Congregational singing was meant to be a part of Christian worship from the very beginning. The apostle Paul once wrote to the church at Colossae encouraging them to sing “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16) as a part of their regular gathered worship practice. Since that time the church has expressed that practice in different ways, and though the prominence of congregational singing has at times waned and at other times experienced revival, one thing has remained the same, the church is meant to sing together.
And so we sing. We obey the commands of our Lord to:
Praise the Lord! Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise in the assembly of the godly! Psalm 149:1 (ESV)
And following the example of Jesus as the author of Hebrews so eloquently puts it:
I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise. Hebrews 2:12 (ESV)
We sing because we are commanded to. We sing because we want to. We sing because we have voices. We sing because we have been created in the image of a Father who loves us and who himself joyfully sings over us, his treasure. We sing to return the melody we’ve been given back to its rightful owner. Singing together is at the very heart of congregational worship.
Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing. Zephaniah 3:14-17 (ESV)
The songs we sing in our gathered worship services at HCBCDS follow a strict criteria. Songs must first express theological truth. Songs must exalt the character of God. Songs must declare the gospel, or give words to the prayers and meditations of God’s people who are seeking him in worship. Worship is the rhythm of revelation and response, God revealing himself through his word by the Spirit our responding to him in worship, praise and adoration. So it follows then that worship songs should also follow the same rhythm of revelation and response. So, the songs we do fall into those two main categories, which makes it rather easy to select songs for congregational worship. Simply put, if a song neither reveals something true about the character and nature of God nor offers an appropriate response we don’t do it.
And, of course songs must be singable.
That is not to say that all songs done in a public worship gathering must be sung by everyone present. There are times for what was called in my previous church tradition “special music” (songs that were more performance oriented than congregational and meant to express an encouragement or challenge to the body of Christ in a poetic, musical way). Our very own Mandi McNutt used to sing these types of songs weekly at the Baptist church in Bossier City, Louisiana where our families met for the first time. These types of songs are designed for personal reflection and meditation on theological truth.
We sing great songs at HCBCDS.
We have discovered lately that even songs that meet all of our strict criteria for liturgical use are often difficult to follow if we don’t sing them often enough for the melodies to be passed on verbally (i.e. for folks to learn them).
So, we have increased the frequency of repeating songs, especially newer ones and we will be posting songs and song lyrics on The City each week with the idea in mind that even those among us who can’t be here every week will still have plenty of opportunities to hear the great songs of our faith, learn them and be able to joyfully sing them with the rest of the church on any given Sunday.
See you at church!