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.
As a follow up to yesterday’s post on the singing church, Rob Smith helpfully addresses “The role of singing in the life of the church,” The Briefing 401 (September-October 2012).
Here is Smith’s introduction:
One of the chief things that Christians are renowned for, both historically and universally, is singing songs and making music. This is in contrast to Islam, for example, where many regard music as haram (forbidden), and singing does not normally feature in Mosque practices.
Now there are all sorts of reasons why Christianity is a singing faith; for the practice of making melody to the Lord, and of hymn singing in particular, has many purposes. My intention in this article is to focus specifically on congregational singing (rather than Christian music generally), and to open up its three principal purposes; the three main reasons why, according to Scripture, God has given us this ability and called us to engage in this activity. These reasons are: (1) to help us praise, (2) to help us pray, and (3) to help us proclaim. So let’s look at each of these in turn.
What follows is Smith’s three points with his outline delineating the points:
- Singing and praise
- Singing is a vital form of praise
- Our constant battle with praise
- Biblical strategies for engaging in the battle
- How, then, shall we sing praise?
- Singing and prayer
- Singing is a form of prayer
- Many hymns and songs are prayers
- What are the implications of this?
- Singing and thanksgiving
- Singing and proclamation
- Singing is a form of word ministry
- Teaching one another in song
- Making it work in practice
In sum, Smith points out that a few of the many blessings of corporate singing as the people of God, the church, are “praise, prayer, and proclamation.” Here is Smith’s conclusion about this “very great gift” given by God:
In giving us the ability to sing and make music, God has given us a very great gift. In calling us to utilize this gift in our church gatherings, he has provided a way of praising him, praying to him and proclaiming his word to others. This not only unites us together in our prayers and praises, and not only helps us to teach and remember his word, but assists us (both personally and corporately) to embrace the emotional dimensions of the truths we sing, so that we might love and serve God in the fullness of our humanity, with heart, soul, mind and strength. This, then, is a gift to treasure dearly, use wisely and protect carefully. The words of bishop J. C. Ryle form a fitting conclusion to all that we’ve seen (“Toplady and his Ministry,” in Christian Leaders of the 18th Century [Banner of Truth, Carlisle, 1970], 382):
There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the church.