Some folks may be weirded out or confused about why we insist on singing in church services. It is a rather unique aspect of Christianity and I don’t blame people with little to no exposure to church for questioning why it’s necessary. Some people aren’t particularly musical so why do we “force” these people to sing?
There are tons of reasons why we sing and even more reasons why we structure liturgies the way we do. Each church does it a little different but pretty much every evangelical church has a time for congregational singing. I don’t claim to have insight into every churches’ justification for their liturgy, but I was struck by something this week: a big reason why I sing and a good reason why we sing in church.
We sing about what we love, at least I do anyway. I make up nonsense songs all the time and one of the more frequent subjects of my songs is my dog. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t really understand that I’m admiring her, or maybe it’s because she does, but I will often break out in song when I see her. The songs go something like this:
She’s a girl, she’s a girl
She’s a little Wendy girl
She’s a dog and a girl
She’s a sweeeeet Wendy giiiiiiirl
Brilliant, I know. She usually sits with her head cocked looking at me like I’m crazy. What am I doing in my song? I’m naming her attributes: Girl, little, dog, and sweet were the attributes that spontaneously came to mind to praise. I noticed myself singing a spontaneous song to her the other day which contained the lines:
You’re the only Wendy dooooog!
There’s only one!
Here I was praising her uniqueness. And that’s when it struck me that this is what we’re doing, or what we should be doing, when we sing to God. Because His is infinitely praiseworthy! He has ultimate uniqueness–in fact He is entirely holy (other).
When we sing about God we name His attributes. It should spontaneously bubble out of our hearts to sing about His goodness, His sovereignty, His Trinitarian nature, His justice, His love. We should find ourselves amazed by his uniqueness and sing:
You’re the only God in the universe!
There’s only One!
And then we go a step further to thank and praise God for what He has done, especially in redeeming us through Jesus Christ. See, my Wendy dog hasn’t really done anything for me to speak of. I could perhaps sing:
Wendy, you have licked my face
And your fur is spread far and wide!
But I’m not especially grateful for those things, certainly not enough to sing about it. What God has done in Christ is the greatest gift of all time and causes my heart to spontaneously leap in song!
God, you have freed me from sin
And your grace is spread far and wide!
Furthermore, my impromptu songs to the dog usually conclude with smothering her in cuddles and belly-rubs. I don’t know about your church, but sometimes the end of our songs get a little loud. There’s clapping, shouting, jumping, and arm waving. What in the world are we doing? One way to look at it is an attempt to “smother God” in affection in the same way I conclude my spontaneous love songs to my dog.
Perhaps you think this all very simplistic and maybe even blasphemous to compare singing to my puppy to singing to God. What I’m trying to say is that the heart motivation of our singing is genuine affection. If your heart is not stirred by God in any way, you probably will have a hard time singing in church. If you find yourself weirded out or annoyed by the amount of singing you’re forced to do in church, take stock of your heart and see where your affections lie. Pray that your praise would be directed toward One who is infinitely praiseworthy and then lift up your voice with the saints! He is worthy!