In late August, thousands of youth will fill up venues in Milwaukee (Aug. 20-21) and Denver (Aug. 27-28) to hear the Gospel presented through song and Franklin Graham’s messages. The events will follow the model of the Rock the River Tour and Rock the River Tour West.
Rock the Lakes: Milwaukee
BJ Rogers, Rock the Lakes Festival Director, has been in Milwaukee since November in preparation for this project. He says the time for something like Rock the Lakes is now. Almost from the first day he arrived, he has sensed the readiness of Milwaukee for something of this significance. Much of this readiness stems from the Billy Graham Crusade that took place there more than 30 years ago.
“Milwaukee is ready for something big to happen. Dr. Graham came here in 1979, and people still look back on that quite fondly. Some of them even gave their lives to Christ as a result of it,” Rogers explained. “It’s been a long time since and it is the underlying heartbeat among local pastors and churches to have a big awakening that something like this can bring.”
The enthusiasm of the local Christians was apparent as 360 pastors and church leaders showed up to the recent launch meeting, despite a harsh snowstorm. The launch meetings that happen in each city act as a forum for BGEA Festival leadership to explain the mission and the vision of the events to that city’s Christian leadership. One thing Rogers says they want to make clear is that projects like Rock the Lakes and Rock the Range are about more than the day of the Festival.
“This is so much more an event. It’s actually a year long process of preparing. There are a lot of plans in place for follow-up after the event. We’re not just looking for new decisions for Christ. We want to play a role in helping the local church make disciples.”
Rock the Range: Denver
Art Bailey, Rock the Range Festival Director, says the need for the Gospel is urgent in this region. “This is a very unchurched area. I’m hearing reports that anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the population is not engaged in a local body of believers.”
He speculates that one of the reasons for this is that the spirit of independence once held by the western-moving pioneers continued into several generations. “There is still a remnant of that culture that came west to escape tradition of the east, and maybe that translates into a sense of spiritual independence.”
While the next few months involve processes, organization and training among the Christian leadership and churches in the Denver area, his hope is to see the much of the vast unchurched population be affected by Rock the Range.
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“There is no doubt that we can have a solid, wonderful Christian event. We’ve got the speaker. We’ve got the music. But, we’re missing the mark if we don’t get those in here who have never heard or responded to the Gospel message in a life-changing way.”
It is here where Bailey says the process of the next few months is to prepare a platform for the Gospel to be preached. This platform will not only be for Franklin Graham and the musicians, but for the local church. “Franklin Graham has said time and time again that we will use every means available to spread the Gospel. We can’t think of anyone better to spread the Gospel across Denver than the people who live here,” he said.
As the Rock the Range Activities are just ramping up, no amount of preparation is worthwhile without a foundation of prayer. “We are just beginning this process. We’re meeting face to face with people who want to be involved. This is a very worthwhile endeavor, but our first project will be to lay foundation of prayer,” says Bailey.
“Scripture tells us that the harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few. We need to pray consistently that God will raise up people in these cities who will not just be involved in the events leading up the ‘the event,’ but that people will come alongside others after the event and make disciples.”