Although springtime in Canada may still be a little chilly by southern U.S. standards, a few cities north of the border are heating up fast in preparation for Rock the River Tour-West.
In Vancouver, for example, popular artists The Afters rocked out this past weekend at FM419, an event that trains youth to share their faith with friends–months in advance of this summer’s Rock the River tour.
Hitting Fraser Valley (Vancouver, British Columbia) on Aug. 7; Calgary (Alberta) on Aug. 21; and Edmonton (Alberta) on Aug. 28, the second annual tour features the hottest Christian music and short, hard-hitting Gospel messages from Franklin Graham.
Last summer, Rock the River attracted 112,800 people in four U.S. cities: St. Louis, Baton Rouge, Quad Cities and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Josh Havens, lead singer for The Afters, described the band’s experience in Quad Cities as incredible. “It was amazing to be part of that,” Havens said during a phone interview. “I’ve always had so much admiration for the Billy Graham Association. My church has been very involved in anything they’ve brought to Dallas, so when they asked us to partner with some of these events, it was a no brainer.”
Havens said one thing that has always been huge for The Afters “is making a difference in our culture in places where Christians normally wouldn’t go. What I love about the Rock the River events is that they reach out the community as a whole, and they hold these events in places where … it isn’t necessarily in a church. So people who normally wouldn’t step in a church go and enjoy a concert and hear the Gospel.
“I think the opportunity to impact the culture outside the walls of the church is huge,” Havens added.
Another aspect he appreciates about Rock the River is training, like last weekend’s FM419 event. “The BGEA doesn’t just go into a city, make a splash, then leave people on their own. They set up months and months in advance, and they train and equip people to do follow up after the event – and that’s really when the work begins. After the concert is over, and after the people have left, someone is still there to help these people grow in their relationship with God, and plug into churches.
“It’s the most effective thing I’ve seen, as far as these types of events go,” he added.
Reaching out to youth is natural for Havens and his fellow band members who each served as youth ministers at one time or another. “My wife and I headed up the youth program at our church before I started touring heavily,” said Havens.
“I’ve always had a heart for youth,” he added. “It’s so important that we meet the youth where they are at, and grow them in the church, because they obviously are the future of the church.
“Just being part of something that is igniting their passion is definitely something we are excited about.”