Have you ever been singing while driving in your car, only to look over at the person in the car beside you, staring? Embarrassing, right? My go-to is usually to pretend like I’m talking on the phone. Singing is a funny thing. Although it’s socially acceptable and normal to sing, there’s something very vulnerable about singing—especially in front of people. Maybe that’s the point.
Ephesians 5:19 says “singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.”
If we’re not careful, we can miss the importance of it. Singing in church is so much more than just singing in church. Don Whitney said it like this, “There’s an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the ‘meeting together’ with other believers.” I believe many things happen when the church sings together, but I want to highlight three of them:
1. Corporate Worship Cures Spiritual Amnesia
We are forgetful people. Our flesh desires created things rather than the Creator. Congregational singing is an invitation to remember our identity in the gospel. We need to remember that God is holy, we are sinners, Jesus saved us, and then Jesus sends us.
Corporate worship plays an essential part in our sanctification. We sing “among ourselves… to the Lord.” We don’t sing to an audience of one, but an audience of three: God, his people, and unbelievers. When we encounter God, he changes us. When we join in corporate worship, God loves not only to change our minds, but also our hearts. We pray when unbelievers witness this that they too will be wrecked by the gospel.
Our awe for God is heightened, our affection amplified, and our joy multiplied when we worship Jesus together. Martin Luther said, “At home, in my own house, there is no warmth or vigor in me, but in the church when the multitude is gathered together, a fire is kindled in my heart and it breaks its way through.”
2. Corporate Worship Brings Unity
One day, people from every tribe and tongue will stand before God’s throne singing, “Worthy is the Lamb!” What better picture of heaven is there than that of corporate worship? Each week, people of different age, race, gender, and socio-economic status unite their voices in praise and adoration to our God. While stars and mountains can declare God’s glory, only God’s people (united through Jesus) can declare his glorious mercy. Many things can bring a sense of unity—restaurants, baseball games, shopping malls—but nothing brings true unity like corporate worship.
3. Corporate Worship Helps Guide Us Through Suffering
There are many things in life that are difficult, if not impossible, to do alone. One of those things is suffering. James 1:2-3: “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” When troubles come my way, usually the last thing I think is, “Oh, hey! Here’s an opportunity for some great joy.” Understanding this truth doesn’t necessarily make suffering easier, but there’s something powerful about a room full of people, looking up to heaven, declaring:
“So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know his name.”
In trying times, my natural reaction is to look inward at my problems. But in corporate worship, I look out at a room full of people who also carry pain and sorrow, and I’m reminded that suffering is not in vain. I’m reminded that we share the same hope: one day Jesus will right every wrong.
I conclude with this: God is not only worthy of our praises; he inhabits them. The same God that created the universe indwells the very room in which we sing our songs. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the grave is moving about the room seeking to gather us to himself. May we never discount the significance of singing in corporate worship.
-Jon Azzarello (Worship Services Director)