One of the biggest joys for me at New City is singing gospel truths together. At our Sunday worship gatherings we walk through and sing the gospel story. We sing old hymns and new songs, all in response to who God is and what He has done for us. In an interview with Bob Kauflin, he states that not only does singing help us to know these truths intellectually, but it helps us to actually feel the gospel. As we are singing, we slow down and take time to read and repeat certain lines “and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths,” says interviewer David Mathis. Check out the rest of this interview with Bob Kauflin.
by: David Mathis
You were made to sing. God created music, and designed humans to sing along.
Mere naturalistic theories cannot adequately account for this global phenomenon, present among every people group on the planet. The fingerprints of the creator mark the sound of music.
And what nature makes plain, God’s own word makes even clearer. The Psalms alone issue nearly thirty commands to sing. Another thirty passages include promises that we will sing praise. The Bible celebrates song from the very beginning, as Adam sings for the woman God made for him (Genesis 2:23), through to the very end, as the bride of heaven sings for the groom God gave her — with choruses old (Revelation 15:3) and new (Revelation 5:9; 14:3).
Jesus himself — fully God in full humanity — sang on earth (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26), and he sings even now among the happy congregation of heaven (Romans 15:9; Hebrews 2:12). One day soon his Church will be fully gathered with him, and she will enjoy endless music with him.
Sing to Stir the Soul
Something mystical and seemingly supernatural works in us when we sing. Music cultivates the happiness and wholeness of the human soul. Singing stirs and engages the heart, celebrating our greatest joys and consoling us in our deepest sorrows.
Ask songwriter and beloved worship-leader Bob Kauflin about the place of song in the church’s corporate worship, and he’ll direct you to two times the apostle Paul explicitly mentions singing. Ephesians 5:19 speaks of our “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.” Colossians 3:16 instructs us, “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 3:16–17 comes in the context of Paul describing what it looks like to live a gospel-fueled life as a community in the midst of a pagan society,” says Kauflin. That picture is increasingly relevant in our day.
“Right in the middle of it, he talks about singing. It’s similar to Ephesians 5where he goes right from singing to household relationships. Why does he do that? Why is singing so important?”
Connect Mind and Heart
Kauflin’s answer is penetrating, and it is instructive for why God would have music and song occupy such a prominent place not only in worship, but in all of life.
“There’s something about singing that both enables and encourages the rich indwelling of the word of Christ in our hearts. The ‘word of Christ’ is the gospel. It’s who Jesus is, what he’s done, and why it matters. That gospel is to dwell in us richly through singing. Singing is what helps us do that and express that.”
Paraphrasing musicologist Harold Best, Kauflin says, “God has taken the most precise way of communicating truth, which is words, and combined it with the vaguest way of communicating truth, which is music — and he’s put them together to make singing. The purpose is that what we know with our minds gets connected in our hearts.”
God designed singing “to help us feel the truth. More specifically, it’s meant to help us feel the gospel.”
Affect the Affections
How, then, does singing help us feel the gospel? One way, among many, is “singing helps us meditate and reflect on the words we’re singing by drawing them out. We slow it down, we repeat it” — and in doing so, the weight and significance has longer to ring in our souls and penetrate to our depths. This slowing down and repeating sets song apart as markedly different than mere speech.
“If we spoke like that, it would be odd. People would wonder what your problem is. But when we sing, it makes perfect sense. It allows time for those truths to seep down into our souls and impact us and affect us and change not only our emotional state but the choices we make, the things we do, because we do the things we love.
“God gave us singing to affect the things we love, to remind us of the things that are most important about what Jesus Christ has done to save us, to redeem us — those things are most important in life. We want to be amazed by those truths.”
God Gave You a Song
Singing serves our true happiness and wholeness as humans, but that doesn’t mean we all incline toward music with the same intensity, or have the same skill in song.
Some of us simply don’t like to sing; others, as the expression goes, couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket. Yet that shouldn’t keep any human — and especially any Christian — from the power and pleasure of music and song.
“The question isn’t, ‘Has God given you a voice?’ but, ‘Has God given you a song?’ I’ve worked with guys who are tone deaf, literally tone deaf . . . . I would rather have them sing and express what God has done in their lives, in their hearts, than just remain silent.
“God has given you a song. You just need to find out the ways you can sing it, and use every opportunity you can to sing it — because God means for song not only to express what’s in your heart, but to encourage what’s in your heart, or what should be in your heart.”
What should we do in corporate worship when we don’t feel like singing? Kauflin has a hopeful remedy.
“Confess your weakness, confess your inability, ask God to reveal his glory to you in Jesus Christ, and start singing the truths of God’s word. Most likely, it won’t be too long before your perspective changes, and you’re not thinking about whether you feel like singing anymore. You’ll be thinking about how worthy Jesus is to receive the praises of his people.”