Imagine you have never been to a Christian church of any kind. If you have grown up in America you’re familiar with the name, Jesus Christ (you may even use that name when you hit your thumb with a hammer) but you don’t know what the Bible says about him. You are familiar with a few Christian hymns, though you don’t realize they are hymns or even know the word “hymn” (you recognize and may be able to sing the first stanzas of “Joy to the World”, “Silent Night” and a few other Christmas carols). Imagine a friend invites you to visit Christ Community Church on a Sunday morning. Don’t you think you’d find it strange to see and hear people singing together?
Most people sing once in a while. They sing along when they hear familiar songs on the radio. They sing along with the crowd when they go to a concert to hear a favorite band. Others prefer to just listen to the songs and would be quite embarrassed if anyone heard or saw them singing. But if you’d never been around people who sing in worship, it would probably seem a bit uncomfortable!
The Bible invites God’s people to “Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!” Sing to the LORD, bless his name…” (Psalm 96:1-2a). Singing was part of Israel’s worship, and the Psalms are, for the most part, songs written for God’s people to sing. The New Testament Church used song as part of its worship as well: “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” (Colossians 3:16).
I have read several articles recently that expressed concern about a decline in congregational singing. Some church services focus so much on the leaders on the platform that people are not encouraged to sing. They prefer to just watch and listen to the performance. I don’t think that’s true at Christ Community Church.
From the beginning, we have encouraged the congregation to be the choir. We don’t include music in our worship services to give gifted vocalists an opportunity to entertain an audience. We remind people that God is the audience in worship. All of us are “performers” in the sense of offering something to God. Congregational singing is not an opportunity to impress those around you with the quality of your voice. It’s an opportunity to encourage one another to express to God the adoration and praise we feel toward Him. We choose songs week after week that will give you words to offer God – expressions of thanksgiving, joy, repentance, praise, trust, amazement at God’s grace, adoration and much more.
In Reflections on the Psalms, C.S. Lewis said “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation.”
As I listen to our church family sing on Sunday mornings, I’m glad that most of those who gather enjoy singing as part of worship. I’m glad our musicians want to sing songs that exalt Christ with thoughtful lyrics. I’m glad we have people who write songs and who enjoy setting old hymns to new, more sing-able melodies. I’m thankful for musicians who lead skillfully, so we’re not distracted from the words we’re offering to God. And I’m grateful for a congregation that “sings to the LORD” as a way of praising Him and delighting in Him.