Can you sing? Perhaps you are a “closet” singer, and only sing out loud in the shower or alone in the car. You like to sing, but not in front of other people. Others have had some musical experience as a child, and so singing comes more naturally to them. I personally sang in a children’s choir growing up, as well as in a college chorus, so singing with others is something I really enjoy doing. There is of course a third group of singers. They are convinced that they cannot sing and so they simple don’t – ever! They think they are tone deaf (although only 2 to 5% of people actually are) and that the melody they make more resembles clamor than chorus.
In recent months our Worship Arts Team read the book, Sing!together. It is written by two modern hymn writers from Northern Ireland, Keith and Kristyn Getty. They make the point that singing came more naturally for past generations than it does for us. It used to be that people sang as a family, at gatherings, and at church, but this is no longer a regular part of our culture. Even in church, where singing is built in to the liturgy, making music has become more performance-oriented than a communal experience.
The book’s opening chapters make the case that you can’t divorce singing from our human experience. The Bible makes these three specific claims:
- We are Created to Sing!
Already at 12-weeks old, a baby in the womb has developed vocal cords, and one of the first thing a new born does is to make a “joyful noise” as they come into the world. What a wonderful sound! God has created us to sing. Singing takes place in heaven, and God designed us as creatures to sing. All the earth shouts God’s glory, so “when we sing God’s praise, we join with the tune of the cosmos.” (Getty, p.9)
- We are Commanded to Sing!
The Bible has over 50 direct commands to sing. “Sing to the Lord a new song!” (Psalm 149:1) “Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise.” (James5:13) “Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:19)
We are not only created to sing, but commanded to sing. It is part of what it means to be human, and it is impossible to truly worship God without it. It’s as if “our spiritual health depends on it.” (Getty, p.14)
- We are Compelled to Sing!
Finally (and in my opinion most importantly), the love of God compels us to sing. Like slaves that have been set free, we sing a song of freedom because of the Gospel of Jesus! The Holy Spirit resides in our hearts and to fight against singing is like trying to hold your breath – you can only do it for a short amount of time until the joy of Jesus overflows in us once again.
Bob Kauflin writes in his book Worship Matters: “Worship isn’t primarily about music, techniques, songs or methodologies. It’s about our hearts. It’s about what and whom we love more than anything.” My favorite psalm begins, “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.” (Psalm 103:1)
Over the next months, our church is going to work at becoming a better singing congregation. The goal of such an aim is not to sound better but to worship better. It is to rediscover that when we sing whole-heartedly, we are more fully experiencing not only what is means to be human but what is means to be redeemed children of God. It is not just merely obeying a command, but it is rejoicing in our Savior.
I began this article with the question, Can you sing? That really is the wrong question. Of course you can sing. You are God’s child! So the real question is, Will you sing?