Photo by Scott Kelley on Unsplash

By: Philip Bunch, pastor of Fayetteville ARP Church in Tennessee

I don’t know if you have watched the acclaimed Apple+ series, Ted Lasso.  It isn’t to be praised for its stance on many current ethical and moral issues.  Also, it should not be viewed without discretion, particularly with younger (under 18) audiences.  All that aside, I do want to highlight just one scene that occurs midway through the second season.  An entire football (soccer) stadium full of Manchester City fans in perfect unison begin singing Blue Moon, the famous standard sung by every generation of crooners since 1934.  And this is not an isolated or uncommon occurrence in the sporting world.  Now here is my punchline, upfront:

Every human being was created to sing. 

That’s right.  I said it.  If you say you can’t sing, then you are claiming not to be a human being.  Every person ever born has been created uniquely in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).  I believe a core part of this image-bearing is singing . . . and particularly, singing praise to God.  Why do I believe that–on what basis, you may ask?  At least this:  have you ever considered that the command ‘to sing’ is the most used command in all the Bible.  This is especially true if you widen the semantic domain to include words like ‘exult’ and ‘rejoice’ and ‘shout’ and ‘make a joyful noise’.

I wonder if you have also considered this great fact.  God himself sings.  Jesus, the second person of the Godhead, sang (Matt. 26:30).  He isn’t alone.  God further describes himself as singing as he exults over his people in mighty strength and joy (Zeph. 3:17).  So we see, at least, that we are created in God’s image to sing because God himself sings.

But I think it goes further than this.  Have you ever considered why the command in the psalms is frequently ‘sing a new song’?  The reason is not because God necessarily prizes novelty.  And it isn’t because God is still in the business of creating new revelation (Gal. 4:4-7, cf. Jude 3).  Rather, it is precisely because human beings are created uniquely in his image.  This means that no other species on the planet has the distinct privilege of singing and bearing the Word of God on their lips.  Many species arguably sing much more beautifully than humans.  But NO other species has the great privilege of singing the very Word of God . . . feeble though the song or melody may be!  (To be clear: I am in no way proposing that humans by their “new” song add to or change what God has revealed in his Word.  The “newness” is easily comprehended when you consider how many different and beloved versions of the 23rd Psalm exist in our liturgies. Same psalm: new song.)

Well, now I hope you can agree that we all are created and commanded to sing, but what about actually obeying this command?

Maybe you grew up like me–a terrible singer with an even more terrible ear?  How can untrained musicians with little-to-no natural giftings sing to an Almighty and holy God?  Well, first remember that he has commanded you to do it, and God will never command what you cannot fulfill in the Spirit (in no way am I suggesting that we fulfill the Law with respect to our justification–cf. Rom. 8:4).  Second, just get over your pride and ask someone to help you.  I used to be a terrible singer, but now I’m an okay singer because I’ve had lots of help along the way.  But more importantly than all of this, I want you to think about why football stadiums and concert crowds spontaneously burst into song.  This frequently happens, even despite the fact that the vast majority of people in attendance would be considered horrible singers.

It’s because of joy.

Human beings can’t help but be bitten by that infectious bug known as joy.  And for Christians, we know something far deeper than the world will ever know:  the joy of the LORD.  This reality proves far more powerful than any joy from a sports team or some fleeting emotional experience.  I wonder if you remember that verse from Nehemiah 8The joy of the LORD is your strength (Neh. 8:10).  I recently heard a preacher explain carefully that the verse does not say what we often think it says:  the strength of the LORD is our joy.  Rather, it says that the joy of the LORD is our strength.  I find this absolutely fascinating.  We could be tempted to think that it is our grand theological system (and I am convinced ours is the best) or our vision for planting 50 churches by 2050 or the hipness of our newest program in the local church . . . we could be tempted to believe that these things are our strength.  But they are not.

The joy of the LORD is our strength.  Indeed, it is the strength of our song, even.  Our joy-filled praise, then, is a good indication as to the overall strength and health of our churches.  So, if we want to know what causes singing, then we need to ask ourselves what causes joy.  Let’s go back again to Nehemiah 8.  It’s a wonderful scene in the history of God’s people.  The walls of Jerusalem are finished and the exiles return.  Then, Ezra gets up in front of the people and reads the Law of God for about six hours straight while everyone stands (talk about a long worship service!).  He explains what it means (preaches the Gospel), and then commands the people to be quiet and grieve not (because they are weeping).  What do they do in response?  They make great joy.  They sing with a heart overflowing with joy even through tears.

My dear friends, whoever you are, wherever you are, you cannot help but sing in the presence of God and his Word.  Each and every Christian has the high privilege and command to gather on the Lord’s Day in the very presence of God Almighty.  And for those who gather, we must sing.  Each and every congregant–not simply the choirs.  Paul explains that God uses our singing to make the Word of Christ to dwell richly in our fellowships?  We do need to teach and admonish one another in all wisdom (Col. 3:16a), but I would argue that this cannot function properly unless we are singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Col. 3:16b).  Maybe this is how the Ephesians lost their first love.  They tested the spirits and kept the faith, but maybe it was their love and joy that had grown cold (Rev. 2:2-7).  The Word of Christ dwelt in their midst, but did it dwell richly?  Could this be because they did not sing?  I do not know.

What we do know is that God bids us to come to him and sing.  He delights over us himself in song.  And the joy of the LORD (both his joy over us and the joy given to us) is our strength.  It is precisely this joy that works itself out in our midst through song.  Could it be that many in our churches do not sing (read: refuse to) because they do not have joy?  And the vicious cycle, here, is that it is precisely this infectious joy that often spurs us on to sing.  Well, what is the way out, then?  As one esteemed theologian of our day once said:

Just start singing again. 

However feeble or odd-sounding it may be, take up this great God-given and God-glorifying work again.  Remember: God sings over us.  I think, specifically, He sings His Word over us.  And He has uniquely created and equipped each one of us to bear his Word on our lips as we sing the Scriptures already revealed (again, I am in NO way positing that we could or should add to His Word).  What a great privilege!?

Here are a few practical tips for the journey:

  1. Take the time.  Commit yourself to singing at least one of the songs from your Lord’s Day Worship service every single day of the week.  Do this privately and also with your families.
  2. Have the right tools.  Get yourself a hymnbook and a psalter.  There is literally no excuse not to own one.  If you can’t afford it or don’t know where to start, then reach out to me personally, and I’ll be more than happy to help (  Also, there’s an app for that.  Just search your respective app stores for hymnals or psalters.
  3. Use the talented.  Go ask your minister or Session to teach you how to sing hymns and psalms.  If you have a choir director, ask them to give you help in becoming a better singer.
  4. Just sing.  God looks upon the heart, not the outward beauty of a voice.  We are called to sing and make melody to the Lord with our heart anyways (Eph. 5:19).

So you see, in order to understand the priority of what we sing, we must first understand who we are and why we sing.  We sing as image bearers of Almighty God.  We do not add to the glory of God, but we declare His glory among the nations as we take up His Word and sing it through all the earth (Psalm 96:1-6).  Though I do love my Tiger Rag, may it never eclipse the joy I express when bearing the Word of God on my lips in song.

Printed in the May/June 2024 ARP Magazine.