Sing With All Your Heart
Singing with emotion in our worship is not only acceptable … it pleases God.
by Bob Kauflin
A few years ago, a couple began attending the church where I led worship. They enjoyed the theological depth of the song lyrics, but experienced a serious disconnect with the way we worshiped God. Like many other Christians, they had been taught that emotional expression in worship is dangerous at best, and probably sinful. Yet here they had encountered a group of Christians who loved sound doctrine, but also expressed their response to truth by raising their hands, clapping, kneeling, crying, and other forms of emotion. Was God OK with this?
Responding fully to God in worship ought to include emotional expression. Does this mean that we are free to pursue spiritual goose bumps? Obviously not. So, is all emotion in worship bad? Hardly. At the beginning of the 18th century, Puritan theologian Jonathan Edwards responded to critics of the emotionalism commonly seen during the First Great Awakening. He said this about singing:
The duty of singing praises to God seems to be given wholly to excite and express religious affections. There is no other reason why we should express ourselves to God in verse rather than in prose and with music, except that these things have a tendency to move our affections. (Jonathan Edwards, Treatise on The Religious Affections p. 44)
Singing allows us to combine intellect with emotion, objective truth with our response to it. In other words, singing exists to help us express emotion—that’s the whole point! It is never to be done half-heartedly. What's the purpose of singing any song (much less a worship song!) in monotone?
Scripture also teaches us that singing is to be enjoyable! Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant We bring no honor to God when we suppress our gratitude and joy while meditating on the mercy and kindness He has shown us. Do you know which emotion is most often connected to singing in the Bible? Joy!
Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs The book of James has more instruction for us along these lines: Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise (James 5:13). Let him sing!
God created us, He created the universe, and He keeps it in order. He protects our lives, gave us a family, guides our paths perfectly, and knows the number of hairs on our head.
But most precious is this truth: all our sins are forgiven. Although I have lusted too many times to count, been impatient with my children, spoken harshly, envied, coveted, killed in my heart, and lived much of my life without God, He has sent His Son to take my punishment. He became sin so that we could be clothed in His righteousness. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, and we are among them! We have become God's children, and that's something to get emotional about. Singing helps us do that in a way that pleases God.
Bob Kauflin is director of worship development for Sovereign Grace Ministries and its international family of churches. He also serves as the music and worship pastor for Covenant Life Church, based in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Bob has taught on and led worship at various events, and was a founding member of the Christian music group GLAD, with whom he traveled for twelve years.
Last modified: 10/14/2004 ©2003-2007 New Song Church