Real worship doesn’t happen on a stage

The following is a memory from the summer of 1999.

Standing in the middle of a large crowd, I am eager to see the next band, though I am getting a bit tired. Bouncing around in the summer heat to all my favorite bands zapped most of my energy. I am beyond excited to be back at Creation, but it’s getting late, and it has been a long week.

I stifle a yawn and muster up all my energy for the final concert of the night. As the band takes the stage, bright lights bounce across the trees surrounding us and loud booming guitars rattle our eardrums.  People begin jumping as the energy from the band courses through their veins. They become unaware of the people around them, and soon little me is being run into and almost shoved over, without any sort of apology. Strangers are screaming in my ears. I huddle close to my group of friends, but still get jostled here and there. Water comes from nowhere, and pegs us in the face. We jolt from the shock, and one of my friends lets out a loud, “HEY!” but it falls silent amidst all the noise surrounding us.

And this is a CHRISTIAN concert?

I walk away from the show disappointed. While I enjoyed the music, the atmosphere was less than inviting. I can’t shake the feeling that the people I had just been around had not been very Christ-like. We are returning to our campsite when we walk past the crosses on the hill.

“Hey guys,” I motion to the crosses. “I’d like to go see them.”

A man had built 13 crosses in memory of the Columbine high school shootings. These crosses had traveled around the country to different Christian concerts and events. They were made of simple wood, and were built to remember each teacher and student that had been killed that day. Originally, there had been 15. The two extra were for the killers, an extraordinary symbol of forgiveness by the man who had created the crosses. However, after controversy and complaint, those two had been removed.

After climbing up the hill we encounter a silent crowd. We fall in line and wait our turn to see each cross. As we approach each one, I notice each person’s name, a short biography, a picture, and writing in different colors and handwriting. They are covered in Bible verses, messages, and prayers. There are crosses and necklaces strapped to each one. Teddy bears lay at the foot of some.

As we walk by each cross, I notice that no one is shoving by anyone else to get a better look. In fact, if someone is peering to see better, the person in front of them kindly steps out of the way to allow them more space. People are holding flashlights up so that others can read the messages in the pitch-black night.

Then the singing starts.

I don’t know how it starts. I don’t know who starts it. It seems as if the crowd just starts in unison, all softly singing together.  As we walk and solemnly stand at the foot of each cross, we sing praise songs and hymns in unison.  Tears are shed. Prayers are prayed.

We worship.

Soon, it is time for the crosses to continue on to their next destination. They are gently pulled out of the ground and passed across the crowd to be loaded onto a truck. Again; no pushing, no fighting. The crowd works together to get them onto the truck.

As we watch,we stop and listen to the singing. After a few moments, we wipe our eyes and walk to the edge of the hill. We perch on top of the hill and enjoy the quiet of the night.  I think about how the concert was not worship. The quiet, special time spent with hundreds of stranger friends was.

Do you have a memory of worship that happened off stage?

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