What Happens When We Sing in Worship?

This post was taken from crosswalk.com

Singing has been a major part of my life, but I don’t assume you share my background. To appreciate this message you don’t even have to enjoy singing. But if that’s where you’re at, remember that God has a passion for singing. “Oh sing to the Lord a new song. Sing to the Lord all the earth … tell of his salvation from day to day” (Psalm 96:1-3; cf. Psalm 47:6).

The Bible contains over 400 references to singing and 50 direct commands to sing. We’re commanded twice in the New Testament to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16).

Why does God command us not only to praise him, but to sing praises to him?

We can begin by realizing that God himself sings (Zephaniah 3:17). Jesus sang hymns with his disciples. Ephesians 5 tells us that one of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is singing. So we worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.

How does music relate to words?

Some Christians think music supercedes the word, both in its significance and effect. Others think that music undermines the word. But God himself wants them together. He gave us music to serve to word. How music does this is the theme of this message.

Three Ways Singing Serves the Word

1) Singing can help us remember words.

Ever notice how easy it is to recall the words of songs you haven’t heard for 20 years? We store literally hundreds, even thousands of songs in our memory vaults. Music has an unusual mnemonic power. We remember patterns in music much better than patterns in words alone. Rhyme, meter and song are the most powerful mnemonic devices. They govern and restrict the way we say words and the time it takes to say them. Notice in Deuteronomy 31 that God uses music to help his people remember his words.


1. In the church we should use effective melodies, that is, melodies that people are able to remember and that they want to remember. And both familiar and new melodies have their place among the people of God. Some great hymn lyrics have been ruined by new melodies and others have been revived by it.

2. We should sing words God wants us to remember. It matters not only that we sing but also what we sing. Colossians 3:16 – It is the word of Christ, the gospel, that should dwell in us richly as we sing. The largest portion of our singing content should be the truths that we are responding to, not just words about the effect that truth has on us. Also, the lyrics of our songs should reflect the broad themes of Scripture. Ask yourself, If the teaching of our church was limited to the songs we sing, what would our people know?

3. We should seek to memorize songs. Don’t be too dependant upon screens or hymnbooks.

2) Singing can help us engage the words emotionally.

Music is a language of emotion in every culture of every age. It is capable of effecting us in profound and subtle ways (like when Saul’s spirit was calmed by David’s harp).

Why does music affect us deeply?

One reason is its associations. In our culture, a fast song in a major key is usually associated with happiness, whereas a slow song in a minor key is associated with sadness. Music can also bring forth old associations of things that happened in certain periods or experiences in our lives.

Musical skill also has a role in affecting us deeply. If it is played well it can affect us to a deeper degree, whereas poorly done music can be distracting or less effective.

Music helps us engage emotionally with the words we’re singing also by stretching things out. It gives us time to think about the words more carefully. Consider the repetition ofPsalm 136 or the hymn “It Is Well.” Through repetition the words and emotions are amplified.


1. We need a broad emotional range in the songs we sing: reverence, awe, repentance, grief, joy, celebration, etc. The jubilant triumph of Christ’s victory over sin cannot be duly communicated in an acappella hymn.

2. We don’t need to pit different styles or traditions against one another. They each serve to help us in different ways.

3. Know that there is a difference between being emotional moved and spiritually enlightened. Music has a voice but we’re not always sure what that voice is saying. It can make us feel peaceful, but it can’t tell us that the Lord is our shepherd or that Jesus endured God’s wrath in our place to bring us eternal peace with God.

4. Singing should be an emotional event. And they should be religious affections. We won’t always be moved in the same way or to the same effect when we sing, but when the emotions aren’t there we should repent and cry out for mercy to feel them appropriately again. God is worthy of our highest, purest, and strongest emotions. Singing helps express and unite them. Singing without emotion is an oxymoron. Vibrant singing enables us to connect truth about God with passion for that truth. We can sing theologically profound truths and not be affected. But none of that changes the fact that God wants to use music to help break through the apathy and hardness of our heart and engage him emotionally.

3) Singing can help us use words to demonstrate and express our unity.

The first two points can be accomplished when we sing by ourselves, but this point needs other people.

People sing together in the strangest places: rock concerts, sporting events, birthdays, weddings, funerals. Singing together tends to bind us together. It enables us to spend extended periods of times expressing the same thoughts and passions. And when it comes to the church, it has significant implications.

Scripture doesn’t only speak about congregational singing–God can be honored when we sing alone or when soloists sing in the church. But it is clear that the dominant theme of Scripture is believers singing together. Jesus died to redeem a universal choir, and every individual voice matters. We are not called to listen to others sing or to sing by ourselves. We are called to sing together. The question is not, “Do you have a voice?” The question is, “Do you have a song?” If you’re redeemed by Christ’s cross then you do have a song.


1. We should sing songs that unite rather than divide the church. We can appreciate the diverse musical styles and genres, but we shouldn’t try and make church worship “something for everybody.” There should be a unifying musical center that focuses on the sound of the people themselves. God commands us to worship him with instruments, but the majority of the commands tell us to worship him in song. Instruments are only there to aid the singing. So if you never sing without instruments, you should start singing acappella at times.

2. Musical creativity in the church has functional limits. Your iPod shouldn’t be the starting point for selecting songs to sing together. We want to pursue a creativity that is undistracting and not just innovative.

3. We must be clear that it is the gospel and not music that unites us. We should guard against gathering together in churches based upon our musical preferences rather than according to our unity in the gospel. The gospel is what unites us. Ephesians 2:14 – Jesus has united us, not our music. I don’t connect with people at my church because they have the same song selection on their iPod. I love them because Christ has enabled me to love them.

The host of heaven is not united in their style of music but in the words of their song (Revelation 5:9-10). What kind of music do people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation sing? We don’t know! But the Bible tells us what the focus should be: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. The Lamb must always be central to our corporate singing. Why? Because Jesus is the one who makes it possible. God doesn’t hear us on account of our skill in singing. He hears it because it is in his Son. We shouldn’t look for music to move us to sing. God has already done something worthy of moving us. How can we then keep from singing?

4. Ask yourself, What are we doing to encourage our church in corporate singing? What are we doing to discourage it? Our singing should more and more resemble what we see in Revelation. Whatever we experience here in terms of the active presence of God, it is a mere glimmer of what is to come. In the new heavens and earth we will sing gloriously and for a long time. Our thoughts and passions will be focused, and we will have the strength to give him the glory he deserves. What a glorious thing to anticipate that time! And part of our singing here on earth is anticipation of what is to come.

[Editor’s Note: The above is not a manuscript, but notes taken during Bob Kauflin’s address at the 2008 Desiring God National Conference.]

Bob Kauflin travelled with the Christian group GLAD for eight years as a songwriter and arranger before becoming a pastor with Sovereign Grace Ministries in 1985. He is now the Director of Worship Development for Sovereign Grace, overseeing its music projects and teaching on congregational worship. He blogs at Worshipmatters.com and hosts the biennial WorshipGod Conference. He and his wife, Julie, have six children and an ever-growing number of grandchildren.


May it encourages and inspires you, as it does me =) 

Fitting Day!

For Sisca`s wedding 😀

Me and Etha are going to be Sisca`s bridesmaids. The big day will be March 5, next month. We three have been together for almost 20 years. I knew Etha when I was in kindergarden, she was my sidekick when we took ballet lesson when we were 5. There were lots of happy and fall-out moments and drama between us throughout the years; fights and jealousy and competition over boys (ah, we all went through teens and the drama, weren’t we?), but I just knew that she`s going to be my best friend no matter what we`ve been through, and I was right 🙂 Sisca was in my class in 1st grade. She`s got a bright voice, and I admired her for that. But we started to hang out together as a trio when we were 10 or 11, after we joined the kids` choir at church. We were pretty good at singing. We used to sing a cappella with harmony, and people would cheer us. Good old times 🙂 Ah, I need to find those culun photos of us when we sang together at the elder`s home near church.

Now that Sisca`s getting married soon, me and Etha are honoured to be along her side on her special day. Thus, the fitting today. Sisca has tried some dresses before our session today, so she’s got some preferences for us to comment on. We went through a total of 5 wedding dresses, dived into a bargaining war with Sisca’s mum as the Captain, went through 5 to 6 bridesmaid dresses (which strongly, shamelessly indicated that me and Etha both need urgent dieting *sigh*), and another price war before we could go with photos of dresses to compare to and think about. And we just realized that we were there for more than 3 hours!! No wonder I was sooo hungry!

Scurrying ourselves to Tunjungan Plaza, our first stop was Fish & Co. because Etha hasn’t tried it. She seemed to like it at first, but when oil and cheese come together usually it won’t take too long before you feel ‘eneg’. I tried to finish mine, Etha wiped everything out, but Sisca didn’t feel to eat that much. She stopped after eating half of the fish, blaming the stress of the upcoming wedding for her losing appetite. Completely understandable. So we continued the night with hunting for shoes. I need pretty shoes, too. Those dresses were merciless, I need at least a pair of 10cm heels. I’ve got one that I really liked from Nine West, and they got my size, but the color was between blue and grey. Not a typical wedding color, so we decided to wait. After strutting from one pair of Swarovski-studded shoes (typical of Surabaya, the more bling the merrier) to the other, I found not a single shoe that was comfortable enough. All were born foot-killers. So we decided to stop for a while, and did a real therapeutic shopping. Following Sisca’s trail, I ended up buying a light and super cute pair of wedges, with red strawberries on a white background. And it was cheap! Only Rp 120,000 (shopping in Indo IS heaven), and it was at least 7cm Mum would be proud of me if she knew. Etha bought a floral halter top from Zara, and we concluded the night with some talks on the way home about life after marriage, especially Sisca’s; what she wanted, what she’s committed to do, her plans and all that.

Still can’t believe that we are actually talking about wedding and marriages and all sorts. I guess we’re all grown-up now 🙂 And I thank God I have them, because having best friends around make everything a little bit better 🙂

Love you to death, girls *smooch*