And be thankful. 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. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15b-17 ESV)
I used to think that singing in church was all about me and God – the fact that other people were in the room was often fairly irrelevant, and actually sometimes quite annoying. I was there to have a moment with God, express myself to him, ‘do worship’. And there is a sense in which the passage above encourages that, but when we look closer there is so much more going on.
The revolutionary thing is that we don’t just sing to God; it isn’t an ‘audience of one’ in the sense that people sometimes talk about. Actually there are two things going on when we sing together. We are singing to God, and to each other. This turned my view of church upside down.
Paul says above that our singing helps us the word of Christ (Colossians-language for the gospel) dwell in us richly, and it does that as it allows us both to speak to God, and to each other.
What characterises our singing to God isn’t some sort of individual emotional encounter (the ‘lovers eyes meeting across a crowded room’ moment), but rather thankfulness. Count how many times thankfulness pops up in the verses above. It’s surprising, isn’t it?
The aim isn’t that we might ‘meet God’ in the music, as if thats what it takes for him to show up, but rather that we would communicate with our Father in a corporate expression of praise and thankfulness for God’s love to us in Jesus.
And that is a wonderful privilege. But the wonderful thing is that it doesn’t stop with that vertical aspect. At the same time as we thank and praise God, we are teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom. Admonishing means something like ‘telling off’. We are actually reminding each other of what has done, encouraging, and where we need it, rebuking. Singing is a
amazing way to do this do, because it helps make words memorable (so we better have good words!!) and it is such a joyful way to express our unity in the gospel.
How does this work out for us?
Remember that you are singing thanks to God, so why not think about the words you are singing, and consider how they help you express your gratitude to God for everything he has done for you. And remember that you are singing to your fellow Christians too, serving them, and being served by them, and therefore it doesn’t hurt to have your eyes open and occasionally even (shocking for Brits) look at each other. Oh and it helps if you actually sing too. You don’t have to sound good, just go for it!