By Ralph A. Casey
Congregational singing is unique music. The singing of a congregation of Christians is the singing of the young and the old, the much talented and the not so talented, the musically experienced and the inexperienced, some who can sing beautifully and many who cannot. It is not a vocal performance by auditioned, rehearsed professionals. It is the music of heartstrings rather than vocal chords.
The primary design of congregational singing, then, is not to demonstrate how accurately these singers can sing the musical notes in a church hymnal, nor how beautifully they articulate the words of their songs. Its objective, rather, is the congregation’s participation in a collective spiritual experience, “teaching and admonishing one another and singing with the grace and melody in their hearts to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16), and speaking words of worship, praise, and thanksgiving to their heavenly Father. Their prayer songs become living prayers just as their praise hymns become living praises. Their songs become living vehicles of spiritual expression! “…in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto Thee” (Hebrews 2:12).
Unlike the fictional songs sung by the world, these worshipers sing about eternal realities: The only true and living God, His resurrected and returning Son, Jesus Christ, and, of heaven, their eventual eternal home. The songs they sing to one another teach, admonish, exhort, and encourage. They revive memories recalling “exceeding great and precious promises….” (II Peter 1:4). They build faith, strengthen hope and express love for one another. The hearts of these singers are musical instruments, provided by their heavenly Father and on these hearts they strum spiritual messages and emotions of this present life and the life to come. These worshipers don’t just sing songs; they make their songs sing!
Genuine, sincere, intentional worshipers seize each opportunity to pour out the thoughts of their hearts in song, “singing with the spirit and the understanding” (I Corinthians 14:15b) with a desire to offer their songs as “sacrifices of praise, the fruit of lips….for with such sacrifice God is well pleased” (Hebrews 12:15-16). In the midst of the assembly of the saints of God, let every heart rejoice and sing! “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing.” (Psalm 100:2).