Sing to One Another

"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, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ"
(Ephesians 5:18b–20)


I want to briefly plead for us all regarding the music portion of our worship services, that we turn up the voices and turn down the musicians.

One awesome privilege we enjoy in these times is the accessibility of much excellent modern worship music that is theologically rich and quality in sound. My assumption is that many churches are singing songs written by the Getty’s, Indelible Grace, Matt Boswell, and Matt Papa. My concern here is not to address the need for more theological soundness in our music choices, but rather that, along with the accessibility of excellent modern worship music, many of us are tempted toward an over-professionalization of the music ministry. We are tempted to so match the quality and skill of the musicianship of modern recording artists, that we might underemphasize how much more important it is to hear the actual voices of the saints in our congregations. 

Ephesians 5:18–20 says that singing to one another is one of the ways to be filled with the Spirit. Is it possible that if we cannot hear each other’s voices while we sing, we are putting at risk the filling of the Spirit of Christ in our services that we so desperately need? It’s interesting that Paul says Spirit-filled singing is “addressing one another.” Isn’t singing in church supposed to be about addressing God? Of course. This is why he continues in the same sentence to say that we are at the same time “making melody to the Lord.” It’s both-and. Most of us are doing well at the to the Lord part. How are we doing in the addressing one another part?

There is a massive difference when attending a worship service where the musicians and singers are the dominant sound, and where the voices of the congregation are the dominant sound. 

The most important and dominant sound in the room during the music portion of our services ought to be the voice of the congregation. Of course, this is not to deny excellence in musicianship. But the point of excellence in musicianship is to support and drive the voices of the church. 

At my own church, the goal for the sound of our musicians is something like vanilla. Basic. Plain. Average. You can never go wrong with offering vanilla ice cream for dessert. Everyone will happily eat it. It’s almost nobody’s favorite. Nobody talks about how good it is, even though everyone likes it. It always satisfies a sweet tooth. Your church musicians do not need to sound professional to help the congregation sing to one another. Vanilla is fine. Whatever you experienced at a worship conference with the Getty’s or Shane and Shane or City Alight may have been good. But it is not ideal. The sound of the voices of the people of God singing to God and one another is ideal.

This may mean turning the volume of the musicians way down. It may mean scaling down the instrument variety to just a piano or guitar, and a simple cajon — vanilla. It may mean more acapella, especially if your church doesn’t have gifted musicians. And that’s ok. If your people are singing to one another and to the Lord, you are experiencing the ideal on Sundays. 

Notice also that a quality of Spirit-filled singing is that it is done “with all your heart.” There are many songs put out these days that are theologically rich, but musically difficult for most church members to sing — at least initially. If our people are struggling to sing, then they are likely not singing “from the heart.” Taking great care whenever we choose songs is an act of love and good-will toward our congregations. 

It's ok to sing songs that are musically difficult sometimes. “And Can it Be” by Charles Wesley is one example of a song with rich theology but advanced musicality. It is definitely doable. But remembering that we need our congregational singing to be with all the heart, we may need to be slower to introduce too many new or difficult songs. This takes wisdom as well as knowledge of your congregation, and each church will be different in applying this. 

Let us recover congregational singing. The Lord sits enthroned upon the praises of his people (Psalm 22:3). In John’s vision of the Revelation, he heard what sounded like the roar of rushing waters and peals of thunder (Rev. 19:6). What did he hear? Voices! “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” Our worship gatherings should match as close as possible heaven itself (see Matt 6:10). Sunday morning worship is the closest thing we have this side of heavenly worship. So let us sing to one another with music from our hearts to the Lord!