To the best of my knowledge, my grandmother, Ann Reynolds, remains the only child to have ever been kicked out of the children’s choir at the First United Methodist Church of Charlotte, North Carolina! The story has passed into family lore. Eighty years ago, when my grandmother was 6 or 7 years old, she wanted to go down to their church for children’s choir practice. Her mother, knowing her daughter’s singing voice, tried to dissuade her. My grandmother, however, would have none of it.So her mother took her down to the city bus stop near their home and placed her daughter on the bus to be dropped off near the church. My grandmother says that she went to the children’s choir practice and, sure enough, things did not go well! In fact, the children’s choir director told my grandmother that while she could stay and finish that one practice, she would not be allowed to return and that “we will have to find something else for you to do.”
You must understand that my grandmother has laughed about this story throughout at least my entire life, though I doubt she was laughing at the time that it happened! My oldest brother recently shared with me that he has often stood by my grandmother in church during hymn time and that he does not have any trouble believing the story!
I can sympathize with my grandmother. I certainly do not have a singing voice either! And while the story is cute and charming, the more I think about it the more I am struck by the image of this little girl being so determined to get to the church and sing! Yes, they had to find something else for her to do, but, in reality, there are few things more important that we can do than sing praises and glory to God!
I would like to invite us all—great singers, average singers, and singers for whom “we need to find something else”—to come and consider the importance of worshiping God in song! We have reflected this commitment in our church covenant:
As a body of born again believers,
We covenant to become an authentic family by
loving one another as Christ loves us,
praying for one another,
speaking truth to one another in love,
being patient with one another,
protecting one another,
considering one another as more important than ourselves.
We covenant to embrace the whole gospel by
studying God’s Word faithfully,
learning the gospel together in family worship,
giving ear only to sound doctrine,
living out the gospel in our lives,
embracing the whole counsel of God.
We covenant to bring glory to God by,
gathering for worship faithfully,
singing to the glory of God
Why should we sing to the glory of God?
Jesus and the Apostles gave glory to God by singing.
We should sing to the glory of God, first of all, because Jesus sang to the glory of God as did His earliest disciples. In Matthew 26, after Jesus had His last supper with the disciples, we read this:
29 I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Let us remember that in Philippians 2:5 we are commanded to, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Taking on the mind of Christ is part of being a Christian. What Matthew 26 shows us is that part of the mind of Christ is singing to the glory of God in the best times and the worst times.
Jesus sang! Can you imagine what that must have sounded like, the singing voice of Jesus? It is hard to conceive of the singing voice of Jesus. One imagines that, were one in a small group singing with Jesus, that one would want to stop and simply listen to him.
It is sometimes objected that real men do not sing. Real men, it is said, are tough and strong and shun more emotive exercises. Against this we can say with full assurance that there has never been a man as “manly” as Jesus. Jesus is the very definition of what a man should be. And Jesus sang!
What is more, the apostles sang. In Acts 16 we read this about Paul and Silas being in prison:
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them
Again, who would dare to be greater men than these early apostles? The courage they showed, the conviction, the sheer resolve, and the strength of their lives shames us all. And here, in a dark and dirty prison, these men sang! There was something about this gospel they had embraced that compelled them to sing to God’s glory! Can we do any less?
The church is commanded to give glory to God and encourage one another by singing.
If the example of Jesus and the apostles is not enough—and it certainly should be enough!—we have outright commands in scripture to sing. Consider what Paul says in Ephesians 5:
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, 20 giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Notice that the command to “address one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” is situated within the broader context of Christian growth, Christian accountability, and Christian community. Singing to the Lord is, in other words, one of the ways that we walk wisely, that “make the best use of time,” that we avoid foolishness, that we celebrate being filled with the Spirit, that we gave thanks, and that we “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Singing to the glory of God walks hand in hand with the many virtues that help us become true followers of Jesus. Whatever else we might conclude from these verses, we must conclude that singing is no unimportant thing!
We should offer praise and worship to God in a variety of unique and creative ways, “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We should sing to the Lord, Paul says, “with your heart.” This is no lifeless recitation of boring words out of a sense of duty. No, this is a heart overflowing in worship and praise! Sing to the glory of God! Sing with and among the gathered church.
In a most fascinating twist, Paul says we are to “address one another” with song. This does not mean that we are on a stage for some horribly awkward Broadway show where every line is sung. Rather, it means that as we sing together we do in fact speak to and encourage one another to greater faithfulness! There is a sense, then, in which our singing is horizontal in impact while being vertical in focus. We sing to God but we build one another up in doing so.
Paul offers a somewhat similar reflection in Colossians 3.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Here, too, we see that singing is situated in the context of the life of the church. It is part of our life together! It is one of the ways we “put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” It is one of the ways that we “put on love.” The love of the church, Paul tells us in verse 14, creates a kind of unified harmony among God’s people. Then, out of this abiding “peace of Christ” that “rules in our hearts” we can be thankful and we can sing. As for singing specifically, Paul again sees it as a way to “teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.”
How very fascinating all of this is! Singing is not something that the especially gifted do or that the particularly emotionally do or something that the pleasingly melodic do. No, it is something that Christians do because we can do no other! We sing because God has given us a song by giving us the gospel. In moments of resistance, let the command of scripture prompt us to sing, but let us pray that it never comes to that. The redeemed heart is an exulting heart, a rejoicing heart, a proclaiming heart, yes, a singing heart!
In Heaven we will give glory to God by singing.
Singing is also an anticipatory act. We sing because we will sing in heaven. What glimpses we have of glory in the scriptures are oftentimes glimpses of singing! Consider Revelation 14:
1 Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. 2 And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, 3a and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders.
Verse 2 describes this music and singing as thunderous and like a raging cataract. This is no timid expression of worship! This is strong, robust, heart-filled, passionate singing to the glory of God! Those singing, John tells us, sing “a new song before the throne.” When God’s glory will be seen in unveiled form in heaven we will sing, but have we not seen His glory now in Jesus? Yes, we see through a glass dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12), but even what we dimly see should overwhelm our souls, no? Do we not see Christ? Do we not see His cross? Do we not see the empty tomb? Is this not enough to make us sing? Why would we not sing?!
We see a similar scene in Revelation 15:
2 And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb
Yes, we will sing the song of the Lamb in glory! But are we not the people of the Lamb now? If we are, let us sing! Church, let us sing to the glory of God! Let us sing praises to the Lamb!
Let us sing! Let us sing! Let us sing!