“I love the church that sings badly.” –Tim Challies
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who loves us and freed us from our sins by His blood.
Christians are people who sing. We all share in the unique privilege and responsibility of singing songs, hymns and spiritual songs which declare God’s excellence strengthening His church and sharing His glory to the world. If we can speak, we can sing.
In my normal reading, I came across the quote written by an individual from a context of having been to all kinds of worship services in all kinds of places.
His thinking was fairly simple, having many experiences to draw from, he arranged them down to two.
The first was having been to a church with a large congregation, filled with third or fourth generation Christians worshiping together; where God’s Word was faithfully being proclaimed, the congregation had a certain way of singing which they grew into. They were really good. They sang loudly. They sang skillfully. They sang beautifully—together raising one voice to the Lord.
However, one reason why they sang so well was that hardly any one was new to Christ. While the lions share had been raised in that church, by their own confession, they sounded so beautifully because they evangelized so poorly.
His second example described another church, where the singing sounded not so good. Some knew the songs, others did not. Many in the church where stumbling and mumbling their way through the songs, hitting some notes, making a hash out of others. In this church the Gospel was being preached and the people were taking that Gospel to others. The Gospel was doing its work, people were being saved and they were coming to Sunday services to pour out their praise to God.
Perhaps there could be the temptation to fix what they sounded like, to compensate, or over compensate by cranking up the volume to cover over the voices, but this church did not. Personally I like this. There is a beauty and honesty I find compelling.
Of course, there are exceptions. This is not saying sounding good is bad or sounding bad is good.
Besides, singing in worship is service to God and not a variety show. It is not a concert. It is not theater. There is mutual encouragement in singing to one another all the while knowing we do not know other people’s hearts and what is happening in them (I Corinthians 2:11). In fact, only God knows the human heart (I Kings 8:39).
Christians are singing people because this is part of what it means to be made in God’s image. God sings. “The Lord your God…will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17). In C.S. Lewis’s, The Magician’s Nephew, Lewis drew from this having Aslan create Narnia by singing it into existence! Therefore, we sing, not because we love singing (which may or may not be true), but because we love the one who made us.
As we sing to God and about God together with the people of God, we reflect God’s design for community. It was never good for man to be alone, singing together causes and expresses we are the family of God.
Jesus sang. In fact, one particular moment is gripping. After he had His final Passover meal, “they sang a hymn…” (Matthew 26:30). It is gripping as the meal was a precursor to His passion. Even on the cross, Jesus famously quoted from the Jewish Hymn book—the Psalms.
“My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1)
Singing is to be first about He who we love more than anything—our Lord Jesus Christ. He loved us first so, “Let’s sing!”
This comes with an ever growing fondness and all my love in the Lord Jesus Christ.
P.S. I hope to sing with you this Sunday!