by Paul Tautges | January 8, 2022 8:58 am
Please accept my apology for dropping the ball on our 7-week reading-together plan. I didn’t realize I had done so until I rediscovered my copy of SING! How Worship Transforms Your Life, Family, and Church on a shelf in a room that is now my home office. We moved to a different house in June 2020, along with moving our church services outdoors for that summer and, in the midst of that hectic time, this reading commitment completely slipped by me. So, I want to resume where we left off and finish the two remaining chapters. If you are new to the blog since the summer of 2020 then you may want to read the previous five posts at the end of this one.
The sixth chapter of Sing! is entitled “Sing!…with the Local Church” and is one of my favorite chapters so far.
The apostle Peter describes collective believers—the church—this way:
As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Peter 2:4-5
Like stones, “even with our sharp points and rough edges we who are God’s people are being built up together upon the solid Rock that is our Lord Jesus. The church is the only structure that will stand forever. Nothing—not even the very storms of hell—will prevail over it.” By singing together, we show “how we are a congregation of living stones. Our singing is an audible expression of the bonds we share, testifying to the life that lies within these stones.”
But church culture and the influx of an entertainment mentality do not always reinforce this biblical priority. The importance of music in church has been elevated in recent decades. However, due to the commercialization of Christian music, “we are in danger of lowering the importance we place on singing together.” The Gettys rightly exhort us: “So many of the instructions given to God’s people are to be worked out in community, together. Strong, heartfelt congregational singing is a striking expression of this, of the Holy Spirit at work amongst us.”
I agree with Keith’s and Kristyn’s assessment of waning local church involvement for some professing Christians: “Nothing dilutes a congregation’s singing or undermines our unity faster than forgetting this truth: we are not islands. Today there is a disturbing amount of believers who are drifting away from the habit of gathering weekly with other Christians in a local church.”
The more we read the apostolic letters in the New Testament, the more we realize how unique each and every church was and, yet, there is a central agreement about the priority of congregational life. The congregational life, or community, included consistent gathering for Christ-centered worship and mutual edification of which singing to one another, not only to God, is an essential fruit of the Spirit’s work in our church through the Word. For example:
…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father (Eph. 5:18-20)
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. (Col. 3:16)
In addition to observing a pattern of Christ-centered singing to one another, the New Testament also models worship that includes all generations. Many churches have made the mistake of listening to the “church marketing specialists” and, as a result, turned their worship service into an entertainment “gig- or concert-like atmosphere” in order to attract or keep young people. Many did this out of a sincere desire to reach this generation with the gospel. Sadly, however, this divided churches, dummed-down preaching, and hindered singing. But the patterns of Scripture always remain relevant. Evidence of this is the returning of believers in the millennial generation to churches that are committed to expository preaching, Christ-centered worship, and congregational singing that is not trendy, but combines the best music of multiple generations.
The New Testament teaches us that, until Jesus returns for His bride, the church, she will be engaged in spiritual warfare. Therefore, we must be strong in the Lord. One important way we strengthen one another is through congregational singing that edifies the soul, renews the mind, and encourages resolve. Therefore, the Gettys conclude this chapter with this exhortation: “When we sing, it is a battle cry of hope for the wounded, for the weary, for the lost. Sing to Jesus. Sing to your Lord and Savior and greatest Friend. Sing yourself strong. Sing the Church strong. Show up and sing up.”
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