Two weekends ago, my son Jon and I (and one of his friends) flew down to Austin, Texas to see a Mumford and Sons concert. Well, actually we went to see my friend Ted Dekker and stay at his house – and…we all went to the concert.
Ted and I had a little deal. I’d get us free tickets and backstage passes to hang out with Marcus Mumford (since I know him) and Ted would pay for our whole trip. It worked brilliantly.
There we were at the Austin 360 Amphitheater with 14,000 screaming fans on the second night of a sold out concert – feeling all cool. Because we knew the leader of the band. We had these little green cads that said “All Access.” There was no place off-limits. We marched right down to the front as if we owned the place, then tested our green cards walking up to the big bouncer dude named “Tom” and I asked with a good bit of swagger “Do these get us back there?” – pointing to the stage and beyond. He actually looked surprised as he moved aside. Our confidence grew as we walked up the stairs while the warm-up act was playing; right up into the middle of the sound equipment. We were 20 feet from the musicians – behind them looking out at the crowd who all appeared to be staring jealously at us – even though they couldn’t actually see us.
Behind backstage (I didn’t really know that existed) were semi trucks, motorhomes, a bar and miniature restaurant, trailers for the band to hang out in, and…a basketball hoop.
As fun and interesting as all that is, that’s not what I’m wanting to write about – we did see the band and get some good hang out time with Marcus Mumford and his wonderful wife Carey – even played a little b-ball together after…but the worship concert was stunning.
I know their songs. They have two albums worth – so I probably know all 30 or so. They sang 18 songs that night. “Lover of the Light.” “I will Wait.” “The Cave.” People swayed to the music. Hands raised. Songs focused on grace, God, hope, light, forgiveness, even Jesus. All sung with gusto and adoration. I leaned to my right and yelled in Ted’s ear, “It’s a freaking worship concert dude.”
How does that happen? How would 28,000 people in two evenings pay an average of $60 a ticket to worship? The place was electric. There was “Something.” They had “it.” Charisma. I grew up calling that feeling “the anointing.” You can’t manufacture it. You can’t make it up. You can’t buy it or ask for it or demand it. It either is or isn’t. And it was!
Why? How? And by the way, some of you ask, how can it be worshipping God when they drop the language bombs they do? Answer: have you ever heard a worship leader in a church play the wrong note? Doesn’t sound good – it’s off. Or maybe you’ve even seen a pastor (off-duty of course) hit his thumb while hammering in a nail and mention God’s name in another context. Does either delegitimize the worship leader or pastor? It may not be nice or best, but…it happens!
I’ve told Marcus that he’d never be a good worship leader. He just smiled and said “You’re right mate. And I’m not a worship leader.”
Well, not so fast my fine English friend. Not so fast. I think he is! He’s doing what I dream of. Speaking hope and peace and grace over crowds of otherwise non church-goers. Inviting them into something they’ve possibly never experienced. They don’t know what it is, and he’s not saying, but it is. A Mumford and Sons concert ushers in a sense of the Divine without naming the Name. It draws the bewildered yet hungry crowd heavenward. Giving them something to long for – even if it’s only an hour and a half’s worth. The lyrics don’t describe, they summon. The band doesn’t preach, it plays. And the swaying crowd becomes part of the symphony crying out to the One who’s name they may not know, but who their hearts long for.
It may not be Mumford and Son’s job to speak His Name, but it may be yours and mine.