Why do you show up to worship on Sundays?
Maybe it’s a question you haven’t asked yourself a lot. Maybe it’s just what you’ve always done. For many of us, especially those who grew up in the South, we likely can’t remember a time when we weren’t at church every week. But we still must answer: why gather? After all, it’s now easier than ever to engage all of the content that a Sunday morning provides from the comfort of your living room using a laptop (who wouldn’t want to worship in their pajamas?!). Virtually every church with more than one hundred people has a sermon podcast. Bigger churches even live-stream their whole service. Not to mention that you’re one YouTube or Spotify click away from listening to every song your worship leader will sing this coming Sunday.
So why not stay home? Simply put: because hearing the saints sing awakens our affections for God. Listen to the Apostle Paul encouraged the Ephesian church:
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but 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.” Ephesians 5:18-19
After spending the first half of his letter detailing all that God has done for them in the gospel, Paul spends the remainder of his words addressing what obedience looks like for the Church in light of that good news. In 5:18 he commands them not be drunkards but rather be people “filled with the Spirit”. He then spells out how that filling happens, and it has everything to do with worshiping God. “…addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”
Notice here that Paul speaks of not one but two audiences we should address in our singing: the Lord and each other. When Paul thinks about the worship of God, there is both a private and a public component. Of course, we all understand the private component well. We Christians are to worship, celebrate, and adore God alone—that is the first commandment after all. Our worship should stem from within and rise up to Him, “making melody to the Lord with your heart.” But what most modern Christians overlook is the fact that Paul sees another purpose in our singing. We are also singing so those around us can hear and be encouraged. This is why Paul says we are to “[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
Do you realize your worship of God is something your neighbor at church needs to hear? Do you realize that your neighbor’s worship of God is something you need to hear? Consider these three benefits that singing with the saints produces:
TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT AND WORD OF GOD
Paul tells us very clearly in Ephesians 5, if we want the Spirit of God to loom largely in our hearts, if we want to be a people who are guided by him in our thought life, who are emboldened by him to speak and to act, we have to be a people who gather and sing.
In the parallel passage to the Colossian church, Paul makes another connection: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16). Here we see another truth, that corporate worship is a means of hiding God’s word in our hearts. After all, worship songs are meant to be biblical truths made catchy. Singing theologically rich songs is a great way to remember God’s word easily. So, not only does singing with the saints help produce Spirit-filled Christians, but it also produces Word-filled Christians.
TO AFFIRM UNFELT TRUTHS
Earlier generations of saints had a better grasp of the importance of congregational worship than we do today. In fact, in many churches throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the pews where the congregation would sit faced inward toward each other instead of facing forward in order to emphasize the need for the body to see and hear the body worship God.
There’s something powerful about being near others who are fighting for faith. My mentor told me once that he often raises his hands in corporate worship settings even when he doesn’t really “feel” the truth he’s singing. He said that affirming truths alongside his church family who are doing likewise is how he fights to believe what he’s singing. What a help it is to stand in a room full of people and lean on their faith as they fight to believe the same good news you’re fighting for as well.
TO STRENGTHEN US IN OUR SUFFERING
In 1 Peter 5:9 Paul writes, “Resist [the devil], firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
We are better able to bear up under suffering when we know our brothers and sisters are trusting Christ in their suffering too. This is a tremendous benefit of singing with the saints. I need to hear the lady next to me who just went through a miscarriage sing “Great is Thy Faithfulness” at the top of her lungs. I need to see the tears stream down her face. It gives me
Worship leader Bob Kauflin is right when he says that Sunday mornings are not meant to be hundreds of individual “quiet times” of devotion all happening next to each other. We gather together on purpose so that we can address one another with songs of hope and praise to our God. This Sunday, I invite you to open your eyes as you sing, look around and remember: each brother and sister around you raising their voice to the Lord is a grace from God to help you enjoy Jesus more. And you’re a grace to them. Sing loud for each other’s joy.