It’s one of my most anticipated and most dreaded times of the week all at the same time.
It’s Sunday mornings. I walk across the stage, tune my guitar, turn on my microphone, and attempt to lead people in worship. What’s so conflicting about my job is that so many people are continuing the song they have been singing all week-long, and others are eagerly waiting the opportunity to sit back down. I love it and dread it all in the same moment.
This article is not about worship style. It is not about musical preference. It is about God. As your worship pastor, I want to inform you concerning why we sing.
Since I moved into this position a few years ago, I have a much deeper appreciation for the weight of this job. On one hand, leading people to the throne of God is a humbling and terrifying responsibility. I want to lead in such a way that shines the spotlight upon Jesus and His glory. On the other hand, I have realized that many people equate “church” with 20 minutes of music on a Sunday. People join and leave churches due to those 20 minutes. While the church is a living body that operates for 10,080 minutes a week, we can qualify a church good or bad based upon 20 of those minutes. .00198% of a church’s weekly existence is music, and yet it plays such a role in our satisfaction with our church.
I don’t think that .00198% of the week is unimportant. I think it is hugely pivotal to what we do, and since it is so important, I want to make sure that we give those brief moments everything we possibly can muster.
No matter what service you frequent, when someone asks you to stand and sing, I think you need to open your mouth and give it everything you got. And here’s why:
WE SING BECAUSE MERE WORDS CANNOT SUFFICE.
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Worship music is sound biblical content set to poetry and music. To craft a song, the lyrics must flow together in a poetic way. Imagine a worship leader leads you in a song one Sunday with the opening lyrics stating, “God, I’m a really bad person. You know it. So do I. I think I’m going to fall away from you.” It’s hard to find the flow of that one, isn’t it? Now, imagine yourself singing the lyrics, “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” As soon as you read that line, you heard it. You probably even felt it. There is something about that poetic line that just grips my heart every time I sing it. It is crafted so well and speaks to the heart of our depraved nature. It probably is your favorite line in “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” The poetry utilized speaks eloquently and succinctly what we all want to say, but a songwriter was able to craft those words in such a way to portray our hearts’ conditions.
But something even deeper happens when you add the music to that line.
Whether or not you like last Sunday’s musical selections, I know this about you – you do like music. It might be country, Southern rock, Southern gospel, hip hop, or polka, but you like music. Whenever you hear your favorite song, emotions come all over you. Fast music can wake you up and help you work out. Expressive music can bring chills on the back of your neck. You know why? Because God created us in such a way that music deeply affects us. When you sing the line, “prone to leave the God I love,” the music makes you sing that out. You cry out those words at the top of your vocal register and all of a sudden something amazing happens when a line packed with truth meets a melodic masterpiece. You feel it deep within your soul.
We sing because mere words cannot suffice. I can’t just say my God is great. I’ve got to sing it. I must shout it out or else I’m going to just burst. He is worthy of more than words. He is so worthy that when I mention Him, the soundtrack of heaven must accompany my efforts. Our God deserves more than mere words. John Piper states, “God is so great that thinking will not suffice, there must be deep feeling; and talking will not suffice, there must be singing.”
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I don’t know what Percy Sledge’s speaking voice sounds like, but I imagine if he recorded his voice telling us that he loved his significant other a whole bunch, it probably wouldn’t move too many people. But you are profoundly moved when you hear him reach down in his soul and cry out, “When a man loves a woman, can’t keep his mind on nothing else, he’ll trade the world for the good thing he’s found.” You buy it. You may not know her, but you do believe that he loves her simply by the way he sings about her.
Imagine a non-Christian walking into church next Sunday and sitting beside you. They don’t know our God yet, but would they be convinced that He is great based upon the way you sing to Him?
No matter what the selection is, we sing because mere words cannot suffice.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.