The Edmonton Journal
August 21, 2010
Over the years, music has played an important role in shaping
people's lives, particularly youth.
No one can deny the influence music, for instance, had during
the 1960s, when the world was turned upside down in many ways.
Lives changed. Ways of thinking changed.
Tim Neufeld, lead singer of Christian rock band Starfield, has
experienced the impact of music on his own life since the Winnipeg
group was formed in 1999 out of the Riverwood Church Community. He
grew up in the church and his first encounter with music was
through the church. So the formation of the band came naturally:
from who they were as people, what they believed and how they were
"It's the expression of our hearts and it's something we're
pretty passionate about," Neufeld said in a recent interview.
The band's passion will be on display Saturday, Aug. 28 at
Edmonton's Telus Field as the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association
of Canada puts on the Rock the River West music festival, featuring
Starfield, other Christian bands and sermons from world-renowned
preacher Franklin Graham.
"First and foremost, it's a medium for us to just honestly
communicate our faith journey through music," said Neufeld. "It's
maybe a little different than some of the other Christian musicians
out there in that I feel I need to be honest about struggles and
not just about the kind of running through the fields of daisies
"I think it's an inaccurate one-dimensional representation of
what Christianity is about if it's just all happy, happy, joy, joy
all the time, because it's certainly not my experience.
"And it's certainly not the experience of the biblical
characters that we herald; of those after the heart of God. The
people that we look to as the heroes of the faith are the ones that
were usually the most mixed up and I think sometimes in watered
down western 21st-century Christianity we tend to forget that. It's
typical of our society wanting to make everything simple and
The first Rock the River tour attracted tens of thousands of
people last year with a series of daylong concerts along the
"For so many young people, their lives are upside down and in a
mess and they don't even know why," said Franklin Graham, president
and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and
international relief organization Samaritan's Purse.
"That's why I'm so excited to have this opportunity to share the
message of God's love with all of these young people. It's a chance
to change thousands of lives."
Graham, son of world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham, is a
controversial figure for his passionate defence and straightforward
message of the Christian faith. The younger Graham has made
comments about other religions such as Islam that have landed him
in hot water. Earlier this year, the Pentagon rescinded an
invitation for Franklin Graham to attend the National Day of Prayer
event because of those past comments.
The Edmonton event is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Other
bands include Flyleaf, Skillet, Hawk Nelson, LeCrae and Downhere.
Cost is $10 at the gate or online at RocktheRiverTour.com.
The tour stops in Calgary today at Canada Olympic Park and took
place earlier this month in B.C.'s Fraser Valley.
Neufeld said Christian music is maturing in that it's willing to
take a few more risks about the topics it tackles in songs. He says
it is better and more culturally relevant.
"Christian music is a niche. And it's not ever going to be
accepted as the cool, contemporary kind of voice for the majority
of the population, but I think it can do a great job at what it
is," he said.
"It's never going to be the cool, accepted music of the culture.
It shouldn't be, I don't think. It's not designed to be. The Gospel
is supposed to be offensive and it's supposed to dig (at) and annoy
people. And if it's not doing that, then it's probably not truly
"My hope always is that Jesus is the star and that it's an event
that points people toward Him and mentors people in that
relationship. I think the Billy Graham Association has done a great
job of that over the years. And if that's what's happening and
people are coming to Christ and lives are being changed because
they were able to come to this event, I'm all for it."
Neufeld said the tour is helping bring churches together.
"Any time that happens, I think it's a good thing because
churches traditionally don't get along all that well," he said.
Fred Weiss, executive director of the Billy Graham Evangelistic
Association of Canada, said the organization excited about
involvement of local churches in the Christian rock event. More
than 170 churches have participated in some fashion.
"That's one of our goals: to help the church work together to
impact a community. We see that has taken place," said Weiss,
adding the event has also involves youth community action projects
where young people have come together to improve different
communities in different ways.
Weiss is confident the artists performing in Rock the River will
resonate with youth.
"These are people who are very well known in music circles both
in the secular world and also in the Christian music world. They've
all been affected by the message of the Gospel. Kids look up to
musicians. They appreciate where they're coming from and will
listen to them because these people can relate what they've
experienced in their relationship with God."
Tianna Heltman, a 17-year-old Rock the River volunteer from
Sherwood Park, agreed.
"So many of my friends at school don't know who God really is
and this is a way for them to come and listen to music and hear
more about God," said Heltman, who going into Grade 12 at Bev Facey
Community High School.
"It would be sweet to get them turned on to who God is."
Volunteer Randy Young, youth pastor at The Park Church in
Sherwood Park, hopes the festival changes lives: "This isn't just a
one-day festival where kids come and go. Rock the River Tour could
be an experience that could impact young people in Edmonton for the
rest of their lives."
© Copyright The Edmonton Journal
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada