(Image taken from Challies.com)
Being at the Together for the Gospel conference these last three days got me thinking about the topic of men singing together. I found myself profoundly moved to tears numerous times during our times of singing. I don’t completely chalk that up to the experience of singing in that context, but I think there is something unique going on when 5,000 (mostly) men gather and sing together. I’ll never forget when I attended a Promise Keepers event for the first time in the mid 90’s and heard (and felt) the thunderous roar of roughly 70,000 men belting out Crown Him With Many Crowns. That memory is forever etched in my mind.
As I contemplated these feelings in the last few days, I asked myself, “What is going on here? Why am I so moved?” My mind was quickly draw to my experience as a junior and senior high student when I attended many different Bible camp retreats in Northwest Iowa. At these retreats, there was usually the group of young boys who sat in the back row who were too “cool” to sing along with the camp songs. They resisted submitting themselves to what everyone was being called to do. I don’t assume to know all the psychological motives of a 13-year-old young man, but I was reminded of the opposite greatness of what I witnessed and participated in these past few days through singing with other men about the gospel. For me what is brought to mind is that this kind of singing is a great sign of gospel humility for a few reasons:
1. It displays solidarity in participation
Many men are wired to desire to be set apart and identifiable. I know this tendency tugs at my soul. Usually this comes in the form of achievement. We desire to show that we are significant through what we do. Being independent and strong is a high value for most men, especially in the culture of the United States. But when we sing as one group, we lay down our individuality and embrace the collective whole that is together to glorify another with our voices. This is a very good thing. Jesus did not die so that I could glory in my personal uniqueness. He died so that I could be numbered among the ransomed who will for all eternity rejoice in the greatness of “Lamb who was slain”. Our solidarity in participation around this great truth may be a foretaste of what one day will be fully realized.
2. It displays humility to follow
Most people and men especially, don’t like to be told what to do. We are reluctant followers. It’s probably something of the junior high “too cool” impulse coming out in all of us. But when I see a room of 5000 (mostly) men joyfully submitting to the leadership of another it surely is an evidence of grace in our lives. When a leader says, “Let’s all sing!” and we do, it points to a collective humility that I find very powerful.
3. Is displays a willingness to be emotional in light of the gospel
No matter what is visibly seen on one’s face during singing, that fact is that singing is usually an emotional experience. Singing is somewhat mystical in terms of what exactly it is, but my experience tells me that all creation rings of music and singing. Birds sing and tides move in and out to a rhythm. When we sing something unique happens to us, that we have to submit ourselves to, but when defenses are down, music and singing can have a profound emotional impact. Seeing men not flee from, but embrace this reality in light of the truth we were singing about is a great sign of humility.
All this to say, I was greatly encouraged these past few days seeing a tangible rejoicing in the gospel as we sung so many great confessions of the gospel. May it continue to be the norm for men who claim the name of Jesus Christ to flee from pride and humbly embrace a joy filled willingness to join together and exult in the truths of the gospel through singing.