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‘Winter Jam’ sees thousands come to Christ

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Organizers are in the follow-up stage for 37,000-plus people who made decisions for Christ during the 33-city “Winter Jam 2007” tour featuring a slate of popular Christian musicians and a clear Gospel message.

In its 11th year, Winter Jam included Steven Curtis Chapman, NewSong, Jeremy Camp, Hawk Nelson, Sanctus Real and Britt Nicole on a tour that wrapped up in March. About 20,000 of those making decisions were accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior, Tony Nolan, the tour’s evangelist, told Baptist Press.

For a teenager who attended a Winter Jam concert in Tampa, Fla., in January, the Gospel message Nolan presented made a difference in where she would spend eternity. Ashlee Harvey, 15, accepted Christ at the concert after she realized that although she had been active in church she wasn’t really saved, Nolan said.

When the concert was over, she couldn’t stop talking with her friends about her new relationship with Christ. But before she made it home that night, the car she was riding in with two friends was struck by a Freightliner truck and she died at the crash scene, Nolan said.

“It makes me as a minister want to make sure that when I’m speaking, I’m saying something that’s going to matter for eternity,” Nolan said. “I want to stick to the stuff that lasts forever and not try to recreate a message that would be so vague for whatever sensitivity to my culture.”

Harvey’s friend Alex Riner also attended the concert and died in the crash that night, and after the concert they had picked up another friend, Brandon Cheshire. Nolan said Riner and Cheshire had already made decisions for Christ before that night, so he is confident they were saved when they died.

Winter Jam organizers invited the families of the three teenagers to a concert in Knoxville, Tenn., after the funerals, Nolan said, and Harvey’s grandmother who had never heard the Gospel accepted Christ. Also, Cheshire’s death and the message at the concert led his parents to work toward reconciliation in their marriage.

“How is that for proof that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation? God is awesome,” Nolan said.

Winter Jam organizers are using local church contacts, e-mail and other Web resources to follow up with those who made decisions at the concerts so that they’ll have opportunities to grow in their relationship with Christ, Nolan said.

“On all levels of musicians on this tour — from an old-school Steven Curtis Chapman to the youngest, craziest band around, Hawk Nelson — they’re all agreeing that ministry is really what it’s all about,” said Nolan, who also has presented the Gospel on tour with Casting Crowns. “It’s neat to see that those younger guys are getting that.

“Nashville and the music industry are realizing that what they do should really connect with local churches and have a big influence on ministry,” he said. “God and ministry headlined the tour. I believe that focus was why I even have this story to tell about 37,000 people connecting with God.”

Nolan recounted to BP the method he used to introduce the Gospel most nights on tour.

“I tell them I was diagnosed with a terminal infection inside my heart, and a famous person who starred in these major Hollywood blockbuster movies donated me a new heart,” Nolan said. “Then I tell them a transplant took place. I had heart surgery, and the surgery was so successful that I’m going to live forever.

“That’s my segue into the Gospel. I tell them that I’ve been reading a health book written by the greatest doctor in the world and it says that every person in this arena has the same infection,” Nolan added. “I tell them the infection is sin, and then I share with them that the health book is the Bible and the doctor is God. I tell them our hearts are deceitfully wicked and we’ve all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, living not for His glory but for our own.

“Then I tell them the good news of the Gospel is Jesus is the famous one who stepped out of the obscurity of a carpenter’s shop and then leaped onto the pages of human history because He was virgin-born, He lived a sinless life, they butchered Him on a cross, they buried Him and three days later He rose. Why? He gave up His heart in order to give us a new one with God. I tell them we have to agree with God about our sinful hearts and repent.”

Nolan urged those who communicate the Gospel through the spoken word to realize the value of songs for the same message reaching people.

“Pastors and evangelists really need to make sure they have a finger on the pulse of the music industry more than any other art because it often becomes a more frequent feeder to our people in our churches than our sermons,” he said.

The artists who were part of Winter Jam agreed that ministry had to be as important as the music and entertainment part of the show.

“I’m so grateful to God for the amazing spirit of humility in the community of artists that were a part of each night,” Chapman told BreatheCast.com, a Christian music website. “It was profound to see each of the artists put aside our own agendas and consciously come together focused strictly on the one goal of presenting the Gospel.”

Eddie Carswell of NewSong agreed with Nolan that the results for the Kingdom of God were the success of the tour and its focus on ministry.

“I truly believe that as long as we keep God as the ultimate headliner of the tour that He will continue to bless Winter Jam for many years to come,” Carswell said. “I know the most important memories for all of us on the tour will be the lives that committed to Christ and the kids who were supported.”

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  • Erin Roach