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On men and tears and leading in worship

Real men cry

Recently, I was on the phone with my friend who was going through an unimaginably difficult circumstance where his new baby girl was literally fighting for her life. They had been in the hospital enduring this ordeal, receiving the back-and-forth news of, “Your daughter is going to be OK,” to “She may die tonight.” By God’s grace, she is surviving and daily continues to show great progress.

This friend shared with me about how earlier that day, overwhelmed by everything that was happening, he found a closet in the hospital, went into it, and just wept for a long time because he didn’t want his wife to see him upset. Sadly, in our culture what it is to be a man has affected the way some men view what it is to be a man in Christ.

Men, where we may be strong in other areas, I think it’s safe to say that learning to lead our families in worship with every area of our lives is certainly a much-needed area for growth.

Fear God, not expressing yourself

How do you express your love for God, to God? Many of us might say through prayer, studying or meditating on God’s Word, or serving others. But how about singing, clapping, crying out, or even shouting? For most men, this seems to be the one area that we tend to tap out on. We say we worship God in “different” ways and turn it into some kind of drive-by debate where we dismiss a command to worship God with clapping, shouting, and, yes, singing. In Psalm 47, the Psalmist exhorts the worshiper to clap, shout, and sing—it actually says that five times over the course of two very short verses, to “sing praises.”

Clap your hands, all peoples!

Shout to God with loud songs of joy!

For the LORD, the Most High, is to be feared,

a great king over all the earth.

Sing praises to God, sing praises!

Sing praises to our King, sing praises!

For God is the King of all the earth;

sing praises with a psalm!

Psalm 47:1–2, 6–7 (emphasis added)

Here, we very plainly see in the Scripture a charge to worship God, and to show our love and affection toward the Creator with outward expression. The big question at this point is, why is expressing love to God in this way so important?

The fear of the Lord brings life

We find our answer in verse 2: “For the Lord, the Most High, is to be feared.” God is calling his people to worship him with outward expression because he alone is the Most High and the one to be feared. Fear of God is respect, a respect for not only the might, power and authority of God, but also an understanding of the fact that God has made himself accessible to us. This means we are benefactors of his love, grace, mercy, presence, faithfulness, affection, et al.

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

When most of us think of fear, it’s rare that we think of it in a positive light. Things that make us stressed out, scared, or even overcome only lead to more hopelessness and ultimately death. But for those who are in Christ, fear of the Lord brings life. As a result of that life, our hearts are moved to turn our affections from the created to the Creator (Rom. 1:25).

God loves us, and it’s through that love that we are able to love him. God deserves all our affections. We are recipients of God’s affection. When we were dead in our sin we deserved to stay dead, yet in his grace, God saved us from death and made us alive in him (Col. 2:13). He drew us near—not for a moment but forever—and nothing we can do will change that (Rom. 8:38–39). Just as we are able to love God because he loves us, we are able to understand how to express our love for God because he expressed and continues to express his love for us in many ways. 

Actively leading in worship

I explained to my friend that breaking down in front of his wife is not bad; it actually shows he’s affected by everything going on and cares deeply. In fact, that is one of the best kinds of leadership. Not that we all need to become a bunch of soppy men who can’t hold it together, but, much like crying, expressing our most deeply felt emotions, such as our love to God through song is not just an issue of preference, but an even bigger issue of leadership, or lack thereof. 

As men, Jesus has appointed us the leaders of our homes, just as he has appointed men to lead his church. Leadership is never passive; it’s always active and in the family of God it means actively worshiping him and calling others to worship him. We are all worship leaders, and have been given the charge to outwardly express our love for God in many ways, through song being one of them. It’s important that we view that opportunity as a gift, not just something we do because some people like it. To be clear, the Bible offers many ways that the worship of God can and should be expressed and is certainly not limited to just praising him through song.

Men, where we may be strong in other areas, I think it’s safe to say that this is certainly a much-needed area for growth. Being in Christ means that our most comfortable place should be—and will always be—a posture of humility where Jesus gets all the glory (Phil. 2). If the Bible is calling us to worship Jesus through singing, clapping, or shouting, then let’s respond to that call with repentance and lead God’s people in the worship of him by shouting loud songs of joy.

“The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.” John 4:23

Zach Bolen is the frontman of Citizens and a deacon at the U-District church, where the band leads worship. You can check out a song from their upcoming album due out March 12.

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