Word equips Salvationists for victory at 2018 Bible Conference
By: Brad Rowland
“You simply cannot be in two meetings a day, with something at night, and be the same. You have been exposed to the word of God.”
Commissioner Steve Hedgren, who served as a guest speaker during the 2018 Southern Bible Conference, spoke those words set against the beautiful backdrop of Lake Junaluska in the mountains of western North Carolina. Commissioner Hedgren was joined by Captain Ken Argot, Dr. Leonard Sweet and Oscar Roan as the invited speakers and teachers for the event.
For a full week, beginning with a concert from Tom Walker’s Gospel Train Big Band on Sunday evening, the overarching theme of “Called to Victorious Living” came to life, and it was reinforced at every turn. In addition to the quartet of impressive guest lecturers diving into the Word on multiple occasions, the week featured three additional evening programs that were electric.
One of the week’s more indelible moments came during Thursday evening’s ARC Night as hundreds gathered front and center with a simple message. Interspersed with inspiring testimonies, both in video and in-person form, the collection of men and women from ARC units across the territory provided transition with the repetitive performance of a vocal selection titled “Fear Is A Liar.”
“Fear is a liar,” the song says. “He will take your breath. Stop you in your steps. Fear is a liar. He will rob your rest. Steal your happiness. Cast your fear in the fire. ‘Cause fear is a liar.”
That constant reminder permeated the evening, and, on Friday and Saturday, an uplifting message arrived from younger voices. Friday’s Youth Night featured wall-to-wall enjoyment for the attendees, and it was clear that an effective, God-driven message was the centerpiece of it all.
Finally, Saturday evening was the return of a popular segment from the 2017 Bible conference, with “Total Praise II” involving young people stirring emotions and worship through musical theater, praise and worship, vocal selections, drama, dance and brass.
While the evening inspiration was key to the week, it was the strong biblical engagement from the mornings that always set the stage. Among other valuable truths, Captain Argot imparted the value of intercessory prayer, stressing the importance of coming alongside fellow believers and even those responsible for the execution and delivery of such a conference.
In addition, Captain Argot, the Atlanta Temple corps officer, emphasized a return and focus on The Salvation Army’s roots of outward evangelism. “How can we offer Christ to non-believers,” he asked, “if there are no non-believers in our circle of friends?”
Dr. Sweet, the noted author and preacher, used a booming voice and intriguing presentation style, reminding the audience that, “If you’re trusting the whole story, you can start anywhere and go everywhere.” He did so using a full biblical illustration from the perspective of an almond tree and later centered on an “MRI,” focusing on missional, relational and incarnational work.
“We are all missionaries,” Dr. Sweet said. “And we shouldn’t forget that.”
From there, Roan, a former NFL player, delivered a powerful message during ARC Night, fitting beautifully with the all-encompassing theme of the week.
Commissioner Hedgren spent his sessions evaluating and sifting through the Army’s seventh doctrine, even poking fun at the notion of using multiple hours in a public forum on such a brief selection.
Still, the focus returned a significant reward, stirring Salvationists in attendance to remember their doctrinal heritage. Furthermore, the message of living through the words outlined in those valuable declarations was both clear and vital.
Commissioner Willis Howell addressed the assembled congregation on Sunday morning as part of the final worship service. He spoke eloquently on the Great Commission, using references to various companies, headlined by Starbucks and Harley- Davidson, to focus on what The Salvation Army is “selling.”
His prolonged emphasis on the Army’s “Why” was reinforced, and there was a focus on the organization getting back to its roots in the salvation of souls.
Though it is difficult to fully illustrate the complete impact of the Bible conference on those in attendance, the wide-ranging programming is simply impressive. From rousing tunes at the outset of various meetings to high-quality biblical teaching and even the exquisite use of “Joy To The World” in August, the week-long journey certainly inspired and refueled attendees.
“You will start some things in your ministry that you will never see bear fruit,” Dr. Sweet said, “but God cares about those buds.”