Territory gathers for Bible conference
Spirit refreshes at inaugural Western Bible Conference
by Steve Bradley, Major –
MONTEREY, CA—Spiritual refreshment, renewal and revival saturated the hearts of the more than 500 officers, soldiers and friends gathered at the Asilomar conference grounds for the inaugural Western Bible Conference, June 29-July 5, led by Western Territorial leaders Commissioners Philip and Patricia Swyers, and featuring the daily biblical exhortation of Commissioner Israel Gaither, USA National Commander, and exposition of Dr. Bill Ury, professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Wesley Biblical Seminary.
The conference theme, “Refresh and be nourished,” was reflected in the daily Bible study, small group discussion and evening message themes: Fresh Bread, Fresh Water, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire and Fresh Ground.
Dr. Ury based morning Bible study sessions in the Gospel of Mark, and each day shared a unique insight from both the Gospel writer, and from great Salvationist holiness teachers such as Founders William and Catherine Booth, and Samuel and Lily Brengle. This was followed by small group discussion to gain a deeper personal understanding of the scriptural concepts.
Commissioner Israel Gaither’s evening messages focused on how delegates could make practical application of the Scripture-based themes. “A confrontation with God means things will never be the same again,” he said, “things change when you have a fresh fire experience.” Time and again he shared his vision that God has strategically positioned The Salvation Army to lead spiritual revival in America. To a chorus of “amens” he said, “I think God’s getting us ready for something big; I think revival is on the way…I believe God can use The Salvation Army for a reviving of America…The world is crying out, ‘Give us something to believe in.’ We need believers whose hearts can be heard.
“God is waiting to break through to us,” he said, “so he can break through to others.”
In his concluding message, the National Commander made another impassioned plea for delegates to live out this fresh faith and reclaim America for Christ upon returning to their homes, communities and places of work and worship. He offered three simple instructions: to “take a walk of commitment to be like Jesus”, and to look and listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit; to “Get ready to answer the ‘Do you believe?’ question”, a hallmark of spiritual renewal; and to do something—“to speak into spiritual darkness…to speak life into something that’s dead.”
Commissioner Eva Gaither, National President of Women’s Ministries, brought the morning devotional on July 4 based on Isaiah 54:2-4, 10. She encouraged delegates to be “a restless, resilient Salvation Army, breaking fresh new ground for God.”
Phil Laeger—Salvationist songwriter, musician and composer from the USA Southern Territory—provided plenary session worship music. A variety of Western Territory Salvationists provided special music, drama and dance items during both morning and evening sessions.
Translations of all the meetings were provided in Spanish and Korean.
Children and youth delegates were treated to their own Bible study and related activities under the instruction of youth officers and leaders from around the Territory.
Afternoons were reserved for personal and family recreational activities, many delegates taking advantage of the free time to tour the picturesque central California Pacific Coastline beaches and forest parks, and to visit local historical sites including Monterey’s Cannery Row, Fisherman’s Wharf and Steinbeck Museum. A Fourth of July Celebration included a picnic lunch replete with brass band playing patriotic music, and an evening fireworks display in nearby Monterey.