Tonight (Thursday, Aug. 31), I saw a concert I never wanted to end.
Even with the best shows I've ever seen, there's an anticipation--like with an epic fireworks display--that I'm in for a massively awesome grand finale, so getting to the conclusion isn't heartbreaking for me. It's part of the package.
Tonight, though, could have kept going forever, really.
For more than two hours, the digital world was treated to an Avengers-like team-up of Christian music's top acts, but with a purpose.
Vocal powerhouse Natalie Grant used her big voice to call up the likes of Matthew West, Mark Hall of Casting Crowns, Mandisa, Jeremy Camp, Danny Gokey, Travis Greene, Jonathan McReynolds, Matt Maher and more for a special fund-raising concert called Together For Texas
The event, broadcast on Facebook Live, sought to raise funds for Convoy of Hope, an aid organization that is actively providing relief to the storm- and flood-ravaged communities in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
As I watched the concert, which was at once incredibly excellent and disarmingly casual, I didn't see CCM stars pointing to radio singles or album sales. I didn't see the traditional walls of genre, style, radio format or generation separating artists.
I saw a picture of the united body of Christ, activated, in all her glory.
As I and most of the NRTeam watched the stream from our various corners of the country, we all agreed: this is significant.
It's significant for many reasons. For one, there were some pretty incredible performances, from some big names (and hello, Jeremy Camp and Danny Gokey back to back, y'all?), and some emerging names (Hannah Kerr and Chris McClarney, for example).
It was significant because of its reach. The last we heard, the broadcast reached something like two-and-a-half MILLION viewers.
It was also a technological triumph for the industry, as CCM utilized the power of social media in a way we hadn't yet seen. NRT Founder Kevin McNeese and I couldn't think of another instance where the industry did something to this degree. Hats off to the technical team that dialed in audio (multiple mics), video (multiple cameras) and the intricacies of Facebook Live. As an entity that trafficks heavily in Facebook Live, we're more than impressed.
Of course, there was a significant impact in the actual fundraising, too. Natalie Grant said she had hoped to raise $100,000, and at a rate of about $1,500 a minute, more than doubled that by pointing people to give via their phones and via a button on the broadcast itself.
Grant admitted on the broadcast that when there will be billions of dollars in recovery funds needed, it could be easy to just shrug and feel like it's impossible to make a dent.
"We can't fix everything, but we can fix some things," she said. "And tonight, we're going to make a dent. It matters."
There was a moment near the end of the broadcast where Matt Maher led "Lord I Need You," and he had a pretty incredible group of vocalists backing him: Grant, Mandisa, gospel artist Travis Greene and Danny Gokey.
A few times my eyes welled up with emotion throughout the concert, but this was the moment where I lost it. They weren't playing through the song like you'd heard it on the radio. They were worshipping; there were plenty of moments throughout where there was free, spontaneous worship. And what struck me so deeply was the passion of the worship, and seeing such different styles--and races!--united in praise to their Creator.
At such a divided time in our nation's history, this was a scene I won't soon forget. (It happened earlier in the broadcast, too, with Mandisa and Jeremy Camp flowing in worship, too.) It's beautiful.
"It's really too bad that it takes a tragedy for us to get together and do something like this," Maher said early in his set. "We should be doing this all the time, picking a cause" and making a difference.
I totally agree.
The most significant thing about this broadcast--something that goes beyond today's headlines and the relief efforts and the fundraising--is that our industry woke up to the magnitude of their powers combined.
Together For Texas, I hope, is the firstfruits of the industry finding ways to make a difference that go beyond big arenas, radio airplay and Sunday morning setlists. Perhaps the CCM community has realized that it has more influence than previously thought, when working together.
With very little hard costs--compared to touring, that's for sure--artists are able to make a tangible impact with their talent. Think about what this could do for sponsoring children in third world countries, building clean water wells in Africa, personal tragedies like the one faced by Josh Wilson's guitarist, Nathan Johnson, and so many other issues.
What I saw tonight was beautiful. It was a bunch of humble-hearted worshippers moving their schedules around to do what they could from 800 miles away.
Huge props to Natalie Grant for seeking the Lord, hearing from Him, and making this event happen. It was beautiful to worship with you, it was inspiring to make a difference with you, and it was encouraging to figure out how we all can work together to do some real good as servants of the most High God.
When we are one, we can change the world, because that's truly the Body of Christ walking the earth once more.