By Grant Norsworthy
For those of us who are involved in church music – playing, singing or teching – we can easily get so caught up in the “what” and “how,” that we easily forget “why” and “for whom.” But with greater intentionality, we should focus on the latter, allowing the former to flow from there.
Making correct decisions about what to do and how to do it with church music will become so much easier if everyone involved agrees on the big and important questions of why and for whom. There will be fewer disagreements. The path ahead will become clearer.
As we train and develop our teams – whether they be technicians, singers or instrumentalists, volunteers or in staff positions – we must not assume that all team members are on the same page with this. Healthy development – moving effectively toward the team’s goals – will only be possible with a shared understanding of why we have music and singing and who it is for.
So why do we have music in our church services?
It’s a pretty straight forward, innocuous question on the surface of it. So many resources and a great deal of effort go into having music and songs when believers gather. There must be some good reasons, right?
There are good reasons why people of the Christian faith sing. But have you thought about why lately? Is the big “why” at the forefront of all your decision-making and how you train and develop your team? Does each team member know why?
There are good reasons, but there are also not-so-good reasons that can distract us from our main goal – even destructive reasons. Our ability to reach the true and best objectives for music in the church will be served most effectively with a clear and shared understanding of the best reasons why.
Consider these reasons why:
We have songs and music in our Church gatherings…
… so people know it’s time to come in from the foyer and find their seats.
… to buy some service time so the pastor delivers his message to a full room.
… so we give people a chance to demonstrate their abilities.
… because we want to entertain ourselves with a ‘concert-like’ experience.
… because we always have. It’s just what we do.
I hope you recognize that these are not the best reasons why we have songs and music in our church gatherings. Making these reasons, and others like them, a priority, will derail us.
I’ve compiled my own Top 10 List. I find it very helpful to give myself frequent reminders of these.
Check this list out. What do you think?
My Top 10 Reasons Why The Church Sings Together:
#10 – Tradition
The Christian Church has a long history of more than 2,000 years where songs have been sung when we gather. This is a beautiful and important tradition that we have the joy and responsibility to continue and build upon. But tradition is #10 on my list.
I am concerned that many think that tradition is the main reason we sing. We always have, so we do. But there are far better reasons than that.
#9 – The Best Theme
Hey, you can sing songs about a lot of different topics. It’s certainly valid to sing songs about being angry, or in love with a girl, or even how much we love our country. But surely singing about Almighty God – what He’s done for us and our response to Him – is by far the best theme we could possibly sing about.
#8 – Modeling Church
A team of musicians and technicians have the opportunity to demonstrate to the whole church what it looks (and sounds) like when people serve one another, make selfless choices for the greater good of all and expend themselves to the glory of God.
#7 – Preparing Hearts & Minds
Typically, following music in the flow of a service, there will be a Bible reading and a spoken message. Songs can help soften people’s hearts and open their minds to what comes next.
#6 – Beyond the Five Senses
There’s something about music and singing a well-written, well-crafted song with some passion, volume and even some abandon that goes beyond us – that is bigger than what we can see and hear. Something intangible, spiritual, supernatural. As one poet put it…
“Music speaks what cannot be expressed, soothes the mind and gives it rest;
heals the heart and makes it whole, flows from heaven to the soul.”
#5 – From Information to Intimacy
Faith is more than an intellectual understanding of facts about God. Following Jesus is far more than conforming and agreeing with certain information. Songs and music have a particular and powerful capacity to break down barriers that can transform information about God into intimacy with God. Certainly that’s been the case for me.
Congregants may forget the Bible passage and the sermon, but they might be singing the chorus of one of the songs long after the service is over. Their softened heart may respond to God in that moment.
#4 – Horizontal Connection
The church family that sings together is in better relationship with one another. Nothing encourages an individual to sing like the sense that they are part of a group of people singing. Songs offer a wonderful way to remind each other of truths about God and encourage our brothers and sisters to follow Jesus with more intentionality.
#3 – Vertical Connection
Songs help the congregation focus their collective attention on God, sure. But there’s more. Many of our songs are actually prayers. We pray to God through songs!
We sing songs that give form, artistry and the language for people to pour out praise towards God. In so doing we can draw closer to God and our sense of Him drawing closer to us grows.
#2 – The Bible
We believe that The Bible is the written Word of God. Through His written Word, God describes important times and examples of people singing to Him. The Bible instructs us through several passages to sing when we gather. My personal favorite:
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.
#1 – God is God
Let’s be sure of this: God is deserving of our songs – deserving of our praise. Our songs of prayer and praise ought to be offered to the very best of our ability – as sincere expressions of worship – to the Almighty God who has given to us so abundantly and so graciously.
Let’s sing to God because He is God.
And let’s allow the singing of our songs to be woven into the fabric of our lives surrendered to His Lordship.
This breakdown is my best attempt to list why we sing. Shown throughout, I hope, there is also the answer to the question of for whom? We sing to show the worth of God. It’s for Him! But we also sing for each other.
Connection is the big objective of music and songs in the church. Deeper connection with God and each other.