Editor’s Word: The Power of Congregational Singing

There is something powerful in congregational singing. Ephesians 5:19 says: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.”

In recent times, congregational singing has been replaced, in part, by soloists, ensembles and other small groups. We need a revival of congregational singing in our churches, and Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new book, “Sing!” calls the church back to congregational singing.

“We are all singers,” the Gettys write. “We may not all be very good singers, but we are all created to be singers, nonetheless. God designed you to sing and gave you everything you need to sing as well as He wants you to.”

That is encouraging to those of us who are not good singers. I am also glad the verse I mentioned earlier says “making melody with your heart” — as opposed to your voice!

If congregational singing is in a time of demise, why so? The husband-wife team shares three reasons: performance-oriented music, particularly in large churches; music so loud the congregation cannot hear itself sing; and minimizing perceived areas of weakness or embarrassment, especially in smaller churches. Our congregational singing does not have to great to be godly, and it depends not on professional voices but, instead, on committed believers. The Gettys state that God is more concerned “with your integrity than your tunefulness. Christian singing begins with the heart, not on the lips. Saved people are singing people.”

“It is exhilarating to be a part of a body of believers singing truth together,” they continue. “There is something unique about congregational singing that is both invitational and instructive to people.” The congregation, for them, is the “ultimate choir,” adding, “Now is the time to re-embrace the crucial role of congregational singing in our churches.”

I recall my first pastorate, more than 40 years ago, when people would linger after the evening service and gather by the piano to sing a variety of unrehearsed hymns. People of all ages would sing, laugh and worship together. It was a warm, uplifting and encouraging time of fellowship.

The Gettys have become known for writing new hymns for today’s church. They are committed to music that is theologically sound and biblically true. “The point is this: Being vague and gospel-lite in congregational songs is not the way to be seeker friendly,” they write. “Communicating the gospel in a way that informs the mind and engages the emotions is.”

Even though they have produced more than 60 modern hymns, including their landmark production, “In Christ Alone,” they continue to embrace the older hymns. “One of the tragedies of the loss of the hymn book is that we lose the perspective of the church fathers, the reformers, the revivalists, and the radical worldwide missionary movement,” they say.

“Sing!” is a book every South Carolina Baptist can read with an open heart. It is about capturing the simplicity and beauty of genuine worship through congregational singing that honors God and draws believers together. We say we are better together, and I believe we could also say we are better when we sing together in our churches.

The Bible has a lot to say about worshipping God through our singing. The book of Psalms is basically a songbook, and Colossians 3:16 reminds us: “Let the Word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

The Gettys have done us a favor with the release of this book. I hope people will read it and begin to recapture and renew the powerful experience of congregational singing.