Why We Need to Sing in Worship Even When We Don’t Know—or Like—the Song

I’ve been there, and you likely have, also. You’ve never heard the song your church is singing. Or, you’ve heard it but don’t like it. The temptation is to silently mimic the words or not to sing at all. Here’s why we need to sing anyway:

  1. It’s right to sing God’s praises. Even if it’s not our favorite song, it’s right to join the people of God in singing God’s praises (Psa. 96). He delights in the singing of His people.
  2. Not singing sends the wrong signal. Here’s what it could look like . . . anger . . . burden . . . distraction. . . . Worse yet, it comes across as arrogance. And, if you’re not singing just because you don’t like the song, that really does border on arrogance.
  3. Some songs you don’t like are quite biblical. Most of us choose songs we like on the basis of the style and the melody, not on the words. Sometimes the songs we don’t like are straight out of the Bible – so not singing them takes on more significance.
  4. We can learn a song best by singing it. I now love some songs I didn’t like when I first heard them, and I’m glad I at least tried to sing them.  The same can happen for you.
  5. We model worship for others as we sing. All of us model something by the way we worship. Some show the joy of encountering God. Others make worshiping God look boring and disconnected. Singing helps others to worship Him well.
  6. Singing with the rest of the congregation promotes and reflects unity. Churches already struggle enough with internal conflict. Sometimes, in fact, members who don’t sing are intentionally sending a signal of disapproval and division. Don’t play that game.
  7. Singing encourages the ones leading the singing. Few things are as discouraging for  worship leaders as looking at a congregation with non-singers – and, from what I understand from worship leaders, they seldom miss seeing them. We don’t really hide our silence.

For what other reasons would you encourage singing? 


  • Jim Watson says:

    Sometimes, unfortunately, the worship leaders miss WHY people are not singing. There are many great songs on the radio that do not lend themselves to congregational singing. In their haste to get a song they really like in front of the congregation, they overlook the fact that they are supposed to be leading others to sing. This often promotes the wrong type of unity. People who have given up trying to sing a song that they cannot sing will look around and find that many others are also not singing. And, it seems, that worship leaders often do miss seeing those non-singers (or they fail to figure out why they are not singing).

    I personally love to sing. I sing in church. I sing in the car. I sing in the shower. I sing at work. But, my range is limited (as are the ranges of most people). My volume often cannot get over the musical instruments. I often cannot hear anyone singing who doesn’t have a microphone (and sometimes, not even the ones who do). Musical instruments are supposed to accompany the singing.

    Worship leaders need to remember that they are leading the congregation in corporate singing, not giving a concert. I cannot sing some of the songs I like the best. That doesn’t make them bad songs It doesn’t mean that I don’t sing God’s praises. It’s not that I don’t find them to be biblical. It doesn’t mean that I don’t want to learn a new song.

    People can think that I am angry or burdened or distracted or even arrogant. I am not there to please them. I am there to worship God. God knows what is in my heart (which is often singing the songs that my voice cannot). We sing because our souls sing (even if we never make a sound aloud).

    But, in the end, if the congregation is not following the worship leader, who is he/she really leading?

  • Jonathan Clark says:

    I love to sing. I love to worship. I don’t always sing in corporate worship for a couple of reasons. 1. I am a processor. I often find myself thinking through and meditating on what I am singing, thinking about the lyrics, often grabbing my Bible and reading. 2. I don’t always sing because I am not sure if I agree with the lyrics. If it is mystical in nature or even heretical, then I won’t sing it…going back to processing

  • If there is ever a song i don’t particularly enjoy, I watch people around the congregation whose lives have been changed by the Gospel, new believers and such. That really gets me excited about any praise song- watching newly redeemed people sing them.

  • Charles Frazier says:

    Thank you for giving us seven reasons to sing in our worship. Dr. Lawless. It is greatly appreciated. Sometimes a person can forget the importance of individual participation in our worship. Once again, thank you for the reminder.

  • Barbara says:

    In my observations some people do not sing because the song is unfamiliar to them.(Words and tune) This is usually noticed among our older adults. Even with the words on our overhead. They just feel more comfortable with the older more familiar songs. My favorite Music Minister always chose blended worship songs. And all of us music lovers (including me) need to realize that some people are simply not lovers of music. (Their loss) We should not let these people discourage us. If we focus on them, it hinders our worship. After all, are we there to just sing? Or are we there to worship? Some people just worship in different ways. But, as for me…..I love worship in song and the word proclaimed by my pastor!

  • Paula says:

    Perhaps sometimes a congregation is not singing is because the instruments are SO LOUD that even with words in an overhead you can pick out a melody. Also there are some songs that should not be congregational, because they were designed for an artist to sing it as a concert version. And perhaps people get TIRED of singing the same phrase 14 times which to me means there is no substanance for a song to reach a person’s soul because they get bored.

  • Robin Jordan says:

    8. Singing we reaffirm our faith and testify to our faith. We also reinforce and strengthen it.

    9. Singing we give voice to our devotion to our Lord and to his service. We give voice to the gratitude and thanks to Him for having redeemed us and restored us to a right relationship with God.

    10. Singing we give testimony to the faith of generations of Christians that have preceded us – the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us. We strengthen the bonds that ties us together and to those gone before ( and those yet to come.).

    11. Singing we add our voices to the voices to “the angels, the archangels, and the company of heaven,” praising Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb.

    12. Singing we celebrate Christ’s victory over sin and death. We also grieve over the loss of those who have rejected Christ and we comfort and strengthen each other in the midst of suffering and persecution.

    I could go on.

  • John W Carlton says:

    I served as a Minister of Music for over 40 years. I am a traditionalist, and if I were introducing a new hymn or chorus, I would use it consecutively for a month until the congregation got to know it. Too often today the Worship Leader and Praise Team are putting on a show rather than having the congregation sing the songs. I love the hymns because of their musical style and the great Theological teachings that they have. Many of the praise choruses are filled with fluff rather than content.

  • Mr. Ed says:

    I sing with the bass voice God gave me. Would love to find the harmony line if I had the music in my hands.

  • DON says:

    It seems we can all find a reason to not sing. Too loud or not loud enough, it can be the same
    song and others will have the opposite opinion of ours. The praise team is preforming not leading while they are worshiping different than us while we look to find a reason to not join in. There are those who are never pleased if it is not worshiping we approve of. I once heard the question “Do we love our style of worship more than we love our grandchildren?” Do we get offended if the worship leaders are trying to reach out to someone other than us, either young or old?

  • Great reasons to participate in worship before I preach. Sometimes, it is possible to think that as the preacher, one cannot think about anything else but the sermon. I face the same temptation. However, I do not want to wait in some “green room” anticipating when it is my turn on the stage. I need to worship too in order to get ready to preach. I want the same preparation that the congregation is experiencing for the message that is about to be delivered. The truth is that I have prepared the message, I have spent time intentionally prior to Sunday morning getting myself ready. The review has taken place and soon, I will be the preacher, pastor, prophet and spokesman for the Lord. I want to participate in worship too in the countdown to sermon delivery.

  • Jan says:

    i have COPD and can’t sing, but love to hear everyone else sing.

  • Jerry says:

    Sometimes I struggle to sing during worship. Don’t get me wrong, I love to sing worship songs, especially in church. But more and more lately it seems that the focus of the song being sung is on the feelings or emotional experience of the worshipers, not so much the one who is worthy of being worshiped. When the focus is on God, is sing heartily, but when it’s on me and my feelings, that’s when I struggle to join in.

  • Faith gibson says:

    When I make a joyful noise into the Lord it’s joyful only to the Lord. I love my Lord Jesus Christ and singing His praise prepares my heart to receive the message that comes after the singing. I am so thankful for my salvation but I cannot sing, i don’t know one note from another and I certainly can’t reach those high notes. Should I inflict my inability on others? I choose not to do that on songs I don’t know, on the ones I know, I try.

  • Joe La Salandra says:

    One way in which God is helping me in transition from the field is through corporate worship, singing His praises with others. It is a joy to sing His praises, and exalt Him, for He is worthy of our praise. On the other hand it is difficult when we don’t know the melody, or the lyrics. Worship leaders need to teach and model worship from the heart. Did I mention it was a joy to sing His praises publicly, and together with the Body of Christ!
    Thanks Brother!

  • Denise Hayden says:

    While I will assume you mean theologically sound songs, we both know that many of the current worship songs are not theologically sound and worse yet, many worship leaders lack the discerment to know this. I believe singing false docrtine is as bad a preaching false doctrine, and I refuse to do either. Truth matters more that unity.

    • Chuck Lawless says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Denise. 

    • Shane says:

      Denise, I’m unaware of what songs you’re referring to, but the majority of the songs are written straight from scripture. I encourage you to approach your leaders and have them share the purpose & message behind the songs before having this attitude. Remember, the original hymns were written from bar tunes and many were not directly from scripture. Both group of writers, new & old are gifted. Let’s support them all.

  • MarkC says:

    Dr Lawless, thank you for a very well written, biblical article. I agree and I also believe the Lord demands a response in worship. so good. THANK YOU

    Some articles I read and comments from church folks (like some above) I hope and pray that my unsaved friends, that I am trying to get into church never see, or they would never darken the doors. I think some folks are so inward (consumer) focused that they forget a world who is watching us under a microscope. God forgive us.

  • Kenneth F Burnett says:

    I am 80….”contemporary” music interferes with my corporate worship….I look about during “worship” and see numerous adults standing mute during the singing. I also see our hymnals resting with their own brand of mutness in the pew racks. Our fellowship is without a music director right now…and I see my disappointment coming when a new person is hired. What is happening to the children in our Church?…we are choosing to expose them to contemporary while neglecting traditional. Oh, well, fuddy-duddies like myself will all be gone soon.

  • David Taxel says:

    Hi, this article caught my eye because it has been a major concern of mine for many years. I got saved in the early 80s and had the pleasure of worshipping God with music from 2nd Chapter of Acts, Keith Green and basically all the Maranatha music. To me those were songs inspired by God. But as Denise above said, so many of what is called worship is not biblically sound, thus they are garbage. Sorry to be so harsh but when I go to church and the songs are all about ME ME ME, sorry, it greaves my soul. One church I used to go to the worship leader would see that more than half of the congregation weren’t singing, he would practically beg us to sing. But the other side of this coin is that the worship is a direct reflection of the teaching of the church itself. This same church one year had a big push during Easter to go out and bring in our unsaved neighbors. I said to my wife “why? Are they going to really hear of God’s love and salvation?” And I was 100% right. I was offended by the so called Easter message.

    That’s all, rant over.

  • April says:

    All I keep reading, for the most part, is “I this, and I that, and I can’t….” We all need to come to the realization that it’s not about us, it was NEVER about us, and it never will be about us, but about HIM! Our Lord and Savior. It doesn’t matter if you can’t sing, whisper it if you’re embarrassed. There is POWER in the tongue and when the words are spoken or sung the atmosphere shifts. Hymns or not, He still DESERVES your praise. If you don’t agree, try not to let that fester and send up praises to the Lord in prayer or song and enter into His presence. We are all created to worship and the enemy will do anything to destroy it, starting with our thoughts. If something distracts you, close your eyes and have one on one time with God. It’s hard, it’s work, but who said these things would be easy? Back in the day, before the battles began, the worshipers were sent out before the army to prepare the way. As soon as that first note is struck we should all learn to immediately enter into His presence. He is fighting our battles while we are worshiping Him. There is healing and power in your worship to God Almighty!

  • Derrick says:

    Dr. Lawless, I appreciate your thoughts, but I found them narrow. I believe this article assumes that the way Evangelicals worship should be the model for everyone else. I am not sure if you were focusing your comments on Evangelical churches only, but there are quite a number of churches that do not follow the sing-along model.

    First, wouldn’t it be best for people to worship. If you are forced to sing a song you don’t know “for the sake of unity” which is the thesis of this article, then you are giving false worship to God. Would it be better to not sing and be honest, or sing and be fake?

    And what if you are angry and you don’t want to sing? Should one just not come to church?

    Secondly, there are other ways of worshipping God. For example, there are times when we need to be quiet before God. If someone just strums a guitar and never says a word of lyrics this is still worship. And then, prayer and scripture reading is worship equal to anything we could ever sing to God. Singing has its place, but singing is not the sum-total of worship, and I am not so sure this article is helpful for people who struggle with being open, honest and authentic before God.

    I hope this is helpful in terms of seeing your ideas for a different stand-point.


  • Ace says:

    I have a couple of thoughts on this article. I feel that worship is a personal thing, and that a person does not worship to show other people their level of faith or devotion. And people are free to worship in whatever way they feel comfortable.
    The Bible says to worship in spirit and in truth. As humans we can go through hard times, and certain songs can be hard to sing. People have the freedom to choose to refrain from singing.
    I used to go to a church that had a 45 minute singing time. I often would sing a couple of songs, then sit down and just enjoy sitting and listening to the words, and soaking in God’s presence. If God knows a persons heart, that He knows their true intention. Singing songs just because everyone else is, is not the right intention.

  • Byrd says:

    I refuse to sings songs, or have songs sang on the worship team I lead, that sound like nonsense or have no scriptural basis. Example: When I thought I lost me, you knew where I left me, you reintroduced me to your love. You picked of all my pieces and put me back together”….blah, blah, blah. That same song also mentions God bringing back the head of my enemies and calling it my victory. 🙄. One song says “You’ve got a lion inside of your lungs.” And another talks about “When I open up my mouth miracles start breaking out, I have the authority Jesus has given me, When I lift my voice and shout every wall comes crashing down…I have the authority Jesus have given me” Jesus was spoken twice, I/me/my was spoken seven times. That’s a problem in my opinion as the song is more about the individual and less about Jesus. Jesus does the miracles. In no way does one opening their mouth cause miracles to break out. Miracles happen only because of God’s authority, not man’s. These are the kind of songs alot of churches are singing and they drive me nuts because they are nonsensical or scripturally misleading. I realize we have to have both horizontal and vertical worship, but is asking for the songs to be firmly based on scripture too much to ask for?

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