On December 7, 2018, Senior Pastor of House on the Rock Cathedral, Paul Adefarasin, hosted the 13th edition of its annual gospel concert, 'The Experience' themed 'Jesus our Peace', which has grown to become the largest gospel music concert in Africa with a yearly attendance of over 500,000 people at the Tafawa Balewa Square (TBS) in Lagos, alongside millions more watching online from all over the globe.
The Experience has become one of the major highlights on the calendar and a keenly anticipated event with destiny in December for many.
Much of the allure is its interdenominational stance and penchant for unifying people irrespective of nationality, faith, gender, status or political persuasion.
The Experience and the upcoming 2019 Elections
Adefarasin asserted that 'The Experience' 2018 is significant because it precedes a crucial election year.
He explained that the inspiration behind the 2018 theme is to highlight whom Jesus is, especially in the world we live in today - the Prince of Peace.
Speaking further on the strategic theme, Adefarasin emphasized that regardless of the outcome of the forthcoming elections; peace is the ultimate candidate that we should all support, and must be the candidate that wins.
"Peace (as I know it) is not the absence of tension but the presence of Justice" he said. The 2018 concert according to him will be a continuous reminder that the God of Peace is with us.
Speaking further, Adefarasin encouraged Nigerians, stating that "Despite many challenges Nigerians may face, we cannot afford to lose faith in God's ability to turn things around for our good, choosing to see a bright future, the Nigeria of our dreams, one that we can proudly bequeath to the 'next-generations.'
Drawing a note from Sir. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa's Independence Day Speech on October 1, 1960, Adefarasin stressed that "our elected representatives can no longer afford the selfish luxury of focusing on their own interests; rather they must be fully capable of managing our affairs.
The populace can no longer sit back and complain of a lack of clear direction. It is time to become change agents, nation transformers and the solution that Nigeria has long awaited," he said.
The Experience 2018 proved to be an evening of edifying enjoyment as a constellation of some of the world's finest gospel artistes led the crowd in unrestrained praise and worship. Making their debut this year were the Planetshakers, Ada Ehi, Vickie Yohe and JJ Hairston.
Frequent performers, Donnie McClurkin (dubbed the 'Reigning King of Urban Gospel' by Variety), Mike Aremu, Tope Alabi, Don Moen, Kirk Franklin, Chioma Jesus, Eben, Travis Greene, Glowreeyah Braimah, Nathaniel Bassey, Tim Godfrey and the multi-talented Lagos Metropolitan Gospel Choir featuring Timi Dakolo, Onos Ariyo and Chee also performed to the delight of everyone.
Viewers at home were not left out as The Experience was streamed live on the House on The Rock YouTube channel to viewers from all over the world.
The concert was also broadcasted on a special DSTV event channel to millions of subscribers in 50 countries across Africa.
Social media was agog with comments on the concert, making The Experience the most talked about event on social media on that day.
The official hashtags for the event, #TE13 #JesusOurPeace, #TheExperience13 and several topics and names associated with the event occupied the trends list from top to bottom.
Indeed, just as the name connotes, although it comes once every year, The Experience is an event that would not be forgotten in a hurry.
The Experience and the Nigerian Economy
The Experience is a significant contributor to both our national and the Lagos state economy through tourism and its associated businesses.
Entrepreneurs have developed and birthed various enterprises, which substantially contributes to the economy in areas of human capital development, hospitality, commerce and industry.
The Entertainment sector of the economy has also blossomed over the last 12 years of The Experience.
This is evident, as many of our local gospel artistes who featured on its platform have become highly sought-after internationally, with significant changes in their personal economic status.
Several international collaborations between our home-based music ministers and their foreign counterparts have been birthed on this very platform, which doesn't stop at that. Homegrown gospel music now enjoys significant airplays in both the mainstream and alternative media.
As a result of the vast improvement in quality, several gospel songs now compete favorably with secular music, oftentimes debuting at the Number 1 spot on music charts.
Before now, American gospel songs were the norm in our services. Today, our indigenous songs are favorites in many American Churches.
In a statement by pastor Paul Adefarasin at the 'Experience 13' press conference in Lagos, he noted, "While we do not take all the credit for the growth of the Gospel industry, we are proud to say that The Experience has played a very prominent role in this regard.
The socio-economic impact of this mammoth occasion is evident and lends credence to scriptures in the Psalms which attest that God blesses and causes the earth to yield its increase to His people whenever He inhabits their praises."