If you’re like me, you think a lot about song choice in congregational worship. Crafting a service full of great songs is a high priority as a music leader. The aspect of song choice I dwell on the most is how the words we are singing affect the congregation and overall purpose, vision, and health of the church.
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on how God’s Word is used in the songs that I lead. In turn, I’ve noticed some ways that singing scripture-filled songs can benefit a church. What do I mean by “scripture-filled” songs (certainly, there are varying degrees of a song containing traces of scripture)? Songs whose lyrics lead us directly to specific passages and verses in the Bible with similar phrasing, structure, and/or overall meaning as their source in scripture. For instance, Andrew Peterson’s “Is He Worthy?” is written directly from Revelation 5.
Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19-21 are key scriptures in the New Testament about congregational singing and are very helpful in showing us some of the benefits of singing God’s word.
“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.”
Colossians 3:16 (ESV)
“…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.”
Ephesians 5: 19-21(ESV)
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col)
Singing scripture helps God’s people stand on His Word. If we want our foundation to be the word of God, why not sing it? It’s another way to make sure that everything we do as a church is built on the Solid Rock of Christ. One of the best ways for scripture to dwell in us richly, is to sing it.
“Teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom singing psalms…” (Col)
“…addressing one another in psalms…” (Eph)
Singing scripture helps God’s people learn His Word. We tend to view teaching as something that only happens during a sermon or a lecture, but singing is effective in helping us retain information in a way that’s different than hearing someone speak to you. That’s why teachers of young children use so many songs in their classrooms. Notice also, that Colossians and Ephesians state that we should sing “psalms” (other translations say ‘songs’). Many people see this as meaning that we should sing the book of Psalms in the Bible. So here we have God’s word instructing us to sing God’s word.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” (Col.)
Singing scripture helps God’s people commit His Word to memory. Scripture memorization is something that many of us strive to do better. Why is it that when Don’t Stop Believing comes on the radio, I know every word? Because melodies help us remember words. Scripture memorization is a way to walk in obedience: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” (Psalm 119:11). Singing helps us to “store up” His word in our hearts.
“…with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Col.)
“…giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Eph.)
Singing scripture helps God’s people remember who He is and what He’s done . It’s an intentional way to recall specifics of God’s character and actions. In other words, singing is a way of preaching the Gospel to ourselves. As we sing and remember, we give thanks” always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”.
“…singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Eph.)
Singing scripture helps God’s people delight in His Word. One of the biggest struggles of leading congregational music is planning elements of a service that connect with every individual in a diverse group of people. Singing scripture can help place our emotions and affections in God’s word so that all of our hearts overflow with thanksgiving and rejoicing no matter who we are, or what we are going through.
“…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph.)
Singing scripture helps God’s people find community in His Word. The truth of God’s word is the same in every language, culture, time and place. Though our congregations contain many different types of personalities, backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and circumstances, singing truth together with one voice promotes unity in our diversity as we “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”.
Here, we see an outward reaching benefit of singing scripture, as others are invited into the body which Colossians 3 and Ephesians 5 are describing:
“Faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God”. (Rom. 10:17)
Singing scripture helps unbelievers have faith by hearing His Word. Many unreached people will find their way into our church services. If someone is able to come to faith in Christ by hearing the word of God, then singing songs filled with the word of God will be beneficial to anyone who needs faith in Christ!
The overarching benefit of singing scripture-filled songs is that God receives glory as we declare His own words back to Him, to each other, and to the world. When we sing scripture, we are declaring “we believe this to be true.” He does not need us to do so, but He delights in our proclamation of His perfect word, and our churches are greatly benefited.