Praise and Celebration Fills Hillsong Conference 2005 in Australia

Over 28,000 delegates turned out to the opening of Hillsong's 2005 Conference at the Sydney Superdome on Monday night. The theme of the Conference this year was "Strength," featuring exuberant displays of Latin music, special effects and dance.

Thousands of voices were lifted up, joining the worship leader, Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong team, who declared: "Our God is an awesome God".

This year's 2005 Hillsong Conference, hosted by Hillsong's senior Pastor and founder, Brian Houston, saw over 28,000 registered delegates from over 80 countries attend, in addition to over 20 politicians.

The first speaker for the night, Premier of New South Wales, Bob Carr, opened the 5 p.m. session by stating that "this mighty gathering has turned the Olympic SuperDome into a cathedral."

He followed by telling the crowd that "with rights come responsibilities... we have a personal responsibility and this church reminds us of the message that we need strong communities and families."

Dr. Jack Hayford delivered the first message in the opening session.

"As we begin this conference, let your soul be opened. Hear Him say, 'Don't be afraid.' Your reward is based not on what you have done, but on the promises God has made you," he said.

The second session of the night at 7:30 p.m. began with the return of Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, this year his second attendance at the Hillsong Conference.

"How do we make our industry strong, our economy strong? How do we make our schools strong, and how do we make our public strong, and where does the strength of a nation come from? It comes from the heart and the commitment and the faith of its people, and that's where the strength of a nation resides," he said.

Costello urged members of the gathering to find strength in their beliefs, noting the massive growth of the Hillsong Church.

"There's a definite movement and it's having a wonderful effect on the lives of our young people and of our society," Costello said.

He added, "As you go back to your communities, your churches, neighbourhoods and workplaces ... I hope that you find the strength of God in your lives because this is the strength of a society and this will be the strength of our nation."

Shortly after this, the second key speaker for the night, Pastor John Maxwell, spoke about leadership saying, the greatest leader of all was Jesus Christ.

The four key points in his message were servanthood, priorities, relationships and teamwork.

He said, "if we are going to lead, it is to know how to serve".

The night ended with hundreds of people raising their hands and making a decision to follow Christ.