Don’t Neglect the Horizontal Dimension of Singing and Worship
I thought I would repost this from Justin Taylor because this really hit me. I can be too self-focused on the song and how it is impacting me, or how I don’t really care for this song, or that it is too high for me. What do you think?
Godward vertical worship—in preaching, prayer, singing, communion—is our ultimate aim when the church gathers together. But we should not neglect the horizontal dimension of worship.
With singing, for example, we are not only singing to God (in adoration and confession and thanksgiving and petition) but we are simultaneously supposed to sing to one another (in encouragement and edification, correction and instruction).
For example, Paul says in Ephesians 5:18-19 that we are to 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.”
Or in Colossians 3:16 Paul tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”—by means of and with the result of “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Along these lines, here is a good word from Greg Gilbert:
I think we ought to encourage every member of our churches to sing every song in the service with gusto, even if they don’t particularly resonate with the song. Every Christian has a certain set of hymns and songs that deeply resonate with them—the melody, the words, an experience they had when they first heard it—and our natural tendency is to give those favorites everything we’ve got . . . but then sort of check out when the next song is one we don’t particularly like.
But here’s the thing: When you sing in a congregation, you’re not just singing for yourself; you’re singing for every other member of the congregation, for their edification and building up in Christ, too. In I Corinthians 14:26, Paul tells us that when we come together, everything we do—including our singing—is done for each other. Singing hymns is not just an opportunity for each of us, as individuals, to worship God in our own way. It’s an opportunity for the church, as a whole, to worship God together. That means that even if you don’t like a particular song, it’s likely that someone else in the congregation resonates with it deeply—they feel about it the same way you feel about your favorites—and so you have a responsibility to love that person by singing that song with all the heart you can muster. In other words, don’t check out on songs that aren’t your favorites; sing them! And sing them loud and heartily, not because you particularly like them, but because you may be helping to edify another brother or sister whose heart is engaged deeply with those songs. Worship isn’t finally an individual experience; it’s corporate. And everything we do—everything, Paul tells us, including our singing—should be done for the building up of the saints.
You can read his whole post here.