A couple of weeks ago, I sat in our living room with a couple of church members after dinner. As we talked, I asked them, “Why don’t people sing during our church service?” It was an honest question. What ensued was a long discussion about the role of music in the church and a rehashing of many failed attempts to encourage the people of the church to participate in singing. Different possible culprits were accused: “Perhaps they don’t know the songs?” Well, that might be true in a few cases, but even the “old standards” were weak at best. “Or maybe we aren’t playing the songs at the right tempo?” We all agreed this wasn’t a problem. “Are they having a difficult time reading the hymnal?” Each of our members grew up reading the hymnal, so it would be difficult to blame the music book. At the end of the night two things were agreed upon: (1) Our congregation ought to sing out in our services, and (2) we can’t figure how to help them!
Perhaps the soft mumbling of your congregation that some try to pass for singing doesn’t bother you as much as it does me. The contrast between what we do in our churches and what God’s people did in the Bible is stark. Consider the words of Psalm 106:
My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!
Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!(Psalm 108:1-6)
Is it possible to sing those words with a monotone, expressionless face? The Psalmist is engaged in shouting God’s praise with all of his being. His desire is that God might be buoyed up on the melody of his heart; he sings aloud so that God’s glory may be spread across the earth. When he recalls God’s steadfast love, faithfulness, and salvation his heart soars with the melodious sonnets sung by flaming tongues above!
Perhaps we don’t sing in church because we forget that God’s presence has descended into our midst. We have to realize that we are not engaged in a dead ritual, and we are not at church to be passively entertained. We are engaging the glorious and exalted God of the heavens; we are enlisted in spreading his glory from east to west! When your church gathers for a Sunday morning service, you and the other Christians there have come to meet with your God. As you participate in singing, prayer, and confession, you are communing with the almighty God of the universe! Nothing ought to be able to smother the praises of God’s people when he has gathered with them.
The other possibility is that we have forgotten the amazing act of salvation God hath wrought. In Exodus 15, when the people of Israel made it safely to the other side of the Red Sea, they turned around to see their enemies swallowed up by the waters, and they immediately burst forth with praise. When David was finally delivered from the hand of Saul, his lungs filled with the praises of 2 Samuel 22. When God moves in a mighty act of salvation, his people cannot contain their praises of thanksgiving, honor, and glory toward their Savior.
Do you truly “stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene”? Do you wonder with awe “that [you] should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood”? Do you mean it when you sing, “O, precious is the flow that makes me white as snow?” Is it true that, “A mighty fortress is our God”? Then let your praises ring! Make the rafters shake this Sunday as you glorify our great God!