We had the opportunity to talk to Tim Collier from West Michigan. Tim works with Stockbridge Boiler Room and is the coordinator for 24-7 Prayer in Grand Rapids. We met Tim when the Luis Palau Association was planning the CityFest West Michigan Festival in Grand Rapids–a two-day outdoor music festival hosted by 400+ local churches drawing 30,000 people to hear the Good News. Tim posted an article about his skepticism regarding the festival and his change of heart. Of course, we wanted to hear the whole story. You can read Tim’s article here and find out more by reading our conversation with him below.
what are some of the things that you’re practically doing in West Michigan?
There have been many different seasons that look different. Stockbridge Boiler Room began on a front porch, with a group of people praying for what God wanted them to do in their city. This community started praying for a crack house and brothel that was across the way from them. Shortly after the house went into foreclosure, some folks said they would buy the house only if they felt this would help what the Lord was doing in the neighborhood. So, they bought and the community flipped it and it became a community house. The garage became a prayer room and they started inviting people to come pray three times a day.
Then, down the street, we started having a big meal at a Polish hall called “The Love Feast.” It’s a place for people to gather around the table, feel that they belong and experience the love of the Father. For eight years this meal happened every week, but recently it changed to once a month. We also felt the Lord calling us to be the Church in the neighborhood, so we have a core community that meets Sunday night and has a meal. We just felt like the meal—the shared meal—has been something that we found so much grace around. After the meal, we might have worship, a teaching or just hang out.
We got to this place through relying on God because so many things shifted and changed. There are success stories in what we have done, but when we realize we suck at something or need the Lord in a particular way we just invite his presence.
How does your DOWN-To-Earth Faith contrast with a big Evangelistic event coming into your city?
I’d never heard of Palau. I’d never heard of CityFest before this, so when someone explained it to me, the first reference point I had was a Billy Graham crusade. I thank God for all that God has done through the Billy Graham crusades and the evangelistic impulse. Power has been seen there, but I also know that we’ve come far as a Church in realizing that there are certain ways that our culture today doesn’t respond to certain ways of communicating the Gospel.
These types of crusades or festivals can reinforce segmented faith. People think, “My faith revolves around this one response that I had one time at this event.” I certainly believe that those moments can be real turning points. However, I also think there is more. The life-on-life discipleship of being brought into relationship with people, being shepherded, having peers that I’m able to link arms with, and then even being challenged like in my own story are critical things I think can often be missed in the big event stuff.
My initial thought was: “I don’t know if I want to put my energy into being a part of a big event.”
Then, a couple of close friends who were a part of the prayer community were really on board. They were locals and rallying behind it. I knew that they were going to be in the city after the big event. I knew they were people who were not just coming in and then leaving. That was huge realization. Then, another friend was helping lead the justice initiative aspect of CityFest called One West Michigan. Three people I trusted were involved and that helped me warm up to it.
At a conference for 24-7 Prayer, I met with a friend from Portland. I asked her about CityFest and she shared an amazing testimony of the Portland CityFest story from 2008. She shared how hundreds of churches participated in the season leading up to a CityFest in Portland. 10 years later, many of these same churches were still deeply involved in their city. What I thought was surface level was not just a surface level thing. There’s a lot of depth here and there’s a lot of potential for this to be a powerful thing for the Church in Grand Rapids if we embrace it.
what would you say to someone with the same concerns as you? How would you encourage them?
I would ask them: “Why are you not participating in this?” And if the answer was, ‘I don’t know anyone who’s a part of it’ I would just encourage the person to stick their nose in. Go to the meetings and gatherings to hear about the plans. Just ask other people why they are participating and then ask “Is there a good reason I’m not?”
If it is a philosophical or mental disagreement, I would ask, “Is the disagreement worth you not participating in something that your city is coming around? Are you being robbed of the opportunity to grow through the tension of having conversations at the table?”
I often think transformation comes when there is that tension–when people have disagreements and are willing to stay close to each other and not leave the conversation. There can be some disagreement about what the essentials and the non-essentials are. I recognize that. I think the heart of it still comes through though, there is a sense of love. If there are walls between churches, we should be challenged to bring the wall down to build relationships.
Read Tim Collier’s thought-provoking blog post here: Why This Event-based Ministry Skeptic is Getting Behind CityFest West Michigan