For anyone who believes Christianity is boring and stuck in tradition would surely have a heart attack this past Saturday as over 20,000 people celebrated their love and passion for Jesus Christ through music at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Winter Jam, one of the largest Christian concerts held it’s sixth out of forty-eight North American tour dates in Tampa over the weekend.
Winter Jam began in 1995 in Greenville, South Carolina by NewSong and has featured many top Christian artists such as TobyMac, Third Day, Newsboys and Skillet. The concerts are founded in the belief of low costs so that all have the opportunity to be included, encourage people through music, and spread the gospel.
The performers at this year’s Winter Jam were Newsboys, Lecrae, Tenth Avenue North, Thousand Foot Krutch, Plumb, Newsong, Colton Dixon, Love & the Outcome, Everfound and Derek minor. Besides the musical aspect of the event it included a wonderful speaker, Nick Hall who founded PULSE a young adult movement in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota.
Although the concert began at five o’clock, people were lined up hours before hoping to be granted entrance to the concert. Due to the general admissions anyone could attend for the price of $10 and sit anywhere, besides the floor which was reserved for VIP.
The first performer, Derek minor kicked things off with a bang, getting the entire audience on their feet as he rapped to a mix of “We Are the Champions”.
During the following five hours artists sang, entertained and worshiped with the audience, giving encouraging words both spoken and sung. Everfound, a Christian pop-rock band of four brothers sang about never giving up hope because as they sang, “we are never beyond repair”.
Although I knew most of the artists by name, I was surprised to realize how many songs I recognized from Spirit FM and other Christian radios. Even the songs that were not familiar to me, spoke to me and left an inpact.
Nick Hall, who was the guest speaker for the Winter Jam tour this year and his enthusiasm was contagious. He not only was excited about spreading God’s word, he explained it enthusiastically as well.
His main theme of his twenty minute talk revolved around the story of the prodigal son found in the Gospel of Luke. How no matter how wrong or sinful our actions may be, Jesus Christ will always invite us back home in jubilee.
His love is unconditional and He wants us wholly, “He wants the part of you that you hid” Hall explained. He spoke about our guilt and how Jesus will always give us a second chance.
Throughout the night the energy of the audience continued to increase, especially as the last two acts performed.
Lecrae, a rapper, was one of my favorite performances due to his high energy and honestly. He dedicated a whole song to the idea of honest and his imperfections declaring, “look God I’m jacked up.” Included in his set was a version of “Turned Down for What?”, which featured confetti and streamers. To go along with Lecrae’s high energy his performance ended with the Harlem Shake and selected audidence memebers joining him on stage.
The last and most anticipated band of the night, Newsboys finished the night by blowing away the crowd. Beginning with their hit “Born Again” their entire 45 minute set consisted of high energy worship and lots of clapping. Taking a break from the crazy lights and fast paced danceable songs, the lead singer took a moment to talk about how important it is for us to tell our loved ones how much they mean to us for his mother recently passed.
Many of the artists used personal and real life situations such as this to give their testimonies and offer the spectators encouragement to turn to God with whatever issues they may be facing. As described in Tenth Avenue North’s song, “[God’s] hands are holding you”.
Newsbosy ended the night with another hit proclaiming, “God is not dead he is surely alive.” Satuirday night there could not be a more truer statement, God was thriving in every single person in the crowd.