Called to Kingdom Living: Bible Conference 2023
By: Brad Rowland
From August 6-12, hundreds assembled at Lake Junaluska for the 2023 Southern Territorial Bible Conference. The annual event featured inspired teaching, wonderful fellowship, and powerful worship, with the theme song for the week setting an appropriate baseline against the backdrop of a picturesque landscape.
I’m living on the mountain, underneath a cloudless sky;
I’m drinking at the fountain that never shall run dry;
Oh, yes! I’m feasting on the manna from a bountiful supply;
For I am dwelling in Beulah Land
The 71st annual event focused on the theme of “Kingdom Living Now & Forever,” with three featured speakers over the course of the week. Dr. Carla Sunberg, general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene was joined by author and historian Chris Tiegreen and Lt. Colonel Dean Hinson, divisional commander of the Arkansas- Oklahoma division, in delivering the Word with tremendous depth.
The conference began with an inspiring concert from world-renowned vocalist David Phelps on Sunday evening, August 6. Phelps, a member of the Gaither Vocal Band for more than 15 years and a multi-time Dove and Grammy award winner, set a strong tone for the upcoming week of study with a rousing performance. For the next five days, the schedule included two or three teaching sessions daily and a rotation of the keynote speakers.
The predominant focus on Kingdom living was present, with each bringing the message in different forms. Tiegreen focused heavily on the book of Ephesians with messages titled “See,” “Be,” “Live,” and “Love.”
“Teaching is important,” Tiegreen said. “Preaching is important. Instruction is important. All of that is very important. But one of the things we all need is for people to see. It’s transforming.”
“I can promise you, in the Kingdom, the rewards are always greater than the costs,” said Tiegreen. “You will never sacrifice something, in the Kingdom, where the reward is less than the sacrifice. Whatever we pour out, God will pour in.”
Lt. Colonel Hinson took attendees on a biblical journey with impressive detail and considerable passion for scripture in his teachings.
“Scripture is clear that He is coming back,” said Lt. Colonel Hinson. “That there is a future bliss where we will be with Him in that Kingdom. But it is also clear that it is not our duty to just sit back and wait for the Kingdom to come.”
“We’ve got to be ready,” Lt. Colonel Hinson said. “We’ve got to stay vigilant. We’ve got to be alert. We can’t kick back… God’s Kingdom timing is up to God. Let’s not take that place. We’ll leave it to Him, as we keep watch.”
Dr. Sunberg artfully placed biblical stories into modern context, focusing on Martha, Mary Magdalene and others while challenging the delegates. She spoke on the concept of “no man’s land,” pushing all to “move from resurrection to Pentecost and trust Jesus” in the process. In addition, Dr. Sunberg reflected powerfully on identity in our modern world and, alongside Tiegreen and Lt. Colonel Hinson, encouraged with the reality that “God doesn’t just love you. He really likes you. God delights in you. God is so excited when you put aside time and just come and hang out with Him.”
“There is no one beyond the reach of the Savior’s touch,” Dr. Sunberg said.
“The call to Kingdom living is not the call to good works,” she added. “It is the call to be like Christ.”
Most evenings were filled with teaching sessions, though Friday, August 11 featured a stirring program headlined by powerful stories from the territory’s Adult Rehabilitation Centers (ARC). The ARC joined forces with the Southern Territorial Youth Band and Territorial Arts Ministry (TAM) for a night filled with testimonies and worship that will not soon be forgotten.
Though the week’s events concluded with the official welcome of the Champions of the Mission session of cadets on the evening of Saturday, August 12, the final morning of the conference also touched hearts and brought future-facing hope to all. An extensive youth program was presented with performances and awards from each age group of children spending the week at Lake Junaluska.
Attendees left Lake Junaluska changed and challenged, as well as equipped with tremendous knowledge on the Kingdom of God, both in the present and with overarching hope for the future.