And with the combined talents of the artists from Hark Up and Master Arts Theater (MAT), you might as well call it a "Variety Show."
And as the official title implies – the variety includes everything from "shabby to chic" and will be on display in a program Sat. May 18 (details below).
"Actually, the phrase 'variety show' kind of dates it – we're more contemporary than that," offered Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. "It's more like the Jimmy Fallon 'Tonight Show.'"
Indeed: included are vocal and instrumental music, sketch comedy, and interview segments led by comedic emcee Chris Knobloch.
Vanderwell is executive director of Camp Roger in Rockford and Camp Scottie in Howard City. Both are nonprofit independent Christian camps not affiliated with a church or denomination.
"They're open to whoever would like to enjoy the camps," said Vanderwell.
The Hark Up Horns and the Hark Up Choir (featuring outstanding soloists Angie Royce, Colin Tobin, Breighanna Minnema and others) place their spin on both modern day and classic musical expressions of faith.
"A New Hallelujah," a Michael W. Smith anthem, includes vocals from both Tobin and Hark Up executive director Chris Hansen. The assembled artists also cover the David Crowder tune, "All My Hope."
Baby Boomers: Remember the haunting beat of "Spirit of the Sky," that late 60s-early '70s, psychedelic-sounding mantra? It also gets the Hark Up treatment.
Using the message of each of the new songs, the inspirational-pop band is releasing 11 video segments to tell a through-the-generations story covering five decades in a family's life.
"We thought, let's create a movie that builds around the songs," said lead singer-songwriter Mark Hall. "Not a music video, but about people just living their lives with the songs simply in the background."
The tunes on their "Only Jesus" release offer backdrops for the video segments.
One recently issued video features the song "In the Hands of the Potter." In the storyline, a granddaughter follows in her ill grandmother's footsteps by taking up pottery and art (watch online). It continues the family story established in the previous six episodes.
"Unrelenting" - the title of the production - describes the love of God, pursuing his people through the lives of Old Testament figures right into the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection.
"It's a modern version of (the Old Testament prophet) Hosea," said director Vicki Modert, Blythefield's head of worship ministries. Modert and her writing team fashioned the original script.
A contemporary couple's marriage is strained with rumors of the wife's infidelity. Even when the truth comes to light, the college professor forgives her and "buys her back," exactly as God told Hosea to do for his unfaithful wife.
They also experience respect from the cadre of volunteers and two-person staff who keep this Christian nonprofit humming with purpose.
"Most importantly, we try to treat everybody with a little dignity and respect so they leave feeling good," said Sandy Jenkinson, an assistant to executive director Dale Echavarria.
But the Andrew Peterson composition "God Rested" does exactly that. And the song provides a hinge-point in the artist's resurrection series showcase, which he brings to Byron Center on Sat. April 13.
"God Rested" refers to the literal internment of a dead Christ, and is the last song in a musical prologue. It's the jumping off point to his collection "Resurrection Letters Vol. 1," full of joyful songs of Christ's victory over the tomb.
But a listener is left hanging with anticipation on that final note.
"We are living in a time of that suspended chord," said Peterson, 44. "We know we have a promise of Christ's return but we're in a tension of expectation and longing."
The very next song is "His Heart Beats." Its poignant resurrection depiction opens with the line "His heart beats, his blood begins to flow; waking up what was dead a moment ago."
Readers looking for Christian fiction to delve into need look no further than our great state of Michigan. Authors from around the state have new releases this spring and summer that offer a wide range of genres and styles for eager readers. The month in parenthesis is the month of the book's release; all books are available at Baker Book House or online retailers.
Shannon Popkin, author of “Control Girls: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible” (Kregel), and Kate Motaung, author of “A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging” (Discovery House), faced those struggles like many authors do. They join forces to take a deep look at platform and following Jesus in their new book “Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me),” which released in January.
“The tension is that if you want to pursue an agent or book contract or get accepted as a speaker at a conference, you have to already have a following,” said Motaung, host of Five Minute Friday, an online community for Christian writers. “But as Christians called to elevate Christ and humble ourselves, how can we be true to our convictions yet put ourselves out there?”
"Underdog" is largely the story of his life. From his upbringing ("Grand Rapids Made") to his busy schedule ("I Don't Sleep") and his life's musical mission ("Passion"), Gonzalez reveals his heart as he lays out his faith-based journey to serve his Savior.
There are tell-tale local references. A radio clip of the West Michigan Whitecaps baseball championship broadcast opens one of the tracks. Baseball was a large part of life for the Comstock Park native, who played the sport in high school and college and spent a chunk of his youth around Fifth Third Ballpark.
One of those artists is KB (Kevin Burgess, pictured), who says the roster comes together under a cohesive theme.
"It's about the eternal aspects of our existence and what we do that impacts that," said KB, 30, from Nashville. "There's a universal message about being unashamed, and I think every artist in their unique way is beating that drum."
There will be plenty of on-stage collaborations as well as some solo time. "We've put together something special that a lot of folks will enjoy," he promised.
They're off to a good start – the first two weeks worth of shows were sold out in major markets such as Houston and Atlanta.
"A lot of things were hitting us, but this has been like the Lord saying we've turned the corner," said the lead singer of the inspirational-pop group Big Daddy Weave.
It's been nearly four years since the band issued its last album. But after a stretch of life challenges, their new ballad "Alive" has been released and will be followed by an entire new collection later this year.
"This is a season of rest, even as we're touring," said Weaver, 43, on the phone from Nashville.
Big Daddy Weave comes to Hudsonville for a performance on March 29.
Degage Ministries is moving forward with plans to expand services to the area's homeless and low-income families, made possible by a $6 million construction project.
"We feel strongly that God is calling us to this bigger role and now is the time," said Marge Palmerlee, Degage's executive director. "We need to be able to address those immediate needs and not have people sleeping in their cars, on the street and under bridges. We're excited to be able to address those needs that have been identified in our community that is vital for health and welfare."
Construction will start in the spring and take about a year to complete. The goal is to keep serving people during construction, Palmerlee said.
"The plan is to not have to shut down," she said.
"I loved that it caused them to think...where is she going with this?" she said of the anthem on her latest album.
No, it's not the story of a past relationship or any kind of romantic entanglement. Instead, it's a musical statement rejecting fear and its undue influence in a determined believer's life.
The song's music video with more than 10 million views, depicts a phone call in which the artist tells fear that "you don't own me" and "the no vacancy sign on my heart is lit up."
The New York native showcases the song on her tour which comes to Holland, Mich. on March 24.
That's the humorous premise of "Rise Up, O Men," the sixth installment of the popular stage musical-comedy series "Church Basement Ladies."
"The roosters have invaded the henhouse," smiled executive producer Curt Wollan from a stop in Palm Springs, CA.
The production comes to Byron Center's Van Singel Fine Arts Center on March 26.
The setting is familiar to long time fans: East Cornucopia Lutheran Church in rural Minnesota back in the 1950s and 60s when church basement kitchens were a social hub with their own pecking order.
It was the death of their son that birthed in 2009 the Hudsonville-based Starlight Ministries, a Christ-centered peer-to-peer support nonprofit that meets people where they are in their pain without judgement. Starlight also has an outreach in the Muskegon area. Meetings are held at area churches in both locales.
Starlight initially started as a balm solely for grieving kids, but its focus soon expanded to other ages, said Bev Thiel, Starlight's executive director.
"It started for just kids but within a few short weeks the parents were all waiting in the other room supporting each other while the kids were in group so they added the adult group right away," said Thiel.
He's returning to West Michigan March 10 with his "Hits Deep" tour at Van Andel Arena (details below). That's barely a year after performing there to a sold-out crowd. Plus his visit last September during the Luis/Andres Palau CityFest. "We love us some Grand Rapids," Toby grinned.
But this time he's coming with a new album, "The Elements," released last fall. His previous project, "This Is Not A Test," came in 2015.
Here are three highlights for March:
Meeting weekly at different times and locations in the Grand Rapids area, COG affords pregnant woman and single mothers an opportunity to realize the strength that comes with being a member of a community of like-minded people.
Gatherings start with sharing a provided meal while their children are taken care of, followed by Bible studies, goal-setting strategies, and encouragement for healthy life choices.
The "normal" response pattern to any and all of these circumstances might include disbelief, hurt, anger, bitterness, and maybe vengeance. Some people might even argue that such emotions are justifiable and understandable.
People expect a certain amount of "righteous anger." It's a part of our American code of individualistic ethics. Kill or be killed. Hallowed self-defense. John Wayne rides again.
"I get to come to my hometown – my brother and sisters are all around the area and it's gonna be great," said the Grand Rapids native from his home near Dallas, TX.
Michael brings his "In The Moment" comedy tour to Grand Rapids First Church on Sunday March 3 (details below).
It's right here in West Michigan where the Ottawa Hills H.S. grad honed his comedy chops – his second ever "club" date was in the old Comedy Den in Cascade Township.
I was raised in a Christian home—in the best sense of that phrase. I was regularly taken to church before I was born, and much more after that, so thanks to my parents I've been attending Bible-believing churches for over sixty years. This doesn't make me an expert on all things ecclesiastical, and certainly does not mean I always choose well and wisely. Far from it. But maybe like some of you it makes me "experienced," and thus reasonably adept at detecting changes over time.
"This is an opportunity for some intense training and skill-building, said Sapp, 48, of the fellowship honor.
After some initial inquiries Sapp decided to apply for the program, which was in line with his current involvement with area non-profits – including the Better, Wiser, Stronger boys' mentoring organization.
Sapp was selected as one of 80 candidates from across the country, to help spur the foundation's goal of advancing racial equity and racial healing and creating sustainable solutions.
Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) partners with the Kellogg foundation. CCL President John Ryan was impressed with the high caliber of new fellows.
"My editor at WaterBrook sent an email to me and other authors asking for proposals for novels dealing with the persecuted church," said Thrasher, who lives with his family in the Grandville area. "I had tons of ideas; this one grew into something organic. It's a standalone, but there are storylines not tied up so there could be other novels."
Thrasher will talk about and sign copies of "American Omens: The Coming Fight for Faith" at 7 pm Thursday, Feb. 21, at Baker Book House in Grand Rapids.
They thought it was encouraging that a Christian-based healthcare practice would operate without co-pays and deductibles, but instead, a monthly fee akin to paying a gym membership.
But, they added, could it really be done?
"People told us you couldn't do this," Blocher said in a recent interview at CHC, 3322 Beltline Ct. NE, in Grand Rapids. '"You guys are nuts. There's no way that you're going to do this.'"
Now they know better, said Blocher. CHC opened for patients in July 2017.
To understand what makes CHC unlike other primary care centers – both Christian and otherwise – stems in part from Blocher's concerns about the history and current condition of the U.S. healthcare system he says is both secular and pagan. This trend reaches back to when former President Bill Clinton charged his wife, Hillary, to launch in 1993 a Task Force on National Health Care Reform, referred to pejoratively as "Hillarycare."
Manna Media is working hard to create a series of short videos with a more evangelistic message. Along with that, we are about to launch a pilot digital media campaign combined with a bot strategy. Our goal is to engage with God seekers online by asking engaging questions beginning with phrase What If God Is ______?
We have created a web page to send God seekers, and those that really don't know they are seeking God, to a site where they will find a greeting, a gospel presentation(s) as well as a resource page. We are planning media campaigns In our media campaigns where we will target different audiences and will send them to different landing pages geared to individual interests, all within a given location. On the webpage, we will have a list of churches within that target area.
February has a couple of already sold-out shows – Drew & Ellie Holcomb Feb 11 and NeedToBreathe's acoustic show Feb. 23. But there's more to fill up the calendar.
First let's hit the big stage at Van Andel Arena:
But as Sue discovered early last year, not every child has a bed of their own to sleep in, a fact that motivated her into action when she became the Cedar Springs chapter president for the Twin Falls, Idaho-based, Sleep In Heavenly Peace (SHP).
With 115 chapters in 39 states, the nonprofit rallies volunteers like Jim and Sue to hand-make bunk beds for children ages 3 to 17 who have one of their own. Requests for beds are made through SHP's website, shpbeds.org.
That was one of several points made at a "Worship and Culture" seminar during the recent Calvin Symposium on Worship, Jan. 24-26 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids.
One of the panelists at the session was Dr. Monique Ingalls, assistant professor of Church Music at Baylor University in Waco, Tex.
"I study evangelical worship music in North America that has – for better or worse – become globalized," she told an audience in the Prince Conference Center. "We have a lot to learn from our brothers and sisters around the world."
The annual conference includes artists, musicians, pastors, academics, students and worship leaders/pastors from around the world for a time of learning, encouragement and worship.
"The past few years have brought a massive amount of transformation in my life," said the faith-based, hip-hop/rap artist. "And through it all I've been able to not only hear - but also experience - what God's been telling me.... transformation I've needed to grow as a Christian."
While society has largely moved forward from outright exclusion to mainstream integration, congregations that profess Christ's love for all can use a few pointers on what inclusion looks like in the light of the gospel, Carter said Jan. 17 during Calvin College's annual January Series.
But now she’s stepping out in front of the stage serving as lead vocalist for her own band on its first ever tour.
Ledger and numerous other Christian music artists come to Grand Rapids Jan. 18 for the Winter Jam Tour at Van Andel Arena
“This is the first tour I won’t be on the bus with Skillet,” remarked Ledger, 29, by phone from her home in Kenosha, WI.
Ledger (also the name of her band), released a six-song collecting of new music last year. On the Winter Jam tour she’ll be performing several of them – including her No. 1 Christian rock hit “Not Dead Yet.” The lyrics reveal a personal challenge for the artist.
June 2011 was the first time delegates from the two synods assembled to chart new evangelistic waters since the two denominations split in 1857.
Among the agreements reached were symbolically adopting a resolution their respective synods approved earlier of a more gender-inclusive translation of three Reformed confessions.
Another was on a larger scale that the late Amway co-founder Richard DeVos helped to engender: Launched was a joint church planting project in four "test areas" in the nation, including West Michigan, dubbed Kingdom Enterprise Zones.
I walked in the house with my fuse lit. I proceeded to make my way to the place where I thought I would find my daughter. Upon seeing her, I immediately starting sharing my thoughts and concerns about this incident, speaking to her in a volume that was way too high, with my words coming so quickly there was barely time to take a breath.
"I'm not sure where, when, or why it changed. But the story got bigger and bigger, more and more complex and needing more research," said Bartels, who lives in Lansing and is Trade Catalog Manager and copywriter for Baker Publishing Group.
Now "We Hope for Better Things" is a time-slip novel that moves between three time periods: 1861 Lapeer County, 1963 Detroit, and current-day Detroit. All the story lines are linked to one farmhouse in Lapeer County north of Detroit.
He can shoot the breeze with the best of them, whether it's chatting about his wife of six years, Jessica, their three daughters, the pink sock tucked in his Bible he uses as a bookmark, or the dual need for Christ and coffee represented in John Waller's song, "Awakening." (I need Jesus and a little caffeine.")
When Nylen laughs, it is easy and genuine.
Then there's another facet to this Michigan Army National Guard veteran who served as a 19D Calvary Scout in Iraq from 2007-2009, in what is known as Operation Iraqi Freedom, or simply, the Iraq War.
"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring..." Wait, wait, wait. See, that's what most people think of when they remember the Christmas story. But that's not the authentic account of Christmas.
I hope that as you take a moment to ponder your life this Christmas season, you will remember the real story. The true story. The story that continues today and goes something more like this: "'Twas the night before nothing, back some 2000 years before, came the birth of a baby boy named Jesus, the blessed spirit, small and poor."
Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM) and Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) have opened two housing units at an undisclosed location on Grand Rapids' West side for men who are transitioning from the MTM shelter.
ICCF is the owner and property manager while leasing the two homes to MTM, which will continue to mentor the men in their new living surroundings. Combined, the two homes have a capacity of housing five men.
First, I'd like to mention a couple of holiday-related events coming up yet this month.
* This may be a bit different for the Christmas season... a live comedy sketch show, "Christmas Night Live (CNL)" is set for 7:45pm Fri. Dec. 14 at Grace For the Nations Church, 3333 Kraft Ave. SE Kentwood. Tickets and information at https://www.facebook.com/events/334162673821761/or call 616-974-9128.
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