Right or wrong, we’re wired to think and evaluate externally. At some level, it’s unavoidable, God looks on the heart, but we can see only the outside.
So when I visit a church for the first time, I’m careful to remember that I can’t see the hearts of the people around me. But I do try and observe and gague the spiritual temperature of the congregation, and the primary way I do this is to listen to how they sing.
Outward actions will never effect heart change, of course. Paul makes it clear that vibrant congregational worship will be a result of being filled with the Spirit and meditating richly on the Scriptures (Ephesians 5:18-21, Colossians 3:16), not external manipulation. But it’s also true that we often fail to give congregational singing its rightful place in our lives and in the life of the church. As often as not, it’s because we have a sinful fear of man.
Rob Smith has some outstanding thoughts on congregational singing, which you can read here. I commend the article to you in its entirety. As you read, consider how you worship God in public singing.
Here’s an excerpt:
It shouldn’t surprise us that praise, like all other aspects of Christian obedience, is a constant battlefront on which God’s people have to fight to be faithful. For it is God’s purpose that His children should praise Him “with a whole heart.” Consequently, an array of forces are pitted against us (celestial and terrestrial, external and internal), which seek to deflect us from giving God the praise that is rightfully His – not only with our lives, but also with our lips; not only in speech, but also in song.
Sadly, it’s all too easy to rob God of His praise simply because we fear looking foolish, or we fear what others might think of us, or think of our voice, or how they may label us! Se we ‘play it cool,’ muzzle our gratitude, curb our enthusiasm, and (perhaps) don’t even connect with the words we’re singing! Of course, the antidote to this is not to be impervious to those around us, or unconcerned about how we impact them. To the contrary, it is God’s will that we should look out for others and endeavor to worship Him only in ways that build them up (1 Cor 14:19). But a Christ-like concern for my neighbor is a million miles away from a slavish fear of man – a fear that is ultimately idolatrous and self-serving, not God-honoring.
This week, consider your glorious salvation in the gospel of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:9 tells us, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
As you gather this coming Sunday, proclaim His excellencies to fellow believers and to those who are visiting – through your loud, joyful singing. Fear God, not man!