For decades, a staple of summer adventures for Christian music fans across the country has been found at Christian music festivals. Thousands gather for a weekend to forgo general personal hygiene etiquette in exchange to listen to a non-stop all day and night schedule packed with dozens of their favorites artists throughout the day on multiple stages.
But times continue to change and the lure of traversing into the middle of nowhere and sleeping under the stars is becoming less a pull than it used to. As music continues to evolve, so has the idea of the music festival and a new startup based in Nashville, TN is wanting to change the way music gets to the masses while encouraging the community to come together for greater good.
Enter chAMPion Festival. A vision that is working to become a reality in 2019 - that will combine heart, action and transformation for those that attend. We took some time with founder, and Christian artist, Jerry Fee to discuss the idea and see how we can all be involved in bringing this vision to reality.
Thanks for joining us today Jerry! First, let's talk about the idea of what the chAMPion Festival is all about.
Thanks for letting me share about this exciting vision God is calling me to. It's the story of Matthew 18:12-14. There are a lot of Christian artists reaching the 99. That's awesome, and clearly needed. I realized early on, what breaks my heart, is the ONE, who's isn't there and isn't with the good shepherd. I've known Christ (the good shepherd) my whole life, walked with, learned from, been forgiven much, trusted and found him faithful, time and time again!
He's calling me to leave the usual venues for Christian music and Christian music for Christians. By going out into high-traffic, visible places, having fun with people, using provoking music and inspiring conversation, I want to awaken people's hearts to their true identity, purpose and hope, found in him alone! I'm asking God to lead me in writing songs to address the issues on their hearts and minds, that are either keeping them from understanding the hope of the Gospel message or reframe the message in a way that compels them beyond their defenses.
A big part of these events will be community service. Why is that so important?
If we can help someone embrace the Gospel for the first time, or help them see Christ in a new way, that's an awesome step! I don't want anyone to feel like this is just another worldview option or "my truth". Jesus showed us that true worship and the preserving of good in our communities is accomplished in the same act of humble service. It's undeniable that our hearts transform and so are the hearts of those we serve. After Pentecost, when the church grew like wildfire, it was from two simple things—Teaching Jesus raised from the dead and humbly serving others in the community.
How else will this event be different than your typical local concert?
Free-ninety-nine! No cost for admission. The only exception being food vendors who need to sell.
It's not about any big named artist or building an artist's name. In fact, I want to see fewer artists playing and helping play/sing for each other's sets; showing community right from the mobile stage!
Did I mention a mobile stage so we can roll right up to the most suitable and visible location in a community? Yeah. We be rollin'.
At most festivals, there are dozens of events/activities happening while music is going on. That makes it really hard to engage and communicate a message. So, we are going to have the events/activities happen during the day, leading up to a shorter time of 2-3 artists doing music at the end, then being available to talk and/or pray with people who want to.
Talk about your non-profit partner, Artists in Christian Testimony Intl.
Oh man, am I so thankful God lead my family to Nashville so I could be introduced to this awesome organization! Long story short; A.C.T. Int. exists to help any kind of artist who has a heart to share the Gospel, find a way to make the dream God has given them, possible, through training, mentorship and a nonprofit partnership. They've been around since the 1970's and have over 400 artist missionaries around the world. Check them out at actinternational.org.
This event is really so much more than just the music. How are you going to communicate this?
For sure. We know music moves us in very deep ways, but this is just the catalyst for change. It's the hand shake. But, then, what do we talk about after that? I see this happening with each audience in a few ways: Artists being involved more than the entertainers who just jump all over a stage and then disappear into the van to drive off to the next town. As I mentioned earlier, each artist helping the others out from the stage. Spending time being available to hang out with people, share stories, and willing to pray with and for them. When we invite them to serve, serving alongside them. That can look different depending on the situation.
This idea asks the artists to actually stay and serve in the community. That isn't seen very often as tour schedules have them hoping from city to city pretty quickly. How will that look exactly?
It's definitely not, because when you have to be concerned with ticket sales and numbers, and I'm not knocking that model, you need to be as efficient with your time and resources as possible!
I'll use the Nashville metro area as an example for what I think God has called chAMPion to do. We can be in such a large area for a week or two and have a really great impact! We can be on the Vanderbilt campus one day, East Nashville the next, Franklin another, and as we let each community know that we'll be around for the next few days, we want to not only spend more time with them, grab a coffee the next morning, they could bring a friend to the next one, we can serve together painting a house another day, giving time to discuss this relationship with God—and then connect them to local ministries we've developed relationships with, so they can continue discipleship. That's really important to me—giving people a (trusted) next step.
What are your current needs? How can people join you in this vision?
Well, I keep trying to locate that rich, old uncle of mine, with that bad cough. No luck, so far. (It's okay to laugh at that!) But, being really honest, for me to go all-in committing my time away from other work and my family, and then the gear and costs of pulling these events off, so they can be free for the audiences, financial support is HUGE. Do I have to pay our president for that now? Anyways...
If this resonates with you, your church, a business owner friend or rich uncle, and you want to be a part of sending musicianaries out into the world, I'd love to chat with you more about what a tax deductible, financial partnership looks like! Please email me at email@example.com and let's connect on a video chat or phone call.
Kevin McNeese started NRT in 2002 and has worked in the industry since 1999 in one form or another. He has been a fan of Christian music since 1991.
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