By Clare BruceWednesday 5 Jul 2017
There was the expected electric praise and worship with Taya Smith, Jad Gillies and Reuben Morgan at the helm.
Then the powerful sound and light show portraying the Holy Spirit as a giant dove, with scores of dancers portraying the wind, earthquake and fire that preceded God’s whisper to Elijah.
And the faith-stirring message from Georgia-based pastor Jentezen Franklin, about the blind man healed by Jesus, urging us to lift our expectation for God to do great things.
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There were Justin Bieber sightings—and of course, the 20,000-plus worshippers cramming the Qudos Bank Arena, united in their love for Jesus.
But perhaps what touched my heart most about the opening night of Hillsong Conference 2017 at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium, was the Acknowledgement of Country at the very start of the night, by a beaming Jatham Staudinger.
Watch: The Acknowledgement of Country that started off Hillsong Conference 2017.
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Staudinger, a worship pastor from Hillsong Darwin, set the scene for an atmosphere of unity by honouring the original custodians of our nation.
“We are gathered here tonight during our national NAIDOC week, on the country of the Wangal people , the custodians who lived and danced by the river,” he said. “We acknowledge the elders, past, present and future. Now together in many languages, from many lands, we join together to worship Jesus.”
Jatham’s words of welcome, and his palpable joy, kicked off what was a powerful night of praise and a conference set to build the faith of believers from around the globe.
The theme of the conference is ‘Closer’, as in drawing closer to God, and sessions will cover topics like leadership, pastoral care, children’s and youth ministry, building creative church events, and ministry in the area of domestic violence. The recognition of indigenous Australians will continue on Friday afternoon with a panel discussion addressing how the Australian church can serve the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
Key speakers at this year’s Conference include John Gray, Beth Moore and Craig Groeschel, as well as leading US worship artist Lauren Daigle. The night sessions are open to the public for free.