Some 8,000 people braved a steady rain Aug. 7 in Fraser Valley for the first stop of the Tour, with 466 either accepting Jesus Christ for the first time or rededicating their lives to Him.
According to Weather.com, partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures are predicted for Saturday, with only a 20 percent chance of rain.
The hard-driving concert event, to be held from 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., will feature several popular bands: downhere, Hawk Nelson, Lecrae, Skillet, Starfield and Flyleaf.
Throughout the day, Franklin Graham will proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, explaining how people can have their sins forgiven and begin life anew by turning from their sins and committing their lives to Christ as Savior and Lord.
Youth pastors from throughout Calgary voice their excitement and anticipation about what God will do in the lives of young people, who they say are searching for love, meaning and significance, but these can only be found in Jesus Christ.
“Many of the students who will be coming might not know Jesus, but they know who Skillet and Flyleaf are, and they’ve heard Hawk Nelson on the radio,” said Grant Weber, community impact pastor at First Alliance Church.
“While the students will be coming to hear the bands, they will also hear Franklin present the Gospel in a clear and powerful way,” Weber added. “And what’s also cool is that these bands also understand that Rock the River is not about their music, but it’s about them sharing Jesus Christ as well.”
Students Facing Multiple Spiritual Needs
As they canvass the spiritual climate today, youth pastors in Calgary point out that many students are searching–and are in many cases hurting inside–but they’re apathetic toward Christianity and they’re certainly not looking to the institutional Church for answers.
“Moral relativity is the tone of the day,” said Christopher Primeau, student ministries pastor at Midpark Christian Assembly. “Many people believe that if it doesn’t hurt anybody else, then it’s OK. This open and permissive atmosphere leads then to pervasive drug and alcohol use.”
Primeau went on to say that so many students feel tremendous pressure to perform and to adhere to a certain acceptable image that society dictates.
“On the other hand, there are kids who don’t want to conform, so they face loneliness and rejection and then ask, ‘Why doesn’t anybody love me,’” Premeau added.
This deep sense of loneliness, feeling of abandonment and yearning to be loved is manifesting itself not only in substance abuse, but also in increasing numbers of self-injury and suicide, explains Grover Bradford, youth community pastor at Centre Street Church and youth chair for Rock the River Tour West.
Bradford added that students desperately try to derive meaning and significance from their participation in various causes and movements in order to change their society and ultimately the world. Or they’re exploring Buddhism or Islam–but not the Christian faith.
“Our society is craving to fill a huge void within the human heart, but the only thing that can permanently fill that void is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” Bradford stated.
“And so Rock the River comes along and Franklin will speak truth from the Bible, and it’s our prayer that God’s truth will permeate the hearts of people and that they will realize their need for Jesus Christ and the hope that only He can provide,” he said.
The Impact of Personal Evangelism
Primeau said Rock the River affords teenagers and young adults the opportunity to be involved in something bigger than themselves and to advance the Kingdom of God.
“I’m so excited how our students have been trained and that this empowerment says to our kids that they are the Church now, that they don’t have to wait until they grow up later,” Primeau said. “They’re getting it that they are the best hope that their non-Christian friends have to come to Christ.
Weber concurs with that sentiment. “Our senior pastor always says, ‘People are 80 percent more likely to come to faith on the arm of a trusted friend,’” Weber said. “Relationally based evangelism will be the key to Rock the River. A friend bringing a friend.”
And so churches and youth groups throughout Calgary have been inviting their non-believing friends for weeks. And on Saturday, as thousands of young people make their way to Canada Olympic Park, those same churches and youth groups believe God will bring a special harvest, just as He did in Fraser Valley.
“We’re praying that God will do something amazing this weekend that we never anticipated or expected,” Bradford said. “We believe will celebrate stories of life change, and that Rock the River will serve as a catalyst for something new that He’s going to do in this city.”
Richard Greene is an Assistant Editor for Decision Magazine. He is on his way to Calgary to cover this leg of the Rock the River Tour.