Scott Sullivan and Scott Smith host a Q&A session with keynote speakers Paul Chitwood, Tyrone Barnett, and Robby Gallaty. SCOTT BARKLEY/Index
DULUTH – On Friday, Aug. 28, the Spark Conference premiered live with 1,717 individual attendees tuning in throughout the day. The Georgia Baptist-sponsored training event will continue over the next few months as the 203 host sites activate and the remainder of the 2,700 registrants participate.
Spark will be available for individuals to watch for free until Sept. 22. However, individuals, churches, associations, and state conventions are encouraged to purchase access to view content after this date. The event is all online.
“Our desire is to create a disciple-making revolution that is biblical, exponential, and Christ-centered,” Scott Sullivan, Spark director and Georgia Baptist Discipleship catalyst, said of the gathering formerly known as Go Georgia.
The conference was time-released throughout the day on Aug. 28 and featured nearly 50 breakout sessions. Before the first keynote session, Mark Hall and Casting Crowns led in worship. The keynotes and some sessions were also offered in Spanish.
Tyrone Barnette: ‘You give them something to eat’
“We know the gospel works, but it works through us. We know the word of God is true, but it has to be delivered through us,” Tyrone Barnette, pastor of Peace Baptist Church in Decatur, shared during the first keynote session of Spark.
He spoke on Mark 6, which happens to be the foundation for his ministry.
Just as Christ said in the passage, “You give them something to eat,” (Mark 6:37), Barnette encouraged leaders to do the same. Encourage your congregation to be the solution to their own prayers, he said.
This is such an important mandate for three reasons, which doubled as Barnette’s main points.
1) It’s late in the day.
2) The people are hungry.
3) The people are in a remote place.
“God has called you and me for a time such as this,” he shared.
Barnette added that anything we are going to do to make a change is going to start with a burden.
“Your ministry is in your misery. Your ministry is in your mess. Your ministry is in what irritates you. Perhaps God is calling you to be the answer to your own prayer,” he said, challenging pastors to be the solution but to also encourage and equip their congregation to be the solution as well.
Chitwood: A spark from the fires of persecution
The church in Acts 8 wasn’t affected by a pandemic, but they were greatly affected by persecution, Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, shared.
“The fires of persecution ultimately resulted in the gospel being spread throughout the whole world,” he said. The fire that turned the world upside down in this passage “ultimately started with the spark from Stephen, a man ordained a deacon, a leader.”
“Who will be that spark in our day?” Chitwood asked. “Whose life will be so marked by good works that the enemy will make the mistake of marking that person?”
He encouraged the Church to be ready for God to use them in that way. Chitwood shared how God has used missionaries’ changes of plans to advance His kingdom, even today, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“God’s mission is advanced through tragedy and a change of plans,” he said.
From Stephen, the Church learned that God can use lives in the same way if believers allow themselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit, grace, and God’s power.
“The question is do we have the courage to face the dangers and share [the gospel]?” he challenged.
Gallaty: Myths that distract believers from making disciples
In disciple-making, there are two vital arms – evangelism and discipleship, Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church in Nashville, said. These components are like oars for a boat – you need both to get anywhere.
However, discipleship is key because “it closes the back door of your churches,” he shared.
“We spend so much of our time telling people what they’re saved from, that we haven’t spent a lot of time teaching people what they’re saved for,” he added.
In order to effectively equip his congregation to make disciples, a pastor needs to recognize three myths:
1) The mentor myth – “The people look at us as the people who are paid to do the work of ministry.”
2) The ministry myth – “You’re never ready to do ministry.”
3) The maturity myth – “The idea that you’re not mature enough.”
All of these can be debunked in an accurate translation of Ephesians 4:11-12, he noted.
“The reason some of you aren’t seeing discipleship take place in your church may be the result of you, leader, executing ministry yourself and not spending time empowering your people to equip them for the ministry God is empowering them to do,” Gallaty challenged.
Participant feedback: ‘Blessed and challenged’
Individuals from 45 states and 15 countries tuned in for Spark live, including groups in Japan, Australia, and several African countries. And thus far, the conference has been well-received.
“It was a great ‘teachable conference’ and the breakout sessions were just right, as they allowed you to pace and move from one to another from the comfort of my den,” Verdelle Tookes, a Spark participant, said.
“Blessed and challenged by so many today! Thank you @GABaptist for the kingdom vision you have in sharing with the nations today!” Buff McNickle, a participant from New Jersey, a Georgia Baptist partner state, said, chiming in on Twitter.
And Jennifer Cobbs tweeted, “SO GRATEFUL that even in a pandemic our churches & Christian organizations don’t quit!! Starting my morning with Casting Crowns at the virtual SPARKS Conference #sparkcon2020.”
Any participant can engage with Spark using the hashtag #Sparkcon2020.