Winter Jam moves thousands to Christ

Baptist Press
|
Posted: Mar 05, 2012 5:22 PM
Winter Jam moves thousands to Christ
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- At a recent Winter Jam concert, a girl approached evangelist Nick Hall in response to the message he had just delivered and held out her fist. She wanted to give him a necklace she had been wearing for three years. Attached to the necklace was a razor blade.

The girl had been cutting herself, and she wore the necklace as a daily reminder of how worthless she felt. But she grasped God's love for the first time as she listened to Hall's message from 1 John 1 about walking in the light.

"She asked me if I'd take the necklace because she didn't want to see herself the way the world saw her anymore but she wanted to see herself the way that God sees her," Hall told Baptist Press.

Winter Jam, in its 17th year, is Christian music's largest annual tour, combining 10 popular artists and a speaker each night in major venues across the United States.

Last year Winter Jam outpaced attendance for all other tours in the first quarter, including Bon Jovi, U2, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber, according to Pollstar's 2011 Worldwide First Quarter Ticket Sales "Top 100 Tours" chart.

Ministry is at the heart of Winter Jam, and instead of selling tickets in advance, people pay $10 at the door, making it more accessible for families, individuals and groups of all sizes.

"A lady told me the other day she was on a spiritual Winter Jam high like when she was younger and would come back from camp in the summers," Eddie Carswell of the group Newsong, Winter Jam's founder, told Baptist Press.

"She wanted to talk to everybody about the Lord, and she went to another tour location a few weeks later, bringing her friends so they could see it. There's nothing like being there," Carswell said, adding that 21,000 people had turned out for the event in Greensboro, N.C., recently. "Sometimes we'll get there and people will be camping out in tents, waiting to be first in line."

This is the first year Hall, founder of Pulse, a young evangelistic movement, has been the speaker for the tour, and he has been struck by the numbers of students attending the events who are coping with major problems.

"I think so many students are hurting and depressed and into varying forms of self-mutilation," Hall said. "They feel inward pain maybe from abuse they've experienced, and they're externally trying to manifest that through cutting or burning or anorexia or whatever. It's some real heavy stuff."

In addition to the girl who gave up her razor blade necklace, Hall has had a student give him a bullet to symbolize handing his struggle over to God, and a middle-aged woman gave him a bottle of prescription painkillers because she wanted to gain freedom from her addiction.

"My message is basically about light and dark. We know that we're created for light, we know we're created for more, but a lot of times as young people we face the pressures of the world -- peer pressure to drink or do drugs or peer pressure to mess around in relationships or look a certain way or act a certain way," Hall said. "There's a lot of hurt that comes in and a lot of confusion.

"There's a lot of depression, a lot of spiritual questioning and identity issues of 'Who am I?' and 'How do I find my contentment?'" he said.

"For me, I was a church kid growing up but as a teenager I certainly experienced all the peer pressure that these kids are experiencing. It wasn't that long ago for me," Hall said. "I remember having those questions and wrestling through them, seeing friends that went the wrong way and ultimately destroyed a lot of things in their lives."

After bands play some of Christian radio's most popular songs, Hall explains from the stage that only Jesus can offer a way out of darkness and can help people walk in the light.

"It's a call for those who don't know Him to respond to Jesus, to confess whatever's wrong and get right, to give their lives to Him. But it's also a call for those that have been church people that have been kind of living a double life," Hall said. "It's a call for them to recommit themselves to this message, not just living in the light but also reflecting that light to others, which is such a huge part of being a follower of Jesus."

More than 80,000 people have responded to Christ in some way since this year's Winter Jam tour began in January.

"Last week a youth pastor emailed me and said several of his students responded to the Gospel at Winter Jam and then since Winter Jam he's seen seven more students come to know Christ as a result of the fire that was lit in the group," Hall said.

In addition to the life-changing impact of Winter Jam, Carswell said it's a good opportunity to hear an array of Christian artists in one night.

"What I love about it is you may come to it because you hear of a certain artist that's going to be there, but you hear them all and usually leave liking others as well," Carswell said. "You may come to hear Newsong or Building 429 or one of these bands that you like their song on the radio and realize you like a lot of the bands and want to get their CDs too."

Though the audiences are mostly young, Carswell said people of all ages benefit from Winter Jam.

"It's a great way to find out more about Christian music, and the whole night has always been based around a Gospel invitation. It's a great night to bring friends, a neighbor or anybody you want to hear the Gospel presented very clearly," Carswell said.

Bands on tour for Winter Jam this year are Newsong, Skillet, Sanctus Real, Peter Furler, Kari Jobe, Building 429, Group 1 Crew, Dara Maclean, For King and Country and We As Human.

More than a dozen shows are still on the calendar before the tour wraps up in April, and stops include Nashville, Tenn., Dallas and Indianapolis. A fall tour is planned for the West Coast.

Erin Roach is assistant editor of Baptist Press. For more information about Winter Jam, visit jamtour.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).

Copyright (c) 2012 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press www.BPNews.net