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Dog Days of Summer Series: Does Singing In Church Matter?

In the well-known words of Will "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air" Smith:


"Summer, summer, summertime / Time to sit back and unwind" 


Summer. Perhaps this is as good a time as any to begin clearing out my Inbox which contains hundreds of emails dating back to 2012, and to share with you the Christian gems that I come across.

I read that the "Dog Days of Summer" is the name for the most sultry period of Summer (from about July 3rd to August 11th). So, we're going to call this our "Dog Days of Summer Series" for as long as it takes to get that Inbox down to 0 emails!

One important note. Obviously, I don't want to ever encourage a lackadaisical approach to Bible study and prayerful consideration, but since I'm likely to overwhelm you with one post after another (posts that are also automatically fed to the Lutheran Layman Twitter feed), I'm going to be creating a lot of "noise" as they say, which means I'm going to at least try not to to go too deep with the analysis of the content in this series. I'm gonna try.

Instead, I think I prefer to merely reference an item, maybe make a quick comment and observation or two, and then allow for all of you to chime in with your thoughts in the hopes of getting a friendly discussion going so I can learn more about the Lutheran perspective on things myself. So, whether you ultimately decide to go deeper with the subject on your own and in your own time this Summer is entirely up to you, my friends.

As always, please "test everything" (1 Thessalonians 5:21), always respond to whatever it is that you find here like the Bereans would (Acts 17:11), be sure to exercise discernment, and do let me know if you think my old "Evangelical Adam" is trying to reassert himself here.




DOG DAYS OF SUMMER SERIES:
DOES SINGING IN CHURCH MATTER?
(7 BIBLICAL REASONS WHY SINGING MATTERS)


As a young man (35-years-old), tainted by American Evangelicalism for many years, this is one email that deserves our close scrutiny I think. 

Sure, while I don't think it's shocking (or scandalous) for someone like me to point out that most Christian men do not have a predisposition to singing in church, have you ever wondered why it is that when many of us do attempt to do so it's often often muffled and barely above a whisper?

I thought about that when I came across this commentary sitting in my Inbox. At the same time, I want to be very careful here. We've discussed "Pietism" at length in past posts and a part of me wants to make sure a position one way or another on this subject doesn't tacitly endorse some kind of legalism or piety that is not good for us. Needless to say, I would love to get your thoughts on the Lutheran perspective on music in liturgy and worship services so I can personally better understand whether or not this writer was on to something or not.

My LCMS church (while "Lutheran" in name only) does an outdoor service in the Summer and it's eye-opening how this truth about us males in the congregation is amplified when we're all in the great outdoors together since there are no four walls to keep the singing voices of others in, and so, the lack of singing Christians can't be hidden as usual.

But let's continue this brief study from a "gender neutral" position. Let's simply look at 7 Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters as put together by
Unlocking The Bible (a non-Lutheran source) and prayerfully consider these truths as they apply to our own confessional, historic, and orthodox form of worship each week.



Have you ever wondered why God desires for his people to sing? What role should singing play in the life of a Christian? What is it about worshiping through song that is so important to God?

You may not know it, but God has already answered these questions in the Bible. The seven reasons below answer these questions and unpack more important truth about singing in the life of an individual Christian and the church.

7 Biblical Reasons Why Singing Matters

1. When you sing, you obey.


Singing isn’t an option in Scripture. It’s a command.

Colossians 3:16 “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.”

Ephesians 5:18-19 “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…”

God’s people are more than just invited to sing – we are commanded to sing. When we sing, we’re doing what God asks of us!

2. When you sing, you dig deep roots in the Word.

“Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…” Colossians 3:16

The Apostle Paul lays out this exhortation to let God’s Word dwell in us richly, and then, he tells us how to live out that command. The first, of course, is teaching. But the second, is singing!

Singing is one of the two chief ways that the Word of God dwells in us richly. And, as we observed in the last point, singing is a command. But also that this command comes with a promise: as we sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs together, we are promised that the Word of Christ will dwell in us richly – which is what we should crave as believers!

Our singing is more than a warm-up for the sermon or a filler in the service. Colossians 3:16 is clearly laying out for us that: Singing stands alongside of preaching as one of the two great ways that God has ordained for His Word to dwell RICHLY in each one of us!

Some have called church singing “Take Home Theology,” because the best songs we sing together end up serving you as a 3 minute, easily memorizable, deeply biblical summary of important truths from Scripture. Take for example, “In Christ Alone.” There, in an easily memorizable form, you’ve got a thorough theology of the cross of Jesus Christ with clear and practical applications that you can use for your life this week!

3. When you sing, you build up others.


First, you build up fellow believers when you sing.

Ephesians 5:19. Note specifically here that it says: “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…”

We see the same thing in Colossians 3:13-16: the exhortation to sing comes on the heels of bearing with one another (13a), forgiving one another (13b), putting on love (14), being at peace as one united body of Christ (15), and teaching God’s Word to one another (16).

When we do what the Bible says and sing together as a church family, we are hearing confessions of faith all around! We are hearing hundreds join with us and sing, “In Christ alone, MY hope is found!” We are hearing hundreds of testimonies of faith all around us!

Also know that as you sing, you’re helping unbelievers. In Psalm 105:1-2, the Lord is calling the Israelites to be a light unto the nations, and to do this He tells them: “Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all his wondrous works!”

Think of the impact on someone who doesn’t know Christ to hear those hundreds of testimonies, those hundreds of confessions of faith as we sing together!

4. When you sing, you make war.

Chances are you didn’t connect singing and warfare together, but it’s a theme visible in Scripture. In Colossians 3, Paul is challenging the Colossians to literally put sin to death in their lives – to kill sin. And so all the commands to love and peace and forgiveness and teaching and SINGING, are therefore, the Bible is teaching, attitudes and habits of the believer that will kill sin!

We see the same thing in Ephesians 5, the command to address one another in song comes right on the heels of “[make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).

And the more you think about this, it makes total sense. What posture must be more hated by the evil one than the posture of a believer who is singing? I can’t think of many stances you can take that identifies you with Christ and against Satan more than eyes, heart, mind and voice lifted to heaven in song!

It’s very hard to lie, be greedy, or to look at something inappropriate when, you’re “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19). Simply, a heart that’s doing that will not easily give in to temptation. A singing heart is a heart at war with the work of the evil one and the power of sin.

5. When you sing, you are spiritually strengthened for trial.


Often times, we think only of singing when we’re happy and times are good, but singing bringing strength for trial comes out in Acts 16. Paul and Silas are unjustly imprisoned for the sake of the Gospel, and what do they do while they’re in prison? Sing! (Acts 16:25)


And this truth is confirmed in the lives of persecuted believers throughout history. Hear the words of one pastor recently imprisoned for his faith:

“…When we were in prison we sang almost every day because Christ was alive in us…they put chains on our hands and feet. They chained us to add to our grief. Yet we discovered that chains are splendid musical instruments! When we clanged them together in rhythm, we could sing, ‘This is the day (clink, clank), this is the day (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank), which the Lord has made (clink, clank).”

Our persecuted brothers are showing us the truth we see in Acts 16 with Paul and Silas. Singing strengthens you and helps you persevere in the face of trial. If it can strengthen them in the face of these trials – what can it do for you?

Even in suffering, SING!

6. When you sing, you walk a God-designed pathway to joy.


Here is a sample of what the Psalms say about singing:

Psalms 5:11: “Let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult in you.”

Psalms 9:2: “I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.”

Psalms 51:14: “Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your righteousness.”

Psalms 59:16: “I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress.”

Psalms 63:7: “For you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.”

If you still don’t believe me, here’s a clincher from James 5:13: “Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.”

And as you study Scripture on this point you’ll notice that sometimes singing gives birth to joy and sometimes joy gives birth to singing. But persistently in Scripture, joy and singing are bound together. You can’t study one of those two biblical themes without encountering the other.

If you struggle for joy – SING! If you are joyful – SING! In God’s perfect design and in His perfect understanding of the human condition He has bound joy and singing together for His people.

The first 6 reasons get summed up with this:

7. When you sing, you glorify God.

Truly obedience, deep roots in the Word, building up others, making war against Satan and sin, persevering, finding joy in God – all of these things bring glory to God – each person’s chief goal and chief purpose in life.

Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 bring this out simply but powerfully telling us to sing “to God” and “to the Lord” because He is the object of our praise. Ephesians 5:19: “singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” It is to HIM and about HIM that we sing!

Singing has such a unique way of bringing your heart, soul, mind, and strength together to focus entirely and completely on God. In an age of distraction – singing grabs the attention of all our senses and focuses us on God.

In Revelation 7:9-10, the Apostle John describes a glimpse of eternity with a great multitude of people from every tribe, peoples, and languages singing before the Lamb, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

Eternity awaits.

Will you on that day be one of the great multitude that no one could number, singing the song of the Lamb, singing His praises? I hope you’ll be there, singing the song of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Sing now. Sing forever.

Singing matters. And it matters that we do it together.


Certainly, that piece makes some good points, doesn't it?

In turn, I recalled another commentary I saw roughly a year ago about this same subject.



Great Stuff — Why Men Have Stopped Singing In Church

June 2nd, 2013 Post by Norm Fisher

A “Great Stuff” post found over on Patheos.com by David Murrow


It happened again yesterday. I was attending one of those hip, contemporary churches — and almost no one sang. Worshippers stood obediently as the band rocked out, the smoke machine belched and lights flashed. Lyrics were projected on the screen, but almost no one sang them. A few women were trying, but I saw only one male (other than the worship leader) making the attempt.

A few months ago I blogged, “Have Christians Stopped Singing?” I did some research, and learned that congregational singing has ebbed and flowed over the centuries. It reached a high tide when I was a young man – but that tide may be going out again. And that could be bad news for men.

First, a very quick history of congregational singing.

Before the Reformation, laypersons were not allowed to sing in church. They were expected to stand mute as sacred music was performed by professionals (priests and cantors), played on complex instruments (pipe organs), and sung in an obscure language (Latin).

Reformers gave worship back to the people in the form of congregational singing. They composed simple tunes that were easy to sing, and mated them with theologically rich lyrics. Since most people were illiterate in the 16th century, singing became an effective form of catechism. Congregants learned about God as they sang about God.

A technological advance – the printing press – led to an explosion of congregational singing. The first hymnal was printed in 1532, and soon a few dozen hymns became standards across Christendom. Hymnals slowly grew over the next four centuries. By the mid 20th century every Protestant church had a hymnal of about 1000 songs, 250 of which were regularly sung. In the church of my youth, everyone picked up a hymnal and sang every verse of every song.

About 20 years ago a new technological advance – the computer controlled projection screen – entered America’s sanctuaries. Suddenly churches could project song lyrics for all to see. Hymnals became obsolete. No longer were Christians limited to 1,000 songs handed down by our elders.

At first, churches simply projected the songs everyone knew – hymns and a few simple praise songs that had come out of the Jesus Movement. People sang robustly.

But that began to change about ten years ago. Worship leaders realized they could project anything on that screen. So they brought in new songs each week. They drew from the radio, the Internet, and Worship conferences. Some began composing their own songs, performing them during worship, and selling them on CD after church.

In short order we went from 250 songs everyone knows to 250,000+ songs nobody knows.

Years ago, worship leaders used to prepare their flocks when introducing a new song. “We’re going to do a new song for you now,” they would say. “We’ll go through it twice, and then we invite you to join in.”

That kind of coaching is rare today. Songs get switched out so frequently that it’s impossible to learn them. People can’t sing songs they’ve never heard. And with no musical notes to follow, how is a person supposed to pick up the tune?

And so the church has returned to the 14th century. Worshippers stand mute as professional-caliber musicians play complex instruments, sung in an obscure language. Martin Luther is turning over in his grave.

What does this mean for men? On the positive side, men no longer feel pressure to sing in church. Men who are poor readers or poor singers no longer have to fumble through hymnals, sing archaic lyrics or read a musical staff.

But the negatives are huge. Men are doers, and singing was one of the things we used to do together in church. It was a chance to participate. Now, with congregational singing going away, and communion no longer a weekly ordinance, there’s only one avenue left for men to participate in the service – the offering. Is this really the message we want to send to men? Sit there, be quiet, and enjoy the show. And don’t forget to give us money.

There’s nothing wrong with professionalism and quality in church music. The problem isn’t the rock band, or the lights, or the smoke machine. The key is familiarity. People enjoy singing songs they know.

How do I know? When that super-hip band performed a hymn, the crowd responded with gusto. People sang. Even the men.


Thankfully, there's no shortage of material on this subject from trusted Lutheran sources.

That being said, I strongly encourage you to take some time to check out the following links before chiming in with your comments and thoughts.


Singing Praise: The Proud Past And Bright Future of Lutheran Music...
"Singing And Making Melody To The Lord" (Sermon On Ephesians 5:18-20, By Pr. Charles Henrickson)

VBS Kids Singing "Morning Prayer" Is Quite A Contrast To Convention Worship, By Pr. Rossow


Another Liturgical VBS -- Singing The Catechism In Worden, Illinois, By Pr. Rossow


In addition, here's what Martin Luther wrote in his Preface to the Wittenberg Hymnal...


That it is good and God pleasing to sing hymns is, I think, known to every Christian, for everyone is aware not only of the example of the prophets and kings in the Old Testament who praised God with song and sound, with poetry and psaltery, but also of the common and ancient custom of the Christian church to sing Psalms. St. Paul himself instituted this in I Corinthians 14 and exhorted the Colossians to sing spiritual songs and Psalms heartily unto the Lord so that God’s Word and Christian teaching might be instilled and implanted in many ways.

Therefore I, too, in order to make a start and to give an incentive to those who can do better, have with the help of others compiled several hymns, so that the holy gospel which now by the grace of God has arisen anew may be noised and spread abroad.

Like Moses in his song [Exodus 15], we may now boast that Christ is our praise and song and say with St. Paul, I Corinthians 2, that we should know nothing to sing or say, save Jesus Christ our Savior.

And these songs were arranged in four parts to give the young–who should at any rate be trained in music and other fine arts–something to wean them away from love ballads and carnal songs and to teach them something of value in their place, thus combining the good with the pleasing, as is proper for youth. Nor am I of the opinion that the gospel should destroy and blight all the arts, as some of the super-religious claim. But I would like to see all the arts, especially music, used in the service of Him who gave and made them. I therefore pray that every pious Christian would be pleased with this and lend his help if God has given him like or greater gifts. As it is, the world is too lax and indifferent about teaching and training the young for us to abet this trent. God grant us his grace. Amen.

*- Via Luther’s Works Vol. 53, pp. 315-16.


So what do you think? Does singing in church matter?

Personally, I think it matters a lot, and this excerpt from "Singing The Psalms" is a good Lutheran summary as to why I believe that.

In a Lutheran layman's terms, I think Ephesians 5:18-20 is pretty clear too, isn't it?

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


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About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

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Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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