I’ve always loved to sing. I come from a family of singers. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my mom singing hymns to me to help me fall asleep. You could say music is in my blood. I’ve transferred that love of singing to my local church as well. As long as I have been a Christian I have looked forward to congregational singing. Finding out the songs on Sunday morning when I open my bulletin is like Christmas morning every Sunday. Musical worship stirs my soul and readies my heart for the preached word.
But what if you don’t like to sing? Or maybe you do, but you aren’t much of a singer. Is congregational worship still for you? Does it matter if you stand silently in the pew (or chair) on Sunday morning because you simply don’t (or can’t) sing?
I think so.
I have been reading through the Psalms this week and been struck by the frequent references to musical praise. While the musical instruments may have changed over the years, musical worship has always been part of God’s economy. In fact, many of the psalms in the Bible were originally intended for musical worship. The psalmist meant for them to be sung congregationally.
Psalm 33:2-3 says:
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre; make melody to him with the harp of ten strings! Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.
Psalm 89:1 says:
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
And again in Psalm 91:1-4 (a song specifically designed for the Sabbath, the holiest day): It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
So what does all of this have to do with us, in the 21st century? Musical worship is not a new, modern idea invented by people who want to get more young people in the doors of our churches. While the mode and style of musical worship might influence why a person attends a particular church, the act of musical worship is a universal privilege for all believers, regardless of preferences or denomination.
The psalms are far more concerned with what we sing, not necessarily how we sing. Of course, what we sing has implications for how we sing, and often how we sing reveals what we believe about the One we are singing to. But for brevity’s sake, I want to encourage us to think primarily about why all of us, good and bad singers alike, should strive to be active worshipers when it comes to congregational singing.
Psalm 92 is a good place to start. Like I already said, it’s a psalm for the Sabbath, which was the Jewish day of worship. The Sabbath was our Sunday. So this psalm was meant for God’s people to use in worship of him. Because he has authority over all things, including us, this means our musical worship of him must be under his authority. He cares about how we worship him. To say it another way, he wants us to worship him in the way he prescribes and with our entire beings. Singing praises to God should be a delight to our soul. Musical worship is God’s plan for his people. Music stirs our affections and draws us out. Even secular music does this for us, right? Music causes us to feel deeply. And this is a gift to us. When we sing our hearts should be stirred to remember God and his ways. So if you are struggling with a desire to sing on Sunday morning whether because of lack of talent or lack of interest, remember this, dear Christian. Singing to God, as described in God’s word, is the overflow of a joyful heart in God alone. We should delight in singing to God because we delight in the truths of God. Congregational singing is not as much about the talent of the one singing as much as it is about the object of our singing—God. Our collective singing on Sunday morning should be a rich reminder of the goodness of his ways, the power of the cross, and the treasure that God is for us in Christ.
We sing because we love God, not because we are the next Whitney Houston. Making a joyful noise is more about the One who makes us joyful than the squeaky noise coming from our vocal chords.
So sing with all your might, my friend. Let the truths of God’s word stir your heart to worship him in song as you praise him for all he is for you in Christ.