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Congregational singing is an ordinary means of God’s grace

The staff team is currently going through an eJournal by 9Marks, “The Ordinary Means of Grace: Or, Don’t Do Weird Stuff”. Many of the articles have surfaced the point that we should not follow any fads or fashions; instead, God has given clear instructions on what can be done to gather and grow our churches. With the discernment of the Holy Spirit, the so-called ordinary stuff, which might even be labelled ‘boring’ or ‘uninspired’, is actually inspired – “the preaching of God’s Word, singing of God’s Word, praying of God’s Word, reading of God’s Word, and declaring of God’s Word through the ordinances.”

From the article “Congregational Singing: Can Musical Styles Dilute This Ordinary Means of Grace?” by Neal Woollard, may I highlight two points for our consideration.

Firstly, congregational singing is a ‘compelling means of grace’. Woollard writes, “Congregational singing is the sound of a people saved by grace. After God saves his people by grace, they sing (Exod. 15; Acts 2; Rev. 15). Delivered from the world, they no longer belong to or look like the world. In the New Covenant, what’s one way the Spirit leads us to godliness? By the church singing (Eph. 5:18-19). How do we know the rich Word of Christ dwells in us? By the church singing (Col. 3:16). The Word of Christ reverberates as the Spirit-indwelt people of Christ exhort and encourage one another. And what a compelling means of grace this is! A singing church is hard to ignore. It’s audible and visual. It’s tangible and mystical. It’s individual and corporate. It’s cognitive and emotional. If the Spirit wants to grow us in grace by the sound of the church singing, then that’s where we should put all the focus. As the music leader at our church, I want people walking away from our gatherings having heard the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God.”

The implication then for us to consider is that our presence in Henderson and our singing to God and with one another is an ordinary means of grace that God has ordained for our benefit. This then means we should make every effort to be present each Sunday. When we are absent, we forfeit this means of God’s grace to us weekly. When we are absent, it also means we forfeit being God’s channel of blessing to fellow worshippers.

Woollard’s second point was, “Genre — while our churches are diverse, our church music often isn’t. We should delight in singing diverse kinds of music because God is saving a diverse people! In other words, don’t just sing new songs. Or just sing old songs. Or songs just from your ethnic heritage. Or just songs you like as a music leader. Sing rich theological songs you may not even like because you know someone else will like it. Sing songs that built up the church in ages past. This shifts our focus beyond individual expression and compels us to sing in a way that glorifies God and encourages other members. We’re forced to notice how God’s Word is dwelling richly in those in my church and how God’s Word has dwelt richly in churches throughout the world, which should make us want to exalt Christ more! In short, our style should honour the diversity of the people God has saved and continues to save.”

Since Hermon desires to be an intergenerational church worshipping on Sundays together, may we as both worship team members and congregational worshippers be open to choosing and accepting songs that represent the diversity of ages and preferences in our faith community. Let’s aim to be others-centred so that we seek for one another to be edified by the all the songs we praise God with.

Good Friday is in 12 days’ time. The service liturgy will be the same across all 11 of our BPCIS churches. It’s a little different from our normal service liturgy but I pray that through it, we will sense the unity that God has given us through the Presbytery. This is God’s ordinary means of grace — that we have fellow siblings-in-Christ who are united by His blood shed at Calvary.

For Easter Sunday, we continue our tradition of holding a bilingual service with Mt Gerizim. May we appreciate the richness of the Gospel sung and proclaimed in a different language. May it help us experience, in a small way, the blessings of Pentecost. This, too, is God’s ordinary means of grace — that His Good News is now proclaimed in many languages. - Pastor Daniel Tan

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