Last week, I had the pleasure of going to Nashville with our Gateway worship leaders to attend a conference hosted by Keith and Kristyn Getty. The conference was called “Sing,” and it largely focused on the importance of congregational singing. One of the keynote sessions was presented by David Platt who is the President of IMB (International Missions Board). David is an extremely well educated man of God who pastored The Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, AL, for 8 years before becoming the President of IMB. He is also the founder of Radical, a resource ministry, dedicated to serving the church in making disciples of all nations.
The following are my notes and thoughts from David’s presentation to us about the importance of congregational singing and the mission of the church.
We started out by looking at Nehemiah 12:27-43 (ESV) which describes a massive worship service held by the people of God as they celebrated and dedicated the wall of Jerusalem. Here we see the people of God (congregation) celebrating publicly the glory and work of God as a witness to the nations (the mission of the church). In Nehemiah 12:31 we read,
31 “Then I brought the leaders of Judah up onto the wall and appointed two great choirs that gave thanks.”
This passage also describes congregational singing that was so incredibly powerful that “the joy of Jerusalem was heard far away” (vs 43). By worshipping, they were witnessing to the nations around them! The take home here is that when we worship God corporately and publicly, we are not only singing praises to Him, we are giving witness to the world around us of who our God is.
We also see that we are participants as the people of God. The only spectators are the nations on the outside looking in. There will always be “nations” and “spectators” in our midst, so it’s incredibly important to be active participants when celebrating the glory of God.
Worship also engages us in a spiritual battle. In 2 Chronicles 20:21-22 we read,
21 And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon…
Worship leaders went out ahead of the army to prepare the battlefield for war. What an incredible visual for our worship services. “22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon...” The Lord set an ambush against their enemy when they began singing! Have you ever thought about that before? God uses our corporate worship as a weapon against our enemy and to prepare the way for the preaching of the Word. Today we no longer dedicate walls and temples to God because Jesus is the “Temple.” So what do we dedicate to God when we come to worship? We dedicate ourselves to the mission of the church through congregational singing and the preaching of the Word. Our worship gives witness to the “nations” around us and prepares the battlefield for war. It engages us in the battle as we dedicate ourselves week in and week out for the mission of the church.
My prayer for Gateway is that this understanding of the link between congregational singing and the mission of the church will transform the hearts of spectators into active participants.