I'm writing from the great city of Chicago right now! Whoo hoo! Travel blog! Anyways, Tori and I are staying with some very hospitable friends here so that we can attend the three-day Jesus Culture "Awakening" conference. We've had our tickets since February, and we have been super excited to see no only the Jesus Culture Band, but also Hillsong United (yeah, I know) and a long list of anointed speakers.
The arena is humungous and full of 15,000 Christians. Absolutely amazing. The very first thing that happens is they switch around the schedule and do the message first. Kim Walker(Smith) gets on the mic and delivers an amazing encouragement and challenge to worshippers. She talks about not having an offended heart and guarding your connection with God. About avoiding distractions and entering into worship. Wonderful stuff.
Jesus Culture started with a declaration of their intent to seek God and not put on a show. They gave verses about how one of the most powerful promises of God is that if you seek Him, He will be found. Then they started their set, and oh man, was it amazing. For those that missed it, they played:
Stir It Up In Our Hearts - (The bridge to Consuming Fire)
We Are Hungry
I Will Not Be Silent
Break Every Chain (Wow.)
I Surrender (Jesus Culture)
Revelation Song (Of Course)
Then we skip some unimportant things like a Potbelly's Grilled Chicken and Cheddar Sandwich...
And then we get to the pre-worship worship service that took place in a smaller room. Standing room only, about 250 people crowded in to worship with an awesome band that reminded me of two of my very favorite worship leaders, Henry Krell and Megan McElhenney. Everybody was jumping and laughing and rejoicing because of the goodness of God. Awesome time. And the drummer looked like he was about 12. But he played like he had been playing for every single one of those 12 years.
After about 45 minutes of that joy, we headed back into the arena right before Hillsong started their set. This is what they played:
Your Name High
Go (We're giving it all away, away)
Search My Heart
Chains Be Broken
Awakening (To be expected)
From The Inside Out
In My Life (The bridge to Came To My Rescue)
So after all was said and done, I was somewhat disappointed by Hillsong. My guess is they were going for some feel, some purpose that I didn't quite get or understand. Most of their set felt exactly like their "Aftermath" CD, which I have said before sounds like Christian background music. It's hard to sing along with and the lyrics don't go with the music very well.
But I'm not trying to be critical, it's honestly just because Jesus Culture went first. JC went up there and used amazing lighting and music to create a worship experience that everyone could relate with. They didn't even scale it down. They simply went deep into worship with everything they had. Hillsong felt like a very calculated concert. The lights weren't helpful to worship, they simply just strobed a lot. (Not to mention the very strange images on the backdrop that Tori and I couldn't understand. It must be an Australian thing.) I know this isn't their heart or intention, it's just how it came across in the light of the astounding job the other team did.
If Jesus Culture was epic, Hillsong was action-packed. Lord of the Rings versus Mission Impossible.
All in all though, it was the most amazing light setup and show that I have ever seen. There are about 100 rotating intelligent lights above the stage and about another 100 above the crowd. And a few dozen mounted on the stage for good measure.
Can't wait to go back tomorrow. And the next day. It's going to be amazing again.