I will sing to Yahweh, because he has been good to me. Psalm 13:6
If you were to think of topics that are so called “polarizing,” would you think of church music?
I certainly do. Worshiping God through music is something that seems like it should bring us closer together, but often times, style preferences can cause sharp conflict between believers.
Over the years, I have had several people tell me that they left their church solely because they did not like the music at their church. In one case, I knew two couples who actually left the same church because the music did not suit their tastes. But the funny thing was, one couple claimed the music was too loud, modern, and upbeat. The other family decided that the music was not relevant and catered to an older generation.
I can only scratch my head after conversations like these. Can any church meet the expectations of all of its members? What is the actual purpose of church music? Is it bringing us musical satisfaction or a concert experience? Should we expect to reminisce about our childhood upbringing? Or should it be an emotionless and drawn out dirge that we are just “supposed to do” every Sunday?
Bringing music into the church setting is about so much more than just the activity we do in between announcements and the sermon. It is the act of God’s people coming together to proclaim His greatness. It is one way that we can actually show our gratefulness to our Savior. As believers, it is a time to put aside our differences and come together in agreement and adoration.
The largest book of the Bible happens to be a song book called Psalms.
Psalm 30:4 gives instructions to all believers:
Sing praise to Yahweh, you saints of his. Give thanks to his holy name.
In the New Testament, Christians are actually commanded to encourage each other with songs. But notice that this is linked to a heart attitude.
Don’t be drunken with wine, in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always concerning all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God, even the Father; Ephesians 5:18-20
The melody is to come from our heart and be poured out to the Lord in thankfulness and reverence. The words to the psalms and songs should cause us to remember God’s faithfulness. As a result, our hearts should be thankful. Psalm 71:23 also has a similar idea:
My lips shall shout for joy! My soul, which you have redeemed, sings praises to you!
Worshiping through music should certainly affect us. But it isn’t all about us. It is about agreeing with others about how great our God is. It’s about the glory of God. It’s a way that we can serve Him, and bless others around us.
Some of you might be laughing to yourself and thinking, “Bless others around me? I can’t carry a tune in a bucket. No one wants to hear me!” My answer to that is, again, the purpose is to glorify God. He has told us to sing. You don’t need to join the worship team or sing a solo. But you do need to make a joyful sound. That’s all that is required. The sound of your voice is not what is important. What matters is the melody in your heart.
After all that Jesus has done for us, isn’t it just natural that we would respond with singing and praise?
You have turned my mourning into dancing for me. You have removed my sackcloth, and clothed me with gladness, to the end that my heart may sing praise to you, and not be silent. Yahweh my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12
Singing is a tangible way to demonstrate our heart’s posture towards God. We are thankful and choose to serve Him.
Serve Yahweh with gladness. Come before his presence with singing. Psalm 100:2
Here's 3 ways you can cultivate a love for praise through song (while also bringing unity to other believers):
1. Don't get discouraged
Maybe you already love singing to the Lord and do so with enthusiasm in your church. Continue to do so with joy! You might just be a big source of encouragement as they see the outpouring of your gratitude to God. Be patient with others if they don’t seem as passionate. They may be more reserved or feel uncomfortable.
If you are one of those who feel uncomfortable, purposely go out of your comfort zone a little bit. Start by singing at home or in your car. Make praise a daily habit, and as the gratitude grows, it will become much more natural. Remember that God isn’t looking for a performance, but a desire to serve, praise, and worship Him.
2. Focus on the words, not the music
Try to focus on the words and the meaning behind them, especially when you don’t care for the song selection or the genre that your church prefers (assuming that the songs are actually biblically accurate and true). Also, the musicians at churches are often volunteers who are learning new songs regularly during their free time. Most likely they are doing the best they they can, but they aren't necessarily professionals. If you want more musical fulfillment, enjoy your favorite artists at home and enjoy plenty of concerts!
Even if you aren't moved by a particular song doesn't mean that no one else enjoyed it. That same song could be someone else's favorite. (Recently someone told me how much he loved his favorite worship song and how much it meant to him, but a few days later another friend told me the same song irritated her so much that she would turn off the radio every time it played!)
3. You don't have to sing the whole song
And finally, if a lyric bothers you, pray about it. You don’t need to sing that part of the song if it is not truthful. Sometimes artists take liberty to make their songs sound more relatable. I occasionally struggle with this, but I can wholeheartedly sing along with the parts that I do agree with. If the whole song is unbiblical, it might be time for you to ask your worship leader about it. For some humor on this topic, you may enjoy Jenn’s YouTube video here.
Sing for an audience of One. It doesn’t matter who else is listening. Worship is intended for God, not merely human entertainment. Truly listen to the words and allow your heart to sing along.
Sing to Yahweh, for he has done excellent things! Let this be known in all the earth! Isaiah 12:5
It is a good thing to give thanks to Yahweh, to sing praises to your name, Most High Psalm 92:1
Is singing in a public setting difficult or easy for you? Do you find your mind wandering during worship at church, or do you find it to be your favorite part of the service?