Though he is not at all familiar with such well-known bands and musicians as Flame, Fresh IE, Starfield, The Letter Black and Thousand Foot Krutch, Jeremiah Lexier nevertheless bubbles over with enthusiasm about Saturday’s Rock the River Festival in Winnipeg.
“I don’t know what the music is going to be like at all,” Lexier said.
“But do you know what? I’ll rock out with them for Jesus,” the 82-year-old said, laughing loud and slapping his knee.
Lexier, who pastored a Messianic Jewish congregation for 15 years until his wife Beth passed away in 2009, will be among the hundreds of volunteer counselors who will participate at the high-energy evangelistic event in downtown Winnipeg at the popular hangout known as The Forks.
“I love to be where the Spirit of God is at work, bringing people into His Kingdom,” Lexier said. “I believe Rock the River will be a wonderful venue to reach out to unsaved youth and tell them about the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Other local pastors and church leaders voiced their enthusiasm for the two-tiered outreach, which will feature KidzFest for children from 10 a.m. to noon and then the youth event for teenagers and young adults from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Franklin Graham will proclaim the Gospel several times during the program.
“We’re excited about how the Church of Jesus Christ is working together for the sake of a generation that is oftentimes lost by the church,” said the Rev. Bruce Adams, pastor of Kilcona Park Alliance Church. “We’re really focused on that age group and reaching out with the love of Christ and His message of hope.”
Adams explained that there is a “tremendous spiritual openness” among youth in Canada today, and that the Christian community in Winnipeg is grateful to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association for the training it has provided to equip Christians to share their faith openly, boldly and effectively—not only at Rock the River on Saturday—but long after the event is over.
“We are now able to engage our youth in conversation and to be honest about our own relationship with Jesus Christ and to tell them about Him as the Truth,” Adams added.
The Reverend Ron MacLean, pastor of Gateway Church, said he is thankful to Franklin Graham for his heart for the next generation. “I think sometimes we can overlook and bypass them in all of our church responsibilities,” MacLean said. “But Franklin’s vision and passion have challenged and encouraged us to reach out to this generation, and BGEA has given us tools to actually get on with evangelizing them.”
On Thursday night, as the volunteer counselors gathered at Calvary Temple, not too far from The Forks, for their final prepping, MacLean prayed, “Lord, that You will pour out Your Spirit not only on Franklin and on every band, but also on every counselor who will be talking to people about how they can receive Christ as Savior and become His followers and disciples.”
The Rev. Bruce Martin, who is pastor at Calvary Temple, expressed his excitement about Rock the River because it presents Christians with a golden opportunity to practice friendship evangelism on a mass scale. “It’s really all about believers talking about Jesus with friends, with classmates, with neighbors and bringing them along so that they can hear the Gospel,” Martin said.
“God has a redemptive heart, and He is not willing that any should perish,” he said. “This weekend, we as Christians will be available to be used by the Lord as He puts a hunger in the heart of non-believers who will come to Rock the River, and He takes off their blinders so they can understand and respond to the invitation to come to faith in Him.”
Asked what he is praying that God would do this weekend, Ted Hull, who is serving as chairman for Rock the River, thought for a minute. He then said there will be a lot of young people who will be coming to The Forks who are hopeless and who have never heard the Gospel once.
“They will hear the bands sing and Franklin Graham share about the love of God and the hope of Jesus Christ, and they will say that love and hope are four-letter words they’re not accustomed to hearing,” Hull said.
“I’m praying, and so many others are praying, and we ask Christians around the world to pray that God will get a hold of their lives and touch their hearts; that they will come forward to commit their lives to Christ and see their lives changed forever,” Hull said.
“But if they don’t respond just yet, we pray that God will move them along in their spiritual journey,” Hull said, “that they will be able one day to look back at Rock the River and say that’s where their search began, and that is where they were pointed in the right direction to come to Jesus.”
Rock the River: The one-day Sept. 17 lineup includes Canada’s Thousand Foot Krutch, Winnipeg native Starfield, Fresh IE, The Letter Black and Flame. The event will run from 4 to 9 p.m. and is completely free, but $25 Rock Zone passes can be purchased and includes an exclusive T-Shirt and preferred access close to the stage along with other benefits. One additional Rock Zone wristband will be given with each purchase, to be given to an unchurched friend. Kidzfest, aimed at younger children and their parents, will be held from 10 a.m. to noon on Sept. 17, featuring Fiji’s Island Breeze, comedy magician Greg & Oonaugh Wood, Puppets4Him and God Rocks!
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