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Touring groups see thousands accept Christ during concerts

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Invitations to accept Christ have become key components of some Christian music concerts, and the rock group Disciple and the contemporary group Casting Crowns are two bands that have led thousands to the Lord across generational lines by offering times of response at their events.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Christian music in the ’80s, and it seems like back then — being an impressionable Christian teenager — when I would go to Christian concerts there seemed to always be a challenge and an invitation to Christ,” Kevin Young, lead singer for Disciple, told Baptist Press. “I really thought that was what Christian music was all about and whether I was naïve or not, I don’t know. But when we felt like God was calling us to start this Christian band, we never even questioned whether that was something we would do.”

The Dove Award-nominated Disciple, based in Knoxville, Tenn., has been together just over a decade and plays from 130 to 200 shows a year on the road. After they sing about God, they make a point to give concertgoers the opportunity to experience a personal relationship with Christ.

“All of us assumed that was part of what God had called us to, and in 1995 we began to give invitations and we’d really be serious about what we were going to say and we’d really be prayerful the week before the show and things like that and began to see fruit,” Young said. “We began to see people’s lives get changed and people receive Christ through our ministry. Ever since then it’s been an every week type thing, so it’s a really huge blessing.”

In 2003, the group kept track of the number of people who trusted Jesus as their Savior at concerts and it was around 3,500, Young said. But then he was convicted that maybe he was putting too much of an emphasis on the numbers.

“So we stopped keeping track and stopped keeping a count on how many people got saved because it kind of felt like we were looking at it as us saving somebody instead of the Lord doing His job,” Young said.

Even so, Young estimates that anywhere from five to 40 people come forward during concert invitations to receive Christ these days.

Before the invitation, Young delivers a brief message, usually 10 to 15 minutes long, and he makes sure to come up with a relatively fresh way to present the Gospel story each time rather than repeating the same words at each tour stop.

“We try to let the Lord lead us to whatever we feel He wants us to say that particular day,” Young told BP. “It’s always something that we feel would be Scripture-based and something that would challenge someone even if they’re a Christian or if they’re not a Christian to challenge them in a relationship with Christ, whether there be sin in their life or if they feel far from God or feel like they want to draw closer to Him.”

As an edgy rock band, Disciple would assume their audience would be mostly teenagers, but Young said they receive e-mails and letters from various age groups.

“One night we prayed with a young man in his teens and his grandmother, and they both received Christ,” Young said. “A lot of older men in their 50s and 60s come to our concerts and receive Christ. We’ve seen God move in so many people’s lives and it’s not one ethnic group or one particular audience. It seems to reach a lot of people, and we’re very thankful for that.”

Young said he doesn’t pass judgment on Christian bands that don’t offer invitations at their concerts because he sees that God is using those bands in different ways. He just believes it’s right for Disciple to make an invitation a part of their presentation.

“One reason I feel like it’s a good thing that we do give invitations is because there’s power in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I believe that when [the Apostle] Paul said in Romans 1:16, ‘I’m not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ it’s because it’s the power of God to salvation,” Young said. “So when you share the Gospel with people, it’s not necessarily how you share it because there’s power in the seed of it and God takes care of the work. It’s just up to us to share it. I believe that when we do that, we get to see powerful things happen.

“The other thing about that is I heard an artist say one time that words are amazing, but when you add music to words it makes it that much more powerful,” Young added. “I think the Gospel of Christ is powerful enough as it is, and when you begin to sing about it, and other people begin to take your songs and sing them every day, in all actuality they’re singing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You know that’s making a difference in their life and touching their heart.”

During 87 Casting Crowns concerts last fall and spring, 43,000 people made decisions for Christ, reported Tony Nolan, the Georgia-based evangelist the group enlisted to deliver a message at their concerts. Each person was asked to complete a card with their name and address so that local churches could follow up with them.

Casting Crowns put the names in a database and sent them to churches throughout the nation that are trained in the FAITH evangelism strategy developed by Bobby Welch, immediate past president of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“A lot of the follow-up stories have been interesting,” Nolan told Baptist Press. “I’ve gotten hundreds of e-mails. One particular story was from when we were in Seattle and we did our concert at a church with about 5,000 people. One lady who volunteered [to help record address cards during the invitation time] was crying.

“She told me she was a high-profile lawyer, and she said her husband was a philosophy major and would have nothing to do with the Jesus she had in her heart,” Nolan recounted. “She said he dismissed Christianity as a psychological crutch for weak people. I thought she was going to ask me to pray for him, and then she said he gave his heart to Jesus at the concert. That was awesome.”

Nolan said invitations at concerts are “incredibly worthwhile,” though like Young, he doesn’t object to musicians who choose not to end concerts that way.

“Obviously any concert where somebody would get up and just proclaim the greatness of God is awesome,” Nolan said. “Some don’t have invitations and God will use that in a multitude of ways. But if you’re talking about being strategic and laser-focused to help somebody really come to know Christ, it is absolutely essential and very successful if at the concerts you give a very clear presentation of the Gospel and an unapologetic invitation.

“It’s a joyful moment,” Nolan said, “and it’s obviously strategic because we’re able at that moment to ascertain their contact information and then be able to give that to local churches, and local churches flat go after them.”

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  • Erin Roach