Sing To One Another

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When I think of Sunday worship I usually think of me singing to God. Individually. It’s me and God, one on one. I close my eyes, lift my hands, and sing to the God who made me.

And that’s great. Worship is supposed to be a personal encounter with the living God. But if that’s all our worship is, we’re missing something. In Ephesians 5:18-19, Paul writes:

…be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…

When I sing on a Sunday morning, I sing as a part of God’s people. My church sings together.We were purchased by the blood. We are God’s people. We are being transformed into the image of Christ.We are the bride of Christ.

So instead of closing my eyes, maybe I need to keep them open for a while. Maybe I should look around and see all of my brothers and sisters declaring the anthem of grace together. When I sing:

…And as He stands in victory,

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,

I need to, in a sense, declare that truth to those around me, not just to God. Because worship isn’t just about me and God. It’s about God, His people, and me, a part of His people.

So help me think about this. What does it look like to sing songs, hymns, and spiritual songs to one another?

Comments

  1. Tom says

    As I've thought about it, as a worshiper, and as an inexperienced 'worship-leader', I think songs that are more narrative, or are declaratory to each other, work for this.

    For example, "See His love, nailed on to a cross…This is Jesus in His glory, King of heaven dying for me…" or "…sing with me, how great is our God…", "…what can wash away our sins…nothing but the blood of Jesus…"

    Songs like this help me remember what God has done and who He is, but also help me remember it's about building others up as well – building each other up in God.

    I often feel challenged that our 'time of worship' is less a time to JUST focus on God, and is actually a time where we look to encourage each other IN God – as you say, not just singing worship individually to Him, but singing about Him, telling others about Him, etc….I definitely need to learn this more and do it more often (hence the long rambling post as I think out loud!)

  2. says

    This is a great post!

    I think there is a time and place for both individual and corporal (group) worship. In our church we are always encouraged to worship God in private – in your devotional time at home (there are examples of this in Scripture, especially Psalms, when David worshipped God in the desert – Psalm 42 mentions both corporal and individual worship).

    Having practised this (not as diligently as I could have) for the past 3 years, I can definitely say that the periods when I have had private worship times with God, the intimacy in my relationship with the Lord grew by leaps and bounds and some of my greatest revelations came out of worshipful devotions.

    But when we come together in the house of God, to worship Him as the body of Christ, one element of it is absolutely to encourage each other, as you say, and share in our joy and thanksgiving in the Lord.

      • says

        Off the top of my head a few things that come to mind are:

        1) Many of the songs written by our worship team and the songs usually chosen to sing in church use pronouns like, "we" and "us", rather than "i", which changes the mindset of a worshipper.

        2) Often in our worship sessions there is some sort of interaction – e.g. sometimes we split the congregation down the middle into two groups and the groups sing different passages to each other (I guess it looks something like a friendly sing-off) – which creates a spirit of unity, fun and comradery that lasts throughout the worship, even when we go into more subdued and intimate songs.

        3) It's difficult to put a finger on how exactly we get the "one another" element – it just seems so natural and usual (perhaps because we've had such a long-standing culture of being intentional about it?. But I think one more thing that adds to our "togetherness" is that we have a whole worship team who interact beautifully with each other on stage (they seem to be playing with and for each other, as much as for us and God). I would say this sets the tone for the congregation.

        Does this help?

  3. says

    Honestly, it looks a lot like the hymnody that we were utilizing in the Reformed tradition prior to about 1850. The whole love-song to Jesus really seemed to catch on in the 1800s with the 'gospel-song' movement. There IS indeed a place for corporate bodies to sing personal pronouns…the psalms are replete with them. But also, Psalm 103 and others like it are the congregation addressing themselves…and it's basically God using his word to encourage his people and communicate His grace.

    In terms of what it looks like in real time on a Sunday morning, I have incorporated a great many hymns into my church's gatherings. We sing them in an Indelible Grace or Sovereign Grace style. IG, SG and Red Mountain Music have even encouraged me in my own tune-writing and a fair number of the songs we do with regularity are ones I've chosen from hymnals and have composed entirely new tunes.

    Sometimes we don't need to reinvent the wheel. Sometimes all it needs is a new hubcap. It's hard to find good modern worship music which addresses the congregation or sensitive topics like indwelling sin and the fight against it. These are things which our predecessors wrote about and sang about. Let's sing with them!

    • says

      Thanks for sharing this David. One thing I've noticed is that even when we sing hymns, we still tend to individualize them. Have you noticed this? Is there anything you do to fight against that?

      • says

        Hymns like "A Church's One Foundation" are the types of hymns I engage to keep it a "singing to each other" or "we're here as a group, not as a collection of individuals" type of experience. The other thing I do, at risk of being 'the teacher' that Bob Kauflin recently blogged about, is to instruct, briefly, the congregation in how the hymn actually applies to the Church Universal.

        Sometimes teaching is the only way out of this, since individualism is the water we're swimming in, especially in America and in American Evangelicalism. But I think it's a valid question and I'm not certain I get this one right in the best way.

  4. says

    My first line of defense is to choose hymns that are hard to individualize. "The Church's One Foundation" is one. My other line of defense is to run the risk of 'the teacher' during the service. Sometimes the only way is just to teach…but if done in an appropriate way in a smooth transitional fashion, I think it's entirely appropriate to do that.

  5. Moon says

    I don't know what can practically be done to declare God's truth to each other during corporate worship; I can't think of some specific attention grabbing action. I thought that my worshiping God in the group setting was the best way to declare God's truth with the people I'm worshiping with. But is that too self-serving? Is that not enough? Regardless of whether they themselves were aware or not aware of the community around them, having other worshiping people around me has always been enough for me. Watching other people worship the Sovereign One during times when I myself was too tired to always reminded me of God's grace. Because, who else but God, with His overabundant love and power, could have brought so many different people together to worship?

    During corporate worship, for the most part, I can never be unaware of the people around me worshiping God too. Listening to other voices and instruments, watching parents with kids in their arms sing, linking arms with my friend next to me, singing alto while she sings soprano, I know that I'm singing with God's family to God because these are things that I can't do when I'm by myself….

    Visually speaking, I can't see a difference between "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs" and gathering together on Sunday morning. :( Sorry…that's not very helpful is it? Perhaps…the difference is invisible?

    • says

      I like what you say about God bringing so many different people together to worship. And it is true that when we sing it is hard to be unaware of the people around us. Still, I wonder if there is something more intentional that I could be doing to further this.

  6. Miss Bonaparte says

    It's hard for me, being the church pianist. I really miss out on being able to sing and just worship, I have the responsibility of "doing" the music.

  7. says

    The singing together of the church is of great interest to me because it's so important! I think you're exactly right, Stephen; we should cultivate an awareness that we are confessing great truths together. Think how rich it would be if we sometimes looked with joy at each other as we sing together. Even when we're singing a song with lyrics addressed to the Lord, we're still teaching each other, in a real sense. I see folks raising their hands, eyes closed, when we're singing a song like "In Christ Alone," and realize we need to understand these things better. Our singing was never meant to be so individualistic; the teaching on it from Paul is so "one another-ish!"

  8. says

    Just wanted to add that some of the comments are really helpful. dgill, I read not long ago that Isaac Watts actually introduced some of the first hymns with subjective lyrics ("When I Survey" etc.); those seem so full of objective truth now, compared to what came later. Objective truth about God causes God's people to respond with faith and worship.

    • says

      The interesting thing is that even more than the subjective lyrics, Watts had push-back from others because he wanted to sing hymns rather than just psalms. Psalm chanting had degenerated into a lethargic activity and Watts wanted to rejuvenate corporate singing. We have a great deal that we owe Watts in terms of corporate singing.

  9. says

    Very good and timely post.

    I just heard Francis Chan preach on this exact passage. And…today, for no obvious reason, a brother sent me an old e-mail of someone in our church complaining about worship to him, he sent it to me as kind of an encouraging "look how far we've come" kinda thing….but…the person's main complaint was that they could not "hear" the voices of fellow brothers and sisters praising the Lord together above all the amplification and drums.

    I think he has a point…

    So to answer your question – to sing "to" one another we actually have to "hear" one another -so watch the stage and PA volume.

    Also, I would stress here that we must, as Bob K loves to say, "sing songs that say something". We have to sing songs soaked in rich doctrinal truths – not just sappy pop/worship music – actual scripture, doctrine, theology – and therein as we speak/sing the word of God to each other, his Spirit will be released and it'll be ON!

    -M

    • says

      Now, that's a great point. I'm all about a great sound system with clarity and volume…but if you can't hear others singing, they won't sing over it. "But they do at rock concerts!" Yeah, they do…but that's usually with the aid of a beer or two. Don't think we really want to go there… ;-) We need to remember that part of the corporate experience is, indeed, hearing others sing WITH us…not just seeing their mouths move.

  10. says

    Yep, a great point indeed, one that is easily forgotten.
    I don't think this is limited to church services though and often my friends and i sing a hymn or song to each other, then joining together we give it to God. (Ok, we only do this in private, and not in resteraunts etc when we're together – that would be weird)

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