Congregational Singing is it more Biblical or the right way to worship?
Many would say no to this question (Is Congregational singing the more Biblical way to worship?) We understand that praise can be done towards God using any form of worship. eg sung, played, performed etc. I agree… yet I believe the primary way that the Bible calls for us to worship God is with praise from our hearts and this is predominantly done with our mouths in song to the Lord. (Psalm 86:12) Yes..Singing and specifically the singing of the Church is the primary vehicle for the Churches worship of the one true God. This is why at Gospel Community Church we encourage the singing of Gods people as the primary focus of our worship to God.
In our modern age of music-driven and performance-orientated worship, Jonathan Leeman may be right when he says; If church leaders want congregations that will really “speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” (Eph. 5:19), they will have to work at it.
There is no doubt in my mind that believers should want to sing (and to hear themselves sing) and are indeed commanded by God to sing. (Psalm 30:4) Therefore, this should be our priority as a part of corporate worship as Christs Church as a key element of congregational worship is hearing the congregation. Singing is also in the realm of “one-another” ministry, meaning that we are to sing both to the Lord and also for the other people there. This makes sense then when you read the encouragement to believers to “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God”. (Colossians 3:16)
The aim of worship is Godward – and a worship format should promote joining our voices together as one. (Hebrews 2:12) “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”This is also the thinking behind David lifting his eyes in the great congregation.(Psalm 123:1)
The aim of entertainment is manward – Worship, as commanded by our Lord, is to be done in spirit and in truth. Gods words are the only things that are said to contain both Spirit and truth when they are used, read, proclaimed and sung. The danger can be an overemphasis on music which can drown out people hearing themselves or an overemphasis on performance which may take people’s attention off of God and onto the performer or by the listener trying to follow the artistic arrangement.
When it comes to musical style what is the right style? Rather what is not right? Here I would say that it would be anything that takes the focus off of the words and who they are being sung to. The safer rule then is less going on with musicality is better than more. The more that is involved to excite the hearer musically the less that they are likely to be looking to Christ or thinking about the words that they are using to worship God with. Although probably not as achievable in today’s church we see historically that large congregations had powerful worship (ie) Charles Spurgeon’s Church had no musical accompaniment in His Services which housed over 3500 people.
The congregation then are the primary instrument of worship that sounds out to the Lord in praise, God does not necessarily desire to hear the music of a guitar or an organ yet He wants praise from our hearts to rise to Him. This is what is pleasing to Him. Praise to God comes from the heart and it is words that are the foremost expression of the heart. Therefore the vocalisation of the word of God, theological truths and great songs that proclaim the greatness of God are to be preferred over forms of worship that do not promote the voices of the congregation to be heard together. More importantly, a lack of song from the mouth is indicative of a lack of a song in our heart.
The Church is commanded to sing, pray and worship as one voice and the only way to be able to do this (when it comes to song) is in voice. People cannot all play an instrument but they can sing together. This is the only possible way to get ALL people worshipping the Lord with one voice, it also expresses the unity of our confession (as we do in prayer) and our collective resolve as a body of believers. This form of worship is unique to the Christian Faith it is the one where believers gather and sing songs to their God acapella or with melodic accompaniment, no other religion uses this traditional form of worship.
Biblical Substance then becomes more important than musical style. Ephesians 5:18-19, Colossians 3:16, and Romans 15:6, explicitly mention congregational singing which makes the Churches singing as a focal point. Congregational singing can also be an outworking of wherever Bible passages address issues regarding unity, worship, or building one another up in the faith because congregational singing relates to all of those broader biblical themes.
Think about what the New Testament emphasizes when it comes to the church’s corporate music. It doesn’t talk about crafting a highly charged worship “experience.” Interestingly, it doesn’t use the language of “worship” at all in this context (which is not to deny that corporate singing is worship). Instead, the Bible talks about the congregation singing to one another (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19), and doing everything for the sake of edifying one another (1 Cor. 14). That’s it: people singing together. When it comes to the topic of music, Christians might do well to talk about the church singing or the congregation singing because that’s what the Bible talks about. (9 Marks Journal)
To hear everyone sing increases the sense of the Body of Christ being gathered and creates a deeper sense of community. This over-arches when a band plays at a group of people even an organ can over dominate in a more traditional Church setting too! (Edgar Winters chart give some idea of the direction that worship has taken in the modern-day Church)
Finally: One could argue that when you exclude the traditional hymns that are shared across numerous denominations, you lose something as a church body. Songs like Amazing Grace or It Is Well With My Soul have been sung and proven great rallying cries for the Church over the Centuries
To think that hymns like these are excluded from worship and lost to the newest generations of believers is not ideal.
In short, the aim here is not to eradicate all new worship songs and replace them with old traditional hymns, I think we can use both to the glory of God it is rather to ensure that all we do in worship together as a Church is Biblical, Congregational and is an expression of our love towards God as His Church this must be expressed in song and thus with our voices to God making congregational singing a primary form of worship in the gathering of the saints.
Why not have a listen to some of the songs that we sing on Sundays
Food for Thought
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Gospel Community Church is a Reformed Church in Adelaide, An Evangelical Church in Adelaide, A Bible Preaching Church in Adelaide, A Gospel Preaching Church in Adelaide, An expositional preaching Church in Adelaide, An Acts 29 Church in Adelaide, A Gospel Coalition Church in Adelaide the City of Churches.