20th July, 2012
The dust has settled on yet another Hillsong Conference and this year seemed bigger than ever. As the crowds packed Allphones Arena I couldn’t help but feel the anticipation in the air.
Opening night is always a special occasion. This year was no different. The night started a singer and moved on to virtual bell ringing. Soon after, a presentation began with wireless lights all blinking in synch. The lights were in the shape of cubes and the people holding them were standing on the stairs. Over the speaker system a voice started quoting I Peter 2:5 and the people carried the lights to the stage, putting them together. Ephesians 2:21 was then quoted. A cross lowered from the roof and praise and worship started with a song from the new Cornerstone album. (If you’d like to see the opening there are a number of videos on Youtube, one of which can be found here www.youtube.com/watch?v=BitS6Jx1RRc.)
OPENING SCENES: Hillsong's opening night. PICTURE: Alan Taylor
"This was a conference at which the speakers opened up about themselves, difficulties they had been through and how God was with them through those times."
Guest speakers for this year included Joyce Meyer, Steven Furtick, Louie Giglio and Joseph Prince. Brian and Bobbie Houston also spoke at various times throughout the conference. This was a conference at which the speakers opened up about themselves, difficulties they had been through and how God was with them through those times.
When it comes to difficulties, most would agree that Joyce Meyer has had her fair share. She spoke on forgiveness and brought into her message the difficulty she had in her family situation and how she was able to forgive her father for his abuse of her. She said that withholding forgiveness affects the anointing on our lives.
Some people, she said, have been so angry for so long that they don’t even know it anymore. It becomes part of who they are and freedom comes in accepting Christ, His forgiveness and forgiving others. She said many people, even Christians run off their feelings. Feelings, she said are not to be listened to, for the Bible says that the heart is deceitful above all things.
She gave three points:
- The first thing God does is forgive us
- Unforgiveness will ruin you
- You can't choose how you feel but you can choose how you react
Another who went through a difficult time is Louie Giglio. He said he woke at 2am almost four years ago and felt like he couldn’t breathe. At the time he felt like he was dying, his heart was going to ‘blow open’.
Doctors were unable to provide a diagnosis and for a few months he’d wake in a ‘dark cloud’ of panic. A scripture came to his mind that “God gives songs in the night” and from that a four-line song came into his heart. And he sang it from 2am to 4am.
He said that praise led him out of the darkness surrounding him. The singing of praise reminded him of how great God is. Praise takes the focus off ourselves and places it on God and how powerful He is.
Steven Furtick spoke about his difficulty of not being ready. He wasn’t ready to plant a church. He wasn’t ready when it started to grow. He said that we don’t need to feel ready for what God is calling us to do.
“He calls me to follow him, step out, have faith, move forward, next step. The Bible says ‘Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path’. The Bible is kind of like headlights. You can only see a little bit in front of you, but you can make the whole journey that way, step by step. You don’t have to see how this thing is going to end. You can stand flat-footed in the face of your fear if you can just hear His voice.”
He said we let things hold us back. Some of these are:
I’ll be ready when I conquer that one sin.
I’ll be ready to be generous when I have paid my debt.
When I know more of the Bible, I’ll be ready to speak into people’s lives.
Our church will be ready to make a difference in our community when we have more resources.
“But God,” he said “Doesn’t call me to be ready. He calls me to follow Him. Step out, have faith. Move forward.”
He, like Joyce Meyer, also touched on forgiveness.
“You really think that you are going to be able to forgive that person who hurt you? No, I don’t really feel that I can right now. But I don’t have to feel ready to be ready, because I don’t live by what I feel. I live by what God says. And my Father says I can, I am, so I am and I can.”
There is always more to the conference than listening to the main speakers. The afternoon electives are practical sessions on how your church can help effectively in your community. One of the electives I went to was titled “The local church: Bringing hope to real issues”.
It was a session dedicated to helping a church meet the needs of people in the community who are struggling for various reasons. Speakers included Donna Crouch of Hillsong CityCare, John Kirby who is the founder and CEO of Christians Against Poverty and representatives of the NSW Police Force and the Salvation Army.
"There is always more to the conference than listening to the main speakers. The afternoon electives are practical sessions on how your church can help effectively in your community."
The crux of the elective was, if your church is looking to help out in the community, take the time to find out the needs. Talk to other organisations to find out what they are doing and partner with them to cover need effectively. No one organisation is great at everything so find out what your church can do to fill the gaps. Talk to the local police and find out from them how you may be able to help with troubled people in your community.
Another of the electives I sat in was called ‘Preachers School: The Significance of Storytelling’. In that session Robert Ferguson was sharing how he uses storytelling to engage his listeners.
“Why did Jesus use parables?” he asks. “Matthew 13 tells us why. In order to conceal things and in order to reveal things.
“We do it every Christmas. We buy a present for our children. Sometimes they have seen us buy it. So they know exactly what it is. And then we wrap it up. We conceal it, so that in order to enjoy it, they need to reveal it.
“The concealing enhances the hunger, the curiosity, and the faith. And the revealing enhances the excitement and the gratitude. So what Jesus does is he conceals a truth inside a story and he looks for hunger and he looks for curiosity he looks for faith and he says “Who’s going to unwrap this?” His desire is that we enjoy the truth contained in the story but not every one of us unwraps them. Many presents are left under the tree, untouched.”
“When I am preaching I do exactly the journey of a story. That’s why, if we do it right, people will automatically engage because they’ve had stories read to them all their lives.
“Stories automatically and instinctively relate to us. So if you follow the pattern of stories in your preaching you will instinctively touch a chord in every human heart in any generation, in any culture and in any circumstance. Doesn’t matter where you are in the world, if you say the equivalent of ‘Once Upon a Time’, everybody leans in. So I follow that basic pattern.”
In all it was a very practical conference, full of advice. The four days ran smoothly with thousands of volunteers hosting and helping thousands more delegates move quickly in and out of venues. Parents were able to sit under the various teachings while their children were entertained by the ‘Veggie Tales’ characters. The night sessions were open to the public as seats were vacated by parents taking their children home.
The speakers for Hillsong Conference 2013 have been announced and include Joel and Victoria Osteen, Rick Warren and Craig Groeschel, to name a few.
For more information on next year’s conference or the Europe conferences later this year, see http://hillsongconference.com/
Alan Taylor regularly attends Hillsong Church but this is only his second Hillsong Conference.
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