Winter Jam 2009 Observations and Thoughts

First some quick observations from the 2009 Winter Jam stop in Greensboro, NC
- By volunteering with WBFJ, God spared me from having to witness "Pure NRG" again.
- Taking people's money at the door can be dangerous. I'm glad that security lady was at my side to protect me.
- Thank God for caution tape.
- Thank God for caution tape part 2: front row seats are awesome!!
- I need to get Paige on "So you think you can dance".
- When will New Song change their name to Old Song?
- Having never heard or seen "Family Force Five" I was very impressed, even if I didn't understand a word the guy said.
- Brandon Heath was OK, but was he two Grammy nominations good?
- Toby Mac may be one of the best "performers" in the Christian music industry.
- We need more aggressive church van drivers in the world.

And now for my final thoughts (AKA Mike's annual Winter Jam Rant)
I've made it no secret over the past few years that I have come to loath the very essence that is Winter Jam and every Christian concert like it. This year I really tried to approach the annual concert with an open mind and my prayer was for God to show me something that I may have missed in past years. In some ways He did. In other ways it was more of the same. Instead of trying to cram all my thoughts and rants into one jumbled mess, I'm breaking it down into the three main parts of Winter Jam 2009 that bothered me the most.

The Sermon
I have nothing against Tony Nolan. I know last year he was bothered by some of the comments I made about him and Winter Jam and I tried then to clarify what I meant. So before I go any further I just want to make it clear that any and all concerns I may raise here are not a personal attack against Tony. I don't know Tony. I'm sure he's a great guy. Every scripture he used in his sermon on Saturday night was dead on. Do people need to be prepared to die? Yes. Is there a heaven and hell? Yes. Will everyone be in one of those two places? Yes. Is the way to heaven repentance, confession, and belief? Yes.

So if I agree with the core of his message, why the beef? While I agree with the message, I hated the delivery. The scare you out of hell and into heaven, guilt laden delivery is personally not my cup of tea and not something I find very effective. When Tony finally asked for anyone who "prayed the sinner's prayer" to stand up, 3/4 of my group stood up. These are kids that are my strongest christian students who I would bet my life were already saved prior to the message. When I asked them about why they stood up they responded, "I felt so bad about myself I just wanted to make sure I was saved." Where is that in the scriptures? Where does Jesus continue to guilt his disciples into salvation "just to make sure". Nowhere! If my saved kids felt so guilty (guilt is way different from conviction but that's another blog) then how many more of the 4,000+ that stood up did so out of guilt and not a true confession or decision?

The Offering
I knew it was coming. It's never enough for Winter Jam to take every one's $10 at the door but they always ask for more once you get inside. The routine is always the same: "Do you love Jesus?" "YES!" "Do you love Winter Jam?" "YES!" "Well Jesus loves Winter Jam too but if you don't give more money we won't have anymore Winter Jams". Then the connection is made that if you love Jesus then you'll give to Winter Jam. I've been hearing the same spill for over 10 years so none of it surprised me. What did surprise me was Tony's take that if you give money to Winter Jam then God will give you that money back and maybe even more. He used several illustrations to make his point. There were times when he gave anywhere from $2 to $1,000 and God immediately gave him more money back through mysterious donations from random individuals. Please show me in the scriptures where God says if we give him money He'll give us more money in return? If that was the case then everyone would be doing business with the Bank of God. Does God bless us if we give sacrificially? Yes. But is it always in the form of more money? NO! Tony may not have meant his offering message coming off that way but it did. Every person I have spoken to that was there got the exact same point from what he was saying. So if that wasn't his point then he needs to reevaluate his wording. If it was his point then Winter Jam is in a lot worse trouble then I thought.

The Concept of Winter Jam
The question I ask every year is would Jesus have ever used an event like Winter Jam in His personal ministry? Each year I come back to the same If you were to ask any non-believing 20 year old alive today why they don't attend church they would say because all churches preach is you're going to hell and give us money. So you invite this person to a concert because who doesn't like music. Once there everything is going great until that 20 year old non-believer hears two messages: You're going to hell and give us money. What do you do then? How do you explain that the bible is so much more then that? Why do we take God's perfect and holy word and reduce it to a couple of tag lines? There is no way anyone can read the Bible from beginning to end and come away with those two key points as the over-all theme of God's word and message to us. It makes me mad when I hear the beautiful message of the Gospel perverted in such a way. Again, this isn't an attack on Tony Nolan, Roy Morgan, or any of the people involved with Winter Jam. We are just on totally different ends of the spectrum as to the most effective way to bring people to a decision for Christ.

So why do I still go each and every year? Do I just go to have something else to complain about? Part of me goes in the hope that this year will be different. The other part of me goes because even though I may not agree with even 50% of what goes on at Winter Jam, my youth love it. They love most of the bands and hanging out with there friends. Who am I to limit God and say He can't use events like this? God can make beauty from ashes, even the ashes left from Winter Jam 2009.


Jason Grant said…
Just found your blog. Nice post. I typed up a letter of my concerns for 'Roy' and placed it in the offering.

This year my biggest concerns were

1) the attitudes of the youth groups who felt the need to get the best seats regardless of who they hurt.

2) the fact that people WERE turned away this year for not paying

and 3) the message. Nolan simply made converts, rather than disciples.

You hit the nail on the head with your blog.
Ben said…
I agree with you too. The offering was a bad idea. It would be better for them to actually sell tickets for actual seats than to "charge a donation" of $10 and then ask for more in an overly-hyped, manipulative offering.

If it felt like a bait-and-switch to me, a pastor who does an offering every week, then it certainly did to any unchurched people in the room.

Were there really any unchurched people there? Or just teenagers worshiping the the Christian celebs and getting saved again? I saw a whole row of youth groupers in front of me raise their hands to get saved... again.

There has to be a better way to present the gospel.
out of ELA said…
So instead of complianing or nick-picking, why don't y'all volunteer and help.

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