Posted by: rcottrill | June 17, 2010

Worship in Song

There is confusion in many congregations as to how music is to be used in the services of the church. Too often it becomes mainly one of three things:

1) Preserving Our Tradition
Congregational singing is an empty ritual–we sing because that’s what we’re supposed to do in church. In some church services you can even predict where hymns will go, and which ones we will either stand or sit to sing. There is a set form we follow, without much attention to the words we sing. Some worship leaders frequently skip the third stanza of a hymn (rarely any other!), no matter if it is the best stanza in the song or not.

2) Making Church Exciting!
It becomes a tool for emotional manipulation, to generate excitement or other feelings. Things such as fast-paced songs with a bouncy beat (often a loud, dominating beat), or very slow singing with endless repetition, are often a clue to this. The service leader is trying to stir up an emotional response in us.

3) Drawing a Crowd
It is used for mere entertainment. This has to do more with platform performance than with congregational singing, but it is another abuse. The “Hey! Look at me!” or “Hey! Listen to us!” approach. (And some “worship teams” succumb to it.) Instead of music being tuned to please the heart of God (the real Audience) it is geared to tickling the ears of human listeners. And yes, we can draw a crowd that way. But too often they’re there for the wrong reasons.

Are these three totally without merit? No, not necessarily. But they do not work well as a fundamental purpose. The psalmist declares: “I will praise the Lord with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright and in the congregation” (Ps. 11:1). Worship and praise begins in the “heart”–the inner being. The word also suggests a significant involvement of the mind and the understanding (cf. Ps. 47:7; I Cor. 14:15).

Psalm 28:7 is a key text in this matter. It expresses well where our adoration and thanksgiving to God are to come from, and the place that music is to have in praise and worship. Our hymnody is not for stirring up feelings from the outside, but for giving voice to what is already in the heart. Our singing should be the outflow of a singing heart. Notice the clear progression.

1) A Basic Truth. “The Lord is my strength and shield…”

2) The Truth Believed. “My heart trusted in Him…”

3) The Belief Validated. “And I am helped…”

4) The Inward Response. “Therefore my heart greatly rejoices.”

5) The Outward Expression. “And with my song I will praise Him.”

That is not the whole story, of course. But it highlights an important aspect that is too often forgotten. The expression of true praise and worship is not driven by outward forces, but is a natural expression of a praise-filled heart responding to what is happening in our walk with the Lord. If this pattern is followed, hymn singing will mean more to participants, and it will delight the heart of God.


  1. […] Why do we sing hymns in church? There are some reasons, perhaps unspoken and unrecognized, that are less than biblical. The Scriptures give us important insight on this. I’ve discussed the issue in the article Worship in Song. […]

  2. […] WORSHIP IN SONG. Why do we sing in church? No doubt for a variety of reasons–not all of them biblical! But there is a key verse in the Psalms that shows the proper connection between music and worship. […]


%d bloggers like this: