Part 1 | For the Mind, Body and Soul
By Dave Yauk
Songs are important to us! They not only have the power to equip us for a good car ride but they rise to even higher levels of influence. Songs like My Generation, written by The Who, came to define actual points in history. Jimi Hendrix defined a time period with All Along the Watchtower. Fast forward into today with U2’s With or Without You, and again we find that a song’s influence not only carries the ability to encapsulate a generation, but to become the universal love song for romantic relationships all around the world. Classical compositions such as Gioachino Rossini’s Morning Song became powerfully attached to a sunrise through its use in cartoons. J.S. Bach’s Joy of Man’s Desiring is iconic in religious settings as well as Handel’s Messiah. Even into today on a more popular level, we have songs like Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it) that defines not only a mantra for a new generation, or a relationship, but promotes a dance craze, much like Chubby Checker’s The Twist.
The Battle between G – O – D & E – M – I
The fact is the world is going to perpetually attempt to define the style, the songs and the artists that are appropriate for the training of the human mind, body and soul. We must realize however, that God created singing, and thus as its grand architect, he knows completely its purpose and appropriate use. This is why I want to deeply consider singing! If as Christians we’re to SING, I want to know what songs we’re to sing. What is the purpose of our singing? Who do we sing to? Why do we sing? Should we think at all about the songs we’re choosing to listen to? Is a big conglomerate like EMI Records going to define what edifies the body of Christ, or is God?
NOTE: Throughout this series, I’ll be examining particularly the church’s corporate singing and will include a document called the Song Selection Rubric. I give this tool to song planners everywhere, and I will refer to it often throughout my posts and give the reasoning behind each section.
It’s Clearly a Mind, Body and Soul issue…
To introduce this series of posts, I’d like to briefly look at one of the most famous verses in the Bible when it comes to singing. Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” I’m not going to attempt to dissect this verse or even delve into what songs, hymns and spiritual songs are. I want us to begin by noticing three things:
Songs are for our Mind: Notice that this verse implores us to let the message of Christ dwell among us as we teach through song. This implies centripetal (motion inward) and centrifugal (motion outward) motion to our songs. On one hand our song lyrics are supposed to be so deeply enriched with truth. Like a “person,” the words are to become palpable in that they are to dwell among us. Our songs are to be saturated with a Godward trajectory. Spinning into us is the truth carried by these songs. The songs put the words of sound truth on our lips and in our hearts.
On the other hand, the songs are to spin out of us. We are not to heavily rely on the music and lyrics simply indoctrinate and instruct us, but we are to bring robustly trained minds to our singing. The more we know the Bible, and the more we know the person of Jesus, the more our singing is enriched. Colossians tells us that a heart that is deeply rooted in the Word will inevitably sing! Truth spins out of us in passion and zeal, and as it hits the air, others hear, are edified, and it creates a climate of spinning truth. Lyrically it spins to us, and passionately truth spins out of us.
Songs are for the Body: Yes it is true that singing is the only “instrument” that truly utilizes the entire body to sound (mind, breath, muscle, voice etc.). This is why the Scriptures seem to prioritize the human voice in resonating with other voices as the main accompanied sound of heaven. Singing truly is a bodily device! In Colossians however, it would seem singing is predominantly grounded in the context of being amongst “one another.” We are to benefit the BODY of Christ first and foremost in our singing!
Singing is a team sport, not an individual exercise! How often does corporate singing in our churches cause people to feel as if they’re like a bunch of floating atoms flying around the room in their own independent little worlds? Hands are raised, eyes are closed, lights are off, and voices shout, but all in an effort to create an individual encounter with Christ. Paul’s view of singing is far more corporate. Enriching corporate singing is dispensed through the sound of the masses, not in the isolated sound of an ear bud headphone!
Songs are for the Soul: Notice that singing itself is not a lone ranger. Singing is married! It’s to be done to God with gratitude in our hearts. We will speak more about how songs emotionally and “soul-ish-ly” form us in our Christian maturity in future posts, but consider for a moment how singing changes when married to thankfulness! It’s not just the truths in the songs that matter, nor that we keep our eye on our neighbor as we’re singing. The concern in Paul’s mind is that we also bring our whiny, complaining, sin-bent soul to the altar of God, and lay down our entitlement crowns through our singing. Rather than embracing the attitude of the world, singing is supposed to form us in our mind, body and our attitudes and affections.
Jonathan Edwards in Religions Affections said this, “Since holiness is the main thing that excites, draws, and governs all gracious affections, it is no wonder that all such affections tend to holiness. That which men love, they desire to have and to be united to, and possessed of. That beauty which men delight in, they desire to be adorned with. Those acts which men delight in, they necessarily incline to do.” Related to singing, this quote implies that singing shapes and forms and shapes our perception of beauty, delight, and desire. The mind, the Body, and the affections (soul) are deeply connected not only to our well-being, but to our mission. Singing shapes us in an effort that we may leave enflamed with love for our fellow Christian friends, and empowered for witness before a watching world!
Stay tuned to my future posts in this series where we will turn to some practical tools to help us sing better as Christ’s bride.