The Singing Church: Praise, Prayer and Proclamation

Greg Strand – May 7, 2013 2 Comments

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on the singing church, Rob Smith helpfully addresses “The role of singing in the life of the church,” The Briefing 401 (September-October 2012).

Here is Smith’s introduction:

One of the chief things that Christians are renowned for, both historically and universally, is singing songs and making music. This is in contrast to Islam, for example, where many regard music as haram (forbidden), and singing does not normally feature in Mosque practices.

Now there are all sorts of reasons why Christianity is a singing faith; for the practice of making melody to the Lord, and of hymn singing in particular, has many purposes. My intention in this article is to focus specifically on congregational singing (rather than Christian music generally), and to open up its three principal purposes; the three main reasons why, according to Scripture, God has given us this ability and called us to engage in this activity. These reasons are: (1) to help us praise, (2) to help us pray, and (3) to help us proclaim. So let’s look at each of these in turn.

What follows is Smith’s three points with his outline delineating the points:

  1. Singing and praise
    • Singing is a vital form of praise
    • Our constant battle with praise
    • Biblical strategies for engaging in the battle
    • How, then, shall we sing praise?
  2. Singing and prayer
    • Singing is a form of prayer
    • Many hymns and songs are prayers
    • What are the implications of this?
    • Singing and thanksgiving
  3. Singing and proclamation
    • Singing is a form of word ministry
    • Teaching one another in song
    • Making it work in practice

In sum, Smith points out that a few of the many blessings of corporate singing as the people of God, the church, are “praise, prayer, and proclamation.” Here is Smith’s conclusion about this “very great gift” given by God:

In giving us the ability to sing and make music, God has given us a very great gift. In calling us to utilize this gift in our church gatherings, he has provided a way of praising him, praying to him and proclaiming his word to others. This not only unites us together in our prayers and praises, and not only helps us to teach and remember his word, but assists us (both personally and corporately) to embrace the emotional dimensions of the truths we sing, so that we might love and serve God in the fullness of our humanity, with heart, soul, mind and strength. This, then, is a gift to treasure dearly, use wisely and protect carefully. The words of bishop J. C. Ryle form a fitting conclusion to all that we’ve seen (“Toplady and his Ministry,” in Christian Leaders of the 18th Century [Banner of Truth, Carlisle, 1970], 382):

There is an elevating, stirring, soothing, spiritualizing, effect about a thoroughly good hymn, which nothing else can produce. It sticks in men’s memories when texts are forgotten. It trains men for heaven, where praise is one of the principal occupations. Preaching and praying shall one day cease for ever; but praise shall never die. The makers of good ballads are said to sway national opinion. The writers of good hymns, in like manner, are those who leave the deepest marks on the face of the church.

 

Greg Strand

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Affectionately called “Walking Bible” by his youngest daughter, Greg Strand has a ministry history that goes back to 1982. Since that time, he has served in local church ministry in a variety of ministry capacities: youth pastor, associate pastor of adult ministries and senior pastor. He is currently the EFCA's Executive Director of Theology and Credentialing. Greg reads voraciously and never stops learning — a passion reflected in the overflowing bookshelves that spill from his library to multiple offices. And he could tell you about each of those books! His hunger for learning pales in contrast to his great love for God and for teaching the Word of God.

2 responses to The Singing Church: Praise, Prayer and Proclamation

  1. Isaac Tucker May 7, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Does It really matter what era the songs are from? My question is a result of the reknown evangelist. criticizing modern contemporary gospel on television on night. I remember singing “Just As I Am”, “I Need Thee” and others during prayers with my parents and in church. However before I could get old enough contemporary gospel came about and it speaks to my soul and to many others. Why will a reknown evangelist criticize modern gospel becuase he grow up on another kind of music.

  2. Isaac, I do not think it matters the era in which the song was written. In fact, I generally like to include songs from a wide spectrum of the ages, which is a means by which we share with the church of the saints the Scriptures they read and obeyed, and the music they sang as an expression of that faith. We also need to remember that certain songs minister to different people in different ways. This is why it is very important to distinguish essentials from non-essentials, and doctrine from preference.

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