The Salvation Army’s Southern Bible Conference returns with ‘Christ For The World’

Sep 11, 2021 | by Brad Rowland

Photos by Laura Dake

The Salvation Army's Southern Bible Conference returns with ‘Christ For The World'

By: Major Frank Duracher

Delegates to The Salvation Army’s Southern Bible Conference (SBC) returned to Lake Junaluska, N.C. in August, following a year absence caused by the worldwide pandemic. It seems most fitting, then, that a worldwide solution to present-day worries be reflected in this year's theme, "Christ For The World." In keeping with that theme, the week's chorus was All Over The World (The Spirit Is Moving).

"We usually say, ‘It's good to see you,' when we get together again with friends," Lt. Colonel Mark Israel began with the opening of the 2021 SBC, "but after what we've been through for the past year, we can honestly say to each of you, ‘It's good to see you!'"

Colonel Israel introduced SBC delegates to this year's slate of outstanding speakers: Dr. Dan Boone, Dr. Carla Sunberg, Commissioner Mark Tillsley, Commissioner Willis Howell, Colonel Susan Bukiewicz, Captain Jeremy Mockabee, and Steve Carter.

With that, what has become a new Opening Night tradition for the past three SBCs, Total Praise III showcased top talent of young people from "each of the eight sensational divisions across the Southern Territory." Delegates were bathed in musical and dramatic talents of 10 prodigies garnered from Salvation Army Music Conservatories this summer.

Performers included:

  • Whitney Edmonds-Burleigh – Drama – Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Division
  • Jacob Mitchell – Tuba – Arkansas and Oklahoma Division
  • Briauna James – Vocal – Florida Division
  • Chase Farrell – Trombone – Florida Division
  • Andrew Morris – Cornet – Georgia Division
  • Airthan Chanthavong – Dance – Kentucky and Tennessee Division
  • Nicole Revaula – Dance – Kentucky and Tennessee Division
  • Sally Lee – Piano – North and South Carolina Division
  • Eleanor Jensen – Musical Theatre – Potomac Division
  • Indy Pence – Percussion – Texas Division

Bible lesson sessions—almost entirely in the Gospel of Luke — were offered Monday into Saturday.

Dr. Carla Sunberg is General Superintendent for the Church Of The Nazarene. Her four presentations were drawn among the fifth and sixth chapters of Luke, and spiced throughout with references to her ten years as a pioneer pastor in Russia:

  • The Draft Of Fishes & Stilling The Storm (Luke 5:1-11)
  • The Sermon On The Plain (Luke 6:12-26)
  • Loving Your Enemies (Luke 6: 27-38))
  • Looking Into A Mirror (Luke 6:39-49)

Dr. Dan Boone, Trevecca Nazarene University president, shared six lessons, also from Luke, taking on specific incidents in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus:

  • Ultimate Vulnerability ((Luke 1:26-38)
  • Who Is My Neighbor? (Luke 10:25-37)
  • Categories (Luke 24:44-49)
  • Take, Bless, Break, Give (Luke 9:10-17)
  • New Eyes (24:13-35)
  • ‘Seeing' The Kingdom Of God (Luke 11:1-4).

Soldier's Night was conducted by soldiers of the Southern Territory, with territorial sergeant major Jeremy Rowland leading the service. Gail Childs read scripture from Luke 1:26-38; and Darryl Crossland offered a cornet solo, I Am So Glad That Jesus Loves Me.

ARC Night featured stirring testimonies of A/Captain Jerome Casey, Laura Henderson, and Robert Bell—together representing a combined sobriety of 26.5 years, living redeemed lives in and for Jesus Christ. Steve Carter then "talked trash"—no really, he spoke of bringing our trash to the "Weigh-master," Jesus, Who takes our brokenness and powerlessness in exchange for wholeness and power. Pointing out that Golgotha was actually the "town dump," Carter proclaimed that the Cross was "a flag God planted in the middle of a trash heap." But we must be honest and human about our sin, calling it the trash that no longer defines us.

Youth Night featured the children and teens of SBC, supervised by Majors Tim & Cheryl Gilliam, bringing an engaging musical presentation, Torchbearers: Taking The Gospel Global, which was directed by Bethany Farrell. Their message was of the Army's Torchbearers, whose source for their torch-flames is the love of God.

Each class age group represented one of the five "Zones" of The Salvation Army around the world. Before each class performed, a brief history and current ministry reports were displayed on the screens. The audience was given a small white paper bag containing various candies from these zones. The informative and fun musical was afterward called by one SBC delegate as a "candy communion." It was a celebration of Torchbearers, past and present, taking the light of God into the darkness around the globe.

Commissioner Mark Tillsley presented two Saturday sessions, both under the arching topic, The Spirit Of Christ:

  • Holiness In The Traffic defined what it means to be like Jesus. From Luke 4, we see the Christian affirmed, full of, and power-endowed of the Spirit. To be Christlike brings anointing, hope, renewal, and purpose.
  • Our condition (sin, depravity) is offset by God's provision (prevenient grace, universal atonement, justifying grace, and assurance of salvation. But that salvation is also a call to War. We fight about unfulfilled desires, allegiances to leaders, evil suspicions, and foolish arguments—while we should be fighting for unity in the Church, out witness in the world, personal and social redemption, and salvation for whosoever. That is A Message Worth Fighting For.

SBC's closing worship service was led by Commissioner Barbara Howell, with a powerful and convicting sermon delivered by Commissioner Willis Howell. He spoke on Life: From Beginning To End with the principle throughout, "This life is not all there is to your life."

The Territorial Commander used two ropes to illustrate his entire sermon. One rope was about two-three feet long and was a bright yellow—representing our earthly lives, from birth until "the Great Equalizer" and everything in between.

But the second rope spanned the entire stage and the audience was told to imagine it going around the world—an endless continuum. It is forever. Only about four inches of yellow was marked, like a gauge to the first rope. The rest was without color, and represents the life that goes on for eternity.

He said that as training principal, new cadets were routinely interviewed and asked, "Why do you want to be a Salvation Army Officer?" Many answers were earthly: to help people; to feed the hungry; to right social wrongs, etc.

"But if that's all we do—as good and worthy as those things are—we're nothing more than another non-profit organization!"

To drive the point home, he used the continuum rope: "What they learn and know about Jesus here (pointing to the tiny yellow strip) affects them here (pointing to the never ending rope-infinity)."

The greatest social injustice is NOT introducing them to Jesus, he said.

"In the Southern Territory, we help some two million people each year," Commissioner Howell observed. "They literally beat a path to our door!"

Quoting Steve Carter from earlier in the week, "Rescued people rescue people."

We must meet people in their need here; walk them through their need; and minister to them in preparation for eternity here. What the 1,500 souls really needed at the sinking of Titanic, commissioner reasoned, was to be saved from a watery grave.

Likening that image to the In Darkest England poster, illustrating the drowning masses in sin, he asked, "As a Salvation Army, is that what we still believe?

"God wants His family back. There is no one you could look in the eyes whom God doesn't want to reach! If we're not about His mission, I wonder if we are just doing something else on our own."

Commissioner Howell's challenge was answered as several hundred SBC delegates poured to the altar in recommitment to "work while we're here (earth) to help mankind prepare for here (eternity in Heaven)."

For detailed synopses of speaker presentations from Dr. Carla Sunberg and Dr. Dan Boone, click here.

For full recordings of sermons from the week, click here.

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