I am not sure the type of church you grew up in, but most of the churches I grew up in were singing churches. Congregational singing was an important value. Why? Because it?s important to gather to proclaim the name of Jesus, and because I believe it?s clear in the Scriptures. It was something that I always loved about the churches I grew up in. Now, if I were being honest, there were some days that it was far more emotional than spiritual, but that?s a discernment issue for another day. #theologymatters
We can track congregational singing all the way back to the early church. The New Testament doesn?t give us a ton of information on congregational singing, but we do know that Jesus and His disciples were singing the Scriptures before going out to the Mount of Olives. What a thought! The very same Scriptures we sing from today. Also, Paul encouraged it, and the book of Revelation contains teachings and examples as well that we pull from. The significance of musical worship and singing is all over the Old Testament. Look at 1 Chronicles 6:31, ?Now these are those whom David appointed over the service of song in the house of the LORD, after the ark rested there??
The takeaway? It was congregational. Not just the person leading the songs or in front of the crowd, but everyone. When this happens, I believe God?s manifest presence, through the power of the Spirit, moves among us. Again though, that?s a teaching for another day.
Congregational singing died for a long time in the church. It wasn?t until Martin Luther and other reformers reimagined congregational singing in the eleventh century that this started to turn around. And here we are, still building upon that. We can?t credit all of it to Mr. Luther, but he is definitely one of the most prominent figures we have to learn from.
Bob Kauflin says, ?We gather to magnify the greatness of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. Combining God?s word with music, thereby motivating the gathered church to proclaim the gospel, to cherish God?s presence, and to live for God?s glory.? That gets me excited. It makes me want to make congregational singing awesome! There is nothing greater than living for God?s glory. Nothing! It should move us to sing. It should move us to dance. It should move us to live a different story!
Let?s look at Ephesians 5:15-21(ESV). ?Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, 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.? Christians always have a reason to be thankful! So we?re called to celebrate not by getting drunk (or whatever is the narrative of culture) but by using our time to make space for gratitude within our hearts and enact it through our lives for God?s honor. Congregational singing is a way in which we provide an ?on-ramp? for people to express what Jesus has done for them.
Now, before I leave you with a bunch of information on why we sing and why you should be encouraging this in your church, let me give you a few pointers that may help in creating ?on-ramps? for people to actually sing with you. The goal here is participation, not people-watching.[quote]Contrary to popular belief, you can have songs with great theology AND a great melody.[/quote]
- Choose keys that a normal person can actually sing in. Most songs you hear on albums today are done at the top of a singers range to make sure it hits hard and really pops. This means its usually not accessible for the average singer. This is usually 1 or 2 steps down.
- Don?t flood your congregation with a ton of new music each week. Too many new songs and you?re going to lose people.
- Sing good songs. No one wants to sing a bad song. Contrary to popular belief, you can have songs with great theology AND a great melody.
- Our singing times should be a mirrored image of the Gospel and its entirety. Choose songs that represent this. This means a variety of different themes and thoughts about God each Sunday.
- Remember that most congregations are multi-generational. Your songs should reflect this. Two warnings; first, don?t throw out hymns for the sake of being relevant or cool. Hymns often say and express things about God that us modern day writers have lost the language for. They are deeply poetic. Second, don?t be afraid to sing new music. The Spirit is always moving and our churches music should reflect this.
- The music must be loud enough, but not too loud to overpower the crowd. Take the time to find the right balance with this.
- Write and sing songs that come from within your own church and the journey of its people interacting with the Spirit. People love this and will get behind it.
- Finally, this one?s fun with the platform of social media. But post the songs you?re singing before Sunday! Give people a chance to get a head start in learning them.
Hopefully this was helpful for you as you continue to lead, grow, develop and make Jesus the center of your lives and ministries.
2 replies on “Making Congregational Singing Awesome”
Great timing for a great article I am taking my Theology of Worship class this week at Briercrest Seminary. I am surprised you went through your entire article on congregational singing without mentioning worship once. Now singing is not the only form of worship, but it is a posture towards God that we conduct to honour his glory.
Great point about making it multi-generational. Most hymns were written by theologians vice mucisians so while their musicality may be suspect their theology is accurate. Today many songs are musical wonders but may lack some theological soundness.
Miss you guys. You will have to come visit us in PEI some day
Great to hear from you! Good catch on that. It may or may not have been my intention to not specifically mention the word “worship.” 😉 We’ll keep it a secret.
And yes, PEI sounds awesome sometime soon!