Here’s our purpose statement for corporate singing at Central Church in Royal Oak:
To glorify God by equipping the congregation to encourage and teach one another through rich, Christ-centered songs.
There are few things we mean when we say that. Here are some of them.
“. . . equipping the congregation to . . .”
This influences what we sing. If the congregation is not skilled enough to sing the song, then we don’t sing it no matter how rich or Christ-centered it is. Some songs are great songs, but they are not congregational songs. I’ve heard someone make the argument, “Well, have you ever been to a U2 concert? Those melodies are not easy, and everyone sings them.” Yes, I’m sure that’s true. But how many 80-year-olds do you know that could sing them? The last time I looked at my congregation, I saw young and older people.
It influences how we sing. A few weeks ago I was playing drums and noticed that when we did a key change on a particular song that we lost about half the congregation. We won’t do that keychange again. Why? Because it wasn’t clear enough for the congregation to follow. Another example is how loud I play the drums. I sometimes get too excited and play too loud. It can be distracting from people singing. That’s a no-no, and yours truly needs to tone it down to encourage people to sing.
“. . . encourage and teach one another . . .”
“I love worship services because I know it’s just me and God alone in such an intimate environment.” It’s certainly good to glorify God in singing. In addition to that, we see one of the main purposes in singing according to Colossians 3 to emphasize the corporacy of the moment. That means if what we’re doing encourages people to “zone out” everything around them, then we’re not leading well. Why? Because we want to help foster an environment where the congregation worships God by encouraging and teaching one another in singing.
When the congregation gathers, it’s a corporate event. The most spiritual thing to do during singing in a church service isn’t necessarily closing your eyes and raising your hands (I have nothing against that, however!). It could be opening your eyes, singing loudly, and looking around while you do so to listen to others sing with you.
I don’t mean to minimize acknowledging the Spirit’s presence in us and with us as a congregation. It is wonderful to glorify the Lord with our voices and hearts in singing, and Lord willing we do that. We shouldn’t worship the congregation. But we should worship as a congregation, not just as individuals.
“. . . through rich, Christ-centered songs.”
We want to sing songs that are going to last long enough so our grandchildren could sing them. We want them to have depth and meaning so that they don’t leave you wondering what they’re really saying. A good worship song is more like a quality steak than cotton candy. Each bite leaves you appreciating a different nuance in the taste, and when you’re done, you’re satisfied.
If Scripture is about Christ, then our singing should be about Christ. If a Mormon could sing our songs without any problem, then we should be second guessing what we’re singing. I don’t mean to say there isn’t truth in songs that don’t mention Christ. Instead, I say this because of a continued nominalistic “Christianity” in our culture that embraces many spiritual things but never really spells out who Christ is and what His followers are called to. We don’t have time for nominalism. As the Sovereign Grace Music line goes, “Show us Christ.”