When the music of the games is added to the images, the experience becomes even more powerful. There are few who, when hearing the familiar pounding of the kettle drums followed by the brass fanfare of the Olympic overture, don't remember moments they've shared with a worldwide audience.
Add to that the sound of one's own national anthem being played, the country's flag being hoisted high above its greatest athletes, and the sights and cheers of the crowd combine to drive souls to new heights of inspiration.
And so we will go ...
As they look toward the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Southern Baptists are inspired by a new Olympic theme song: "Where the Sea Meets the Snow."
Written and recorded by Jeff Bourque for the Engage Sochi church planting and mass evangelism project, the song captures the passion and excitement of the Olympics. Bourque's hope is that the nations will be touched with more than just a patriotic or competitive spirit -- that people will be touched by the Spirit of God and drawn to Him.
Bourque, whose songs have been recorded by MercyMe and other Christian artists, is director of worship at Grace Community Church in Nashville.
"I really wanted the song to capture the vision of Engage Sochi," Bourque said. "It's all about using the excitement of the Olympics for planting churches and leaving behind a Gospel witness with the people that we meet there."
Bourque, with a history of working with International Mission Board personnel, often leads worship as missionaries gather for their annual meetings.
"Of course, the temptation of writing a song for something like this is to make it about the project," he said. "But it is not really about the project at all. It is about the people."
Bourque said his wife Kelly helped craft the lyrics for the song.
"The chorus was the first thing that I wrote, and it came out pretty easily," Bourque said. "It's like when the rhyme 'snow' and 'go' hits you in the face. Well, there you go. That's a good start.
"It is all about going," he added. "This is a sending song."
Go before us ...
Bourque said the bridge of the song is particularly important because it captures the essence of the project.
"When I was writing, it just came out," he said, "because that is our prayer. This project is not just about what happens during the two weeks of the Olympic Games; it is about planting churches in Sochi and how people's lives could be changed by the Gospel long after the games are over.
"We know that God is the only one who can do this. We are so grateful to be a part of it, but we are going to be fruitless if God does not go before us ..., if He does not go behind us and if He is not with us while we are there," Bourque said.
That portion of the song features a choir, and Bourque said it was a challenge to record.
"I don't know if it was just a bad day or a busy time of the year or what," he said. "But on the day we were set to record, only about 20 people turned out for the session.
"We recorded those same lines four times. And then we switched so that we were singing harmonies and recorded those three times," Bourque said. "So the 140-voice choir that you hear on the recording is the work of 20 people and some very talented sound and mixing engineers."
At first, Bourque was disappointed that only 20 people showed up for the session.
"But once they heard the song, they were really excited about it. And then, for them to hear it back, we went from disappointment to 'Wow, this is really great.' By the end, it had exactly the feel we were going for."
God be with us all ...
One of the elements that made the project unique was that no one was paid for participating.
"Everybody was just amazing," Bourque said. "From the musicians to the choir to the sound mixers to the recording studio, everybody gave freely of their time and resources to make this happen. People really got what we were doing and said, 'Yeah, I want to be a part of that.'"
A sound engineer told Bourque, "I realize that you cannot pay me for this, but this is something that I really want to be associated with."
An echo of hope ...
Bourque hopes to lead a team of volunteers to Sochi in February to participate in the Engage Sochi project and perform music that represents American culture. Performances on the Sochi streets, public transportation and other venues would allow his team to share the Gospel message with those who stop to listen, he said. Of course, Where the Sea Meets the Snow will be on the playlist.
"The song is doing what I had hoped it would do," Bourque said. "It is inspiring people.
"I want people to get the pictures in their head because the lyrics of the song are so visual. I want people to imagine the people that they will be talking to. I want them to imagine the scenes at the Olympics and to begin praying for the people," he said. "But most importantly, I want that every time they hear this song they will be reminded to pray for the people of Sochi."
Marc Ira Hooks is a European correspondent for the International Mission Board. He also serves as the Olympic event coordinator for Engage Sochi. He can be reached at Marc@EngageSochi.org
Lyrics to "Where the Sea Meets the Snow"
The nations will come --
They will gather together.
They'll put malice aside
And rise with the tide of the games.
It's an echo of hope
It enflames our desire
To see them all love
The Name that's above every name.
So we will go
Where the sea meets the snow,
And we'll pray that His grace
Will fall on that place and grow.
And when we return,
May the seed of His Word
Bear the fruit of the Church
Where the fire of Christ will burn!
To country and king,
They will shout their allegiance,
But deep in their souls,
The cry to be whole will not leave.
And the King of all kings,
The Desire of nations,
He will hear when they call,
And justify all who believe.
Go before us,
Go behind us,
God, be with us all.
(repeat bridge, then chorus)
© 2011 Manicotti Music (ASCAP), used with permission.
Copyright (c) 2013 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net