VALDOSTA, Ga. — Bible conferences seem to have a growing impact in churches across the nation. In some ways, these conferences appear to have taken the place of revival meetings, and they often have similar results. They give the Lord the opportunity to do something special in the lives of those who participate. They create the kind of atmosphere for the Lord to appear in an unprecedented way and they often result in souls saved and believers being called to a life of full surrender to Christ.
Jesus’ life was characterized by a compassionate, spontaneous, continual, pastoral, interactive ministry, but on several occasions, he drew his followers away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind with its incessant demands and distractions and presented to them, in what could be a conference-like setting, some of the deeper truths of what would be expected of them as disciples.
Morningside Baptist Church in Valdosta is hosting its South Georgia Bible Conference for the 38th consecutive year on July 16 through 19. Pastor Wayne Robertson became the pastor of Morningside in October 1985 and led the church to host its first conference in July 1986.
With Robertson as pastor, the Morningside Church gets a steady diet of sound expository preaching week after week. However, a Bible conference can complement and reinforce the pulpit ministry of the faithful pastor who preaches the Word without fear or favor.
The Morningside conference is not only marked by strong preaching but by heartwarming Gospel music featuring the church’s choir and orchestra; and any music presented under the direction of David Tew, Morningside’s Minister of Music, is always remarkably uplifting. The music provided by the church’s music ministry is frequently highlighted with guest soloists and musical groups. Jack Price, a legend in gospel/evangelistic music, has been the guest soloist for more than 25 of the conferences. The Mylon Hayes Family has sung for the past two years and will be on this year’s program as well.
Guest preachers have included Sam Cathey, Bill Sturm, Mike Stone, Herman Parker, Herb Reavis, Ron Dunn, David Miller, John Phillips, Jerry Falwell, Fred Luter, Hershael York, and others.
(Evangelist Sam Cathey (now deceased) was a stalwart preacher at the South Georgia Bible Conference for many years. He is accompanied by Monringside's Music Minister David Tew, right, and Pastor Wayne Robertson.)
John Yates, Morningside’s minister of education, who has been on staff since 1989, explained, “The annual Bible conference is a blessing to our membership in at least three ways. First, we grow in Bible knowledge and application through excellent Bible preaching. We are encouraged and strengthened to live more faithfully for the Lord.
“Second, the concentrated time together over the course of four days grows the church family in closeness and love for one another.
“Third, many of our former members who have moved away come back for the Bible conference, creating a sort of a ‘homecoming’ atmosphere.”
The South Georgia Bible Conference has experienced consistently good attendance through the years. There are always guests from out of town and pastors who have become regular attenders, but the Morningside members have made it successful through their financial support and faithful attendance.
Yates explained, “Brother Wayne has repeatedly encouraged our folks to attend every session and even to take time off to attend the conference, so they can focus their attention on what the Lord wants to tell them. Those who have done so have testified to others, creating a sort of positive peer pressure to attend every session.”
Jerome Turner, who has served as an elder at Morningside, commented, “One of the great fringe benefits of being a member at Morningside is that our pastor started our South Georgia Bible Conference 38 years ago. Over the years I have been blessed to be fed, taught, and challenged by the many wonderful servants of God we have had speak at our Conference.
“Even before I retired, I took vacation time so I could be at the morning sessions. I am expecting this year’s conference to be like ice cream on apple pie. I am grateful that our church leadership has made it possible for me to hear so many of God’s faithful and knowledgeable preachers.”
Kelly North, testified, “I look forward to the conference each year because God’s presence is always so real and sweet. It has been a time of strengthening, encouragement, and refreshing as well as a time of conviction for me.
“I am grateful for this conference for many reasons,” Kelly continued, “but I am most thankful that it was during a session in July of 2014 that my husband was saved.”
Jeffrey Jones, one of the church’s soloists and a drummer in the orchestra, declared, “The South Georgia Bible Conference is the greatest time of teaching, training, equipping, and encouragement I experience throughout the year. It affords us a time for reflection on God’s goodness and reminds us that we have a work to do until He comes.”
Joy Yates expressed her thoughts by stating, “I was baptized when I was 12 years old and faithfully served the church for years, primarily because I wanted people to be proud of me. In truth, I had a rebellious heart and aimlessly looked for something to fill the void in my life but discovered that my defiant spirit was not liberating or fulfilling, but burdensome and debilitating.
“Four years ago,” Joy added, “when Mike Stone was preaching at the conference God spoke to my heart and I truly trusted Christ as my Savior. Things have been different since then and I know I am a child of God. I thank God that Brother Wayne has consistently had the Bible conference, because that is where I know I eventually settled the issue of my salvation.”
Jack O. and Carolyn Howell, who became members of Morningside in 1971, have been strategic leaders in the church for more than 50 years, but Jack, who served as an elder for years and taught children in Sunday School for five decades, passed away this past March. Carolyn explained, “It has truly been a blessing to me to have been able to sing in the choir in every SGBC for the past 38 years.”
Carolyn added, “Each year the services are accented with the most God-honoring music and preaching anyone could ever experience. Despite my imperfections, God faithfully uses the conference to renew my spiritual vision, enhance my daily walk with the Lord, and challenge me to be more like Him. After each Conference Jack and I would always say, ‘This one was the best ever.’ I expect the one this year to excel them all.”