by Daniel Rieke
“I don’t want to be distracted by the people around me when we’re singing on Sundays.”
This statement is representative of a mindset I have often encountered in churches. The mindset that singing songs during a Sunday church service is simply about me individually connecting with Jesus.
And what is noticeably absent from this mindset about corporate worship through song is just that: a corporate aspect. It’s completely individual-focused. As Americans, we have been brought up and cultured to think in terms of radical individuality and those ideas can seep into the church, often in barely noticeable ways. One such way is in this common view of corporate worship.
I fear that far too often in worship services, we are focused during the music almost exclusively on ourselves and how we are relating to Jesus.
Now, before I go any further, I want to affirm wholeheartedly the absolute necessity of approaching corporate worship with that goal in mind: to connect with the heart of God while singing praises to Him. After all, there are numerous passages in the Psalms encouraging us to “sing praises” to the Lord, implying an aspect of individual connection to God as we sing together corporately. So by no means attempt to NOT connect with God while you’re singing. That’s not at all what I’m meaning to imply.
I’m just saying that the Bible teaches that that’s not all there is to the picture. Take for instance, the following passages from the New Testament:
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. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:16-17 ESV
…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, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:18-21 ESV
Isn't it interesting what Paul is saying in these verses? He’s encouraging these churches to address each other in “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,” and he’s encouraging them to teach and admonish one another by singing to each other.
He’s saying that part of the role of our time of singing together corporately is to teach and encourage one another and talk to each other about the goodness of God.
In other words, although the Psalms very clearly give us an expectation of individually relating to God through singing corporately, the Epistles also emphasize the importance of addressing the other people in our congregation with our singing.
Are we supposed to sing songs to God on Sundays during corporate worship? Yes.
Are we supposed to sing songs about God to each other as well? Yes.
We not only have the great privilege of addressing the God of the universe in song on Sundays, but we have the great joy of singing truths about God to those we love and cherish: the fellow members of our congregation.
Corporate singing isn't just about connecting with God directly. It’s also about celebrating who God is and what He’s done with the gathered body of Christ.
What a profound joy and privilege. It kind of makes you want to sing, doesn't it?
Example of a great song that addresses the Lord directly: It’s Who You Are by Vertical Church
Example of a great song about the Lord addressed to one another: Rejoice by Dustin Kensrue