You couldn’t have asked for a better night to undertake a historic moment for a music industry that had come to a grinding halt over that last few months. The weather was perfect, the people were ready, and the idea seemed to go off without a hitch as fans and artist where very excited to be back together once again…well this time with a little more social distance than usual!
They called it a drive-in concert as the giant screens suspended high in the air recalled a certain movie going nostalgia of days gone by. The format also provided a clever solution to the usual problem and expense of outdoor concerts by only transmitting the audio via FM Radio. The sunset was an amazing backdrop to the many hands raised out of car windows and with the honk of a horn declaring ‘amen’ or ‘hallelujah’ Michael W. Smith and his team played many of his memorable songs with quite a bit of time devoted to just worshiping together. A few days after the event we had a chance to ask Michael W. Smith some questions about the night.
Worship Leader: What inspired you to host the concert?
Michael W. Smith: In April a local church, Grace Chapel, did a Drive-In service at this location. I wasn’t able to be there but heard about it. They were planning another one for late May and the production is so large and it takes a couple days to set it up anyway – – so we were able to “piggy-back” with them on the gear. We used it on the Saturday night and they used it on the Sunday night.
WL: What kind of hoops of did you have to jump through to have the event? Permits for radio transmission or permission?
Michael: Yes. Since ours was technically a “concert” and Grace Chapel’s was more of a “service” – it fell under different criteria. The good thing is – the powers-that-be in Williamson County are all great people and they, like us, knew that the community would want this and they worked with us to iron out all of the details in a couple of days.
WL: What were the challenges in leading people to worship while maintaining social distance?
Michael: Well….the whole experience was different. There wasn’t any type of Sound System. We broadcast through an FM Radio transmitter. So – while a lot of people pulled out lawn chairs and blankets – the best sound was inside your car. I’d say about half the crowd stayed in their cars – about half rolled their windows down and stayed just outside their car. There were even people “tailgating” and eating food! The good news is – I’m told the sound was fantastic through the FM Transmitter! A first for me – no doubt.
WL: You mentioned praying about your song selection for the night… how does that process go for you? And what advice would you give worship leaders as they choose songs for each Sunday?
Michael: Planning ahead is good – nothing wrong with that. But ALWAYS leave open the possibility of a last-minute change. Stay open to the Holy Spirit and stay open to just a hunch or a leading….you never know if it’s just instinct or the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
WL: How did you feel the night went?
Michael: I’ll never forget the night because of the extreme in emotions for me. I left the stage feeling very blessed, very fortunate for that experience. But moments after leaving the stage I was told about violent protests that had broken out in Nashville – just a few miles up the road. My heart broke. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the high and the low that I experienced that night.
WL: What advice and/or encouragement would you give to worship leaders in this time?
Michael: Real, true, authentic Worship is needed now – maybe more than ever. If God has put you in a position to lead people in Worship – nurture that gift. Develop it. Keep it fresh. Treasure it because leading Worship is, in fact a gift.