Think back to your first visit to the church, and try to remember how you felt singing worship songs with other churchgoers. Many of you probably enjoyed worship then and still do, but some people struggle with the fact that much of church is singing to God. To them, it seems weird that people get together each week and have a God “sing along.” From an outside perspective, a “sing along” might seem a little hokey and stupid. But in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, as well as in many Old Testament Scriptures, worship through song seems to be exactly God’s intention in commandment. Singing songs to God and about God has always been a huge part of worship in the Judeo-Christian trajectory. So should people really feel hokey or stupid doing it?
We do hokey things that we love all the time – for example, we sing along to pop songs in the car. Very little is sillier or hokier than that, but we still do it and will keep doing it even if we are somewhat embarrassed when people catch us at stop lights. In fact, one of the great things about the invention of Bluetooth technology is that we can now talk and sing to ourselves while playing it off that we are talking on the phone.
We don’t sing along in the car because we have to – we want to sing along because we believe. We believe in love, or the pain of breakups, or the desire for world peace, or the feel of cool rhythms and raps, or whatever the theme of the song is. Sometimes being hokey is being authentic – and if you have to pick between the two, you should pick being hokey over being inauthentic. Looking stupid for the right reasons can be a real spiritual virtue, one I daresay is not practiced nearly enough (2 Samuel 6:22).
We also have no problem singing along at sporting events. What’s the difference between singing worship songs and singing the alma mater song at a Badger game or sporting event? They are both worship songs – but one is vigorously participated in by tens of thousands, and the other is sometimes thought weird to outsiders. I’m not a UW grad, but UW grads singing their alma mater makes perfect sense to me, because I stipulate their premise that they believe the UW exists and that it is great and that they belong to it. And once you accept their assumptions, their behavior makes perfect sense. And the same is true of Christian worshipers. We believe God exists and is great and that we belong to him through faith in Christ, so singing to him makes perfect sense.