DULUTH, Ga. – Bart Millard, lead singer of MercyMe, will welcome thousands of participants to the digital premiere of the Georgia Baptist Mission Board’s SPARK conference.
The popular contemporary Christian band will also perform three songs during the conference, which is billed as “a total church conference,” meaning it provides training on all aspects of ministry.
Nearly 6,000 people took part in the SPARK conference last year, making it one of the state Mission Board’s most popular training events. That popularity is, in part, the result of well-known Christian leaders who provide inspirational preaching and teaching on topics of importance to pastors and others, said Scott Sullivan, the state Mission Board’s discipleship catalyst.
Besides providing the welcome at the August 25 premiere, Millard, who wrote and sang the mega contemporary Christian hit I Can Only Imagine that crossed over to pop and country, will offer encouragement through the songs the group performs.
“For me, music has always been a pleasure, a protector, and my passion,” he said in the 2018 book, I Can Only Imagine, named for the hit song. “The words my favorite artists sang gave me strength and courage and inspiration and motivation to keep going, to keep living, and to believe something better was around the corner. Music gave me hope when I felt hopeless. Love when I felt unloved. A reason to embrace life when I was dying inside.”
The state Mission Board’s discipleship catalyst, Scott Sullivan, has pulled together a strong lineup of speakers for the digital conference, including former Southern Baptist Convention President Fred Luter Jr., the fiery pastor of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans. Luter was the first African American elected SBC president and, a decade later, remains a sought-after preacher at church conferences across the nation.
Fuller Theological Seminary professor Tod Bolsinger, author of Canoeing the Mountains, will also speak, as will Michael Catt, author, producer, and retired senior pastor of Georgia’s Sherwood Baptist Church; and Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., and founder of Replicate Ministries.
The Georgia Baptist Mission Board has expanded this year’s SPARK conference to include in-person training at five regional locations across the state next month.
The initial one will be on Aug. 6 at Second Baptist Church in Warner Robins where Woodstock First Baptist Church lead pastor Jeremy Morton will be the keynote speaker.
Some 30 breakout sessions will be held throughout the day covering nearly every area of ministry, including discipleship, child protection, missions, and next gen ministries, said Scott Sullivan, the Georgia Baptist Mission Board's discipleship catalyst.
Other in-person regional SPARK events will be held at First Baptist Church in Douglas on August 13, Byne Memorial Baptist Church in Albany and First Baptist Church in Alpharetta on August 20; and Christ Place Church in Flowery Branch on August 29.
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