Sing to make disciples

FRONTLINES: The Bible instructs us to sing for God and to teach one another in our songs

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Singing is a great tradition in the church. But it is more than a tradition. Churches sing because the Bible tells us to sing. The Bible also tells us why we sing. The only two New Testament scriptures that clearly call us to sing also teach us that singing is for the benefit of one another.

Colossians 3:16 tells us to sing “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” We could focus on the meaning of each of these three song categories. That discussion is important. But let’s not miss the command in verse 16 to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.” Paul says how to do that: “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”

We are called to sing these various types of songs to let the word of Christ dwell richly within us and it is directly linked to our effort to teach and admonish one another.

We see similar instructions in Ephesians 5: “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” (vv 18-21, ESV).

These verses tell us how to live a Spirit-filled life. Part of the answer is that we sing. But look at what it says about the direction of our singing. The aim of our singing is both horizontal, “addressing one another,” and vertical, “making melody to the Lord.”

The implications for gathered worship are numerous. The content of our lyrics is no longer a matter of preference. Our songs must proclaim to one another the rich truth of the gospel, the glories of Christ and an encouragement to live faithfully.

We see in these Scriptures that we should not only sing directly to God. We also need songs that declare biblical truth to one another.

We see in the passages mentioned above that efforts to provide an individual, isolated experience are in direct contrast with the biblical purpose of gathered worship. If we are called to address one another in song, then we know there is a biblical reason to keep the house lights up so we can see each other and the band’s volume down so we can hear each other.

Instead of relegating our children to another room so adults can have a better “worship experience,” we should keep them with us because singing helps us make disciples. And we want our children to be disciples.

So, gather with your church to sing. Sing to Lord with all your heart. But remember to sing to one another. Teach, encourage and correct one another with singing. Sing the gospel to unbelievers. Sing words of hope to the hopeless. Sing words of comfort to the weary. Sing words of assurance to the doubtful. Sing words of instruction to the immature. Sing to make disciples.


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