Why the Songs May Matter More than the Sermon


Colossians 3:16

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.


Have you ever thought of singing songs to God as a way of teaching and admonishing one another with the message of Christ? I haven’t either.

We pretty much think of teaching and admonishing as coming from one person who stands in the front of a room, delivering a message to a group of people who listen.

As I reflect on today’s text about letting “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 can’t help but think of the church of my childhood. I grew up in a small church in rural Arkansas. We were there every Sunday, and I have the Perfect Attendance pins to prove it. When I get still and listen, I can still hear the singing . . .

On a hill far away, stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering of shame. And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain . . . 

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; our helper he amidst the flood of mortal ills prevailing . . . 

‘Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, just to take him at his word; just to rest upon his promise; Just to know thus saith the Lord . . . 

When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way! While we do his good will, he abides with us still, and with all who will trust and obey!

Love divine, all love’s excelling, joy of heav’n to earth come down, fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown. Jesus thou art all compassion, pure unbounded love thou art, visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart. 

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 never imagined that while we were singing to God we were teaching and admonishing one another, but when I think about it now, that’s exactly what happened. The singing wasn’t particularly good, but the message of Christ was undeniable. I can still hear Peepaw’s voice singing out above the crowd, loud, proud, and slightly off-key. I could pick my parents’ voices out of the choir. My best friend, Jeff, sat a few rows back. Though he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, he added his voice to the cacophony of teachers anyway. At the time it seemed pretty ordinary. I see it now as a glorious treasure, extraordinary richness.

So I’ll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down.

I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown.

Though I know they mattered, I can’t remember a single sermon. I can’t forget the songs. Same for you? I think Paul may be onto something here . . . but what?

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. (v. 16)

Never Stop Singing. Write it not he blank side of Domino #3/16.


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is our story and our song. He is the message and the melody. Awaken me to my singing voice, even if I can’t sing, because it’s not about the singing but the song. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


  1. What songs come to mind in your memory?
  2. What is it about songs and singing that teach us at another level than speaking and sermons?
  3. What about this dynamic of a group of people teaching and admonishing each other in this way? Ever considered that?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

6 Responses

  1. Many of my favorite hymns are actually sermons put to melody. I was raised in a tradition that sang songs written back during the Reformation era when many of the congregants were Biblically illiterate. These hymns were written to instruct these folks in proper doctrine. Many hymns that inspire me now still were written to convey proper doctrine: What God Ordains Is Always Good, All to Jesus I Surrender, Have Thine Own Way Lord, And Can It Be, are some examples. I utilize these type of hymns to reinforce the lessons that I share with the folks
    who I minister to at a local nursing home.
    I believe that the songs we sing and remember come from a different part of the brain than the conversations we hear. For example, one of the residents at my nursing home Bible study is a former music minister who because of damage from multiple strokes has great difficulty to speak. This same man can sing along when his wife brings recorded music which he knows. I myself can remember many of the words from G.F. Handel’s Messiah. This proves your theory regarding hymns verses sermons.
    I think that utilizing hymns and other sacred music to accompany teaching is a worthy pursuit.

  2. This is so funny because I belonged to a housechurch in my teens (1970’s). The Songs of the Spirit we sang were actual verses put to music! You are so right- I don’t remember ANY sermons, but those scriptures put to music stick in my head 50 years later! I call on them every week in my ministry. I have shared them on the church’s Facebook page, hoping to pass it on to the next generation. If you put the Word to God’s Tune, it is a powerful tool!

  3. As you pointed out, sermons are easily forgotten. Passively listening to one man talk, week-after-week, isn’t a very effective way to create sold-out, surrendered, and sacrificial Christ-followers. Perhaps you’re on to something. Songs make us want to participate, not just spectate. Singing faith-filled songs from the bottom of your heat is powerful! When I’m at home, I’m frequently asking Alexa to play whatever Christian songs come to my heart. Then I sing along and pour my heart out to the risen Jesus. What a blessing! Anointed songs release joy that causes us to want to sing along, but sermons compel us to be passive (even board) members of an audience.

    The phrase, “teach and admonish one another” is one of the more than 50 “one another” commandments in the New Testament. It appears that early Christianity was participatory, not passive! Let’s free up modern Christians to “teach and admonish one another” rather than always being taught and admonished by the same person, week after week. 1 Corinthians 14:26 tells us that everyone can have something to share when we come together. “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, . . .” Jesus wants to speak through everyone present, not just through one special person.

    When we gather in Jesus’ name, let all God’s people sing. Let them all testify. Let them all share what God is revealing to them and what He is doing in their life!

  4. I gave a series of meditations on why we worship the way we do. I asked the people to fill in the next line of a TV commercial, and I sang,” You asked for it, you got it . . .” I pointed to the congregation and they responded by singing, “Toyota.” That is why we sing in church.

  5. Any theology I possess originated in the hymns and liturgy that I spent a lifetime singing and reciting! As an adult, it was a revelation to learn that I had basically been singing/saying the most important points people had been gleaning from the Bible for centuries!

    It is why I know the Bible without being able to link it to a specific chapter and verse.

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