Basking in CityFest’s Afterglow: What’s Next?

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

CityFest Cutline No. 1-1A combined 33,000 people attended the Sept. 8-9 CityFest to Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The recent two-day CityFest West Michigan drew a collective 33,000 people to Ah-Nab-Awen Park in downtown Grand Rapids that resulted in more than 2,000 making commitments for Christ. But now that the evangelistic outreach is finished, the larger question remains: what happens next?

Cornerstone University president Joseph Stowell, who served as the CityFest's co-chair, said the evangelistic outreach, produced by Portland, Oregon-based Luis Palau Association, succeeded in crossing denominational lines by bringing 435 Grand Rapids-area churches and nonprofit ministry organizations to work in unison toward one goal.

That they may be one

It's that unity among area churches that should continue to be engendered among the body of Christ, said Stowell.

CityFest Cutline No. 2-1From left: Luis Palau, Grand Rapids Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, and Andrew Palau. "One of Christ's unanswered prayers is John 17: 'That you all may one,'" said Stowell. "We think that together we can continue to do some important things here in West Michigan."

Stowell said with thousands of new decisions made for Christ, discipleship will be an ongoing mission in CityFest's aftermath.

"Any work that we do together we'll definitely want a discipleship component," he said. "As Christ said you don't want the birds to come and snatch the feed away, but we want to put them in deep and fertile ground in their hearts."

Education, equity, justice, housing

Moreover, Stowell said CityFest succeeded in kindling with churches, ministry organizations, business, civic, and cultural leaders continued conversations that will center on the Grand Rapids educational system, racial equity and justice and affordable housing.

     
 

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"We do not have any specific plans on paper, yet we want to spend some time praying together, seeking the Lord's face on this going forward," said Stowell. "I'm quite confident we'll want to continue evangelism and discipleship efforts as a part of what we do together going forward."

The Sept. 8-9 CityFest was a mixture of action sports featuring stunt demonstrations from the nation's top teams in BMX, freestyle motocross and skateboarding; concerts by top Christian recording artists including The Afters, Danny Gokey and LeCrae; a family fun zone for kids; and messages of hope by Luis Palau and his son, Andrew.

Rich DeVos' 20-year dream

CityFest was a dream 20 years in the making by Luis' friend, Amway co-founder and philanthropist Richard DeVos, who died at the age 92 two days before CityFest.

CityFest Cutline No. 3-1Joe Stowell: “We think that together we can continue to do some important things here in West Michigan.” "One of his (DeVos) wishes two and a half years ago before he passed away, was that there would be one more major effort for the gospel of Jesus Christ here in West Michigan," said Stowell.

"He and Luis had been good friends for years. Luis was here in 1994 at Fifth Third Ballpark (back when it was Old Kent Ballpark). The Lord put that on Rich's heart, let's bring Luis back. And then he passed away two days before the event started. It was a sad thing. Luis has stage four lung cancer, and thankfully he was able to speak as part of it (CityFest). Rich got it all going."

At this point in time, Stowell said he does not see another local CityFest in the foreseeable future.

"No, I don't envision that in the near future," he said. "Two, three years from now maybe something similar but that's not on the drawing board at this point.

"(But) we're not done."

Unity by the numbers

• 435 Grand Rapids-area churches and nonprofit ministry organizations, in partnership with dozens of business, civic, and cultural leaders, collaborated to produce CityFest West Michigan.
• 500 volunteers involved in pre-planning the event.
• 900 volunteers involved in on-site execution of the event.
• More than 2,000 Festival volunteers, trained to pray for and follow up with those who made commitments to Christ.
• Admission was free thanks to more than 746 individual, family and business donors.
• 15,000 in attendance on day one, with more than 64,000 online viewers.
• 18,000 in attendance on day two, with more than 77,000 online viewers.
• In total, more than 39,000 people were reached in person throughout the entire campaign, including multiple outreaches at prisons, a luncheon for women, Latina events, and a gathering for business and civic leaders. More than 220,000 viewed the events through multiple broadcasts online.
     
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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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