the weblog of Alan Knox

Singing

Posted by on Sep 24, 2008 in edification, gathering, worship | 7 comments

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?


7 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-24-2008

    By doing exactly that. Our singing should be no different than speaking a passage of scripture or praying or smiling into some one’s face. It should be sprinkled through out our coming together to give praise and adoration to our Lord and to celebrate what he has done for us beginning with the Supper that reminds of us his sacrifice that saved us. Sprinkled through out, often and spontaneously lead by those who can’t carry a tune but love to sing to God, not unlike an unskilled reader being lead to read a passage because it was on their heart, not because they practiced for perfection and laid out the order of the songs to build affect. That should be the common practice, but not the only practice. Rehearsal and preparation are not evil and can be as God directed as spontaneity.

  2. 9-24-2008

    Lanny,

    The problem is that singing is not synonymous with worship, worship can encompass singing but singing can never be on equal footing with worship.

    Alan,

    We use the word praise which can be included in worship. However worship is obedience to to commands of Christ. Worship means to bow down in humble submission and we can sing, dance, preach, meet, study our bibles, and it never be worship

  3. 9-24-2008

    I’ll be posting on this in the next couple of days, Alan, so thanks for the tip o’ the hat. I’ll leave my response in that post.

    Blessings!

  4. 9-24-2008

    My problem with traditional worship (which I love) is that I don’t see its expression anywhere in scripture and when we equate worship only with traditional forms of expression then we have apparently missed the scriptural intent of worship since scripture mentions other forms but not our traditional forms. Nowhere in the life of Jesus, or for that matter, anywhere in the NT do I see any mention of our traditional forms of worship. All this seems to indicate that we are moving in the wrong directions when searching for how to worship the Father in “spirit and truth” (John 14:23).

    I’ve arrived at a few convictions so far:
    1. Romans 12:1-2 seems to indicate that our spiritual service of worship is the process of saying “NO” to conformation and “YES” to transformation resulting in “PROVING what the will of God is”.
    2. When we continue to stop at worship without following through to the purpose of worship, isn’t that akin to making worship an idol?
    3. The purpose of worship in singing and the dance is to catch the rhythms of His heart so that we can go out with Him to carry out His purpose. I conclude this in part from the “dance of two companies” in Song of Solomon 6:13, and in part from “doing what the Father is doing” in John 5:19.
    4. In scripture singing and dance seem to be closely associated with personal experiences in victory in war. (Miriam, Deborah, David). Most of us on the other hand signed up for the peace plan and don’t like war but love to sing and dance. So I guess I’d have to say what we sing and dance about is the reports of what someone else has done and we wish we could do, as in:
    “Come back, come back, O Shulammite; Come back, come back, that we may gaze at you!” Song of Solomon 6:13
    It would seem that actually going to war and achieving victory is the ideal way to invest meaning into worship. Much like the thought that “we must have been somewhere before we can lead anyone else there” in worship “we need to have done something before we start to sing and dance about it”. Without victory in war, song and dance is “much ado about nothing”. We can claim that we are singing and dancing in what He has accomplished, but unless our lives have proven that His victory is also our victory it’s a rather hollow sham. In other words, I can say I believe everything Jesus says but unless I also “DO” what Jesus says, my walk has proven I don’t believe what He says. My walk is the proof of my worship.
    Blessings
    Don

  5. 9-24-2008

    Lanny,

    I agree that singing seems to have a similar purpose that speaking has. I also agree that we should see and allow both spontaneous as well as prepared singing and speaking.

    Lionel,

    I agree with your defintion of worship. I think that singing can praise God, and other activities can praise God as well.

    David,

    I’m looking forward to you post!

    Don,

    “My walk is the proof of my worship”. Very well said. Yes, what we do demonstrates more about what we believe about God than what we say or sing demonstrates.

    -Alan

  6. 9-24-2008

    Alan,

    Worship is about heart attitude towards the ONE in and with whom we are in relationship, whether getting out of bed in the morning, interacting with people/family during the day, praying, singing, lstening to a teaching, attending gatherings of fellow believers at any time, whether for fun or serious reasons, all of the ‘one anothers’.

    If I understand his meaning fully,I have to agree with Don’s last sentence,”My walk is the proof of my worship”.

    What we do at any specific or planned time as acts of worship,whether corporately or privately, can, at best, be only a small part of it.

    Our response to the beauty of creation, the challenges of disappointment, hurtful experiences, new opportunities for service,illness, disabilities, the unbeliever next door,the poor, etc., etc., is all a part of our daily worship.

  7. 9-24-2008

    Aussie John,

    You said, “Our response to the beauty of creation, the challenges of disappointment, hurtful experiences, new opportunities for service,illness, disabilities, the unbeliever next door,the poor, etc., etc., is all a part of our daily worship.” Yes! Exactly! When we can understand that we worship in everything that we do – everything is sacred – even the most common and menial activities and thoughts, then we can begin to understand what worship really is.

    -Alan