I have been singing since the fifth grade. I’ve been in audition-only honors choirs, taken voice lessons, sang in musicals, and even toured Ireland and Scotland with my college chorale.
And I have a confession. Sometimes, I don’t sing in church.
There is just something about singing in church that feels different than singing with a school choir. Hymns are different than choir arrangements. The tune is usually simple enough for a congregation to figure it out without hours of rehearsals and the old-English lyrics are sometimes confusing.
What is a bulwark (“A Mighty Fortress is Our God)? What is a buckler (“For We Are Strangers No More”)? Why are we raising our Ebenezer (Come Thy Font of Every Blessing) and are we talking about Ebenezer Scrooge, from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”?
These are questions that I have asked myself while singing hymns After doing some research, I did find out that a bulwark is a wall, a buckler is a shield, and Ebenezer was a rock that Samuel raised in the air saying that God had helped the Israelites defeat the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:12). Still, it is easy to get stuck on the confusing words and whisper to the person next to you, “Hey, what is a bulwark, anyway?”
But if we fail to sing in church, we are missing out on a major component of worship.
In a blog post titled, “Why You Need to Sing Loudly in Church,” composer Keith Getty writes that singing in church is on the decline (you may have heard of Getty, or at least know of his work. He wrote “In Christ Alone” with his wife, Kristyn). Christians come to church, pray in church and listen in church. And when it comes time to sing, some of us stand there awkwardly, mouthing the words, or busy ourselves getting a tissue out of our purse.
What is up with that?
Getty gives three main reasons why we need to stop this nonsense, and sing to our God.
1. We are commanded to sing.
It is right there in the Bible. According to Getty, scripture commands us to sing over 250 times. “It’s not a choice. It’s not dependent on ‘feeling like it,’" he writes.
Here it is in Psalm 100:1-2 (KJV): “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”
I suddenly feel very guilty. Refusing to sing in church is openly defying scripture. If that doesn’t motivate you to start singing praises, I do not know what will.
2. Singing together completes our joy and expresses our solidarity.
Getty compares singing in church to watching March Madness. Duke just beat the Wisconsin in the final game of the NCAA. If Duke is your team, the win itself wasn’t enough. You wanted to share that excitement with family and friends (hopefully, without gloating).
In the same way, singing in church completes our experience of worship. Getty says, “Singing together reminds us — not just intellectually, but experientially — that we are not slaves to the rugged individualism promoted by society. We’re actually responsible to one another.”
3. Singing affects us emotionally and bears testimony to our faith.
According to Getty, “We are what we sing.” Music affects us on a deeply emotional level, whether we are aware of it or not. Getty writes that in his grandfather’s final days, he did not remember his grandson’s name and could not accomplish ordinary tasks, but could still recite the lines of the hymns that he studied every week for years. “When we are intentional about singing and the songs we sing, we build up a testimony that will travel with us through life,” Getty says.
Singing praises is also a way of giving our testimony. Do we want to look like an “excited believer” or a “disinterested spectator” to those who see us in church? Remember, not everyone in church is a Christian. There are visitors and there are those who attend but do not truly believe. Your singing can inspire those around you to turn to the One for whom you sing praises.
Getty said, “Ultimately, those who may feel they are on the outside looking in will, from the deepest part of themselves, respond to authentic and passionate singing to discover the truth held in the God songs we sing.”
And that, brothers and sisters, is truly a reason to sing.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.