I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too.

photoWG11-0645_FotorLast week Donald Miller, probably best known as the author of Blue Like Jazz, wrote a blog post called, “I Don’t Worship God by Singing. I Connect With Him Elsewhere.” It came as I was  working on a chapter for my book, True Worshipers. A chapter called “True Worshipers Sing.”

I was surprised by the categorical nature of Don’s title and even more concerned after reading the post. Don seemed more committed to being honest (brutally honest at one point) and telling us about his learning style than helping us see more clearly what God might think about our singing.

I’ve read some thoughtful responses to Don’s post from Mike Cosper, Denny Burk (Part 1 and Part 2), and Jonathan Leeman. Among other things, they helpfully address the formative practice of liturgy, the relationship between our faith and the gathered church, and the importance of the sacraments and relational accountability.

In this post, I simply want to explore some thoughts from Scripture about singing. If Don’s post is any indicator, and I think it is, a lot of us may not be that clear on why God wants us to sing. And no, I’m not writing this out of concern for my job security…

I’ve been a musician for 50 years, so singing makes sense to me. But I know there are plenty of non-musical Christians in the world. People who don’t like to sing. People who sound terrible when they sing. People who have been told they can’t sing. People who don’t “get” singing. And people like Don, who aren’t able to “connect with God” when they sing. Should they be encouraged to sing?

I could tell you what I think based on my experience. But I’d rather take you to God’s Word.

Singing in the Bible

There are almost fifty exhortations to sing in Scripture, as well as four hundred references to singing. Two of those passages (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16) instruct us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God and to one another. These aren’t suggestions, preferences, or good ideas. They’re commands. Which means God intends for us to obey them.

Since everyone isn’t a musician, how do these apply to us? Why does God want us to sing?

1. Singing is more a matter of our hearts than our voices.
Years ago Ronald Allen wrote in his book Worship: Rediscovering the Missing Jewel:

“When a non-singer becomes a Christian, he or she becomes a singer. Not all are blessed with a finely tuned ear and a well modulated voice; so the sound may not be superb-it may even be out-of-tune and off-key. Remember: worship is a state of heart; musical sound is a state of art. Let’s not confuse them.”

We sing and make melody to the Lord with our hearts (Eph. 5:19). The sounds we make affect those around us, for better or worse. But God hears what no one else can. It’s the song of the Redeemed for our great Redeemer. It’s a song we didn’t originate and can’t improve upon. It’s true that those who led the singing at the temple were trained and skilled in music for the Lord (1 Chron. 25:7). But there’s no indication either in the early church or in Revelation’s depiction of heaven that anyone gets a pass when it comes to singing praises to God. Even if we can’t sing a note, we can still sing in our hearts.

2. Singing helps us remember words.
Throughout Scripture, God reminds his people of their tendency to forget his promises, commands, and warnings. In Deut. 31, as Israel is about to enter the promised land, God tells Moses that his people will turn to idols after they enter Canaan. He then instructs Moses to teach the Israelites a song, so that, “when many evils and troubles have come upon them, this song shall confront them as a witness (for it will live unforgotten in the mouths of their offspring)” (Deut. 31:21). We sing to remember God’s word, and most of all, the word of Christ, or the gospel (Col. 3:16). Science has confirmed that we remember words, patterns, and categories more easily when words are set to music. It’s why hardly anyone can quote a John Wesley sermon, yet most people know the words to Charles Wesley’s “Hark! the Herald Angels Sing.”

3. Singing expresses and engages our emotions.
In every culture, music is a language of emotion that helps express what we feel. So David writes, “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed” (Ps. 71:23). The words of his redeemed soul overflow into song. It’s why musicals are so popular, why we sing our country’s national anthem, and why every revival since the Reformation has been accompanied by an outpouring of new songs. As John Piper said in a sermon,

“The reason we sing is because there are depths and heights and intensities and kinds of emotion that will not be satisfactorily expressed by mere prosaic forms, or even poetic readings. There are realities that demand to break out of prose into poetry and some demand that poetry be stretched into song.”

At the same time, music engages our emotions.  In Mt. 11:17 Jesus implies that music can lead us to either dance or mourn. It can draw out a variety of feelings including romance, peace, joy, fear, playfulness, sadness, or awe. Singing can help us feel the truth more deeply.

4. Singing reflects the nature of God.
The Father sings over his redeemed people (Zephaniah 3:17). Jesus sings with us in the midst of the congregation (Heb. 2:12). One of the fruits of being filled with the Spirit is singing (Eph. 5:18-19). We worship a triune God who sings, and he wants us to be like him.

5. Singing together reflects and deepens our unity in the gospel.
Being together in the same room is one way we can express our unity. But singing together draws attention to that bond as we sing the same words at the same time. In fact, Paul uses a musical analogy when he wants to encourage gospel-driven unity: “And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

Connecting with God

There are more reasons to consider, but this is a blog post, not a book (which I’m currently writing). God never promised we would connect with him through singing. The way we “connect with him” is through faith in the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ, that paid for our sins and reconciled us to God (Heb. 10:19-22; 1 Pet. 3:18). The way we express that faith are wonderfully varied – working, playing, serving, proclaiming, gathering, etc. But we have no reason to abandon God’s good gift of singing in the name of being more genuine. God knows how we work. And he’s appointed singing to be one way we deepen our relationship with him and each other.

The singing in your church may be dreadful. Your voice might sound like a cross between a beached whale and an alley cat in heat. Singing might make you feel uncomfortable. Those who lead the singing in your church might do it poorly. And if there’s anything we can do to change the situation, we should.

But our confidence and comfort in singing comes from this: Jesus, our great high priest, makes all our offerings acceptable to God through his perfect life of obedience and his perfect sacrifice of atonement. The Father loves our singing not only because it’s sincere, but because when offered through faith, it sounds just like his beloved Son.

And besides. One day we’ll all have better voices and our songs will far surpass anything we’ve sung here. It’s then we’ll realize that eternity won’t be long enough to contain the songs worthy of the Lamb who was slain.

, , ,

48 Responses to I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too.

  1. Dan February 10, 2014 at 7:20 PM #

    “Two of those passages (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16) instruct us to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God and to one another. These aren’t suggestions, preferences, or good ideas. They’re commands. Which means God intends for us to obey them.”

    So, in your assembly, do the attendees sing to one another? Or are they locked into centuries of tradition, singing to the backs of heads? Obedience to these commands involves interactive, reciprocal action.

    If your answer us yes, please send me the time and address for your compliant meetings.

    Meanwhile, cheers in Christ.

    • Bob Kauflin February 10, 2014 at 10:21 PM #

      Dan, thanks for asking. Scripture isn’t clear on exactly what “singing to one another” looks like. Actually people “singing to the backs of heads” are still singing to one another since we can hear those around us singing. But to answer your question, the seats on the side of our meeting room are slanted towards the middle, so people can see others who are singing. The lights are up full and I encourage the musicians to keep their eyes open much of the time to interact with others in the congregation. So yes, we are singing to one another. We meet at the Marriott in Louisville, KY, 10:30 AM on Sundays. Would love to have you stop by!

    • Blair A. Beree May 3, 2015 at 9:04 PM #

      Singing to one another can mean through albums; that’s one of the greatest revelations of the Word of God, the wisdom it has endures the generations.

  2. TA February 11, 2014 at 12:26 AM #

    I have been struggling with this a lot lately. I love to sing. Not very good at it but love it. That is until we changed churches. I do not connect with this style of music. It is loud and I can’t even hear myself sing much less those around me. It’s like I’m listening to the radio in my car and I have it turned up too loud. And if I those songs came on my radio I would change the channel. Most of them are very touchy-feely, theologically light, and SOOO repetitive. How long can you sing a song before it becomes “mindless repetition?” Most of the time I just stand there and try to focus on the words. And tell myself to get over it. It I haven’t yet. And I’m not sure what to do about it.

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 7:35 AM #

      TA, thanks for stopping by. So sorry about your situation. The first thing I’d do is ask God to help you focus on what is good when you’re singing. Sounds like that’s what you’re doing. Thank him for the gospel in the midst of whatever song is being led! If you haven’t done it, I’d talk to the leader of the music about your questions/concerns. Ask him for his perspective. If that goes nowhere, I’d ask your pastor about the situation. I wrote about some of these issues in my book, Worship Matters, which was written for leaders. If you think it would help, I’d be happy to send you a copy to give to your music minister and/or pastor. Interesting email address, by the way.

    • Bob February 11, 2014 at 8:49 AM #

      I look at these verses, Eph 5:19 / Col 3:16, and I’m reminded that singing to one another is not restricted or limited to Sunday morning worship. Worship – as described in these verses – is a daily thing … when we awake, as we’re driving down the road to work, when we meet with friends/brothers/sisters for lunch … whole songs or snippets of refrains … it matters not. The heart sings and the vocal chords follow!

      • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 9:02 AM #

        Bob, you’re exactly right. There’s no need to limit those verses to what we do when we gather. Great point!

    • Dee July 27, 2014 at 6:02 PM #

      You are obviously in a church that uses CCM. If I were you, I would NOT ignore the bad feeling you are getting, maybe even from the Holy Spirit of God Himself. I would find a church that only uses traditional hymns and denounces CCM in all its forms as dangerous. You would be safe to try an independent, fundamental baptist church for that purpose.

      CCM is anti-Christian at its core and is the sound track to end times apostasy! Get out while you can! Satan is behind it! I don’t care who that offends because it’s simply the truth! Rock and roll means “sex” and rebellion and has always been evil from its inception! There’s death in the pot and it cannot be tamed nor Christianized! CCM is based off rock and roll!

      If you want more evidence, go to David Cloud’s website. He is very knowledgeable on the subject and has TONS of stuff for you to review. If you want more sources than him, then just do another internet search. I think some CCM “artists” even knowingly (but secretly of course) worship Satan! NO JOKE! I DO believe what I am telling you! Look up Satanic symbolism and CCM — it’s all there!

      David Cloud doesn’t ever get into the Illuminati stuff though, so you will have to do an internet search for that. Even if you don’t believe the Illuminati and occultic part of it, David Cloud still conclusively refutes the use of CCM without mentioning this at all.

      Don’t take my word for it, though! Again, just do some research! The Bible says, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13) I say this because people will just give opinions without having truly examined the evidence, though I am not accusing you of doing this. Many who love CCM are guilty of this, though. You seem skeptical, which is better for you than you probably realize.

      CCM in NOT pleasing to God, ever! Before you negatively judge what I am saying, do some research — you WILL find the truth if you are willing! I pray will you do so! CCM is about what people want rather than what God wants if you take the time to examine it carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and see if CCM is truly from God! Test and prove all things as commanded by the Bible!

      • Kevin Huntsinger October 20, 2014 at 9:21 AM #

        Dee I appreciate your post but to say you are 100% would be an incorrect statement. From the sound of your post you are canvassing songs in general with the exception of Hymnals. I must remind you that even within the Hymnal there are shallow songs that either limit or skip scripture altogether. I am not saying all that the Hymnals have to offer is bad. But to canvass songs not in it is poor.. Is it safe to assume you are also a KJV only as well? If that is the case we have a whole other can of worms we can open for that discussion.

  3. Rob Still February 11, 2014 at 8:03 AM #

    Hey Bob thanks for your very thoughtful and biblical encouragement for congregational singing! I can’t wait to read your book! The Lord be with you while you write it.

    I’m empathetic with those who have trouble with singing, whether it’s for internal or external reasons. Nonetheless – it is good to sing to the Lord and make music to his name (Psalm 92)!

    And that’s good enough for me.

    Peace bro!
    Rob Still

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 8:35 AM #

      Rob, thanks for your encouraging words!

  4. Tony Weber February 11, 2014 at 9:01 AM #

    Your comments reminded me a little of John Wesley’s “Rules for singing,” found in the front of the Methodist hymnal. Those rules can be helpful to some who find it difficult to sing (and I have read them from the front on more than one occasion…) I’ve copied them below for the benefit of those who may not have seen them before.

    As always, thanks for the encouragement.

    -Tony

    ————- Rules for Singing by John Wesley —————

    1. Sing all. See that you join with the congregation as frequently as you can. Let not a slight degree of weakness or weariness hinder you. If it is a cross to you, take it up and you will find a blessing.

    2. Sing lustily, and with a good courage. Beware of singing as if you were half dead, or half asleep; but lift up your voice with strength. Be no more afraid of your voice now, nor more ashamed of it being heard, then when you sing the songs of Satan.

    3. Sing modestly. Do not bawl, as to be heard above, or distinct from, the rest of the congregation, that you may not destroy the harmony; but strive to unite your voices together, so as to make one clear melodious sound.

    4. Sing in time. Whatever time is sung, be sure to keep with it. Do not run before, not stay behind it; but attend closely to the leading voices, and move therewith as exactly as you can. And take care you sing not too slow. This drawling way naturally steals on all who are lazy; and it is high time to drive it out from among us, and sing all our tunes just as quick as we did at first.

    5. Above all, sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this, attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve of here, and reward when he cometh in the clouds of heaven.

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 9:03 AM #

      Tony, I was just looking at those yesterday. Thanks for posting them.

  5. Scott King February 11, 2014 at 9:27 AM #

    Thank you for this excellent article that reminds us to join in song to worship of Him Who gave Himself for us, Jesus Christ. You have said so well and in such an articulated manner that which the body of Christ needs to hear and reflect upon.

  6. Randall Hall February 11, 2014 at 10:03 AM #

    Bob–great insights–the timing of your article is a bit interesting as I was just in a A/V Tech leadership team meeting last night and we were discussing some acoustical needs in our Worship center. We need to put up some sound absorbing material since we use a lot of electronic instruments and microphones but we don’t want to make the entire room dead like a studio. I discussed with our audio board operators the difficulties of achieving a balance between enough sound to create a room dynamic but not so much that I can’t hear people singing while I’m on the platform (and they can’t hear themselves as well). We don’t want to fall prey to having so much sound blasting into the congregation’s face, that they just listen rather than participate actively. With the diversity in musicals styles that we utilize on a regular basis (band, choir, orchestra, etc.), this is a pretty lofty goal but one I believe is necessary. I see too many churches that simply have a concert time in worship prior to a sermon instead of creating the right environment that encourages people to sing.

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 10:48 AM #

      Randall, thanks for your encouraging words. We faced the same issue when we build Covenant Life’s building back in the early 2000’s. It’s possible! Keep fighting for that balance of controlled and live sound. The congregation needs to be able to hear themselves.

  7. Chris February 11, 2014 at 3:03 PM #

    I have a couple of questions: (1) If singing is so important (you describe it as a command), why did Jesus not mention anything about it at all? (2) Why do many Christians seem to primarily associate singing with worshiping God, yet we never associate singing when talking about worshiping idols. I’ve heard preachers talk about how much our current generation worships our technology, or our jobs, or even our kids, but I’ve never heard anyone sing to these idols. (3) Why did you feel the need to address Donald Millers blog in the first place? He was sharing his personal feelings and experiences. He never once told us that we shouldn’t sing.

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 3:31 PM #

      Chris, thanks for your questions. Here are my thoughts.

      1) Jesus didn’t mention a lot of things that are still very important to our faith. We get into trouble when we start determining what we believe by what isn’t included in one part of the Bible. But to be clear, Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples after the last supper (Mt. 26:30), mentions singing in Mt. 11:17, and most likely sang every week in synagogue. And as I mention in the post, Heb. 2:12 says that Jesus sings in our midst.
      2) The current music industry (for instance, the Grammys) is testimony to the fact that we regularly sing to idols like sensuality, independence, rebellion, anger, self-exaltation, and more.
      3) Don has a significant influence. I thought his premise for deciding whether or not to sing was flawed and unhelpful, especially when God is so clear about it. He didn’t say we shouldn’t sing, but he did say it’s fine if Christians don’t sing when it doesn’t help them connect with God. My primary purpose was to clear up misconceptions about singing. When someone’s personal feelings and experiences don’t faithfully represent Scripture it’s appropriate to try to bring some clarity. My experience is different from Don’s, but our experiences aren’t the standard. God’s Word is.

      Let me know if that’s helpful. Thanks, Chris.

  8. Bob D. February 11, 2014 at 4:02 PM #

    Bob, thanks for your thoughts. I’m a worship pastor at a church and have been involved in music since my youth. I, too, believe that singing has a scriptural basis for being an important part of our response to God’s amazing grace and essence of love. But, I do continue to process whether there is a scriptural MANDATE to sing in the context of singing being a required act of worship. How much more are we commanded to offer our complete lives as vessels of worship and love in His Kingdom! I love music and believe it to be such an amazing creation from the imagination and depth of God. But I know several unbelievable persons in the Kingdom who do not sing for one reason or another, and yet, are great testimonies to me of how God uses human beings for His purposes.

    Anyway, thanks for the article. One other thing…your last paragraph. “And besides. One day we’ll all have better voices and our songs will far surpass anything we’ve sung here.”
    I tend to hope that’s not true. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the less than amazing voices in ensembles as not weak links, but pictures of the beauty found in imperfection, joining together to create a sum of uniqueness and wonder. :) Blessings and variety in the daily journey to you and yours!

    • Bob Kauflin February 11, 2014 at 5:10 PM #

      Bob, good thoughts. I don’t in any way want to downplay worship as what we do with our lives. Nor do I think Christians need to sing every time they get together. But I do think that from the dawn of creation when the morning stars sang for joy to the book of Revelation when all creation joins in with the song to the Lamb that God intends for us to lift our voices to him in songs of praise, lament, adoration, celebration, awe, etc. And the Sunday gathering seems to be one of the more appropriate times to do that.

      As to the new heavens and earth, you raise an interesting point. In this age God’s strength is perfected in our weakness and the all-surpassing treasure exists in jars of clay. But in eternity either we’ll have better voices to sing, or better ears to hear. Maybe both!

      • Bob D. February 12, 2014 at 6:19 PM #

        Thanks, Bob. Great post and you’re gracious to allow me to participate. I totally agree that God LOVES for His creation to join in the eternal songs of joy, redemption, celebration, etc. and that when we’re gathered together, it’s an awesome opportunity to do so! We are His creation that He created to continue to create. Maybe He….the Author and Perfecter of not only our faith but of all things…loves being surprised by the music we create with His permission and provision. :)

  9. Matt W. February 11, 2014 at 10:22 PM #

    Thanks for the post Bob! The seeing the congregation respond in worship always encourages me when I’m leading. Then I’m worshiping God for their worship! That’s one way I see Eph. 5:19 and Col. 3:16 worked out. Also, you could write the last couple lines of the post into a song! If not… let me haha!

    • Joel S. February 13, 2014 at 5:38 PM #

      If you want a song with those words, check out the last part of the second verse of this song. This is not a song I wrote, but it is a song that I thought of when I read the lines you are referring to:

  10. Harry Walls IV February 12, 2014 at 3:53 PM #

    Bob, you continue to present quality thoughts about worship that, as a worship leader for 20 plus years, I still send my people to. Thanks for this. It seems like we have entered the beginning of a new type of “worship war” with this one. Thanks for fighting scripturally. People tend to fight with their emotions and that gets us into trouble.

    • Bob Kauflin February 12, 2014 at 5:28 PM #

      Harry, thanks for your kind words. I agree. Our emotions are a gift, but not infallible.

  11. Rodney Gehman February 14, 2014 at 11:33 AM #

    Bob, thanks for the great word. I’m new to vocational worship leading, and I’m wanting to educate my congregation a bit more as to why we sing. Do you mind if I share this article with my them on The City? I will include a link.

    • Bob Kauflin February 14, 2014 at 11:49 AM #

      Rodney, I’d be honored if you shared it. Glad it was encouraging to you.

  12. Dan Kreider February 14, 2014 at 3:07 PM #

    Bob, thanks for this timely article. I too was disappointed (but not surprised) by Don Miller’s post.

    I tell my congregation often that, because they are all priests in the new covenant, they are all in the “music ministry.” When you’re singing truths about God in the midst of the congregation, you have no idea how you may be ministering to those around you who are hurting or struggling in their faith. After all, corporate worship is not about what we can GET, but what we can give (Matt. 20:28). It’s a public testimony of our faith in Christ. Or another way to think of it is that God is the audience, the congregation are the performers, and the folks on the platform are the prompters (this may have been borrowed from your book, can’t remember…).

    Thanks for your faithful ministry!

  13. David M February 17, 2014 at 9:38 PM #

    thanks Bob for this post. I read it with interest, yet with some discouragement as i meet up weekly at church with a young adults’ group that doesn’t really sing. i must say, that this external environment does discourage me from singing as well, perhaps its also distracting to sing scriptural realities and yet, observe your fellow believers’ physical stature and countenance and wonder if any of what we are singing about is taking root in our hearts?

    That said, i’ve participated in church meetings in the past, when we sing together and in the briefest of moments, myself and a neighbour will have a short exchange of eye-contact and a smile and nod – a mutual communication of agreement about what we are singing about. It’s deeply encouraging and instantly promotes connection with one another as a body of Christ.

  14. Ken February 26, 2014 at 2:48 AM #

    The way God reaches us through music is – for lack of a better word – imponderable. There was a very intellectual Jewish woman, who married into our family in the past (and left it again), who professed to be uninterested in Christianity – yet loved sing-ins of Handel’s “Messiah.” My late mother was a professional church soloist, able to sing librettos of classical works in Latin, Italian, and German. When first married to my father in the Korean War period, she accompanied him from New Jersey to Washington state by car because of an Air Force transfer, and spent the entire trip trying to teach him “The Old Rugged Cross” because it was the only tune he came close to carrying. Myself, I miss the many classical works I was exposed to in childhood because the small Bible churches I attend for Biblical accuracy lack the musical or financial resources to put them on. I can do little to help restore them because I inherited a good musical ear but no vocal skills. I am glad I “sing to the backs of heads” because I would hate to have to watch the faces of those who had to hear me. The only time I feel comfortable singing is in congregational anonymity. But I love the fusion of poetry and music in our great hymns of the faith.

  15. Diane Green April 2, 2014 at 9:27 AM #

    AWESOME article!!! I will never understand how people can NOT worship. If I’m not singing – it’s because I’m weeping and can’t sing… There’s just something about singing back to God praises of adoration… Even when not in an audience – when I’m in my car or walking my dirt road with my headphones on I catch myself crying and caught up in worshiping… Music is powerful! Thank you for your insight!!!

  16. Debbie Monroe April 14, 2014 at 1:08 AM #

    If we wanted to reprint an excerpt from this in our church newsletter, how can we get your permission officially? Please email me with how to proceed. Much if what is written here would be very applicable for our congregation. Thanks!

  17. Michael Curle June 30, 2014 at 6:17 AM #

    Thanks for the post. I have your book, “Worship Matters”. It’s been the most helpful thing that I’ve ever read as a worship leader. Looking forward to your new one.

    Seems like a lot of people don’t like singing to God in worship. I remember the horror I felt when I first read C.S. Lewis saying how much he disliked hymn singing:

    “I know that many of the congregation like singing hymns: but am not yet convinced that their enjoyment is of a spiritual kind… To the minority, of whom I am one, the hymns are mostly the dead wood of the service. Recently in a party of six people I found that all without exception would like fewer hymns… The art of poetry has developed for two centuries in a private and subjective direction. That is why I find the hymns ‘dead wood’.”

    I shudder to think what the great apologist would think of the songs I have written for our local congregation.

    His objections seem mostly to do with poor musical artistry and with overly sentimental lyrics. These are still a problem. I think that Mr Lewis and Mr Miller may have to find themselves a quiet alcove in the New Jerusalem some day…

    • Bob Kauflin June 30, 2014 at 6:56 PM #

      Michael, thanks for your thoughtful comment and the encouragement. Yes, it doesn’t seem like Lewis took the 50 biblical exhortations to sing too seriously. But he took a great many other biblical truths seriously, and for that I’m grateful.

  18. Dee July 27, 2014 at 6:15 PM #

    What do you make of “Let your WOMEN KEEP SILENCE in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is A SHAME for WOMEN TO SPEAK in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

    Singing in words is definitely a fancy form of speaking. I see no Biblical obligation here for women to be singing in the church, or even speaking while regular church services are in session. I believe by these plain words alone God would excuse any woman from having to sing in this setting, and in fact, might praise her for her obedience!

    Problem is, I’ve never seen a church actually be obedient to this command, and I haven’t always been consistent myself, to be honest. I am saying this as a woman too, not a man! When I take this passage plainly and eliminate modern day ideas, I see no other reasonable interpretation!

    Some say its only speaking against women uttering things in tongues, but by the content of the two sentences from 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, the commandment seems obvious that it also applies to women speaking in general while at church!

    (I think this at least applies to Sunday where the whole, mixed congregation is in attendance, and maybe not a women’s bible study on Wednesday where a male pastor is leading it and the husbands/fathers are okay with it).

    If you sing the old hymns, you are singing in words, and that seems to be forbidden to women while in church! Now, this wouldn’t exclude women from singing in private or in other settings besides church, which is how I am taking this passage.

    Oh, I am a horrible singer too, but someday I would like to get vocal lessons :) I do dread singing in a church anyway, and I don’t enjoy singing because I am NOT good, and I think it is mean to make people sing before others when they have no talent, even on the part of a man.

    What do you make of this?

    • Bob Kauflin July 28, 2014 at 8:01 AM #

      Hi, Dee. Thanks for stopping by. Ephesians 5:18-20 and Colossians 3:16 both exhort all members of a church, men and women, to sing to one another. Paul’s admonition in 1 Cor. 14:34-35 has to do with women taking on a teaching/evaluative role in the public gatherings and doesn’t apply to singing. And I hope your vocal lessons go well! Although the question isn’t, “Has God give me a voice?” but, “Has God given me a song?” And if you’ve turned from your sins and trusted in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to pay for your sins, then you definitely have a song to sing!

  19. Dee July 27, 2014 at 6:17 PM #

    Also, what do you make of “Is any among you AFFLICTED? let him PRAY. Is any MERRY? let him SING psalms.” (James 5:13)

    If you are AFFLICTED, you are commanded to PRAY, not sing! It appears to me that for the New Testament, SINGING is done when you are MERRY not afflicted! So, people don’t always have to sing by that alone.

    CCM churches (I am against CCM) also emphasize emotion rather than faith, and seem to require it in their singing.

    CCM promoters do not walk by faith alone, but think they must always feel the “manifest presence of God” in singing, walking by sight rather than by faith as Christians are commanded to in the Bible.

    (If you want to know many other things that are wrong about CCM, do research online or look at David Cloud’s website).

    David Cloud, who speaks out against the anti-Christian nature of CCM online, views James 5:13 the same way (I actually got my view from him).

    He decried the emphasis on the Christian always having to make themselves merry in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches (big promoters of CCM today), when he was a new convert to Christ coming out of a sinful lifestyle that still afflicted him.

    While some songs in the Old Testament seem sad, singing in the New Testament appears to be joyous only, and James 5:13 backs that up. Sad songs are sung by CCM bands and the world, rather than traditional Christians.

    So, I would say if someone is afflicted, they should NOT be made to sing and be merry…they should be advised instead to PRAY!

    Thus, in my opinion, there are Biblically acceptable situations in which a person can be excused from NOT singing.

    What do you think of this?

    NOTE: Capitalized words are for emphasis – I am not trying to yell at you :)

    • Bob Kauflin July 28, 2014 at 8:05 AM #

      Dee, I didn’t intend to say that Christians should sing all the time, in every circumstance. So I agree that there are Biblically acceptable situations in which a person can be excused from NOT singing. But my post addresses the idea that Christians are always excused from singing to God and to others. Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:19-20 seem to imply that singing will always have a role in our lives and our gatherings. I also agree that most songs that Christians sing are going to evidence joy, but that doesn’t mean that there are no songs for “miserable Christians to sing,” as Carl Trueman put it. In the Psalms, God has given us songs to express our sadness and longing as well as our joy.

  20. keijo August 9, 2014 at 2:49 AM #

    So wonderful joy that praise the Lord an singing for his glory today and i will play my piano for love of God and worship him in gladness and in victory of Jesus blood and sowng my seed today in hope that reap later big harvest in blessing,thanks and bless and prayers, keijo sweden

  21. Jerrold C. Willis, M.D. December 7, 2014 at 12:48 AM #

    Interesting commentary. I have a poor voice and was asked not to be in a children’s choir while in 5th grade with the music director saying, “some boys find their voice later than others.” Well, I’m 63 and time’s moving on without a “good” voice. Nonetheless, I’m unconcerned and enjoy singing in church and lean on “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”

    I do get frustrated when we dwell on whether the music director is good, the music is good, etc. I strongly feel that we should enjoy our time together in fellowship with one another as we worship the Lord. I agree with the comment regarding some more recent songs being too repetitive and like the songs with strong Biblical content. I don’t object to these songs being set to new music though it’s a strong connection to my past to at least sometimes sing them as they were originally written.

    In closing, I loved a song that we sang at the end of service where my family attended when I was 6-10 years old: Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love, etc.

    May God be with us all and with our Country. Thank you for your service.

    Jerry

  22. Roy Smith April 2, 2015 at 2:55 AM #

    Nowhere in any translations of all the bibles I have can I find music and singing associated with worship: it is always associated rather with praise. In the Torah worship is associated with bowing down or bowing the head and in the NT, particularly in the Revelation with falling down. Have you ever tried singing with your head bowed? Worshiping to loud modern music began in the 60s and 70s with the advent of secular music of the same genre and became a form of entertainment, not only for the participants but also for the observers. A W Tozer, who died in 1963 saw this coming: read “Worship and Entertainment” by Tozer.
    “Worship” CDs are sold as entertainment and the performers are as celebrated as secular performers. Is this what God intended when He commanded the Children of Israel to worship Him?

    • Bob Kauflin April 2, 2015 at 10:51 AM #

      Roy, thanks for stopping by. While it is true that the primary Hebrew and Greek words that we translate “worship” originally referred to bowing down, the words became to be associate with an attitude of heart towards God. We are to present our bodies to God as our reasonable worship (Rom. 12:2), which includes the act of singing. While I share your concern for some of the trends in the church when it comes to how music is presented, there has been much good that’s come out of the modern worship song movement. I talk more about it these issues in my Salute to the Average Worship Leader. Thanks, Roy!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too. | A disciple's study - February 10, 2014

    […] http://worshipmatters.wpengine.com/2014/02/10/i-worship-god-by-singing-you-should-too/?utm_source=feedbur… […]

  2. I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too. | Stories - February 11, 2014

    […] I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too. […]

  3. Congregational Singing: To Sing or Not To Sing… | Journey of a Disciple - February 11, 2014

    […] As far as getting a congregation to sing I conducted an experiment.  Through the course of approximately 6 months we utilized only hymns from the hymnal and sang them with fervor as we lead.  Unfortunately, there was no increase of congregational singing.  For a couple of the services we even left off the screens and encouraged the congregation to pick up the hymnal and sing.  A few folks may have sung out more than normal but we did not inspire more people to sing.  That leads me to the conclusion that the average church goer has given over their responsibility to praise God in song to the people on the platform.  This is where I would like to point you to another article that was written by a man named Bob Kauflin.  You can find his article by clicking on this link:  http://worshipmatters.wpengine.com/2014/02/10/i-worship-god-by-singing-you-should-too/ […]

  4. Good Reads: Week of Feb 17 | the hub - February 16, 2014

    […] I Worship God by Singing. You Should, Too. – Renowned worship leader Bob Kauflin discusses singing in the Bible. “In this post, I simply want to explore some thoughts from Scripture about singing. A lot of us may not be that clear on why God wants us to sing. And no, I’m not writing this out of concern for my job security…” […]

  5. I Miss What We Had, I Need You So Badly (Three Reasons To Sing in Church) | Tommy Welty - July 30, 2015

    […] Bob Kauflin writes about this passage, “Jesus implies that music can lead us to either dance or mourn. It can draw out a variety of feelings including romance, peace, joy, fear, playfulness, sadness, or awe.” […]

  6. Behind the Song: Come Praise and Glorify – Westwood Worship - January 18, 2016

    […] Bob Kauflin, the writer of this song, had this to say about singing: […]

Leave a Reply

Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes