When we gather together as a body to worship God, both our heart and mind should be engaged. Paul would agree:
“So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Cor. 14:15 – NIV84).
In this passage, Paul is trying to get across to the church in Corinth that worship ought to be orderly. His long conversation on tongues is largely a result of this desire. Just prior to the above verse, Paul says that interpretation of tongues is important because if one prays in a tongue, his “spirit” prays, but his “mind” is unfruitful.
His whole desire is for both parts to be engaged. When we are singing together corporately, Paul would expect us to sing with our whole “spirit” – this may include responding with some emotion because we love Jesus so much – including raising a hand, shouting, kneeling, crying, etc.
At the same time, I think Paul would say that as we sing with our whole heart or “spirit,” the mind should not disengage. This could lead to chaos in worship which is what Paul is trying to put an end to.
Thus, while singing with our “spirit,” we also sing with our “mind.” We think about the words we are singing, and respond to them with our whole heart. We don’t simply go on autopilot – this would lead to a fruitful “spirit” but an unfruitful “mind” as Paul discusses above. Yet, singing with just our “mind” and never letting our “spirit” respond is also an extreme that Paul wants to avoid.
There’s a couple of things we as worshippers and worship leaders can put into practice as a result of this passage:
- Song Selection that allows for a balance of both “spirit” and “mind.” Singing songs like “Forever Reign” that encourage us to run into the arms of our Father are great for singing with our “spirit.” It’s a theologically true song, yet allows for an emotional response as we are filled with joy thinking about God’s open arms towards us as wayward children. On the other hand, songs like “In Christ Alone” that are filled with straight up theology are great for engaging the mind.*
- Teaching and modeling this balance to your congregation. Both things should be happening simultaneously in every song you sing. Some folks are wired more as “feelers” while others are wired more as “thinkers.” Both are good and we need both in the body. Encourage the “feelers” to engage their mind when they sing and vice-versa. A mature believer will learn to exercise the area that they are not natural in. Since part of our goal is to help the body mature, we need to teach them to sing with both their “spirit” and their “mind” just as Paul did.
I hope that looking into this passage gives you freedom – from the extreme of pure emotionalism and the extreme of lifeless truth.
Let both your heart and mind be engaged in worship and teach your congregation this as well.
*Keep in mind that both things should be happening in every song we sing – don’t try to separate them in every song you pick – the song selection idea is an example to make you think about different types of songs. All in all, both spirit and mind should be engaged in every song.