American Men Don’t Sing – Alistair Begg

Alistair Begg recently spoke at Western Seminary. And just before he got into his sermon, he went on a fascinating little digression about the fact that American men don’t sing during worship. It’s not just that we can’t sing, but that we don’t. And, although his primary focus is on worship, he thinks it’s a more widespread cultural phenomenon. In other cultures, especially in the UK, singing is a normal part of life. Men sing at football matches and in the pubs. So when they enter the church, singing is normal. But in America, it’s different. So Begg makes a fascinating point at the end of the clip when he says that he thinks you can really tell that American male has really been converted when he begins to sing during worship.

Check it out. If the video doesn’t start at the right place, jump to the 5:08 mark for the relevant clip.

ARVE Error: Start 308 not valid

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2hjUPg4Y7U&start=308&end=476

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33 Responses to “American Men Don’t Sing – Alistair Begg”

  1. Dwight Gingrich September 18, 2012 at 11:53 am #

    He’s exactly right! I often find myself measuring other people’s spiritual vitality by how energetically they engage in congregational singing. I know, this is horribly judgmental of me–and often self-incriminating, when I find myself either in quiet, prayerful reflection or hesitant to project myself above the apathy around me. But I can’t help thinking there are more than a few grains of truth in this correlation. Most of the men of God I admire the most are men who throw themselves into public worship and come alive during songs of worship. Many of the men who profess Christ but leave me least confident that they are born anew are also those who mumble their way through congregational songs. (I think this correlation is less certain for women.) The heart will out. And now I have Alistair Begg to corroborate my hunch. :-)

  2. Ben Thorp September 19, 2012 at 6:18 am #

    Whilst I agree that singing here in the UK is part of the sports and pub culture, sadly I don’t think it translates into churches as well as it used to. This is, in part at least, due to the type of music that many churches use nowadays, but also due to the decline of men in the church so that often men feel like they’re singing on their own, which is a different feeling altogether.

  3. Dominick Santore September 20, 2012 at 6:53 am #

    I get the gist of it.. and it does make sense. I have to say my enthusiasm for singing has changed because my theology has changed.. I go to a non-denominational church (charismatic with a seatbelt)and I have trouble singing some of the contemporary songs we play now because of the content.. I don’t know if that makes me a worship snob or not..

  4. Flyaway September 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    Yeah, American men don’t sing. American culture in general doesn’t really sing anymore – maybe the 7th inning stretch at a baseball game. When else would we sing? Elementary school? Few sing the national anthem anymore. Most don’t have more music education than elementary school!

    Junior high kids in Japan have mandatory art and music classes – not electives like we have here. Their school day is probably also about 2 hours a day longer – granted 30 minutes is school cleaning time :)

  5. Ajmetcalf September 29, 2012 at 11:14 am #

    “if the sun and moon can find a way,
    To sing their Creators praise,
    How can I keep silent,
    And not sing my Redeemers praise”
    As an aside:
    It helps to learn how to sing from the diapragm and not the nose/ throat.

  6. D Schlimme September 29, 2012 at 3:43 pm #

    I can speak for myself; when i truly came to see the Sovereign and Gracious attributes of God, the depraved rebellious nature at my core from which i’d been saved, the sufficiency of Christ’s work, and His goodness to me each day – not merely as fire insurance(was this when i was truly converted? . . .THAT is a good question)that i began to DESIRE to sing and to joy in doing so. i think there is something that rings true in Begg’s observation. And perhaps a good check for us to do in our hearts. When i see the opportunity to praise God as a corporate body and men barely participating i am at a loss. I would also say that the music (lyrics & style) needs to match this view of God i find proclaimed in His Word.

  7. Sandra English September 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm #

    As a woman, I love to be surrounded in worship by men who SING with abandon! At a church I visit in a different town every couple of months, there is this one guy that stands near the back of the church and who sings with a nice volume and whose whole body seems to be engaged with the singing (he kind of rocks back and forth on his toes) Of course, it helps that the music at this church is really doctrinely rich. One of my favorite CDs of all time is a CD from TOGETHER FOR THE GOSPEL a few years back with Bob Kauflin leading the music. All those men singing together is really encouraging.

    • Steph September 30, 2012 at 4:52 am #

      Yes, I was given this CD as a gift, and it really is fantastic and heartening.

  8. Greg September 29, 2012 at 9:24 pm #

    7:08 – “American men, they’re a bunch of change jinglers.” awesome wordsmithing!

  9. Sean September 30, 2012 at 4:21 am #

    What’s being said here is that men who culturally sing, during sport, also sing in church. Why would someone who does not sing culturally, like in sport, all of a sudden sing? It’s not their heart response. I don’t sing, but while others are singing I listen to the words and worship in my heart. I love to pray, but I am sure there are others who are not as much a pray-er. While I am praying they may not be as engaged. But then, conversation is my heart language.

  10. David Koyzis September 30, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    For a related article see: http://www.cardus.ca/comment/article/3362/church-practices-and-public-life-recovering-the-practice-of-communal-singing/

    “Recovering the Practice of Communal Singing”

  11. sydney September 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

    This statement is a bit judgmental. How can one know another’s heart? Singing for those of us who are musical comes natural. It’s our most natural form of worship. My husband comes from a liturgical background and he sings, but not with animation. The repetition on todays praise and worship gets to him in a negative way and becomes exhausting……not uplifting.

    • Inez October 4, 2012 at 7:33 am #

      I also once heard someone, I think on Family Talk (James Dobson) say that some modern worship songs can easily be turned into love songs if one replaces “Jesus” or “Lord” with “baby” or some such endearment. This makes men uncomfortable.

  12. petrushka1611 October 1, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Three weeks ago, I went to a Baptist church. I sang one song, because I knew it already. The words were up on the screens with no melody, and since I don’t listen to K-Love, I plain ol’ didn’t know the other songs. A lot of those songs are written for soloists, not congregations to sing; the cadence and syncopation are difficult to follow.

    Two weeks ago, I went to a Presbyterian church. I sang every song, even though I DIDN’T know them already. They had a hymnbook. Those songs are written specifically for congregations, and they’re idiomatic for group singing.

    I’d be curious to find out the male/female demographic splits among Christian radio listeners.

    • Sean October 1, 2012 at 10:18 am #

      I totally agree. I will sing any hymn because it does not require a falsetto or immediate leave of my range within three bars.

  13. Eric Benoy October 2, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    I do agree. In all the churches I have been been in and visited I can say, out of my experience, when the men are engaged and involved, you see the church as a dynamic, thriving body. And that is reflected in the congregational singing and involvement in choirs/music.

    I see where he is coming from, but I do not know that it is that simple. Certainly there are factors of (1) decline and/or lack of music in schools; (2) as chuches begin or change over to contemporary styles the melodies, rhythms, and ranges can be a bit daunting at times; (3) culturally, here, men do compare their abilities against others, and singing is not a competitive activity, unless one is trying to be a pop star. It is not modeled as something that will bring wealth or fame like sports ; (4) most men feel that singing just is something they can’t do well, not can’t do, but not do well — so why waste time on something can’t do well?

    I think, too, it depends up on the culture of the local church and even denomination. Men have to feel they are contributing and if they are not asked/encouraged tobe involved, they won’t (refer back to basic competitiveness of men).

    The corollary question to ask to the important question raised here is “why does it not seem to affect women to the same degree?” It does affect them; but whereas the men won’t sing, the ladies will sing but.

    The question raised here really needs to be explored.

  14. Doug Nichols October 2, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

    Who is Alistair Begg?

    There is way too much emphasis on music these days in local evangelical churches. Very little is mentioned in the New Testament. Yes, very little, regarding singing in the local assembly. It would be much better to learn only good songs, hymns, and choruses filled with Scripture and praise. We could sing one at the beginning of the service and maybe one at the end, then spend the rest of the time in the Word of God.

    (By the way, who is Alistair Begg?) He can talk all he wants to about music, quoting songs dillies in his messages to his heart content, but, as far as singing, in New Testament let’s get back to the Word of God, fellowship around His table, preaching and teaching His word, and encouraging and stimulating one another to love and good works.

    For Pete’s sake, get rid of that worship team!

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