What Is It with Singing?

May 21, 2015

Steve Midgley

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Steve Midgley

What is it with singing?

Many of us can’t seem to get enough of it! Crowds chant at soccer matches, revellers croon at New Year parties, drivers warble along with their stereos, and hardly any public occasion is complete without a rousing rendition of the national anthem. There’s something about singing that grabs us and brings us joy.

Not all of us, though. If we’re honest, some of us struggle. We sing softly for fear our off-key croaks will be heard. We shuffle awkwardly as the music begins. We “goldfish” wildly in the hope that we can give the impression of singing without ever making a sound. And that got me wondering—how come we don’t have any non-singing churches? Wouldn’t that be a sure fire winner with the tone deaf?

The Bible and Singing

The Bible, of course, is big on singing. There’s an extensive hymn book in the middle—songs of David, Asaph, and the like. And the storyline is full of song from start to finish…

At creation the angels sang (Job 38:7) and, in glory, so do the redeemed (Revelation 14:3). Right through Scripture, big and small events are marked by choruses of voices bringing praises to God. The people cross the Red Sea—Miriam leads them in song (Exodus 15). Moses delivers the law and is determined the people should remember it—so teaches them a song (Deuteronomy 32). The ark comes to the temple—the people raise their voices (2 Samuel 6:5). Solomon waxes lyrical about his beloved—and bursts into song (Song of songs). Paul and Silas in prison—and they sing (Acts 16:25).

It’s absolutely everywhere. In fact, I’ve read somewhere that after the command to pray, the next commonest is the instruction to sing. (I’ve not checked—you can count them if you want…and let me know).

Turning Professed Belief into Functional Belief

So, what is it with singing?

Yip Harburg, who wrote the lyrics for that Wizard of Oz classic Somewhere Over the Rainbow, also wrote this:

“Words make you think a thought; music makes you feel a feeling; a song makes you feel a thought.”

Many of us know the gap that exists between our thoughts and our feelings—truths that are known but not felt: God is trustworthy, but fear remains; sins are forgiven but guilt abounds. We know this gap exists not just because we see it in those we counsel but because we also experience it in our own hearts. Closing the gap is often the central task of counselling: turning professed belief into functional belief. And we can talk for hours trying to make it happen.

But just recently I’ve been wondering if we ought to sing more…if, perhaps, a little “music therapy” might not go amiss. Could we be overlooking the power of song? Missing the spiritual therapeutic that is found in singing aloud? Maybe singing is much more central than we think. Maybe it’s a key part of God’s plan for driving truth into our hearts, of getting theology inside.

Join the Conversation

What is the role of singing in your spiritual life?

What role could singing have in your counseling ministry—in helping people to move from professed belief to functional belief?

4 thoughts on “What Is It with Singing?

  1. Perhaps there is so much music and poetry in Scripture because truth is more than propositions to be apprehended by the mind. Perhaps much of truth is best communicated by poetry and song.

  2. As a worship musician I am litteraly thrilled to sing out (I am not a vocalist) as I play. It really does move my soul. I experience song (words & music) as mainline to my spirit. Clearly God has created this great gift of music to connect to Him in a palpbable way. As you noted, It is for good reason “we don’t have any non-singing churches”

  3. I regularly sing as part of my personal worship time. Singing helps me feel, and not just know, Who God is and what He declares about Himself. I also often assign certain songs as part of my counseling homework. I desire my counselees to listen to and sing along with music about our great God so that their affections are stirred while their minds are meditating on Truth.

  4. I work in a Nursing Home where many know the Lord. Some were missionaries or wives or husbands of Christian workers. Many are widows or widowers. Many have Alzheimer’s disease or dementia as well as other ailments. They are far advance in age; majority in their 80’s to a 100. It is amazing that a song is still a language of their heart. Begin with, ” then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee,” and they remember. Maybe there is an off tune somewhere, a difficulty, a gasping for air or a catching with a word or a melody. We pause. Then, we go on and sing…. “how great thou art, how great thou art.” In their hearts, despite the failing memory, music and singing still lives and they remember.

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