to the Lord.
- Keep Christ in focus as you sing: We have the privilege as a church to sing Christ-exalting hymns and songs each week and when you sing, let the words move you to worship the Lord in song because of the truths of His Word. Let Christ be your focus as you allow the words to sink into your heart. Let our singing not be halfhearted or merely lip service. May we worship the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength – this may include physical expression as we respond to the awe and love we have for our Saviour. May we fear God more than we fear man and worship him with joy and thankfulness. We are saved individually and personally by Christ to then be united as His Church. So sing beloved, to the Lord, for His Great Salvation.
- Pray for the service: And finally, each time we gather let us pray for one another. This could be praying for the Music team, or AV team, praying for the preaching of God’s Word and singing of God’s Word. Whether seen or unseen, there are many hands that labour for the Kingdom when God’s people gather.
There is much more to say about singing, but I will limit my post here. May God’s people make the most of their God-given gift of singing as we proclaim the glory of our triune God, as we sing to the Lord with our hearts and as we sing together in unity as redeemed saints submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria!