One of the trends that has swept our society through the past decades is the “funification” of pretty much everything. We have been told and become convinced that everything ought to be fun. I can’t think of a better example than in schools where the rote memorization that was once considered essential to learning was deemed too difficult and unattractive, so was replaced by activities much more enjoyable but much less effective. We can see the theme in media where in-depth examinations of key issues were reduced to soundbite punchlines from late night hosts. The gamification of everything is just a progression from the funification of everything.
Churches have not been immune either and people began to demand fun from their worship services. The call to worship drawn from the Bible was replaced by the funny video clip drawn from pop culture. The sermon that exposited and applied deep biblical truths was replaced by topical sermonettes that skipped most of the deep exposition to focus almost entirely on trite application. Ed Young preaching from a bed and a wrestling ring is not the start of the trend, but its culmination. And then there’s the music. Many churches consider singing the funnest part of the service. The songs they sing and the way they sing them is designed first to be entertaining. Less important than the words are the feels. Less important than the deep truths are the hooks, bridges, and choruses.
Yet singing is not prescribed for Christian worship for the purpose of fun. It actually serves a far higher purpose as a means through which we bring mutual encouragement by recounting common truths together. According to Colossians 3:16, we sing from the gospel, for one another, to the Lord. Singing is serious business! It is as serious as preaching and prayer and communion. It is not just a perk or pleasure, but a duty and obligation. It’s both a “get to” and a “got to.”
That’s not to say, of course, that worship should be tedious or uninteresting or the barest recounting of facts. The alternative to fun worship is not worship that is drab or boring, but worship that is meaningful and true, worship that gives voice to the full range of biblical truth and Christian experience. It’s not just about emotion, but reflection. It’s not just about feeling, but thinking. It’s not just about having a good time, but serving others.
If we look to the psalms, we see quickly that “God’s song book” uses the poetic form to recount the complete experience of the believer. The psalms stand in stark contrast to so much of modern worship and surely show us that our singing is to be far more than fun and to contain far more than declarations of victory. Some songs may be fun, but others are somber. Some of them may be full of joy, but others are full of sorrow. Some of them may prompt us to raise our hands and dance in the aisles, but others may prompt us to be stock-still and to weep in silence. Many of the psalms aren’t particularly fun to sing, but they are good and necessary and healthy. They show us that we are to sing about everything, including things are are no fun at all. Singing allows us to celebrate, but also to lament; to give thanks, but also to confess; to declare, but also to beseech; to express, but also to ponder.
Singing can be fun and at times will be fun. But God has designed and prescribed it to serve a far higher, far better purpose than that.