Music matters: Why we worship corporately through song

By Kenny Klinglesmith

In college, I led a small Bible study for freshmen. My primary aim was to study the Bible with non-believers, specifically young men who had not grown up in the church. One of my boys was named Cody. Cody grew up in a small southern town, where he was bullied for not being raised in a Christian home. Despite his wounds from the church, we struck up a friendship, and after many weeks of hesitation, Cody agreed to come to church with me.

This was the first time Cody had ever stepped foot in a church. To his confusion, he could not understand why everyone in the church was singing. I was unable to give him an adequate answer on the “why” behind something so central to the gathering of God’s people. And here I was, a worship leader, the one who should know!

Whether most of your congregation has grown up in church or not, the understanding of why we sing in church is something I have found both Christians and non-Christians alike do not fully grasp. By the grace of God, a few weeks after Cody asked me this question, my pastor Matt Carter taught on this very subject. He found Ephesians 5:18-20 to be a very helpful answer.

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.

Here are three biblical reasons why we sing in church.

1. We sing for others (horizontal impact).
This may seem odd at first glance, but the Scripture is clear that we are to address one another in spiritual psalms, hymns and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19). What exactly does this mean?

When we sing, we are not only reminding ourselves what is true, but we are reminding others what is true, as well. We sing to remind the doubting saint that God can be trusted, even when He feels far away. We sing to remind the cancer-fighter in the row behind us that God is sovereign, even in times of immense suffering.

We sing to remind the brother caught in sin beside of us that God is the only One in whom we find our true joy. We sing to remind one another of who God is and what is true of Him.

2. We sing for the Lord (vertical impact).
Although perhaps more obvious, we sing to God because He alone is worthy of our song. Even when we walk in on a Sunday morning and don’t feel like singing, we sing out of obedience, trusting the Lord will help our hearts catch up with our lips.

Oftentimes when I sing Forever Reign and I get to the bridge that says “my heart will sing no other name, but Jesus…” the Holy Spirit uses these lyrics as a litmus test for me to step back and think, “Is this true of me right now? What other names has my heart been singing to?”

Or in One Thing Remains, the lyrics “In death and in life, I am confident and covered by the power of Your great love,” remind me of Romans 8:38-39, that nothing can separate me from my God.

The Holy Spirit reminds me through song of the truths found in Scripture, and that makes me want to make music with my heart for my King.

3. We sing out of thankfulness.
Lastly, we sing because there is no greater One and no greater news to celebrate than Jesus and His gospel.

What better news is there to celebrate than God graciously humbling Himself, stepping off His throne to wrap on flesh and dwell among mankind, to live the life we couldn’t live, die the death that we deserved, and then to conquer the grave that owned us, and offer us relationship with Himself?

The gospel compels us to sing because no one is like our God; no one could do what our King did! He alone is worthy. When we remind ourselves of His saving grace toward us, our hearts will simply and naturally overflow with thankfulness and respond in song.

We need to teach the “why” behind what we do, it cannot be assumed. Singing edifies the church, singing strengthens our love for the Lord, singing creates in a heart that is thankful for who is God is and what He has done. He alone is worthy to be praised!

Published May 23, 2017

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Kenny Klinglesmith

Kenny is a worship resident, under the supervision of Brett Land, with Austin Stone Worship. He currently lives in Austin, Texas, and leads students in worship at Austin Stone's Downtown campus. He is an avid supporter of Young Life, Kentucky Basketball and Selena Quintanilla.