For going on a week now, I’ve been fighting off a nasty cold. Stuffed up nose, hacking cough – the works. I probably got it from all the traveling that I’ve been doing the last few weeks, but that’s also meant that I’ve unfortunately had to miss a lot of church. So as I settled onto my couch for virtual church this past Sunday, I was excited for it. I’d missed this time of refreshment and had really seen God working in my life recently. So I was excited to worship Him.
But as the band started to lead us in song, what came out of my scratchy throat was most certainly not a joyful noise. I could barely sing more than a few verses before I broke off coughing. If God was there physically to accept my praise, I got the feeling He’d tell me “thanks, but wow please stop that before you hurt yourself.”
I’m positive that you’ve found yourself in a similar situation at least once in life. Or if not, it’s likely that you’ve felt one of these other emotions surrounding worship: I’m just not a very good singer. I just don’t like to sing. I’m just not feeling this particular song. All of these feelings beg the question: do we have to sing in church?
Why Do We Sing?
There are a lot of verses in the Bible that mention singing as a specific form of worship. Psalm 95:1-2 for example, says this:
“Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song.”
The psalmist here is reminding us that we should worship Him in song because of the incredible things God has done. He is worthy of songs and praise because “the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land” (Psalm 95:3-5).
But as I browsed a list of other verses about worship, I noticed that many don’t use the word “sing.” Many verses, like Psalm 96:9, Romans 12:1-2 and Hebrews 12:28, use the word “worship,” but describe other ways of doing so, like offering a sacrifice or devoting your life to Christ. This is an important distinction, because I think in our modern world, “worship” is often synonymous with “singing.”
Singing praises to God is certainly an excellent form of worship, but it is not the only form. We can worship the Lord by being selfless and generous, by fasting and meditating on His word, by prayer, and by devoting our lives to His service and glory.
But if you choose not to sing, know that your lips should not remain shut. Even if you can’t carry a tune, the Bible reminds us that we should still be praising God and extolling His name constantly. Hebrews 13:15 says “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.”
Another popular verse is Luke 19:40, where Jesus declares that “if they [the people] keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” In context, we see this verse when Jesus has just arrived in Jerusalem, ahead of His crucifixion. As He enters the city, the crowd of His followers begins shouting and praising Him “in a loud voice.” In response to this ruckus, the Pharisees tell Jesus to control the people – to yell at them for disturbing the peace. Jesus instead rebukes the Pharisees, telling them that the people have to praise Him. Creation demands it, because if not the people, then the very ground itself will praise Him.
God is worthy of our praise. He demands it. Not in the threatening way of an earthly ruler, like Nebuchadnezzar, who promises death if the people don’t praise Him. But God, by His very nature and being, is worthy of our praise. We must give it, whether in word, song, or deed.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Sarah Noltner
Why Do We Not Want to Sing?
Singing isn’t for everyone, and certainly not everyone in the pulpit can be the next American Idol. But if you find yourself clamming up during worship, ask yourself why? Is it because:
– You aren’t good enough, and are embarrassed to sing?
– You don’t like it, and think singing is stupid, or undignified?
– You don’t like the songs, maybe because they are too old-fashioned, or too modern?
– You don’t want to, thinking nobody will really notice or care either way?
I’ve certainly answered yes to some, if not all, of these questions throughout my life. When the worship leader hits that high note, it’s easy for me to just give up on the song altogether. And who among us hasn’t visited a church at some point and thought “yeuch, this music style is not for me.”
But we need to get down to the “why” behind all of these questions, and ultimately remember one thing: musical worship is not for you. True, it can give you a spiritual experience if you are really connecting with the song, and it can help you to feel closer to God at times. But the reason we sing is to offer praise and thanks to God.
– If you think you aren’t good enough, know that God doesn’t measure talent. He just wants to hear your joy and thankfulness.
– If you think singing is a waste or undignified, perhaps you need to humble yourself. Remember that even the great King David was accused of “undignified worship,” yet he did it anyway (2 Samuel 6:20-23).
– If you don’t like the song, perhaps try focusing on the words, instead of the rhythm. Meditate on what biblical truth the song is conveying, and praise God for the incredible things He has done.
– If you don’t think anyone will care, know that God does! Again, He isn’t up in Heaven cracking His knuckles and waiting to punish you for not singing. But He wants to hear from you!
Make Some Noise
Do we need to sing in church? No, not really. If you truly feel that there’s a better way for you to worship and thank God, that isn’t born out of vanity, then by all means do that. But there is something special and timeless about lifting up your voice, together with other out-of-key believers, to praise God.
Many of the songs we sing are old hymns that recount incredible truths about who God is and what He’s done for humanity. Many other newer songs are modeled after specific Psalms – and singing the words of Scripture is an incredible way to praise Him.
Whether you sound like a Broadway star or a dying cat, what truly matters to the Lord is what is in your heart. If you are making noise in true worship and thanksgiving, then He will gladly accept it.
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Bethany Pyle is the editor for Bible Study Tools.com and the design editor for Crosscards.com. She has a background in journalism and a degree in English from Christopher Newport University. When not editing for Salem, she enjoys good fiction and better coffee.