"I feel like God sent them to help me."
On a cool, summer evening, Zak and Becky Alwin are praying with expectation. They’ve selected and equipped a small group of volunteers from local churches, developed a set list to tell a particular story, and papered the town with flyers inviting international student friends to enjoy a “Concert and Conversation” event.
Their vision: To bring together the strength of evangelism & discipleship, connection & community, teaching & application, through music concerts and CoJourner training.
“Music brings walls down,” says Zak. “GenZ wants to be known; they want to have a voice, not just come to listen. We’re being vulnerable with them on stage as we share our stories in our songs, and we give them a chance to be heard in small groups with our volunteers. They feel invited in.”
The concept is to combine evangelism and discipleship training through music outreach and CoJourner leadership. It makes for a unique experience where the art of music and storytelling combines with personal connection, missional outreach, and leadership development (the audience is not passive, but engaged, while Christians are empowered and afforded opportunities to be active in helping to fulfill the Great Commission.)
The events began to grow organically. CoJourners gave them a structure, making the vision transferable so Becky & Zak could train teams. During the concert, the Alwins incorporate small groups using Soularium to enhance the concert. “It was much easier than I thought!” commented one newly trained volunteer. “Thanks for helping us step out of our comfort zone and try something new!”
We were undone by their honesty and transparency in engaging with the questions (we were taught to ask). We learned so much about what concerns our students had about their future, and what their initial thoughts are about God.–volunteer Jon
Last month, Zak and Becky partnered with community leaders to host a cultural event for international students. “It was one of the most satisfying concerts we’ve ever done, because we saw people sharing their hearts with each other—getting to know one another. It was so encouraging to see students being loved on by our former Cojourner participants, along with some of the young ladies we’ve discipled the past few years, take the initiative to engage as “Explorers,” said Becky. “One young lady from Turkey told us this was the best day she had since coming to our town. I felt a great connection with her. I look forward to learning more about Yelena’s* ‘s story. To engage with someone on a caring level is a small win, but it’s a vital step as we build bridges to the gospel.”
The strength of the “Concert & Conversation“ events are evident in their results: Christians listen to non-Christians and are empowered to share the gospel, new relationships are formed that continue long after the concerts, and new believers are receiving Jesus and coming into the kingdom!
Midway through a recent concert, we had 10 volunteers share Soularium with a group of 5-10 international students per group. Following that time of discussion, Zak shared a bit of his testimony and the gospel. While Zak spoke, a young man was smiling and nodding at everything Zak was sharing. He was completely locked in. “His response was like he knew the words to the song I was talking about, he couldn’t help but to be moved by what God’s Spirit was doing on the inside.” So when we got the prayer response cards back, we were excited, and yet not surprised, that this man (Furkan*) was one of the five who responded “yes” to receiving Christ that night. We could see it in his eyes that God was already at work in his heart. After the concert, Furkan was able to get a Turkish new testament, and his Soularium leader is continuing to follow up with him!
The events use response cards as one more tool to go deeper with students, giving them another space to share their hearts. Many share prayer requests, and some indicate new faith in Jesus!
*names changed for privacy
Zak and Becky are excited for what this means in continuing to develop interactive evangelistic and discipleship opportunities. Zak says, “Our old approach of simply having a one-way
interaction from the stage out to the audience works, however, by using CoJourners to help empower believers (the host teams) to actively participate and engage with the rest of the audience seemed to significantly multiply the impact and sacredness of the night.