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SBC DIGEST: Pres. Bush headlines men’s event; 2015 Send North America Conf. set; Saddleback slates mental health conf.

NASHVILLE (BP) — Former President George W. Bush will be among the speakers at “The Main Event,” a conference for men Aug. 1-2 in Nashville sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources.

Bush will take the stage along with Bobby Bowden, the winningest football coach in NCAA history; three-time NASCAR champion Darrell Waltrip; retired U.S. Army Maj. Jeff Struecker, whose battlefield heroics were immortalized in the film “Black Hawk Down”; LifeWay President Thom Rainer; and others. Three-time Grammy winner Michael W. Smith will lead worship.

The theme for The Main Event is from Isaiah 53:5 — “by his stripes we are healed,” which LifeWay men’s ministry leader Jason Ellerbrook says is “wrapped around honoring the wounded warrior.”

The conference will honor those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces “who have sacrificed to give us freedom on earth,” Ellerbrook said, but it will ultimately challenge men to “honor Christ as the one who gave us eternal freedom through His victory over sin and death.”

Having a former U.S. president as a speaker is significant for any conference, but it is especially so for The Main Event, only in its second year of existence. Despite the lack of an extended history, Ellerbrook knew the conference would be something special shortly after they began promoting the inaugural gathering.

“Last year we had 5,000 men attend, which sold out the Curb Center at Belmont University two months before the event,” he said.

This year’s conference will be in the much larger Bridgestone Arena in downtown Nashville and will challenge even more men in their faith and commitments. “Our goal is to see men come to know Christ and more fully experience Him,” Ellerbrook said.

“Men who attend The Main Event will experience a sense of honor, dignity and respect,” he said. “We are all wounded and broken — that we have in common. However, Jesus can be the ultimate common denominator. Through Him we can experience victory and lead a full life.”

Ellerbrook said registration will be capped at 10,000 and organizers are expecting the event to sell out well in advance of August. Early registration for the conference, which begins Friday evening, Aug 1, and runs through noon Saturday, is $69. A preconference for ministry leaders will be held Friday afternoon, Aug. 1, with a $39 registration fee.

A full list of the speakers, schedules and other information is available at The Main Event.

NAMB announces 2015 Send Conference date, location

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP) — The North American Mission Board is developing plans for its 2015 Send North America Conference slated for Aug. 3-4 at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

This will be the third time NAMB has hosted the conference to encourage, equip and mobilize lay leaders in local congregations to penetrate lostness in North America. 

Nearly 2,000 people attended the Send North America Conference at First Baptist Church Woodstock, Ga., in 2012. The attendance more than doubled in 2013 at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas.

“We want to see churches partner together to impact lost communities in North America,” said Aaron Coe, NAMB’s vice president for mobilization and marketing. “The Send Conference is simply an opportunity for like-minded pastors, leaders and church members to gather in one place and build a vision for reaching people with the Gospel. The 2015 conference is really about engaging and mobilizing the person in the pew to live a life on mission.”

Leading up to the 2015 Conference, dozens of Southern Baptist churches in about 30 cities throughout North America will host Send North America Experiences. These church-based multimedia experiences are designed to engage churches and leaders who want to celebrate what God is doing in North America and learn how they can participate. Thomas Road Baptist Church hosted the first of these gatherings in conjunction with its Refuel Conference Oct. 9-10 of last year in Lynchburg, Va. A schedule of Send North America Experience dates and locations can be found at Send Conference.

The 2015 Send North America Conference will have seating capacity for more than 10,000 attendees in downtown Nashville. Organizers are encouraging pastors and leaders to bring interested members of their congregations. Many of the breakout and workshop sessions will center on God’s call for mobilizing lay leaders through the Send North America strategy.

Explore coverage of previous Send North America conferences at Send 2013.

Mental health ministry launching at Saddleback

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (BP) — Saddleback Church pastor Rick Warren is starting a new mental health ministry following the suicide of his son Matthew, who at age 27 shot himself in April 2013 after years of struggling with severe depression.

According to a WORLD News Service report, Warren will team up with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange, Calif., and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to raise awareness and remove misunderstandings against mental illnesses within the faith community. On March 28, the three groups will host The Gathering on Mental Health and the Church, a daylong event at Saddleback that will cover a wide range of mental health issues, from bipolar disorder to eating disorders.

Warren said he hopes the conference will educate family members of people living with mental illness, encourage those who are struggling, and motivate other churches to create similar mental health ministries.

“I’m certainly not going to waste this pain,” Warren said. “One of the things I believe is that God never wastes a hurt and that oftentimes your greatest ministry comes out of your deepest pain. I remember writing in my journal that in God’s garden of grace, even broken trees bear fruit.”

As Warren and his wife Kay mourned their son’s death, they received more than 10,000 emails and letters from people who poured out their own struggles with mental illnesses. The Warrens said their own grief and others’ stories shook them with the realization that many, including those within churches, lack support and understanding amidst their mental battles.

“It’s amazing to me that any other organ in your body can break down and there’s no shame and stigma to it,” Warren said in his first sermon after his son’s suicide. “But if your brain breaks down, you’re supposed to keep it a secret. … If your brain doesn’t work right, why should you be ashamed of that?”

Saddleback is known for its initiative on HIV and AIDS, an awareness campaign and outreach ministry for people living with the disease. When the Warrens first began the ministry, they thought AIDS was the greatest taboo. But now, “I think mental illness is,” Warren said. About 35 million people have HIV and AIDS worldwide, but more than 400 million struggle with mental illness, he noted. “And we want to remove the stigma.”

Saddleback has long sponsored support groups for family and friends of people with mental illness, but Warren said this new ministry will equal the scale and comprehensiveness of Saddleback’s HIV and AIDS program.

“Our goal is, as we say, we crack the door open and then churches go, ‘OK. If the diocese is doing this, if Saddleback’s doing this, we can do this,'” Warren said. “And we’d love to see a movement started where people actually begin to say, ‘We need to see this element added to our local ministry.'”

In the Southern Baptist Convention, Executive Committee President Frank Page is in the process of naming a volunteer advisory body of professionals in the mental health field to advise him on possible ways to better inform Southern Baptists about available mental health service providers and resources.

In its Feb. 17-18 meeting in Nashville, the Executive Committee concurred with the spirit of a motion referred from the 2013 SBC annual meeting regarding mental health ministry. EC members voted to amend an annual ministry report form it solicits from the SBC’s entities to include questions asking appropriate entities how they are assisting Southern Baptist churches in equipping and ministering to people with mental health challenges. The EC also voted to “continue to seek ways to work in cooperation with SBC entities and others to address the severe challenges imposed by mental illness.”
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