For someone who grew up in the midst of Hair Rock pandemonium free tickets to a Poison concert was a promise of a really good time. But for a 30 something pastor who grew up in a conservative (but loving) home in the midwest, uncomfortable would be the best word to describe how I felt.
Should I go? Was this a compromise? What business does any believer have at a rock concert?
CC was a new convert in our church. A new convert with legendary hair! He was also a key member in one of the 80’s and even the 90’s most popular bands. Yet on Sundays he made the drive from the edge of Orange County up through the city to the San Fernando Valley to a little church in a modest building. My friend Jesse had baptized him in an apartment bathtub at the end of a men’s bible study meeting and now he was one of us, kinda…
He struggled on the road, as most of us would especially with a history like his but he was trying. He was giving his all to stay sober, to stay right with his maker, to be a responsible man.
He asked me to come and to bring my then pregnant wife to a local venue where they were to play. He wanted to have prayer before and to read some of the good book and talk about faith.
As we sat in his trailer before the show he shared his story, his struggles, his failures. He talked about being a father and what that meant to him and how he longed to finally be a proper example to his child. With tears in his eyes and a brokenness in his heavily accented east coast voice, he shared the inner secrets of his heart.
We met his band mates, who also were striving for a better life through sobriety with the help of each other and God. Then we were ushered to our seats for the show.
15,000 middle aged fans had come out that night. Many dressed in the same clothes they would have worn back in the day, with their hair teased out they were head banging and acting like they were having a good time. “Highway to Hell’ was blaring from the mammoth speakers and there was a sinking feeling in my gut, a feeling that I was way to far beyond the safe boarders of my sheltered existence. I did not belong. I was in enemy territory.
After some more modest bands opened the show it was time for the main event. Lights flashing, smoke bellowing, fans screaming and then singing perfectly every word to the hits of bygone days, past there prime rockers put on a show as I wilted further and further into my now very uncomfortable seat.
Then it happened… Without warning the lights dimmed and the crowd hushed as my friend took center stage and began to play a song that I finally did know and I began to hum along “…Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…”
The devil took one on the chin at that moment. A rock and roll superstar with a history of bad behavior, addiction and selfishness, played on… The same guitar that had worshipped the spirits of darkness was now piercing that amphitheater with a melody of Gods redemption and grace. For a moment the breath went out of that building as God took the stage. How bold, how humbling.
At that moment I realized this was not just about a preacher being there for the new convert. God was using the new convert to teach me a thing or two about how BIG He was and how little I really knew. That he can use anybody and everybody anywhere. That relational evangelism (LOVE) is the way He has always intended to expand His kingdom and bring freedom, mercy, and salvation to the lost souls of this world.
That night I asked Him to forgive me of my pride and self-righteousness. I asked Him to teach me how to really change my world, I asked Him to give me the boldness to truly proclaim His love while I gave Him the freedom to use who He wants to use, whenever and wherever He wants to use them.
I asked Him to take my cultural blinders off so that I could see people as He sees people. Realizing you cannot truly know the heart of a person so put your energy into getting yours right.
If conviction and repentance begin the process of salvation from sin then I would say God saved this preacher (of all places) at a rock concert.
“I once was lost but now I’m found twas blind but now I see.”