I know music is a form of worship that is expressed several times throughout the Bible, but how did singing gain such a pivotal role in church services? What biblical basis is there for congregational participation in music? Is there any, or is does the practice originate from traditional spirituals and hymn sings?

I have no complaints against music, but it strikes me that it is not necessarily everyone's forte when it comes to artistic expression and I've been wondering if there are other practices which might be suitable substitutes for those of us who don't have the same aptitude for song (besides the art of lip-syncing of course :). I'm pretty good at that by now).

EDIT: Great answers. Thanks, folks. This has my mind going and I've posted a follow up here for those interested: Is song a critical component of worship or something that we've just borrowed from example?

  • If, as I suggest, self-sacrifice is an integral part of worship, then if you really enjoyed doing it, it wouldn't be as worshipful anyway. As far as alternative forms of worship, I would recommend things such as giving of your time and money. Jul 22, 2013 at 16:18

3 Answers 3


It's very ancient! Song has been used in worship since before the Psalms were written, and certainly continued into New Testament times. And through Christian history to the present.

See Psalm 81 (among lots of other references):

81:1Sing aloud to God our strength; shout for joy to the God of Jacob! 2 Raise a song, sound the timbrel, the sweet lyre with the harp.

And the disciples sang too, as referenced in Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26, following the Last Supper, and it appears to have been common at the time of Christ:

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

I'm an organist, and I've often wondered what to do for those for whom singing is a bit of a trial. Generally, the advice is just to do it. It doesn't actually matter what you sound like (although perhaps joining the choir wouldn't be ideal). Raise a song with thankfulness in your heart that God accepts you.

However, if there are other opportunities which might suit better where music is concerned, why not explore those. Do you play an instrument, for example?

On the other hand [third hand!] if lip-synching allows you to join in without embarrassment, that's not wrong either.

  • This is also a great answer, @AndrewLeach. I selected the other because it provided more examples on the biblical-basis.
    – user5154
    Jul 22, 2013 at 16:34
  • +1. Also, the role of the choir in Church services apparently began to take shape at the beginning of the Constantinian era in the 4th century, when widespread persecution of Christians drew to a close and the liturgy developed as the Church rapidly grew in prominence. Jul 22, 2013 at 16:37

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Corinthians 3:17); therefore it is not God's intention that you are obligated to do something with which you are uncomfortable, but feel free to worship God via a different expression. For example, David danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14).

For singing in church:

Jesus sang with the disciples in Mark 14:26. Paul and Silas sang in Acts 16:25. Romans 15:9 mentions singing among the Gentiles. 1 Corinthians 14:15 talks about singing with the spirit and singing with the mind. Hebrews 2:12 talks about singing in the church. James 5:3 says to let the joyful sing, let the sorrowful pray "among you" (in church). Revelation 15:3 describes singing in heaven.

Singing is so popular probably because it involves the right and left sides of the brain. Also, we tap our feet to the rhythm, so it speaks to the body. We understand the lyrics of the melody so it speaks to the mind or soul. And it sets a mood or tone in the harmony so it speaks to our spirit. Hopefully the music we select harmonizes with the fruit of the Spirit; the lyrics help us set our minds on things in Philippians 4:8, and the rhythm helps our body be subject to the Spirit in harmony with the fruit and not out of control.

Take heart- no where does it say you have to sing or sing well! You can "make a joyful noise" (Psalm 100) or use a different art form and the real believers around you will rejoice along with you, and phooey with them if they look down on you- they should be looking up to God.


In the book of Job, God indicates that singing was present in creation when the angels sang as they watched the creation of the foundations of the earth. This can quite probably be considered worship.

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Job 38:4-7 ESV

So, singing can be traced back to creation itself with the angels, suggesting that it is natural for created beings to worship their Creator in song.

As noted in other answers, the entire book of Psalms is a book of songs to be sung in worship of God. In the Psalms we are commanded to sing to God as well.

The Israelites sang in worship immediately after God had conquered the Egyptian army once and for all, as Miriam did so with a tamborine. Jesus and His disciples also sang together at the Passover meal.

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