In his wisdom, God enabled men to sing. He also gave us ears to hear and appreciate good music. Therefore, when we sing together in corporate worship, we are exalting God using a gift he created and giving audible expression to his infinite wisdom.
We love music and so does God. He delights in his children’s praise, and invites – even commands – all men to sing to him in places like Psalm 100:1: “Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!” Because God commands it, singing is appropriate to corporate worship.
This reminds us that worship through song is an act of obedience to the Lord. This gives singing perspective. We might ask, “If singing is an act of obedience, how does God want us to sing?” Here, is an order of priority for selecting Christian music: words, voices, delivery.
Words are the priority of Christian music. Jesus taught the woman at the well that we must worship God “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). The worship God accepts must be according to the truth. This means our songs must profess sound doctrine. This is why, for centuries, godly people have sung, along with hymns, the Psalms. Singing the Psalms uses God’s words to express every season of human experience.
Words are also important because music teaches. I think every child learns the ABCs by using the Alphabet Song. Paul wrote, “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” (Colossians 3:16). When we sing, we are worshiping God and teaching one another. As we teach and admonish, we don’t just want our fellow believers to feel better, we want them to think better as they “dwell” on the “word of Christ.” Right emotions follow right thinking.
Second, we should prioritize voices. God created one instrument to express true words: the human voice. I think this is why the Psalms mention vocal worship far more frequently than they do instrumental worship. Consider how stirring it is when a room full of folks sing the final line of “It Is Well” with no instruments. Those words reverberate from our worship halls and swell our hearts with joy.
Finally, we must give attention to the delivery of our music. Here are some simple guidelines to think about. Songs should be easily singable by all. Instruments in worship must support, not overshadow, the voices. With instruments, less is usually more. Worship melodies should give the right expression to the sung words. Songs of praise should rejoice and laments should mourn. Lastly, our songs ought to be well-paced and not “draggy.” Behind our Savior, we are marching to Zion, not crawling.
Christian folk are singing folk. If you struggle to sing in worship, look for resources to help you improve. If you don’t sing in worship, you should repent and ask the Lord’s forgiveness for disobeying his command. Music is a wonderful gift God has given us for his glory. Let’s use it wisely.