Music is found in every culture across the globe and can be noticed around us all the time: from the National Anthem on the Fourth of July to Auld Lang Syne at the New Year; from the organ-led chorus of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the spring to the marching band halftime show at a fall football game: from the background jingle in a TV commercial to the movie scores that set the tone for our favorite films.
Music is a common experience that all humans share. Not only this, but even the birds, the beasts, the oceans, and the trees have a song! And from within the heart of every human who has encountered the Living God, a song from the Spirit arises.
Take a moment and consider the fact that the human voice is the only instrument made by God Himself! The voice is a divinely designed device used to create sound. God breathes the breath of life into every human, and when we exhale with that same breath, our vocal cords begin to create a sound that joins in concert with the rest of God’s creation. This is why we sing when we come together as the body of Christ. Cheryl You has pointed out how “congregational singing has the potential to be a space where the Holy Spirit can transform the affections of the worshiper toward deeper union with God… [and] congregational music shapes the spirituality of the worshiper and community by allowing for the work of the Spirit to reorder the affections.”
I witnessed the Spirit work through music when I was a child growing up in a Pentecostal Holiness Church. My dad was the pastor, my mom led the music from the piano, and I stood in the corner beating blisters into my hand with a wooden tambourine. I experienced the enthusiasm and exuberance through the characteristically spontaneous and spirited singing of Pentecostal worship. All this led me to develop a very natural affinity for Pentecostal music and singing.
As a Pentecostal, I have wrestled with what the Apostle Paul meant when he wrote, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding” (1 Cor. 14:15). Whenever this verse has been preached or taught, it has usually focused on the praying, particularly in tongues, which is a clear component of Paul’s teaching here; but let us not overlook the fact that a song from the Spirit is part of Paul’s teaching here. It seems as though Paul must be suggesting that singing with the Spirit is as much a part of our Pentecostal worship experience as praying with the Spirit. In the same way that the Spirit enables us to pray, it is the Spirit who gives us a song and enables us to sing it. Gordon Fee noted that “singing was a common part of worship in Judaism and was carried over as an integral part of early Christian worship…in which spontaneous hymns of praise were offered to God in the congregation.”
In the early church, singing with the Spirit was evidence of a Spirit-filled life. A personal song from the Spirit would overflow spontaneously during times of singing in corporate worship. The same was very evident at Azusa when no individual person would lead the music, but spontaneous songs of praise would emerge from deep prayer and worship happening in the room. Kimberly Alexander says of early Pentecostalism, “Singing in the Spirit, singing in tongues, the ‘heavenly choir,’ the ‘new songs’ of Charles H. Mason, or spiritual songs were all understood to be signs of Pentecostal experience. Whether experienced in private or corporate worship.” Spirited singing is part of the public (shared with others), the private (all alone), and the personal (among others but devoted to God) Pentecostal worship experience. I wonder what it would be like for this singing with the Spirit to commonly manifest in Pentecostal worship today.
Ray Hughes once said that “singing in the Spirit…is making melody in the heart to the Lord. [Pentecostals] lift their souls to God, completely caught up in the ecstasy of the moment, wafted away on the wings of song.” When we get caught up in this kind of Spirit-filled singing, it lifts us up and out of the here-and-now to give us what Fanny Crosby called “a foretaste of glory divine” by which we can then participate in the greatest worship experience of them all, the one that is happening right now in the Throne Room of Heaven (Rev. 4-5). John the Revelator was “in the Spirit” when he had this vision. When you and I get in the Spirit, we can also experience this heavenly worship! This past year (2020) has felt very much like the enemy of our souls was making every effort to deflate our spirits and rob us of our song. I am convinced that this new year is the time for us to get our songs back and start singing again! We need a revival of singing with the Spirit –– in our houses of worship, in our homes, and in our hearts. Make a commitment this year to sing with the Spirit the song that He has put in your spirit!
 You, Cheryl. “Pentecostal Congregational Music as Sacramental Practice: Embodiment and Transformation.” MDiv Thesis, Regent University, Virginia Beach, 2019. Academia. P. 10.
 Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1987. P. 671
 Alexander, Kimberly E. “Singing Heavenly Music,” in Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Worship ed. Lee Roy Martin. Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2016. P. 212.
 Ibid. P. 214.
 See Archer, Melissa L. ‘I Was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day’ : A Pentecostal Engagement with Worship in the Apocalypse Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2015.
Trés Ward serves as the Assistant to the President, Director of Worship and Arts Ministries, and an adjunct faculty member at Emmanuel College. He teaches courses in Worship Ministry and Music Education and directs the Emmanuel Singers, The Voices of Emmanuel, and the Chapel Worship teams. Trés received the Bachelor of Music Education from Appalachian State University and is completing the Master of Divinity at Liberty University with an emphasis in Worship Studies. A credentialed minister with the International Pentecostal Holiness Church, Trés has served the local church and at conference and general denominational events as a choir director, worship leader, and Fine Arts adjudicator as well as an itinerant preacher, evangelist, youth camp speaker, and missions team leader.