As Christians, preaching and singing is part of our weekly routine. It feels normal enough. But if you look around, you’ll notice this routine is actually quite odd. So why do we preach and sing? Pastor John explained in his message at the Passion conference to about twenty thousand students in Atlanta on January 3, 2015. Here’s what he said.
I wonder if you have paused to ponder how simple and strange what we are doing at Passion is. We sing and we preach, and we preach and we sing, and there is message and there is music, and music and message. How strange and simple that is. No other religion does this — none. No other philosophical or political movement on the planet does this. Muslims don’t do this. Hindus don’t do this. Buddhists don’t do this. Sikhs don’t do this. Apple Computer, even though they have their worship services, and Tim Cook may preach, they don’t sing. Only Christians do this.
More Than Mere Instinct
Why is that? This cries out for an explanation. I don’t like to do things without a reason. I don’t like to just year after year go to Passion because it is done. It is fun. Other people have done it. I will do it too. Let’s just do it. I like to have reasons for what I do, reasons that are sunk down into ultimate reality, reasons that have goals that reach up into ultimate reality, so that I am anchored at the bottom and anchored at the top, and my life does what it does because there is connection with ultimate reality. That is what I like to do.
So maybe someone would respond to that and say, “Good grief. Lighten up. Can’t we just do stuff for goodness’ sake?” And, of course, the answer to that is yes, you can just do stuff. There is a name for that way of life. It is called instinct: Eagles just do stuff. Elephants just do stuff. Butterflies just do stuff. Beavers just do stuff. Of course, they do some amazing things. But they don’t know what they are doing.
You weren’t made to be like that. You are not a mere animal. Animals are made to live by instinct. You are not. You are made to have reasons for what you do. You have a mind. You are supposed to know what you do — why you do it. You are supposed to think down into the bottom of things and connect, and think up into the ultimate heights of things and connect, so that the trajectory to your life, it has meaning. You are not an animal. You don’t just do stuff, I hope.
Good News of Great Joy
So I am coming to Passion. Why? We are going to preach and sing, and preach and sing, and preach and sing. That is weird. Nobody does that. There is no other movement on the planet that gets together to preach and then sing and sing and sing, and preach some more and sing. Why are we doing this? That is what I want to talk about.
I believe that one of the reasons (I might be tempted to say the main reason, but let’s just leave it at one of the biggest reasons) for why Christians around the world do this — preach and sing, preach and sing, preach and sing — one of the reasons why Christians all over the world do this is that Christianity is the only religion, the only movement, that is created by and sustained by news. News —the sort of thing you see at five o’clock on television, the sort of thing you see at ten o’clock on television. News — something happened.
What is it? What happened? Christianity is the only faith that is created by and sustained by a news character — news.
Go on up to a high mountain,
O Zion, herald of good news;
lift up your voice with strength,
O Jerusalem, herald of good news;
lift it up, fear not;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Behold your God!” (Isaiah 40:9)
How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
who publishes salvation,
who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” (Isaiah 52:7)
And then in the fullness of time:
Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10–11)
I’ve got news, shepherds — news. Go tell it on the mountain. There is news behind this thing called Christianity.
So something happened. And you and I had nothing to do with it. It happened suddenly, single-handedly, unilaterally — crushing into history. And you and I were not part of the cause. We didn’t shape it. We didn’t make it happen. It just happened. God Almighty said, “Time! News!” You had nothing — no hand in it at all.
It arrives as news to you in the fullness of time: born of a virgin, a God-man on the planet, living the life of perfection we needed and didn’t have, suffering a punishment we deserve and didn’t want, rising from the dead with a life that we share. That is finished. It is news. You didn’t make it happen. You didn't shape it. There was no congress. There was no consultation.
God Almighty singlehandedly said, “It is time. I am coming.” And he did it. And it is finished. The God-man, the perfect life, the atoning death, the massive triumphant resurrection is simply wonderful news. It is news. It is a kind of news that creates its own kind of event and communication.