Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
The Word of God is central and essential to the Christian and the Church, both individually and corporately. Jesus, quoting the Old Testament, says, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4; Dt. 8:3). Because God and His Word are central and essential to our very being, I often say that we are not primarily herbivores or carnivores. Rather, we are verbivores, i.e. we live or die on the Word of God.
One of the most important ways that we corporately hear and respond to the Word of God is through the preached Word (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-25). It has a central place in the gathered people of God. Everything else in the service either flows from or is directed toward the Scriptures. It is a vital means of grace, i.e. a means God ordains to strengthen and build up believers when engaged in and participated by faith.
One of the important ways the body of Christ speaks, learns and responds to God and His truth is through song. The Bible exhorts believers to “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” (Col. 3:16; cf. Eph. 5:19). The Word of Christ (both the teaching about Christ and the teaching of Christ) dwells richly in our lives through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
The Bible is foundational for all we do, including what forms and shapes the music we sing. The best of the psalms, hymns and spiritual songs we sing today, and throughout history, could be considered a “mini-sermon” that "moves the soul."
Nicholas T. Batzig refers to hymns as Mini Sermons For the Soul to Sing:
I’ve come to enjoy thinking of the great hymns of the church as “mini sermons for the soul to sing.”
This is one of the main reasons why we should study, cherish and preserve hymn-singing in our churches. It’s not that hymns are inspired by God–as are the songs of Scripture (e.g. the Song of Moses, Deborah, Hannah, the Psalms, Song of Songs, Habakkuk, the Magnificat, etc.)–but, as Sinclair Ferguson has helpfully explained, “When truth gets into a hymnbook it becomes the confident possession of the whole church.
In short, it is the theological and experiential truth, coupled with the poetic form and intentional structure of hymns that makes them mini-sermons for [the] soul to sing.
Three questions to ponder: