The tour featuring Elevation Worship, the music team from the multi-site Elevation Church in Charlotte, NC, highlighted the nearly sold-out house with an eager crowd of more than 10,000.
And Elevation pastor Steven Furtick came along, preaching a message from Mark 5 about the healing of the woman with "an issue of blood."
Was it worship? Was it a concert? ...A spiritual pep rally that touches on both elements? Some local observers offered comments (below) on the presentation.
BREAKING IT DOWN
There certainly were entertainment trappings. Confetti blasted from the front of the stage during the band's opening "What I See." The song is from their most recent album, "LION," adding to their catalog of sales and radio chart-topping Christian radio hits.
Earlier, a "T-shirt cannon" shot official tour shirts out into the crowd.
Now an arena-concert staple, large video screens on each side of the stage sported live images of the artists along with song lyric captions, helping those who preferred to sing along.
Elevation Worship, led by singer Chris Brown, has the status as Billboard Magazine's #1 worship group.
They won a Grammy Award this year for their project with Maverick City Music ("Old Church Basement") featuring the ballad "Jireh," a song they also performed.
Their music is undeniably popular. A short video clip the band posted on Facebook from the event had more than 5.000 "likes" by the following afternoon.
"Incredibly powerful!" was a typical comment (Elevation has more than two million FB followers).
INSIDE THE MESSAGE
Furtick's sermon message was intriguing. His forceful style is punctuated by occasional instrumental flourishes from the band players, a technique often used in African-American churches. And the 42 year-old SC native had several keen insights about the Mark 5 passage, including the fact that the woman suffering from a bleeding disorder is never referred to by name. Yet after she was healed, Jesus ("Who touched me?") sought her out and called her "Daughter."
"She needed Jesus to tell her who she really is," Furtick said of the woman, who during her 12 years of illness was considered unclean.
Local worship leader Dawn Bouman was enthused by his presentation. "I heard this story in a way I never had before," said Bouman, who for many years led worship music as well as the concert ministry at the Christian Reformed Conference Grounds in Grand Haven.
"And all of the songs really refreshed my soul....to God be the glory."
MUSIC ALSO BRINGS MESSAGES
Even with his preaching skills, music is never far from Furtick's heart. Before he started Elevation Church 16 years ago, he was a church music minister and songwriter.
The multi-gifted pastor is credited as co-writer on many of the band's most beloved songs including the mega-anthem "Graves Into Gardens," the award-winning "The Blessing," "Do It Again" and "O Come to the Altar," all of which were performed.
Most of these have worked their way into local church contemporary worship song sets.
Grand Rapids gospel music artist Carolyn Allen was also in the crowd for Elevation Night. "It was next level worship....just what I needed," said Allen, a member of the group Debra Perry & Majestic Praise. "The message and music spoke to my heart."
Furtick joined the band on stage for the grand finale. "Rattle," which leans on the image of God "rattling" dry bones back to life. It's another of their #1 hit songs.
As they had done most of the evening, the seven Elevation Worship vocalists swirled around, lifting and swaying their arms on the deep and wide stage - sometimes jumping in excitement.
After all was done it was a three hour experience, including the opening act/group presentation by Elevation Rhythm.
"Touring with pastor Steven is so much fun," said Elevation singer Tiffany Hudson in an interview before the tour began. "It feels like we are literally bringing our church on the road and getting to do ministry with family."
Drew Spanding directed the annual Christian music Big Ticket Festival in Gaylord for 16 years. He's worked with and seen dozens of Christian music artists, some with a worship orientation (such as Chris Tomlin) and some who did not identify as part of the "worship genre."
"Everyone was just as attentive to the (sermon) message as they were to the music, because it was so engaging and relatable," he offered. "Although it was a large production, the authenticity was outstanding."
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