In a recent conversation about Colossians 2:16-17 I used an illustration of how to properly understand the passage that brought to mind another topic: worship and singing within it.
I cannot over emphasize the effectiveness and importance of spreading the singing portion of corporate worship across the worship service, rather than 4 – 6 songs blocked together. This is not to say that a large block of songs is never appropriate; there are times when it is very much so—celebrations come to mind. Spread throughout the worship gathering, however, songs take on a context and significance that is immediate and evident, while it is almost impossible for them to carry a similar import when used together in a single set.
Furthermore, human nature is far more capable of lending kavannah (the intentional directing of one’s heart) to a single song, and then to something different, back to a song, etc. then to a large mass of songs. When used as a long set, the singing almost irresistibly becomes the pursuit of an emotion rather than an aid to uniting one’s mind/body/spirit on a truth. Similarly, in a culture of constant concerts it is difficult to resist becoming a consumer rather than an offerer when music is used as a single, lengthy set in an environment so reminiscent of a concert rather than of the Temple.
Music by its nature connects the mind with the emotions, and especially in our culture where music is so ubiquitous and over-utilized, it is enormously healthy to add the context of place, purpose and content to the musical offerings within the arc of a worship service.
Here is the illustration I used regarding understanding Colossians 2:16-17.
… imagine if I wrote a letter to churches today saying, “let no one judge you in regard to worship.” It would be obvious from our context (and from biblical instruction) that I was referring to worship styles, and was not saying, “don’t let anyone judge you if you decide not to practice worship.” The idea is preposterous, and the misreading of Col 2:16-17 should be equally preposterous to us if we simply read it in the context of history and Scripture.