A couple of days ago, David from “All Glory“, left a comment on my blog that spurred me to finish a post that has been sitting in draft for too long. David is a “worship leader” for a church. This is what he said in his comment:
It’s a strange thing that happens to worship leaders when they read their Bibles and begin to interact with the God who inspired it. We find out that worship is not what the magazines, catalogs and conferences tell us it is.
I have been in the process over the past few months of retooling the music ministry of our church from a ‘worship’ ministry into a ‘discipleship’ ministry, based on Colossians 3. We are becoming able to teach and admonish one another with wisdom rather than simply ‘following the leader.’
Today, many Christians use the term “worship” when they are talking about music and singing. We know that God intends for us to live all of our life as worship to him. So, in that sense, we should worship when we sing. But, it is problematic to equate worship with singing.
Why is it problematic to equate worship with singing? Two reasons: 1) Because it blurs the real meaning of the term worship in Scripture and 2) because it blurs the real purpose behind singing in Scripture. In this post, I want us to consider the second point. When we use the term “worship” to describe singing, we miss the scriptural exhortations concerning music and singing.
For example, consider these passages:
[B]e filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart… (Ephesians 5:18b-19 ESV)
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. (Colossians 3:16 ESV)
First, notice that in these passages singing is a response to a work of God – much like teaching and serving. We sing because we are filled with the Spirit or the word of Christ (probably references the same or a similar type of “filling”).
Second, notice that in Ephesians, Paul does not tell us why we should sing. But, in Colossians, he makes it clear that singing is part of “teaching and admonishing”. Thus, we sing to God, but at the same time we sing with a purpose of exhorting and edifying one another. The purpose of singing – as every element when we meet together – should be to build the church up toward spiritual maturity in Christ.
How do we sing together with the church in a manner that takes these two points seriously? How do we sing as a response to God filling us? How do we sing in order to teach and admonish others?