I went to the Hits Deep Tour featuring TobyMac Thursday night at the Infinite Energy Arena in Duluth. I didn’t go alone, but with my family – 17 of us (one granddaughter was sick and could not join us). It was not the first time I have been to a contemporary Christian music concert. I have also been to Winter Jam at the Georgia Dome.
In this editorial I would like to give my appraisal of this extraordinary experience. I actually appreciated and enjoyed it. In fact, there were aspects about it I loved.
Now, that is saying a lot, because I am 76 years old, a traditionalist, a conservative, a high ”I” and “S” on the DISC personality profile. All this means I don’t particularly like change.
I grew up in an era when churches only had pianos and organs, when choirs were robed, the preacher wore suits and ties, and we sang hymns out of a book with treble and bass clefs, notes, rests, time signatures and lyrics. Furthermore, sometimes we sang in four-part harmony.
To make matters more definitive, I learned to play the piano at a Stamps Baxter singing convention. A man by the name of Filmore Deal taught me to play the piano when I was ten years old by reading shaped notes. I haven’t played the piano in a long time, but there was a day when I could play “Springtime in Gloryland” with the best of them.
In addition to all that 1940s-1950s church information, I lived in the era of Emily Post, when we were taught manners and etiquette. We couldn’t wear hats in the house and especially in the church (but women could wear hats in church and many of them did, especially at Easter). We said, “You’re welcome” rather than “No problem.”
In those days of antiquity we knew nothing of sexual equality, but we stood up when a woman entered the room, pulled the chair out for them before we were seated for dinner, and opened the car door for them to show the courtesy we thought they deserved.
Anyway, I think you get the picture. Back to the concert.
It was loud. The special effects with the videos, lighting, and fog machines were great for the concert at the arena, but I don’t think I am ready for that to be a part of the worship service in a church. But there were some things I liked about TobyMac and his fellow contemporary artists.
His drummer gave a great testimony and in the course of his comments said, “Not all white people are racists. Not all black people are criminals. Not all police officers are bad cops.” Then he told about how God had rescued him from a wayward lifestyle because a group of Christians “loved him to the cross.” It was very moving and uplifting.
During the course of the concert the musicians seemed to be dedicated to the Lord and surrendered to Him. I thought the words were meaningful and inspiring. Matt Maher was not there, because he had to leave unexpectedly because of his ailing father. However, his vocal team sang several of Maher’s songs, including “Your Grace is Enough” and “Lord, I Need You” – songs with a powerful Christian message and songs I have sung in church for several years.
Mac Powell sang, “Cry Out to Jesus” and “Soul on Fire” both songs with great messages. He also sang “I Saw the Light” and “Amazing Grace.”
I really enjoyed Mandisa, who was a contestant on American Idol. She is a beautiful woman who admittedly is overweight, an issue that American Idol Judge Simon Cowell addressed in a rather unseemly way.
When Mandisa returned to appear before the judges for their decision on whether or not she would advance to the next round of competition, she said to Simon, “Yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was really painful. It really was, but I want you to know that I have forgiven you and you don’t need to have someone to apologize before you forgive them; and if Jesus died so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven I can surely extend that same grace to you.”
The story had a happy ending. Cowell stood and said he was humbled by what Mandisa said, gave her a hug, and apologized – then told her on behalf of the judges that she was going to advance to the next round in the competition.
Mandisa sang “The Heart of Worship,” a somewhat modern hymn, but also “Blessed Assurance” and I don’t think I have ever heard it sung better. “Overcomer” was another song she performed. It was spiritually motivating, and while based on a spiritual concept, it was mostly motivational.
The second half of the concert featured TobyMac all the way through as he sang “Speak Life,” “Steal My Show,” “Made to Love,” and “City on Our Knees.”
Even more importantly, I saw how moved and enraptured my grown sons, daughter, and grandchildren were over the music. They are not shallow Christians, but vibrant, growing Christians. I have also observed how fervently the students in our Baptist colleges worship as they sing some of the contemporary songs of praise in their chapel services. I frequently preach in services where there is contemporary music and I see students, young adults, and some older adults truly engaged in meaningful worship as they sing the songs of Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Matt Redman, and others.
So, I am saying I like Toby Mac and much of the contemporary Christian music, because of a personal interest in it and because I am thankful the next two generations in my family are blessed and spiritually strengthened by it.
How could I dislike the music that obviously draws this younger generations closer to the Lord? While I appreciate Toby Mac and his contemporaries, I must tell you that my preference is still “At Calvary,” “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” and, yes, “Blessed Assurance.”
Especially when Mandisa sings it.