Evangelical churches are often in danger of elevating singing, and by extension, the worship leader, to the position of bringing them into the presence of God.
If you ever wonder whether this is the case for you, ask yourself the following questions:
1) What do you think brings you into the presence of God in a service?
2) When do you feel most in the presence of God in a service?
3) Do you feel inauthentic singing lyrics you don’t mean, like “All to Jesus I Surrender”?
4) Do you think that people who are physically inexpressive in their worship are less spiritual?
5) Do you have a compulsive urge to put on your music during your quiet times?
These are but a sample of questions we ought to ask ourselves. The church today is in danger of elevating singing to a religious ritual. There is an assumed theology that we sing ourselves into the presence of God. Or the worship leader takes us into the presence of God. The implication is that when we feel our hearts don’t match what our mouths say, we condemn ourselves for being hypocritical. The implication is that we stop listening to God speaking to us through his Word, and listen to songs instead. The implication is that singing becomes a performance, and every Sunday we feel judged on the basis of our singing.
Singing is a good gift of God. God has wired our hearts to be stirred up by music. But like any other good gift, it is devalued when it is made ultimate. It is entirely possible to idolise Christian singing. We idolise it by thinking it will save us. We think that the songs we sing, and the way we sing, and our motives for singing, and our heart when singing is judged by God, and if we are worthy, he will admit us into his presence and send his Spirit upon us. But singing, like any other work we do, doesn’t save us. Only Jesus does. We are entirely reconciled and accepted by God because of the worthiness of Christ. When we let Christ take ultimate position in our hearts, and are thus reconciled to God, singing is redeemed. We sing because we are saved. We sing because we have a God who hears our praises on the basis of what Christ has done, and not what our hearts feel like.
What are the implications of this?
There is no place for inauthenticity in the Christian’s heart when singing. He shouldn’t stop singing because he feels fake. If he is thinking that, his response should not be to stop singing. It is a good reminder that we are still sinners in need of the grace of God day by day. His response should be to repent of his sin, trust in the righteousness of Christ, and sing heartily because he has been saved and his sins have been covered!
Singing is also another way of letting the word dwell richly in us. Well written songs will allow the word of God to dwell in our hearts as we sing them. Everyone knows it’s easier to remember a song then a passage. And through the word, we see Christ and are transformed from one degree of glory to another as we contemplate his beauty. Similarly, see it as a service to other Christians. Sing the truths of God over each other and remind each other daily of the glories of Christ.
Don’t elevate singing. Let your singing elevate Christ and his triumph over sin and death. There is no worship on earth that is unacceptable to God if offered through Christ. Despite what our hearts may say, our worship becomes a fragrant offering when offered through Christ. Such truths will stir the heart to sing more and more about Christ. If you elevate singing, you devalue its God-given purpose to encourage us as a church to continually turn away from sin and turn to Christ.