By Rick Kern
“The challenge for the church today, is that you’re not going to wow young people with lights and videos or games and activities,” observes veteran youth worker Mike Chorey. “What this generation really needs, is to know that they are loved, and ultimately that they need the power of God working in their life. Never has the Gospel, the pure and simple message of Christ and what He did on the cross, been needed as desperately as it’s needed now.”
Chorey, who has worked with youth for some 35-years, began his tenure with the organization, Youth for Christ, and is the founder and director of Joshua Revolution, a youth-oriented ministry focused on sharing the Gospel. Through a sprawling continuum of innovative outreaches that include city-wide conferences, evangelistic campaigns, public school ministry, radio, missions, and much more, Chorey and his team strive to bring young people and their families into a personal relationship with Jesus.
“It’s been a journey for sure,” says Chorey reflecting on his early days as a believer and his call to youth ministry. “It’s been ups, it’s been downs, it’s been all arounds. I continued in my church but I also knew that I had a call in my life and just a few years later, I went into full-time ministry — started working with Youth for Christ and the rest is history from there.”
In addition to his current work with Joshua Revolution, Chorey serves as Senior Pastor of CrossRiver Church, a vibrant fellowship located in Grand Island, New York. “Pastoring is the most challenging, most gut wrenching, most rewarding, and most humbling work I’ve ever done in my life,” Chorey reveals. “All I would say to anybody ever thinking about pastoring or ministering for that matter, you have to know that you are called. If I wasn’t called, I never would have ever made it.” He adds candidly, “The challenge, the heartbreak can be overwhelming, but there are also incredible miracles, seeing lives change and people healed is so rewarding but it is very difficult to be a pastor in this generation.”
A Western New York native, Mike Chorey found himself alone with God in a crowd of Christians at church one very special Sunday. “I realized that I had to make a decision or else — no decision is still a decision,” he recalls. “On my 20th birthday, March 28, 1982, I finally got up and went down to the altar and it was there, at that altar, that I confessed my sins, repented of my sins, and asked Jesus to come into my life…” he continues, adding, “And sure enough, He did! He changed everything.”
Chorey was attending the University of Buffalo at the time and got involved with the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ who invested heavily in Mike’s life. They reached out and discipled the young believer, getting him connected to small group Bible studies on campus. “They had this event that was going on at Christmastime called KC 83,” he recalls. “I ended up going to that winter convention and there were about 20,000 college students from all over America who were there in the Municipal Auditorium in downtown Kansas City.”
It was there at KC 83, that Mike had a significant spiritual growth spurt and realized how vast his new family was. “I had no perspective how big the Kingdom of God was — all I knew was this little group at the University of Buffalo and my church,” says Chorey. “Here, I walk into a convention center and there’s 20,000 college kids there, worshipping and praising God. I heard speakers like not only Dr. Bright, but I also heard Billy Graham, Elisabeth Elliot, and Josh McDowell.
And while God used all the speakers on the roster in a powerful way, Elisabeth Elliot’s message had a greater and more compelling impact on Mike than the others — so much so that he was never the same! In fact, it inspired a small, heartfelt prayer that the Lord would use to change thousands of lives through the years. “I said a little prayer at KC 83, I said, ‘Lord, this conference has so changed my life here. I’ll never be the same again and if you ever want to use me in an event like this, I just want you to know I’m available.’”
The Lord took him at his word…Ten-years to the day of KC 83, the now legendary Niagara Youth Conference was born. “The Niagara Youth Conference, in many ways, was an image of KC 83,” explains Chorey. “What I had learned at KC 83, what I experienced, I wanted to duplicate for the high school and junior high students.” He was passionate and conviction-driven about the vision God had given him for the conferences. “People would say to me, ‘Keep the budget down and have one or two speakers,’ but in my mind, I was thinking KC 83 had multiple speakers, who were all amazing communicators,” he continued. “I wanted to duplicate that so at every power session, the young people would hear a different voice that had a different message or a different approach to that message just as I heard at KC 83. A lot of Niagara was born out of what I experienced at KC 83.”
While the first event, launched in 1993, was very successful, attracting just over 500 people, Mike just didn’t know if there would be another. “I absolutely loved it, every bit of it,” says Chorey, “but it was just so much work for a small, little ministry that we didn’t know if it was going to be one conference.” He added, “But we saw after the first year, there was a hunger, there was a need and so we decided to do a second one.”
Between 1993 and 1998 they went from just over 500 to more than 5,000 participants making the Niagara Youth Conference one of the fastest growing non-denominational youth conventions in the northeast. After doing six events sequentially, as the seventh year approached they felt that the Lord wanted them to take a Sabbath rest. When it was time for the next event, Chorey and the team were led by the Lord to change the venue and season opting for a two-day event that featured former San Diego Chargers defensive back, Miles McPherson. Amazingly, the crusade saw over 30,000 young people and adults attend as the place was packed both days!
“It was just mind boggling that that many kids came to an evangelistic crusade,” says Chorey, “but it was those 5,000 kids that were coming annually — they invited their friends from their Bible club at school, their youth group, their neighborhood and opening night, there were over 18,000.” He goes on, “The place was filled. In our mind we thought that this was really amazing what God did. We prayed about it and the Lord led us to do it exactly the same way the next seven-years.”
The pattern was set in stone from heaven, they would do six Niagara conferences, rest the seventh year, and then hold a crusade in the summer of that year. “So, we did exactly that and held our second crusade at Frontier Field in Rochester, New York and over 17,000 came and God really moved in that,” Mike recalls. “When that was over, we started the third cycle of six conferences and a crusade. When we got done with the 21st year, the last crusade, in my spirit, I felt like the Lord said that was it.”
The last five years Mike has been busy with CrossRiver Church and other youth ministries as well as juggling all the nuances and challenges unique to leading them. However, at a certain point he started to feel that familiar divine intrusion lovingly barge into his life as the Lord began to lead him toward a 25th anniversary youth conference. “I got so excited about it, I never saw that coming,” says Chorey. “I really tested the waters to make sure that this wasn’t just some desire in my own heart and God confirmed it. It was miraculous how He confirmed it. I knew I had the will of God and that’s how we started last December. What we did with the theme was we took the same theme from the original year, 1993, “Experience the Power” and we took the exact same logo — we just changed the year, ‘Niagara 18 Experience the Power … One More Time.’ The 25th anniversary — that’s how it all came about.”
The Niagara Youth Conference began in 1993 with just over 500 students attending. By the year 2013 over 100,000 young people and adults had participated in a Joshua Revolution conference or crusade. You can “Experience the Power…One More Time!” with a formidable roster of speakers and artists including actors Masey Mclain, Ben Davies, and Matt Schuler along with other performers from the deeply moving film, “I’m Not Ashamed.” It is the inspiring story of Rachel Scott, the first girl that was martyred at Columbine High School. Mike Chorey will also be in the pulpit as well as former NFL great Jerry Butler, Pastor and President of Christians in Crisis Wally Magdangal, and several other anointed worship leaders and speakers.
Niagara 18 takes place December 27-29, 2018 at the Niagara Falls Conference Center. For more information about the conference or Joshua Revolution, you can visit their website at www.joshuarevolution.org, e-mail them at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call Joshua Revolution at (716) 229-8000 or toll free at (888) 444-2920. The official website of the conference is located at www.niagaraconference.org and has all the pertinent details as well.