“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord.”
“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you,
with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another
with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Many Christians might not think of corporate singing as an integral part of the church’s teaching ministry. Isn’t
emotion the real purpose of music? But there it is in black and white from God himself: part of the church’s obligation to
itself is to “teach” by means of song.
If we would think about it, it should not be surprising to us that God has ordered teaching via singing in the
church. Good lyrics can often have a “punch” that is able in few words to capture volumes of thought. And as a memory
device, poetry is nearly unsurpassed. Add the pleasant and even stirring emotion of music to the equation, and we have
one very powerful, effective means of teaching the truths of the Word of God.
Simply put, God has commanded us not only to read and preach and teach his word; he has commanded us to
sing it also. And this singing of his word is intended as a teaching device to lead us to a deeper understanding of God and
a more faithful, fruitful, and rewarding walk with him.
Singing, then, is not intended for our amusement but for our edification. Enjoyable it is(!), but that is only part of
the means to the end. The purpose involved is that of teaching.
Now this understanding that music in the church is designed for teaching immediately carries with it some
attending responsibilities. On the one hand, it requires that the songs we select must be consistent with Biblical truth and
be of sufficient substance as to inform and admonish the believer. That is, the songs we select should communicate
Christian truth. We’re not after a vague, undefined, good feeling - we’re seeking to learn and know God’s word.
On the other hand, this requires that we sing with our minds engaged. That is, if we are to follow God’s
command regarding singing in the church, we cannot sing thoughtlessly. You know how it goes. The words can often go
from the page (or the screen) to the eyes and immediately to the mouth without ever passing through the brain! Let’s
confess - we’ve all done it. But that is of no value at all. The songs can be solid, substantive, even deep expositions of
marvelous Biblical truth, but if we aren’t thinking enough to notice it, it will have done us no good. To sing profitably, we
must sing with our minds engaged. We must sing intending to understand the truths the songs are teaching us and
reminding us of.
Now please do not misunderstand. Emotion is not wrong, and it would not be somehow more godly to have
boring music or to remove emotion from the equation. Indeed, one of the great values of truth set to music is the
combined emotive effect. But neither the music itself nor the emotional lift is the end in view. If it is the music alone that
moves you to tears or to shouting with joy, well, Whitney Houston singing “I Will Always Love You!” or a good TV
program can do as much. But if it is gospel truth brought home by means of good music that excites you, then our singing
has hit its mark.
Moreover, singing without the mind engaged runs dangerously close to taking God’s name in vain and rendering a
“worship” to God that is unworthy of him. Only if we put our minds to it will the song service be of value. Let us guard
carefully against empty forms of worship, and let us sing to one another with joy and with passion, moved deeply by the
glorious truths of our glorious God.