Do You Hear The People Sing?

4. Heartfelt singing to God is a spectacular miracle.

Not all singing is a miracle. Most of the music we’re exposed to any given day is beautiful in its own right, but it’s not supernatural. What makes a song a miracle is when it is offered with a redeemed and genuine heart of awe and praise to God. It’s not a song that comes from deep within, but from far above. It is an act of sovereign grace.

[God] put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. (Psalm 40:3)

When God saved us, he retuned our souls to sing. He didn’t train us in music theory or give us vocal lessons, but he opened our eyes and made us alive. Our mouths look and sound like the same old instrument, but they’ve been radically and eternally transformed to declare the glory and goodness of our God.

Singing that truly honors God isn’t just about singing. After all, Jesus said, quoting Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). One category of singers are those who sing God’s name while their hearts chase after everyone and everything else. Those songs are not miracles.

But by God’s grace, our empty songs can be filled with affection, enjoyment and awe. David declares,

I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High. (Psalm 9:2)

The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalm 28:7)

That kind of heart is a miracle, and we need to make room to truly hear these songs. One a cappella chorus is a great sample, but we’re missing out if the miracles around us aren’t heard more often in our services. We should want it to be the norm, not the exception.

5. Worship leadership calls for worshipers, not spectators.

Worship leadership is about leadership, not performance. Worship leaders have this difficult task of bringing people to God and then getting out of the way. They have to find a way to lead without taking all of the attention. Worship leadership that doesn’t aim for congregational participation in worship often becomes a distraction—a performance that ironically and tragically upstages God.

We all need to admit that the accompaniment has a tendency to take over. When all you hear are the instruments, it can be hard to remember why we’re singing. The accompaniment has a real propensity to become the point in worship. Consciously or unconsciously, it can usurp the service and steal the hearts of listeners. It’s subtle, but serious.

God wants us to enjoy music as a gift from him and as a means for worshiping him, but he does not want us to enjoy it at the expense of seeing him and offering him our hearts. We have nothing to offer him if our hearts ran off with the music. Leaders need to remember that as they plan their services, position their musicians and set their sound levels.

Do you hear the people sing? If not, consider making some changes to encourage and highlight the miracles happening all over your sanctuary.

When God saved us, he retuned our souls to sing. 

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Marshall Segal (@MarshallSegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating (2017). He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife Faye live in Minneapolis.