Sunday night there was a Christian concert in our Worship Center. It was originally scheduled for the Delaplaine Center, but they canceled and the organizers were left looking for a place. We were glad to help. I don't know what they like to call themselves and their music, but I call them "scream bands," for their most notable feature is that the lead singer literally screams. Unlike rap music, in which I can understand the lyrics but don't want to, I try to make out the words but can only decipher one or two here and there.
At least those words were "Jesus" and "Hallelujah."
A typical concert for this type of music will last 5-6 hours and feature 4-5 bands.
Cool thing #1: I arrived for the 6 p.m. deacons meeting during a break between bands, and Betsy Devilbiss and Elisa McCoy were in the Worship Center talking with some of the teenagers.
Cool thing #2: The music became a rather surreal background for the deacons meeting, but nobody objected or complained about the noise or the music. They understand that we are not going to reach an unconventional group of kids by conventional means.
As soon as the meeting ended I headed downstairs and waded into the crowd of kids gathered in front of the band. The band wasn't on our stage; it seems that intimacy with the audience is a vital part of this scene. The bands performed on the floor under one of the basketball goals, and often the performers and the first row of listeners were only separated by an inch or two.
I quickly learned that I couldn't stand on the directly in front of one of the speakers. Front and center seemed to be the safest place. Still, I was hit with a frontal assault of sound. I could feel the pulse of the music on my chest. I am struck, however, by the musicianship of the band. No matter what you may think about the music, these aren't kids who bought a guitar at a pawn shop,went home and started a band. These guys are serious musicians, they play their instruments at a high level, and the music is not easy to play. The drummers are particularly impressive.
When the next band, Aneirin, for whom this concert is a CD release event, starts playing, I position myself to one side behind the band. I can better see both the band and the crowd this way--and, frankly, it's not as loud from that position. Though I have no idea what they are singing, from this vantage point I can see that a lot of the kids know the lyrics and are singing along with the band. There is something going on here, but I don't understand it. (I'm 49 years old; I have a feeling that if I understood it, they would change it.)
Between songs the lead singer says things like, "You guys are a blessing," "The Holy Spirit is in this place," and even quotes John 3:16. Dan Haight, one of the concert organizers and a member of our Praise Team, comes up and stands beside me. "This will probably be their last song; watch what happens after that." As the song ends, some of the kids in the audience join the band. Some kneel, hands raise, others with their faces on the floor. Some stand with the hands raised to God, others with the eyes closed and faces lift up. Kids hug each other.
And there is silence except for the hum of the amplifiers. Eventually someone turns them off too.
The lead singer talks briefly about Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and eternal life. Then more silence. Then someone starts praying. Prayers are voiced spontaneously, and they are not unlike any prayers you might hear in one of our Sunday morning services.
I am, frankly, an observer and not a participant; I'm still trying to get my head around what I'm seeing. And then something happens that blows me away.
One voice starts singing:
How great is our God,
sing with me
How great is our God,
and all will see
How great, How great
Is our God.
Others join him, and soon the room is filled with hundreds of young voices singing prayerfully, earnestly, intensely. It is a very holy moment that brings me to tears.
When it's all over Dan tells me that most of these kids don't go to church anywhere, not because they don't want to go to church, but because they can't find a church that will have them.
"Why?" I ask.
"They think differently, they question things, they have tatoos and piercings, other dumb reasons, who knows?" he says.
Dan introduces me to some of the band members. They are nice kids, polite and gracious, and each of them thank me for letting them have their concert at our church. Dan introduces me to Dalton Perry, one of Aneirin's guitarists, and says that Dalton is going to help him with the worship service that we are going to start for these kids on Sunday nights. Dalton tells me how excited he is to be a part of it. He gives me one of their CD's and asks me to tell him what I think of the lyrics. I joke that I'll read the lyrics but will probably give the CD to my son, but I actually listen to it on the way home and, in a weird kind of way, sorta enjoy it. Kinda. I mean, it may never make it to my iPod, but now that I see these guy's hearts I appreciate the music more than I ever thought I would.
I came in thinking there was a concert at our church; I went home at a loss to completely explain what I witnessed but knowing that it was more than a concert, and, though it wasn't worship as I ever envisioned it being, it was most definitely worship.
© 2008 Larry L. Eubanks