Mark Hall, shown here with his family, will be a part of this year’s SPARK conference. (Baptist Press photo)
By Roger Alford
DULUTH, Ga. – One of the nation’s most popular contemporary Christian music bands will be part of this year’s SPARK conference, an initiative of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board is drawing international interest.
Mark Hall and Casting Crowns, the Grammy Award winning group based in Georgia, will open the conference, which premieres on August 12.
Hall is longtime student pastor at Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church, a Southern Baptist church in McDonough, Ga. He’s also known for his songwriting, having written or cowritten many of the band’s biggest hits, including “Who Am I,” “Praise You in This Storm,” “If We Are the Body” and “East to West.”
Casting Crowns, which has performed numerous times at the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting, has won multiple Dove awards and one Grammy.
The goal of the SPARK conference is to build excitement among Southern Baptists for making and training disciples.
In its first year, SPARK had participants from 45 states and 18 countries as far away as Japan Australia and Kenya.
The SPARK conference last year drew more than 6,500 participants at more than 200 hosting sites.
“The genius of SPARK is the unique ability of local church leaders or associational missions strategists to host local in-person events and use our content to provide quality training and encouragement for pastors, bi-vocational leaders and lay leaders, free of charge,” said Scott Sullivan, discipleship catalyst for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board. “The SPARK conference is changing the way denominational leaders view and provide training to professional and lay leaders in churches.”
The COVID-19 pandemic of the past year forced Sullivan to rethink discipleship training. Pulling Georgia Baptists together in a statewide meeting for the training, as had been the standard practice, just wasn’t a possibility last summer with coronavirus still spreading rapidly. So, he developed the current SPARK model of multiple sites that are joined remotely.
The simulcast event pulls together dozens of major Southern Baptist personalities for a time of inspirational preaching and insightful teaching.
At this year’s SPARK premiere, keynote speakers will include Tony Evans, senior pastor of the 9,500-member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas; Ben Mandrell, president and chief executive officer of LifeWay Christian Resources; Charles Lowery, president and chief executive officer of Lowery Institute for Excellence; and David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, a leading research and communications company.
Eric Eggers, minister for adult education and evangelism ministries at North Metro Baptist Church in Atlanta, said he’s impressed with the great line up of speakers, but especially appreciative that their presentations are recorded and available on the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s website so that people can listen to them at their convenience.
“What a huge resource to be able to go back later and relisten to all the content,” he said.
To register, go to www.thesparkconference.com.
Baptist Press contributed to this article.