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Georgia Baptists gather at Blackshear Place for annual evangelism conference
Rob Britton of Blackshear Place Baptist Church leads the church’s worship choir at Monday evening’s pre-conference music during the church’s 2009 State Evangelism Conference.


Steve Parr, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s vice president for evangelism, talks about the conference held Monday and today at Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood.

Baptists statewide turned out Monday for the start of a two-day evangelism conference featuring speakers and music at Blackshear Place Baptist Church in Oakwood.

"I would characterize (the event) primarily as inspirational," said Steve Parr, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s vice president for evangelism. "Music and preaching — more like worship-type settings."

The Duluth-based organization has held an evangelism conference for years, but this is the first year it has held the event at Blackshear Place, Parr said.

Blackshear Place, which is off Atlanta Highway and Mundy Mill Road, "is a leading evangelistic church in the (convention)," he said. "(The church) is doing an outstanding job not only ministering to its congregation but doing outreach to the community, and they’re a natural host for something like this."

The church also serves as a larger venue than it once did.

It finished a multimillion-dollar project in 2007 involving renovations and some 75,000 square feet in additions to the worship center, according to Christopher Martin, who is in charge of the church’s administration ministry.

The church now is working to expand parking and add a connector road that is expected to help with traffic in and out of the campus.

The church has gone from a Sunday morning attendance average of 2,231 in 2007 to 2,640 in 2008, and Sunday school has grown from 1,734 to 1,829 in that time frame, according to Martin.

"It’s just an honor for us to be able to host something like this," said Jason Nave, Blackshear’s pastor of pastoral care and missions, of the Georgia Baptist Convention’s event, "Lift Him Up."

"Not only does it give us a chance to minister and love on these pastors and their wives and these staff people, but it gives our ... church family a good opportunity to participate in the sessions," Nave said.

The church’s choir is among the featured performers.

Author Josh McDowell, considered one of the nation’s top apologists, or defenders of Christian faith, was scheduled to speak Monday night.

Today’s sessions are set for 9:25-11:50 a.m., 1:30-4:40 p.m. and 6:40-9 p.m.

"This conference is really to encourage pastors and the key lay people in churches to continue to do what Jesus has commissioned us to do and that’s to take the Gospel to the whole earth," Nave said.

The conference is expected to have an economic impact as well.

Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention & Visitors Bureau, said the conference could result in $219,990 in spending in the area.

As for how the conference business is faring in the recession, she said, "The sports and educational segments are the most consistently productive markets right now. Social groups would be next, and religious events would fall into (that category)."