Will You Sing?

(The following post is in response to the postlude of the book Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty)

When the Welsh revivalist early 1900s asked the question “can you sing?”, he was not talking about musical talent or pitch correct-ness; he was really asking the question: “will you sing?” And that really IS the question, isn’t it? As the great philosopher Yoda once said, “Do or do not – there is no try.”

If you think about it, the current time that we are alive is (in some ways) the most exciting time to be a Christian. Sure there are difficulties and persecution that we face in a variety of ways around the world, but there are currently more Christians in the world than ever before, the Bible has been translated into more languages, we can get to more places with the Gospel because of transportation improvements, and the internet is accessible to most everyone – meaning more people than ever before can be connected to the Gospel.

But the challenges we face in the Western world is that there is “greater opposition to Christian ethics” than there has been for centuries, there are more dying churches than ever before, and we have an even greater variety of false teaching at our fingertips than ever before (and the worst kind of lies sounds similar to the truth). Therefore Christians must “hold tightly and loyally to the Christian faith and to share it with conviction, courage, and compassion.”

That also means that must sing! The songs we sing together are “lifelines that draw each of us back to the heart of the King… and to the priorities of the kingdom.” Our songs “tether us to our Lord” and “proclaim His kingdom manifesto in a way that reaches deep…”

Sing truth – and sing it as if it is true!

It is more than a command from Scripture, it is a privilege, it is a joy-bringer, it connects us with believers throughout space and time, it agrees with all of creation, and it harmonizes with the praises of angels in heaven.

Will you sing?

A Singing Congregation is a “Radical” Witness

Chapter 7 of Sing! by Keith & Kristyn Getty focuses on how much our singing is a witness to others.

Our singing is a witness to the people in our church who are “yet to believe,” such as the “unsaved spouse, the cynical teen, [and] the intrigued friend.” I love this perspective because I have known, without a doubt, all three of those types of people in a congregation all at once. In fact, I would say that any multi-generational crowd of any size includes people just like this every Sunday.

Most of this chapter was encouraging, especially the bit about the Olympic gold medalist, Eric Liddell, who was a missionary to China, the testimony of the First Church, and Frank Houghton’s missionary song. The idea of that “two or three” gathered together yields a special presence of God that is in and of itself a powerful witness to others is a wonderful thought as well.

However, there was a very challenging thought that the authors slip in right in the middle of the chapter (and then dig in a little more in the discussion questions at the end). The Gettys suggest that the actual effort (not just the song or melody itself) that we put into corporate singing is even witness to others.

The authors write this: “It is easy to sing about the Lordship of Christ; far harder to live under it… Hypocritical living damages our witness and so does half-hearted singing.” Ouch.

So the question that rises to the surface and hits me between the eyes is this: if someone was watching how I sing and worship, would they think I really believed what I was singing? I sure do hope so – but sometimes not. The Getty’s explained that the way some Christians sing suggest that “what they were singing was either not true, or not wonderful, or both.”

Back to a lighter note, they also wrote that, “Our songs are the public manifesto of what we believe” – that rings true even louder in the “culture that rejects God and embraces individualism.”

So Christian: let’s sing with the kind of passion that aligns with how wonderful the news is that we believe. As we do, it will be a shining witness to others. It is one way for us to be the “salt of the earth.”

Singing With Your Local Church

“The Church is the only structure that will stand forever.”

That thought (from chapter 6 of Sing! by Keith and Kristyn Getty) is really profound! Of course, this is not talking about a physical structure, but a social and spiritual “structure.” Jesus even promised that the “gates of hell” or death will not “prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The church will outlast any government, any society, any religion, and any family

When we sing together, we are declaring our unity and allegiance to (not the church itself but) to the Lord of the church – Jesus. We must not outsource our singing to “the professionals,” to the people that happen to be upfront, or to the people that we think sound better than us. As the authors quip, “listening to each other mumbling quietly along as a band performs brilliantly on stage in a church building is not the same as singing together as a congregation.”

I wrote about why many Christians do not value congregational singing here – and for many Christians, they cannot really be blamed because their church was more “performance” driven and the emphasis was always on what was happening up front. This happens in the “medieval” style church that the Gettys talk about all the way to the small Southern-Gospel style, “special-singing” style church of the last 100 years.

Live, congregational singing is critical to the church and the life of every believer for many reasons. The authors show us that when we join in with others to sing in a worship service, then “all of our individual stories meet at the cross-section.” And this coming-together of voices and hearts reminds us that we are not alone, that we are not self-sufficient, that we do not need to despair because we have the Holy Spirit in us, and that we are not the center of the universe – but just one voice (although a valuable voice) among “the great worldwide throng of people praising the One who is.”

The church worship service in general reminds us that we are not islands, left to our own devices and our own personal, private relationship with God in the same way that I am not an island in my own home. Sure – we are all individuals with personal relationships with Christ. But the church is not supplemental or even really separate from that; we are interdependent with our church family. A good symbol for what our Christianity should look like is the cross – our “vertical” relationship with Christ is purposefully and permanently connected with our “horizontal” relationship with other Christians. We need Jesus for salvation but we need each other for survival. The more we give TO the church, the more we get OUT of it. There is no “I” in “team”… or “church”!

When we remember that our singing is not about us and it is not even just for us, then personal preference starts to take a backseat to deference. The authors write, “When we see our singing together in this way, we will happily compromise when it comes to the style of the music, the instruments used in the music, and so on… there is something bigger and so much more exciting happening here [than our own tastes].” They also write this beautiful thought: “we are members of a multi-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-everything family”

Lastly, I really appreciate how the authors address how often “young adults” (ages 18-29) leave the church and that playing music that is more like a gig/concert is not the answer (something that I have thought much about – since it wasn’t THAT long ago that I fell into that category). Instead, they suggest that many young adults leave because they are searching for (1) creativity, (2) communication, (3) and community – and (sadly) they are not finding it in their church (or it is there and they are just missing it). While they expound on each of those topics quite a bit, my summary would be that we need to aim for creative simplicity done well over complication, clear communication of our deep faith over entertainment, and strong community over simple connectedness.

So may we keep the songs of the last generations that are worth carrying ahead while also singing new songs that our current generation needs. May we sing together with those that look different, sound different, and even think a little different from us.

Because “not all singing churches are healthy churches, but all healthy churches are singing churches.”

Consider these questions (based on the book):

  1. How can we serve one another in church with regards to our preferences?
  2. How do you prepare for our church services throughout the week?
  3. How do you respond when we sing songs in styles that you do not prefer or enjoy?
  4. In what ways do we encourage the communal or corporate experience of singing? Are there ways that I can support, encourage, and model that even more?
  5. How much does our singing equip us for the spiritual battle that we all face?

Singing at Home

Several years ago I rode with a friend of mine to visit one of his friends at a Christian camp a few states away. It was an incredible camp with amazing features that any kid or teenager would love.

But looking back, the most memorable part of the campground wasn’t the amenities, the zip line, the blacked-out worship center, or the “old town” feel (although on that day it was more like a ghost town because we were the only ones there) – it was having dinner in the home of the camp director and his family.

After we sat down to eat during the time that most Christians would be saying a quick blessing over the meal, their began to sing the Doxology. And when I say sing, I mean all of them in 3 part harmony. It was incredible to be there with them. After some questioning later, I discovered that this family regularly sang together in this same way before meals to reinforce biblical values and encourage community.

I remember thinking – my family should start doing that! But… we never did.

In fact, until I read chapter 5 of Keith and Kristyn Getty’s Sing!, I had completely forgotten about that desire. Of course, now I feel bad because of what my family and especially my kids are missing out on.

But then I realized: we actually do sing together some. We sing together when someone plays a song on the echo dot, we sing sometimes when I’m practicing a song on guitar, and we quite often sing songs together while riding in the car. I’ll be honest – it is not always as spiritual as the Doxology – but we do sing.

They Getty’s reference the Hebrew “Shema” in this chapter, which can be found in Deuteronomy 6:5-7. It seems so foreign to have something like the Shema that my kids and I repeat over and over as they grow up. But in reality, we have other things. Maybe they are one-liners from movies, principles that I want them to know, catchy instructions from “Daniel the Tiger’s Neighborhood” (like “flush and wash and be on your way” for those potty training years), or nursery-rhyme type songs – but there are things that we often repeat.

This has been a great reminder to get back to being intentional with what we repeat, recite, and sing.

The authors also make this challenging statement: “your faith must be evident enough that a child asks questions about it.” That is tough. Because one thing is true about kids: they ask questions! They question everything and anything. So that means if I am never faced with answering questions about my faith or the Bible or about God… then maybe those things are not evident enough in my life for them to notice! Ouch.

The authors also explain that one way to reinforce this idea of singing at home is to be in a church that prioritizes congregational singing so the two points get connected together – especially when the whole family is in worship together. I am so happy to say that our church not only enjoys singing and prioritizes singing… but we sing! On a given Sunday my wife and all three kids are together (although sometimes separated by some rows of chairs) and singing. Not only do they get to see their parents sing, but they see so many other spiritual parents and grandparents in the room sing. That is so important.

Truth and faith is both taught and “caught.” And singing, reading, and reciting truth together is one way that my children can “catch” truth and faith.

5 Reasons Why People Stop Going to Church

[This is based on an article I wrote for Christianity.com and my church newsletter]

We probably all remember 2020 when our government “mandated” churches to close their doors in response to a new virus. So many Christians struggled with maintaining spiritual disciplines such as Bible reading and prayer while not gathering in person. While most people today have moved beyond being worried about any negative consequences of getting together to sing, pray, and study, the repercussions of that season are still being felt today: especially in a decline of church attendance.

One study found that fewer than half of churches are back to their previous attendance. Some churches have fully closed. However, we cannot really blame the shut down for this. Instead it seemed to give people on the fringes an excuse to stop and accelerated a process that was already in play.

I say this because over my nearly 20 years of ministry leadership at several churches and being friends with many pastors I have seen all kinds of people leave the church for all kinds of reasons. I have seen teenagers leave after they get a license, young adults leave once they graduate, young couples leave after marriage, young families leave when their children start playing a sport, spouses leave after a divorce, adults leave because of a job, senior adults leave because of health difficulties, and people of all ages leave for so many other reasons, such as a pastoral change, musical disagreement, service time change, seating rearrangement, or change in rooms for worship.

This has been a concern for church leaders in America for many years. It has been the topic of books and conferences since long before my time. From what I have learned, people stop going to church for one or more of the following five reasons: 

1. Habit. Because of a change in work, health, or life, some people miss gathering for long enough to get out of the habit of waking up early on Sunday, preparing for a Small Group, and being scheduled for a ministry. And since Christianity is less socially acceptable, they naturally built new habits of sleeping in, golfing, watching tv, vacationing, or working.

2. Fear. Many people suffer hurt from the place that should be safe: the church. The words of pastor, the judgement of a member, or the absence of a leader resulted in an offense. Sometimes it comes from someone meaning well, and other times it comes from someone acting out on their own hurt. While while most people do not have a choice whether or not they return to work or school, church is voluntary and much easier to walk away from.

3. Bitterness. A negative church experience can result in bitterness that someone is unwilling or unable to deal with. The initial negative experience may have been legitimate (they were mistreated, lied about, or unloved) or it may have been not much more than inconvenient (such as the infamous change in carpet color, service time, seating, music, or pastor).

4. Embarrassment. The shame and regret that follows a wrong choice in life often ends up as a barrier between someone and their church. And although God and mature Christians would be wiling to forgive and move on, some people end up too embarrsed to confess and repent. However, sometimes a person’s actions or words are not actually wrong biblically or morally; they were just unacceptable to a certain church, denomination, or group who shunned them.

5. Priorities. Life is often just a game of time. What we do with the hours in our day is connected to our priorities. If someone is not involved in a church, then it is clear that church is not currently a priority for them. This could be because their previous motivation is gone (such as parents, a spouse, or social pressure), other priorities began to seem more critical (such as getting a second job because of debt or traveling because of a child’s sport), or because they are what Dean Inserra calls “unsaved Christians” and the Holy Spirit is not within them compelling them to go. To be honest, you and I are very prone to “wander” in our priorities without strong accountability and community in our lives. 

Do you have a friend or family member that has left Church? Reach out to them in love and invite them back. If being in a worship service or church building isn’t an option right now, begin a new Small Group in a home, restaurant, or coffee shop to help them get a fresh start on Church.

Have you allowed habits, fear, bitterness, embarrassment, misplaced priorities to take you away from your Church? Take the difficult step to go back and begin a new season in your journey of life.

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Remember Your Creator

When I was a child (so a long time ago) I remember looking up at the sky during the day or at night and feeling so overwhelmed and so small – that I was afraid. Thankfully there is this thing called “gravity” that kept me from ever flying up into the vast sky above me. And even still today when I look up at the sky I cannot help but feel a sense of awe and wonder.

And to think: the sky above me, the clouds, the lightning and thunder, the sun and moon, and every one of those stars that we can barely see were all created by a wise designer (who we call God) thousands of years ago. Not only that, but all of nature around us was created by God in a way that is so intricately woven together and so irreducibly complex that there is no way any of it is the result of some random accident.

Think about it – if the earth was just a little closer to the sun we would all burn up and if it was just a tiny bit farther away we would freeze to death. If the trees did not put off just the right amount of oxygen, if the moon did not go through its phases and the earth rotate as it does, and if the bugs and the birds and the bacteria did not do the job they were designed to do – then there would be no life.

That is what we can think of when we read verses like:

Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”

Colossians 1:16-17 “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”

Hebrews 11:3”By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”

But not only was nature and the earth and everything beyond our earth created by God – but we were created, too, by God with a purpose.

David said in Psalm 139:14 “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”

What does that mean that mean? Well similar to the trees and sun and all the rest of nature, God created us so particular and so intricate that it demands a grand designer. Your body, your organs, your muscles and bones, your senses, they all work in such a specific way – a way that your DNA was programmed to work – that if anything at all was slightly off it wouldn’t work right. There is no chance or randomness about that.

You were designed by God as a brilliant, beautiful, and valuable masterpiece: the crown of his creation!

And what is the purpose that God created us? To be the recipients of his love and to live for his glory. You may have heard it like this before: the ultimate or chief end of man is “to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

But get this – it doesn’t stop there. God not only created us initially for a purpose, but even though our sin has messed up that design, we can be RE-created in Christ Jesus. Or as Jesus said in John 3 we can be “born again.” And when we are re-created through salvation or becoming a Christian, Paul tells us that we have a RE-newed purpose, too. He wrote in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

So remember that everything around you and you yourself were created by God for a good purpose. And whether you are at school or work or home and whatever you are doing – you can live your life for God and “glorify him.”

I promise – there is nothing more satisfying or fulfilling!


“Truth soars on the air of a great melody.”

There are a few songs that really stick out in my mind when I read that phrase. One song is My House is Full by Lanny Wolfe that God used to call me into full-time pastoring and the other is Seek Ye First by Karen Lafferty that God has brought to my mind countless times throughout my life when I felt anxious about my life and future. Interestingly, both of these songs are basically Scripture set to music (or psalms) and from the 1970s (which was characteristic from that wonderful time of worship song writing).

In the fourth chapter of Sing!, the Gettys shift their focus to HOW “Christ-filled, Spirit-prompted singing moves out in concentric circles changing your own heart and mind… changing your family… changing your church… and changing your world.”

I’ll be honest – that is quite a claim! But as they explain, the songs that we sing really do have great influence on our souls not just on Sunday morning, but on Monday morning on the way to work or in the car line, on Thursday night at the ball field or at home, etc. The songs we sing impact the words we say, think, and even pray. The songs we sing “stick with us – and so they shape us.” They motivate us when we are lazy or tired, support us when we lack courage, help us remember Scripture, uproot the “weeks of worry and fear that tangle our feet and trip us up,” and they help us recall aspects of the gospel when we are explaining it to others.

The authors explain that every day when we wake up we hear two main voices: the voice of wisdom (the Lord) and folly (the world). The words of the songs we sing give melody and amplification to one of those voices.

Of course, this is one of the main reasons that God gave us the Book of Psalms. As the book fully explains, this collection of poems and songs by several writers (such as David and Moses) give us a “vast vision” of the nature of God and show us how to deal with real life and the emotions that come along with it. In this way, Christian music helps us not escape from life, but deal with it in a healthy, joy-filled way.

The songs we sing also remind us of what God has done for us in the past and give us hope for what God will do in the future – especially what he will do for us in the next life. This last point challenges me to sing more songs about Heaven and eternity along with the many songs we sing about the gospel and our salvation.

And as so many people have experienced, songs stick with us. Even when our mind has all but left us and we cannot even remember the name of our child, we remember songs.

If we find ourselves not enjoying songs that are full of truth and good for our soul, maybe we should talk with someone that does or even talk with someone who leads or writes those songs that are soul-healthy. But in the end, just sing them because they very well may become the songs that help bring us through difficult times.

We are COMPELLED to sing

“Worship comes as a response to revelation.”

That wonderful statement came from chapter 3 of the book Sing! that our worship ministry is reading through. We are singing people because we are saved people – set free, made new, washed clean, and beholding the beauty of the Creator’s work, feeling the presence of the Spirit, and knowing the work of the Savior.

I heard someone say once a few years ago: “I’m just not an expressive person… music does nothing for me.” I made the mistake of actually believing him for a few minutes. I thought maybe he and I were different. But then when I decided to play a mix of 70s-90s hits over the sound system while we were all cleaning up after a night of VBS, I saw this man come alive like never before. He was dancing, singing, and smiling. I stopped the music because I just had to call him out: “I thought music didn’t move you?!”

What I have learned over time is that all of us – even the people that claim they are unemotional and unmovable by things such as music – ARE responsive and even emotional. For different reasons unknown to me, some people choose to express themselves and other people hide or stifle their expressions. But even the most calm and unexpressive people are moved by something – even if that something is their sports team winning.

When we take down the walls of shame, when we allow our hearts to be softened by the Gospel, and when we catch a real glimpse of the goodness of God – we respond. And if we have ever been equipped and encouraged to do so… we sing! That is across every culture and throughout time.

The authors of the book also explain that the “joy of something” is only “half full until we’ve been able to tell someone else about it.” That is so true! I see that in my kids every day and know it is true of my own life.

God’s Word has many examples of how it is our human nature to respond with singing when we have a revelation from God and we recognize his goodness. I am afraid that here in America we have become so accustomed to good that we have begun to expect it. We criticize younger generations for thinking they deserve only the best, but I think most of us struggle with that. But if you watch someone that has lived in poverty be handed a gift, someone that has been lonely find love, someone that has been very sick get healed, or someone that has been starving get a good meal – and they rejoice! They hold nothing back. And guess what – they sing!

Despite living in a culture that has lost some value in public singing and despite churches that have lost their voice, it is still our nature. Don’t believe me? Go to a bar and see if you do not hear singing. Go to a concert where hundreds or thousands are singing the classics. Go to a big baseball game and see if people are not singing when “Sweet Caroline” plays over the speakers!

The Getty’s wrote: “Singing gives voice to a heart that deeply knows the gospel of grace. It is the overflow of a heart captivated by the gospel.”

What a beautiful thought!

God Commands Us to Sing

There are more than 400 references to singing in the Scriptures… And about 50 of them are direct commands. For example, Psalm 149:1 gives us an imperative to “sing to the Lord, a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints.“ One thing is abundantly clear in the Bible: we are commanded to sing!

As Keith and Kristyn Getty say “not to sing is to disobey.“ So why sometimes do we NOT sing praises to God, even in the assembly of other Christians? Maybe it’s insecurity, maybe it’s shame, maybe it’s pride, maybe it’s ignorance, or maybe it’s simple rebellion.

As I reflect on chapter 2 of the book Sing! – I am challenged by several statements. One in particular is: “Christian singing, is far more than doing our duty, but it is never less.”

Another quote that moved me was: “we are not to think of it as ‘just the singing’ – something we can skip over or arrive late for – but something we are to take seriously, to value, to set aside time for.”

The authors also remind us of something we probably already knew: that when we come together to sing, there are going to be all kinds of songs and arrangements that we do not prefer. And that’s OK because when we sing with others (especially when we sing the songs we do not prefer), then we are given an opportunity to love and serve our brothers and sisters in Christ that DO prefer those songs and arrangements.

So why do we sometimes not sing in our church services even though we are commanded to do so?

What does how we sing reveal about our hearts?

Do the commands of God to sing reveal thankfulness in our hearts or rebellion?

What are some things that might help us cultivate singing with more intentional thankfulness?

I love the last line of this chapter. The authors say “how kind of God to command us to do something so wonderful [as singing].” So true!

When Our Earthly Rulers Disagree with Our Heavenly Ruler

Do you remember the story of Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego and the “fiery furnace?” I remember hearing this story as a child, being inspired, but assuming that being thrown into a bonfire for my beliefs was a little farfetched. Surely here in America I wouldn’t be persecuted or physically harmed for praying, reading the Bible, or worshiping God.

Then when in high school I got a little taste of this as I was picked on and sometimes ostracized for my beliefs. But still I figured real persecution only happens in other countries – not to me and not here.

However, since I became an adult I have heard an increasing number of stories of how believers even in “Christian” nations are facing social persecution, legal trouble, harm, and even prison time for their faith. Businesses, churches, families, and individuals have been attacked for their biblical views.

Then in the 2020, our American government decided that churches were “non-essential” and told to close because of a virus. Most churches complied and shut down. Among the fallout of those closings, Christians around the world and especially here in America now know what it is like to face governmental regulations that are against their beliefs and consequences for disobeying them.

More recently, two separate individuals were arrested for praying in public… silently! And this was not in a country opposed to Christianity. It was in Britain.

This causes us to ask the question: what do we do when our earthly rulers disagree with our Heavenly Ruler?

While different situations are all going to be unique and not all of them will be cut-and-dry or easy to answer, I think we can get a good perspective and learn some lessons to help us answer this question by looking back at the “fiery furnace” story in Daniel 3.

To read my summary of the events in Daniel 3 and my four applications from the text to help us answer this difficult question, read my article at https://www.christianity.com/wiki/christian-life/should-christians-break-the-law-if-the-law-is-wrong.html.

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