On Saturday, we attended the Shillong Praise Festival presented by Mane, a Christian music team. It was a 3 hour long concert of old and new worship songs and an altar call at the end. Being lazy and not really in the mood (or maybe, too old!!) to listen to ear-splitting music for too long, I was hoping to give it a miss, but Amy was persuasive enough to get me out of bed on a Saturday afternoon (a difficult task, usually!!). Truman (of Friday Fellowship fame) had saved us seats in the front and we entered just as the music was starting. The music was EXCELLENT! It was a basic band - keys, drums and guitars, but they were all good as was the sound. Of course, it was REALLY LOUD, but as the target audience was one generation younger than me, that was expected! The leader had a wonderful baritone voice and carried all the songs he sang. It was a really enjoyable concert. A concert.... Was that what it was meant to be? I don't know what the organisers had in mind, but my idea of a praise festival was somewhat different. By the end of the evening, it seemed I was right in the middle of a full-blown rock concert. Truman whispered to me during the song in the video below, that it was like hearing the World Cup song!!
Later, as we discussed the evening over a Subway sandwich (yes, Shillong is on the fast food map at last, thank goodness!!), there was a tinge of disappointment. For what might have been. There was so much good about the evening. So much to be grateful for. For the wonderful talents, for the music and for all the beautiful lyrics that spoke to us. But I guess there could have been just a little more. More prayer. Maybe at least one reading from the Bible. And possibly, a drawing together of all the emotional responses into a practical and life-changing experience. For more spirit and truth in the worship in addition to all the excitement. A recent blog post by Jared Wilson talked about the awesomeness-driven church. He says, 'What is profoundly stupid is the sheer amount of innovation, creativity, energy, ambition, and astounding levels of human wherewithal that go into crafting the most amazing worship experiences Americans have ever seen inside churches where the gospel isn't preached. I can say this because there's only one thing we hold that the New Testament calls "power," and that's the gospel.'
And that was exactly what occurred to me. That we did not have the gospel preached at all during the whole evening. The audience was lifted up to great emotional heights and then left hanging. A pastor came on at the end while the group continued to sing and gave an altar call without really too much of an explanation of what coming forward actually meant. It seemed like such a wasted opportunity. After all that trouble and effort, the gospel was not spoken off. The message appeared to be that the songs and the singing of the songs was the gospel. There was no need to encumber anyone with anything more deep or true. I guess everyone just goes back to life as usual, as after any rock concert, though my prayer is that there were some people who were touched (although nobody came forward for the altar call.....). I wonder if we did manage to cross that fine line between excited singing and worship in spirit and truth. Maybe we did. Maybe this was exactly what had been planned. My own sinful soul prevents me from casting any stones, but I do know that while the words and music may uplift the soul for a time, it is the gospel and the search for a relationship with God that transform us and give us true freedom. gospel every opportunity we need to return to the gospel and speak it clearly and plainly. That alone will make it all worthwhile.