By Lisa Huddleston
“Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)
Ever had a song stuck in your head? Try as you may you can’t make that melody go away. You go to sleep with it ringing in your ears and wake up to the same tune. It can drive you crazy. Well, this is sort of like that, but what I have stuck in my head is not a song but thoughts about singing or more specifically about worship—why we sing.
Understand where I’m coming from. I live in a house full of music. My kids all play instruments and sing. Our family has a small music ministry. My husband, daughter, and I sing in the church choir and rotate on the Praise Team, and my son plays in the Worship Band. I serve on the Music Search Committee and the Worship Planning Team, and I recently attended a wonderful, two-day conference for Tennessee Music Ministry Leaders. (Thanks TBC Worship and Music Ministry.) I’ve got singin’ on the brain! So, if you’ll allow, I’d like to clarify my thoughts on paper (or cyberspace) and to start a discussion with my fellow believers about what it means to come together to worship our God in song. I write not to bicker about what we sing, but rather to focus our thoughts on the why. Much of what I share here comes from notes I took from Pastor Eric Schumacher’s (Northbrook Baptist Church, Cedar Rapids, Iowa) sermons at the TBC conference, and for his insights, I am grateful.
For many years, I have assumed that our times of gathered worship were all about God. That those who came to church to receive something were being selfish and not appropriately focused. I felt that worship was a vertical-only experience and that I shouldn’t worry about what I would gain from it. It was my duty to worship, and I was going to do it whether I liked it or not. I was wrong. Just as those who come to church only to get a warm, fuzzy feeling by singing the songs they love are also wrong. Worship is a 3-dimensional experience. As horizontal as it is vertical. And as the Apostle Paul writes to the Ephesians and Colossians, worship is a conversation. In Ephesians 5:18-21 he says, “… be filled with the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music to the Lord in your heart.” And in Colossians, Paul guides, “Let the message about the Messiah [The Gospel] dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing….”
Worship is a satisfying experience! In both of his letters, Paul tells of how we are to be filled in our times of gathering together. Filled with the Spirit and with the Word. Just the idea of such satisfaction makes me smile. God calls us together to fill us. And after being filled we are to share—in song. Isn’t that an incredible thought? We are to teach and admonish each other, and others who may be in our midst, about Christ and His sacrifice for us in the words of the songs we sing (horizontal). It’s the words that tell the story. And we are to sing them with gratitude in our hearts to the God who made us whole (vertical). He alone is worthy of our praise!
We sing for one another: to speak and hear the Gospel, to encourage and to be encouraged in the way of Truth, to be filled with His Spirit and His Word. And we sing for God: to give Him thanks, to acknowledge His holiness and that He alone is worthy of glory, honor, and praise. Come on church—join in the conversation. Lift up your voice and sing!
Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing
Eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ the King!
The hope of all who seek Him, the help of all who find,
None other is so loving, so good and kind …
You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.
–“He Lives,” Alfred H. Ackley