Ocean Grove, New Jersey – A weekend of powerful Christian outreach events at the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove proved recently that Revival is in progress--- especially in the midst of the world supposedly coming to an end on May 21, 2011.
Produced by the Billy Graham Evangelical Association in conjunction with some 216 local church congregations, the Jersey Shore Celebration was the first of its kind in this area. Planner participants had been preparing- and praying- for the success of this event for some three years.
And if all those involved in the recent Will Graham Jersey Shore Celebration have their way, the Jersey Shore will be renamed the "Jesus Shore."
The planning and the praying paid off: about 14,000 people gathered- and some 860 came to Christ- during the course of four feature events, including a full house at the Friday evening kick-off event (a bright, sunny evening after multiple days of rain), enthusiastic crowds at the Saturday morning KidzFest, and SRO crowds both Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.
“The churches on the Jersey Shore have been faithfully praying for years for revival," event director Terry Wilken said. "Their prayers have broken down barriers denominationally, ethnically and geographically and have enabled them to work together in unity on the Jersey Shore Celebration and beyond. I believe this will be one of many legacies that are a direct result of this Celebration process.”
Featuring the Word of God as presented by Will Graham, grandson of famed preacher Billy Graham, and music by Matthew West, the Newsboys, FLAME, Chasen, and GodRocks!, the weekend had something for everyone of any age or background.
Chosen as one of only two locations for Will Graham Celebrations this year, the Great Auditorium couldn’t have been any more perfect a venue. Built in 1892, the unique facility boasts a modern soundstage and video set up and also an historic antique pipe organ. Also, Graham, 36 years old at this time, is the same age his grandfather was when he preached at the Great Auditorium on September 4, 1955.
Friday night’s kick-off with Matthew West can only be described as totally awesome. West brought the audience to its feet with the Grammy Award-nominated single “The Motions” from his third studio album “Something to Say,” then moved to gentle and inspiring “Only Grace.”
West then presented two selections from his latest CD, “Story of Your Life" (www.matthewwest.com), “My Own Little World,” (with a compelling video driving home the meaning of the lyrics being screened during the performance), and the uplifting and beautiful “Strong Enough.”
“Strong Enough” was written about the story of a struggling single mom. Its focus is Philippians 3:14: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” West shared that his father, a pastor, had taught him this passage as a child- even yelled it out to him (“Hey, Matthew, remember Philippians 3:14!”) when he was playing grade school baseball. But it was in 2007, when West faced throat surgery- a potential ruin for any vocal performer- that the scripture took on a whole other meaning.
Will Graham praised the organizers for a fine job- even despite the "New Jersey rain"- and delivered his first address with a focus on “choices." Using the example of Pontius Pilate and, in Biblical time, that man's decision to ignore his own perception and belief that Jesus Christ was the Lord, Graham pointed out how easy it is in our own modern time to discount our intuitive response to the Truth of the Gospel and the call to believe in Him. The choice we make is essential.
Saturday morning, outstanding performers "GodRocks!" took center stage with their music, acrobatics, and general hi-jinks- to the delight of audience members of all ages. Especially memorable was their number pertaining to the fruit of the Spirit; with jokes about the band members' colorful costumes, the team presented a great teaching tool. The kids- and many big "kids," too- really appeciated their musical approach to faith learning. There were some 160 commitments to Christ at this event, including one precious and amazing little girl named Bethany who, at age three, reported that she loved Jesus and had taken him into her heart as Lord and Savior.
Saturday evening, FLAME, a hip-hop performer and seminarian, to boot, opened the show and turned the Auditorium on its head with his unique style. The Newsboys were the amazing main event and performed several of their best-known songs, including "Jesus Freak," a recall to their formative years. Michael Tait, now part of the Newsboys after having left DC Talk, wowed with his vocals and his familiar, energetic gyrations. The group also treated the audience to the debut of their newest song, "Save Your Life."
Graham's Saturday evening talk focused on "potential," using the example of a simple writing implement, a pen. Although a pen has the potential to produce great things, it can produce nothing without being picked up by someone's hand and being put to, hopefully, good use. We can be used by God, and we can do great things when we are in His hand. There were 308 individuals who made commitments to Christ that night, 193 of those were first-time decisions.
Up and coming Chasen opened the Sunday afternoon show to an audience of about 5,000 like a meteor streaking through the sky. They debuted their new hit "On & On" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rqh9sHTXcAI to the enthusiastic crowd, and an Ocean Grove version of a mosh pit formed before the group hit the first chorus of the song. Who knew? Old and young danced together at stagefront like there really would be no tomorrow... The group continued to tear up the place with their hit "One in a Million"
Matthew West returned with a reprisal of his "The Motions" along with several other well-known and crowd-thrilling hit songs, then shared more about his walk with Christ, specifically how, at the age of 13, he came to know Christ- not by hearing his father preach but by watching Billy Graham on television!
Will Graham's closing message directly addressed the popular claim that the world would end on May 21, 2011. He offered a clarion call to action: the world is coming to an end and, while it didn't happen during this weekend of amazing music, teachings, and fellowship, it will happen at some point- whether through death or by Christ's return. Getting right with the Lord- right now- is the best choice.
“None of us know for certain when we will breathe our last breath," Graham said, "and we are all a heartbeat away from eternity. Whether you stand before God on May 21st, or whether you stand before Him 50 years from now, is irrelevant in the scope of eternity. The important thing isn’t when you stand before God; it’s where you stand with God.”
Those involved locally in presenting the Jersey Shore Celebration held gatherings the week following the event at the Bishop Janes Tabernacle, outside the Great Auditorium, in Ocean Grove. Further activities may be planned. For more information, please visit www.oceangrove.com.
For more information about the Jersey Shore Will Graham Celebration please visit the web site: http://www.billygraham.org/specialsections/wgc/Jersey_Shore_Celebration.asp?
Will Graham’s next multi-day Celebration will take place in Nakuru, Kenya in July. For more information on Will Graham, please visit www.willgrahamcelebrations.com.
Text & imagage copyright2011 M.D. Caprario
M.D. Caprario is a cross-over mainstream entertainment journalist and author, and a Christian writer and editor of stories about people whose lives have been changed through their faith. She works with writers all over the world, and reports from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco generally covering for the media books, film, and music. Reach her at [email protected].