Singing Congregational Songs

One of the things we love to do when we gather as the body of Christ every week is to sing. We are told from Scripture that “… when (we) come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26). We are also told to “let the word of Christ dwell in (us) richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in (our) hearts to God”. To this end, when song leaders choose songs for the congregation, they must be mindful that we sing songs with gospel focused content and that are congregation driven.

Gospel Focused Content

The songs must be true. In singing, we proclaim God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) to the world. We sing about who He is and what He has done for us. The songs we sing must accurately depict the one we are singing about. This means the first question to ask about a song is not whether the song “dey be” but whether the song speaks truth. Every song teaches something. A gospel song should teach the gospel. We often think of gospel as its own genre of music that we sometimes forget that ‘gospel’ should be a description of the content of the song. And that content should be Biblically accurate else it ceases to be gospel. We should ensure that we are proclaiming the truth about God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

The songs must be clear. The message of the song should not be confusing or muddled. This is because when we are together singing as the body of Christ, our primary goal should be building each other up as we await the coming of the Lord. So the congregation should be able to understand what is being said in the song. We should ensure that we are proclaiming the truth about God(Father, Son and Spirit) in a manner that is clearly understood. In that way we will be indeed teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in our hearts.

In a multi lingual community such as ours it is also important that the songs we sing is understood by all. This means providing translations to songs in cases that they are needed. The question then should be: is what we are singing clear and understood by the congregation? When picking that dope Joyous Celebration song, we should remember to get the translation of as well and either explain it or show the [insert appropriate language] translation to the congregation. This applies as well to our local language songs as well.

Congregation driven singing
The congregation can sometimes feel like a passive member of the service when it comes to singing. Instead of us singing together, it’s feels more like the choir or music group performing for the congregation.

The congregation should be able to hear the words of the song. This is a similar to the point about the content of our songs being clear. If the song is clear then we should sing it clearly. This is especially important for congregations where there is not the luxury of projecting the words of the song. That means the congregation learn the song based on what they hear so we should make sure that they can clearly hear what is being sung by singing clearly and pronouncing our words correctly. People will be more encouraged to sing if they can hear and understand what is sung.

The congregation should be able hear themselves sing. As good as having very good sound equipment is it can become a distraction when all the congregation can hear is the sound from the speakers and they can’t even hear the person next to them singing. It is always wonderful when the song leader tells those with amplified sounds (instrumentalists and vocalists) to keep silent for a moment and calls out for the congregation to sing. It almost seems like the congregation is encouraged to sing when they can hear the people around them singing as well. The sound mix during a congregational song should reflect the intent of singing to one another. It shouldn’t be so overpowering that the congregation is quite content to watch the choir perform for them since they can’t hear their involvement in the singing.

We shouldn’t let the innovations and technology we have in the areas of sound and instrumentation overshadow the joy of the people of God lifting their voices to him in praise and adoration for the wonderful things He has done for us. All these innovations should be used to enhance and improve on how we sing to each other in praise of our King. We should also make sure that what we sing is meaningful not only to those in church but to any outsiders who might be visiting the church as we teach them the truth of our Lord through our songs.

Foundation of Worship

Sometime ago I wrote an article on what it means to worship God in Spirit and Truth, I thought I will just emphasize a few things from that article.

True worship is impossible without Jesus Christ

In the conversation with the woman by the well Jesus says: “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23)”.  Jesus is the one who makes that possible.  He says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)”. True worship is not centered around some special place, building or even a particular religious experience but around Jesus Christ.

True worship is impossible without the Holy Spirit

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.(John 4:24)”.  It is the Holy Spirit who convicts us of our sin and point us to Jesus Christ.  It is also the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live a life worthy of the gospel. A life where we worship God in everything that we do.

“Worship of the living and true God is essentially an engagement with him on the terms that he proposes and in the way that he alone makes possible” – David Peterson

On the 30th of July, 11am at Ridge Church Manet Youth Center,  we will be having our second Acoustic Sessions dubbed “Worthship” where we will encouraging one another and reminding ourselves of what it means to worship God through music and poetry.

Worshipping in spirit and truth

When we hear the word “worship” what readily comes to mind is music. That shouldn’t be surprising because in church the period where we sing songs with a slower tempo is referred to as the “time of worship”. It seems in our everyday language worship almost always means singing (unless the person makes it a point to say it’s not).
Worship is generally recognized as the period in the church service where we enter into God’s presence (generally through singing). And the worship leaders are the ones who are responsible for getting us there and in fact they are the ones who tell us when we have finally arrived. This makes the worship leader an extremely powerful and influential person when it comes to the church service.
But is this what it means to worship? Is being a true worshipper all about participating whole heartedly to the “worship” session in the church? Is this what it means to worship God in spirit and truth?

The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.
Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” – John 4:19-20

In John 4, Jesus has an encounter with a Samaritan woman by a well. After an initial exchange (John 4:7-18) the woman realizes that Jesus is no ordinary stranger by the well. The woman the tries to find out his opinion on the appropriate place to worship. Why is Jerusalem the place where people ought to worship? This mountain has worked for us for generations.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. – John 4:23-24

Jesus’ answer is where I think we should start when we want to find out what it means to worship.
Firstly, there is a redefinition of what it means to worship both for those who worshipped out of ignorance and for those from whom salvation came from (John 4:21-22). This redefinition makes a physical location for worship an obsolete concept. Worship is no longer centered around a place.

Secondly, God seeks true worshippers who will worship Him. True worshippers in this context probably means authentic or genuine worshippers. And what will mark out these worshippers is that they will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Verse 24 seems to say that this is the only appropriate way to worship God because God is spirit. In the previous chapter we are told that the only people who will enter the Kingdom of God are those who are born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6) and this is tied to believe in the Jesus Christ (John 3:13-18). Jesus is also describes himself as the Truth and the one who makes a Way for us to come to the Father so that we can have Life (John 14:6). I would suggest that to worship the Father in spirit and truth not only means that worship is no longer centered around a place but worship is now centered around a person…Jesus Christ. How we worship the Father is by believing in the Son and what He has done for us on the Cross.
One writer puts it this way:

John tells us that the Word became flesh and—literally—tabernacled among us (John 1:14). Jesus promised, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:20). In other words, Jesus’ body is now the temple, the place where God meets his people, manifests his presence, and deals with their sin (John 2:21–22). That’s why Jesus can say that an hour is coming when true worshipers will no longer need worship in Jerusalem, but will worship in spirit and truth (John 4:21–24).

…the Old Testament’s terms for worship have been applied to the whole lives of believers. In Romans 12:1 Paul writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Now we don’t offer animals as sacrifices but our very selves. The Christian’s whole life is an act of sacrificial service to God.

Or consider Hebrews 13:15: “Through him [that is, Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.” Praise is our sacrifice, and we offer it continually—not just for an hour on Sunday morning. The fruit of lips that acknowledge God’s name includes songs of praise, but much more too: boldly confessing the gospel in public, speaking words of truth and love to others, bringing every word we say under Christ’s dominion.

This means that “worship” isn’t something we mainly do at church on Sunday. Instead, worship should suffuse our entire lives. For the Christian, worship isn’t confined to sacred times and places, because we are united by faith to Christ, the one who is God’s temple, and we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, making us both individually and collectively the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16–17, 6:19; cf. Eph. 2:22).
http://www.9marks.org/blog/biblical-theology-and-corporate-worship