The choice seats, as at any rock concert, were on the floor, closest to the speakers—and the stars. Most of those nearest the stage were young people doing what young people do at concerts: jump up and down and dance to the beat, scream when they hear the first notes of their favorite songs, raise their arms, and even weep with joy.
But at this concert, the reason for the excitement was more than just being in the presence of the star power of Phil Laeger, Vicky Beeching, and headliner Rebecca St. James. The 6,736 people at this rock concert wanted to praise God. Laeger, a Salvationist, opened with preliminary music starting around 7 p.m. At 8, Vicky Beeching stood in the spotlight.
"Here I am to worship!" she proclaimed in song. "He shows up when we sing!"
Beeching, who has known of the Lord since age 7, made a point of putting the words to all her songs on the overhead screens so that fans could sing with her. As thousands in the Giant Center joined in "Holy, Holy, Holy," the repetition seemed a taste of what it might be like to sing with the host in heaven.
"There is a move of God in our day among the young," said Beeching. "Soon our churches will be so full!" She implored: "Pour out your spirit, Salvation Army, reach out to the poor!"
Between Beeching's and St. James' sets, General Shaw Clifton delivered a short message. He talked about "defining moments" in history, such as walking on the moon, the assassination of JFK, 9/11, and the Beatles tour of 1964. Then he talked about the moment that will be the most defining in the history of the world—the return of Jesus.
"He will come again to reign forever, and we need to be ready!" the General said.
As she leaped onto the stage, with light beams flashing all over the arena, Rebecca St. James started with two heart-pounding numbers that excited the crowd. Then she talked about her reason for singing.
"The whole world is looking for real life," she said, and she had an answer for them. She said she had learned at age 8, when she actually found the Lord, that "He loves me and accepts me."
"You are loved by God!" she told the crowd, who echoed "You ... are loved!" as she sang. Between numbers, St. James used her "creds" with the young to talk about important issues. She urged them to stay pure, and she proclaimed that she herself is a virgin and she is saving herself for marriage. She added that for those who have already given in to temptation, purity is still possible through "second virginity"—a renewed pledge to purity.
At another important moment, St. James spoke of having visited Rwanda, where mass genocide in the 90s wiped out as many as a million people. The new president of Rwanda, however, is a Christian who has instituted a "no-revenge policy."
"I saw forgiveness in action," St. James said.
Then, near the end of the concert, St. James offered a clear invitation to accept the Lord. She led the Giant Center audience in a simple "sinner's prayer." Voices joined in from all over the stadium.
"Welcome to the family!" she cried out to the cheers of the crowd.