Empower: equipping believers to “share the gospel as never before”

IRVING Although next month’s Empower conference is still slated to move forward as an in-person event on Feb. 22-23 in Irving, much of the conference will also be available online, an unsurprising development in an increasingly virtual world thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re moving forward with an in-person conference, but we will have online options no matter what,” said Shane Pruitt, who serves as the next-gen evangelism director for the North American Mission Board and is coordinating the conference on behalf of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. “We’ll have live feed of main services online, and we’re constantly coming up with strategies and ideas of how to move the whole conference online if we have to,” he added.

Monday’s events kick off with a Classics (senior adult) lunch featuring comedian Dennis Swanberg, a Missional Living lunch with pastor Matt Carter, and a Student Ministers Network meeting hosted by LifeWay student ministry specialist Zac Workun.

After lunch there will be a Classics session with Ken Hemphill, Jerry Chaddick and Ted Traylor; a ladies session featuring Latasha Morrison; a meeting for new pastors, and nine separate breakout sessions with topics ranging from “Mobilizing the Next Generation” and “Multi-Ethnic Missiology” to “Evangelism as Disciple-Making” and “Holistic Christian Mission.”

“I think this can be one of the most impactful Empower conferences we’ve ever had,” Pruitt said. “I know so many pastors and ministry leaders who are tired and worn out. They don’t know what to do next; they’re looking for solutions and ideas,” he added. “So many of them have just said that their idea-meter is running on low and that they’re kind of sucking fumes when it comes to innovation because they’ve used up all of their ideas.”

While there was a time in the past that Empower was aimed primarily at senior pastors, Pruitt said that the conference now provides something for every demographic.

“We’ve intentionally shifted over the last few years so that anybody in the church will be able to connect: the pastor, the person in the pew, staff, volunteer leaders, men, women, all ages, from younger people to seasoned saints,” Pruitt said. “Empower is really multiple events taking place under the umbrella of the conference. It’s truly something for everyone.”

Headlining Monday evening will be Nick Vujicic, Gary Chapman and Costi Hinn. Vujicic is an Australian evangelist and speaker whose story of being born without arms or legs has given him a platform to preach the gospel all over the world.

“My prayer for Empower 2021 is that a leader, volunteer, pastor, or church member can leave and be encouraged with one idea to move forward. If they make one new friend, are encouraged by one thing, meet someone new, walk away with one idea for their context or mission field—that would be a huge win for us,” Pruitt said. 

Thanks to funding from the Cooperative Program, Empower—which exists to encourage Texas Southern Baptists in their ability to be evangelistic—is offered for free.

“I’d encourage any pastor, any ministry leader to be there. It’s an absolutely free conference and the lineup is top-notch—not just big platform names, but pastors and ministers who are in the daily grind,” said Ryan Fontenot, who works as an evangelism strategist for the SBTC and will be taking over leadership of the conference moving into 2022. “We know they’ll be encouraged, equipped and empowered to share the gospel like never before.”

To register for the Empower conference and to see the full schedule for the event, visit sbtexas.com/empower. 

TEXAN Correspondent
Rob Collingsworth
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