Singing With Understanding
I think it would be safe to assume that most if not everyone has done this. You’re driving down the road listening to the radio and a song comes on that you remember from way back when. “I love this song” you say as you reach over and crank the volume up. As you get into the music and start to sing along it suddenly dawns on you what you’re singing. You actually consider what the words are and what the intent was and you then have this moment of shock as you realize that it’s not really an appropriate song.
Even today there are plenty of songs out there that are at the top of the music charts because they songs are catchy and exciting. You can’t help but get caught up by the tune and music but again when you take a moment to consider the words and the implications you realize that might not be an appropriate song to listen to or allow your children to listen to.
I think it would be safe to also assume that most if not everyone has experienced this in our worship as well. Not that the songs we sing are inappropriate songs and inappropriate to sing. (Although there are a few that the intent seems to be pure but you may differ in opinion.) That’s an article for a different day.
What I’m talking about is getting caught up in music of the songs we sing. By music we of course mean the notes and tune of the songs we sing. Everyone has favorite songs that they love to sing or have lead. On the flip side to that everyone has songs that they think are dull and boring. What makes us feel that way? Surely it’s not the words and thoughts but most likely the tune of the song.
We admit that sometimes in our collective worship the singing can lack enthusiasm and vigor. Often times our approach to fixing that is by putting all the emphasis on the musical side. We encourage the need to sing in tune, the right pitch, the right pace, and have the parts being sung. Is there a reason we sing songs in that format? Is there a reason those leading the songs are encouraged to consider those things? Of course there are. It is done to strive to conduct our worship decently and in order (1 Corinthians 14:40).
Singing in the right tone, pitch, and temp have their place and anyone who wants to learn to do those things better is always encouraged. I think we’ll all admit that sometimes the singing can lack these things to where it doesn’t seem very encouraging. But the solution to that is not found in the “music” of the song but rather in the heart.
Paul those in Colossae to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Col 3:16) Two main keys in that verse are letting the words of Christ dwell in you and to sing with thankfulness in your hearts.
As you worship collectively with God’s children are you thankful? Thankful for what? As you sing songs that are about and reference teachings from God’s word do you understand it? Does it recall to memory and thought things you know and believe to be true? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14:15 – “I will pray with my spirit, but it will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also.”
Wes McAdams suggest three things to help us do this. (1) Read God’s word more, (2) Read the first verse of the song before you sing, and (3) Focus on the words, not the notes. As in all things God wants my heart. While I agree we must strive to give God our best in our worship, we differ in talents and strengths, as it should be (1 Cor. 12). My best is defined from my heart and so is yours. Sing from the heart and the rest will take care of itself.