Sigh No More may be the first truly missional worship album of the 21st century… and it won’t be the last.
I stood in a parking lot with thousands of Los Angelenos enjoying the headlining act of the Railroad Revival Tour – Mumford & Sons. I know the packed crowd was loving the show because we were all singing these words with gusto:
In these bodies we will live
In these bodies we will die
Where you invest your love
You invest your life
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
Awake my soul
You were made to meet your Maker
I was thunderstruck as I looked around at all of these people – many of them unbelievers who completely ignored or even mocked God on a daily basis – singing about the mortality of their cold souls and their need to awaken before facing their Maker Almighty God. It brought to mind God’s promise that “every knee will bend to me, and every tongue will confess and give praise to God.”
How on earth had this happened? How had the son of the leader of the Vineyard church in the UK formed one of the biggest bands in the world? Playing bluegrass music no less? And singing about spiritual matters of the heart and soul?
The easy answer for the band’s streak to the top with their smash album Sigh No More could be attributed to the fantastic music. Fresh, insistent tunes that flow straight into one’s heart and soul like a rejuvenating elixir. Need proof? Listen to “Awake My Soul.” (Above) Skip the first 30 seconds of intro and keep watching until they kick into high gear at the three minute mark.
I believe the reason for their widespread popularity springs from the spiritual thread that runs skillfully through their songs. I’ll even go one step further and label Sigh No More the first truly missional worship album of the 21st century.
No, it’s not praise and worship music. It’s not even “Christian music” in the popular cultural sense because (A) Christ is not the clear object and (B) it’s not “safe for the whole family” as so many Christian radio stations proudly tout.
But Mumford & Sons’ music contains an undeniable core focused upon Jesus. Even a cursory reading of the lyrics uncovers some beautiful spiritual depth within the songs. For example—
“Sigh No More” on the nature of God’s transforming love:
Love that will not betray you,
Dismay or enslave you.
It will set you free.
Be more like the man
You were made to be.
And there will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
Get over your hill and see what you find there,
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
“Roll Away Your Stone” on grace:
And I have filled this void with things unreal,
And all the while my character it steals.
The darkness is a harsh term don’t you think?
And yet it dominates the things I seek.
It seems as if all my bridges have been burned.
You say that’s exactly how this grace thing works
It’s not the long walk home that will change this heart,
But the welcome I receive at the restart.
I’m especially impressed by the songwriter’s description of “grace.” Granted, it’s not as clear as Chris Tomlin proclaiming “your grace is enough for me,” but that song assumes the listener actually understands the concept of Biblical grace. Mumford & Sons masterfully describe grace to the spiritually deaf, dumb and blind in images they can understand. That’s what moves their music firmly into the missional realm.
When Mumford & Sons marry spiritual truths like these to their exhilarating, almost primally transcendent music, it’s impossible for even the most hardened heart to refuse jigging along with glee.
Sigh No More is missional because the music goes out into the streets and MP3 players and pubs, straight to where lost people reside and brings them the hope and light of Christ’s transformative power in a language they can grasp. They may not cognitively understand why they love the music, but they can’t deny it resonates with the longing in their soul. It is music that plants seeds, which the Holy Spirit might choose to grow into a new life.
I’m not saying Mumford & Sons are perfect. Though emotionally true to the story of the song, the “f” word in the chorus of “Little Lion Man” can grate. (Not to mention leave you jumping for the skip button when your child’s in the car.) And there’s no guarantee the band won’t abandon their debut album’s blatantly spiritual themes on any future recordings they make.
But for now, Sigh No More speaks God’s Truth to people who might not otherwise willingly listen to Him.
Bryan Belknap is a screenwriter who has written for Lionsgate, Sony and Fox Television Studios. He is currently the Creative Director for MORF magazine, his first graphic novel Too Late to Die comes out this winter.