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Pastors' Conference to remind:'You can make a difference'
By Art Toalston
     ATLANTA (BP)--It's always been "a great worship experience" -- and much more, said Mike Hamlet about the Pastors' Conference preceding each year's Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting.
     Hamlet, president of this year's Pastors' Conference and 14-year pastor of First Baptist Church, North Spartanburg, S.C., plans to include a focus on "one of the greatest lies of the world today" in this year's program: "You can't make a difference."
     Hamlet said he is praying that pastors, church staff members and laypeople who attend this year's June 13-14 Pastors' Conference in Atlanta will be reminded:
-- "I'm called of God and he can use me to make a difference where I am," reflecting the conference theme, "Empowered for Tomorrow."
-- "Being part of the Southern Baptist Convention gives me a chance to be a part of a team."
The team, Hamlet said, is "the church at large, the body of Christ."
     "There are so many exciting things happening in the life of our denomination," he said, noting that the SBC, through its missionaries and local church volunteers, for example, is sharing the gospel around the globe 24 hours a day. Through involvement in SBC missions and ministries, he said, "It's easier for people to see they are a part of the big picture."
     Hamlet added that this year's program, to be held in the Georgia Dome, will include messages from the leaders of six Southern Baptist Convention agencies: the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board, LifeWay Christian Resources, Annuity Board, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission and the Executive Committee.
     "No generation has ever had a greater opportunity to have an impact on their culture for Jesus Christ than we have right now as we move into a new millennium," Hamlet said.
     "It is time for us to be proactive instead of reactive," he said. "Never before has the world been seeking answers so desperately -- and we have the answer. We are not going to fix our problems politically, economically or socially until we deal with the problem of the heart."
Christians are "empowered for tomorrow and need to claim the promise that God is going to lead us in the days ahead," Hamlet continued. "This begins not on the denominational level," he noted, "but in the local church that believes that, under the power of God, we can make a difference."
     Pastors' Conference speakers, session by session, will be:
-- Sunday, June 13, 2 p.m.: J. Kie Bowman, pastor, Hyde Park Baptist Church, Austin, Texas; Fed Lowery, pastor, First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La.; Morris H. Chapman, president and chief executive officer, Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee; and Larry Burkett, founder and president, Christian Financial Concepts, Gainesville, Ga.
-- June 13, 6:30 p.m.: Robert E. "Bob" Reccord, president, North American Mission Board; Jay Strack, evangelist from Orlando, Fla.; and John C. Maxwell, founder of Injoy, a Christian leadership ministry, Atlanta.
-- Monday, June 14, 8:30 a.m.: Mark Corts, pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., O.S. Hawkins, president, Annuity Board; Ed Young, pastor, Second Baptist Church, Houston.
-- June 14, 1:30 p.m.: Richard Land, president, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Jerry Sutton, pastor, Two Rivers Baptist Church, Nashville, Tenn.; James T. Draper Jr., president, LifeWay Christian Resources; Bob "Mr. Inspiration" Wieland, Arcadia, Calif.
-- June 14, 6:30 p.m.: Jerry Rankin, president, International Mission Board; Johnny Hunt, pastor, First Baptist Church, Woodstock, Ga.; and Charles Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship.
     Hamlet said he has attended nearly every Pastors' Conference since the mid-1970s.
"It's a great worship experience," he said, and an opportunity for fellowship with ministers from across the country.
     "When I go to the Pastors' Conference, I'm challenged to take my ministry to the next level," Hamlet added. "I'm encouraged. Hearing the preachers and musicians is a great, great encouragement. It's a fresh wind. And I'm better equipped; I get new ideas."

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