Hillsong Conference Marked by Excitement, Encouragement

Day two of the annual conference of internationally-known Hillsong Church in Australia was one day like a thousand years, according to special guests and attendees of the five-day gathering.

"We're at day two of the conference and already our vision is greater," commented acclaimed worship leader and special guest Israel Houghton, who teamed up with the Hillsong band to lead some 25,000 attendees in worship at Sydney's Acer Arena.

"We're encouraged. And you get encouraged even if you didn't realize you needed encouragement. You get it and it's amazing," Houghton added during an interview for the conference's video blog.

"And so, I'm just really excited already at what's happened. Been stirred very much. And I believe great change is coming to us this week."

This year's conference is Hillsong's 22nd and has drawn Christians from 21 denominations around Australia and 70 other countries to provide them with the practical tools to more effectively make a positive difference in their local community and the world.

"God's will is that we become a church without walls; a church for the community; a church for them out there; a church that loves and cares, serves and lives; a church that doesn't speak good news but is good news," guest speaker Mike Pilavachi exhorted to the crowds Tuesday.

"We cannot any longer stand at a safe distance throwing 'Bible bombs' at people hoping one will 'explode' in the vicinity. We have to go ourselves," added the co-founder and leader of the U.K.-based Soul Survivor charity.

Other speakers that took the stage for the conference's second day included Hillsong senior pastor Brian Houston, who reminded the crowd where the source for change in their community and in this world comes from.

"It's Jesus that can take you to influence. It's Jesus that can bring you into a life of true meaning. It's Jesus that's going to make the difference," he preached.

Houston's oldest son, Joel, also took to the stage, causing a hush to fall over the crowd.

"Just this morning Joel Houston shared from his heart," reported guest speaker Judah Smith, who pastors Generations Church – the exploding youth ministry of The City Church in Seattle. "25,000 people in Acer Arena were literally stunned. You could almost hear a pin drop as Joel was sharing from his heart."

In addition to the speakers and to the music, the conference offered a variety of electives and practical workshop sessions. The conference is divided into three main streams: Pastors and Church Leadership, Worship and Creative Arts, and Evangelism and Community Action.

"It's impossible to see everything that's going on because so much is going on," commented Joel Houston in Hillsong's video blog. "Personally I've had an amazing day as well just being with lots of people worshipping God and hearing amazing things. And tomorrow is going to be even better and the day after that."

Other sought-after Christian speakers that will take the platform at this year's conference include Joyce Meyer and Joseph Prince. Guest artists including Leeland and Marcos Witt will also grace the stage.

Like the year before, several themes overarch the conference including a call to justice, uniting the generations and building strong local churches that are helping bring answers, hope and a sense of community for people.

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