Influence Conference Ends with Enthusiasm
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Glyn Barrett ended the 2023 Influence Conference with a rousing message Tuesday evening at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. Barrett serves as the senior Pastor of Audacious Church, a multi-site Assemblies of God church in Manchester, England, which he in 2007 with his wife, Sophia. The church quickly expanded to four locations serving over 4,000 congregants on a weekly basis. Barrett also serves as the National Leader of Assemblies of God Great Britain, a denomination that serves nearly 600 churches across the country.
Barrett started by thanking the Assemblies of God USA for the impact it has had on Europe and the missionaries it has sent out. “Thank you for your heart not only for your own nation but for the nations of the world,” he stated.
During his sermon, Barrett challenged those at the Influence Conference to get enthusiastic about God. Barrett shared that an observation he has made among churches since childhood has been the gap between the excitement found in the Bible and the lack of excitement seen in many churches and congregations. A second generation Assemblies of God pastor, Barrett stated that he grew up in a legalistic church where he felt like something was amiss. “What I experienced in the Bible and what I experienced in the church were vastly different,” said Barrett.
Yet Barrett went on to share that when he was 15 years old, he read Exodus chapter 3 and something spoke to his spirit about the things he was seeing in the church. “I had this epiphany as I read that God does not call Himself ‘I’m Not,’ He calls Himself ‘I Am’,” he said. It was then that he understood the freeing nature of God and realized that God’s name is permissive. “As I read Exodus 3 and I realized that I did not have to live under legalism and restriction, I knew that was going to be a moment that would shape my life forever,” he said. Barrett went on to reference John 10:10 and Galatians 5:1 which talk about the fullness of life and the freedom Christians have in Christ.
Barrett brought the service to a close by encouraging the room to be enthusiastic about Christ because, he said, “praise is a precursor to a breakthrough.” However, Barrett cautioned that enthusiasm is a discipline and not a feeling. He referred to the psalmist, David, who chose to rejoice despite his feelings and Habakkuk 3:17-18 which encourages believers to rejoice no matter life’s circumstances. “A sacrifice of praise is just that; it’s a sacrifice,” he stated. “A sacrifice is something that you give away even when you don’t want to give it away.” As he finished, he brought the audience to their feet in a unified show of enthusiasm for Jesus Christ.
The final Influence service also featured Tim Parke, John Skipworth, Alberto Bello, and Kris Dillard who led the service with a series of short sermons. In this year’s slightly different format, each presenter was allotted 10-minutes to share a message that they felt God had laid on their heart for the Influence Conference attendees.
Tim Parke, lead pastor at New Life Assemblies of God in Monticello, Arkansas. Park, who has been serving at New Life for the past ten years, shared a message on the assignment given to all by Christ. Parke communicated that the assignment given to Christians is not attached to a person, a circumstance, or a season; it is simply and clearly to preach Jesus.
Parke based his sermon on Acts 8:26-35 where Philip encountered an Ethiopian man who was trying to understand Scripture but needed to come across someone whose assignment was to tell him about Jesus. Parke paralleled his church planting story with the theme of assignment and testified that although their church was only a church of 250 with little money, he felt the church was called to an assignment to tell the city of Dermott, Arkansas about Christ. They partnered with their local district, the Church Multiplication Network, and the Acts 2 Journey and planted a healthy church in the community. “Assignment is not about building a building or building a budget,” Parke says. “Even though it may seem like a dry, desert season, remember that seasons are not your assignment, it is to be someone who will preach the hope of the Savior,” he said.
John Skipworth, the founding pastor of Oaks Church in Monroe, Louisiana followed Parke. Skipworth communicated a short message which he titled, “It’s 11:59”. The main passage of Skipworth’s sermon was found in Acts 16 which tells the story of Paul and Silas in prison. “Scripture says that the jailhouse miracle happened sometime around midnight,” he says, “but what happened at 11:59 p.m.?” He shared that 11:59 was unreported, boring, and unencouraging. However, he reminded his listeners that Paul and Silas would never have made it to midnight without getting through 11:59 p.m. “You can’t have midnight miracles without sticking-it-out through the eleventh hour,” he said.
Skipworth reminded the audience that God specializes in midnight miracles and showed examples of this in the children of Israel being set free from Egypt, Samson’s miraculous show of strength in Gaza, and Ruth laying at Boaz’s feet all at the midnight hour. Skipworth shared three tips to making it to the midnight miracle: manage memories and stay trusting, learn to harmonize and stay together, and to fulfill the call and stay faithful. “Paul and Silas could have left the jail as soon as they were free but the chose to stay and finish the call,” he said. As he exited the stage, he challenged the audience one last time to finish their call because the world is in its 11:59.
Alberto Bello, lead pastor of church plant, The Collective Church in Bakersville, California, was the third preacher of the evening. He started by sharing fun and relatable memories of childhood Christmases. He recalled being excited for his gifts, especially because they had his name on them, but he knew there was a specific time for them to be opened. “The same is true when it comes to our call,” he says. “The right thing at the wrong time is often a recipe for disaster.” Although God has given believers visions and callings, they can be reached for at the wrong time. Bello went on to say that due to impatience and discontentment, he sees too many people “settling for what’s good instead of waiting for God’s best.” He mentioned the story of the prodigal son and highlighted that the prematurity of the prodigal son’s request caused him to squander his blessing too early. “We often lack the character, maturity, and grit needed to successfully live out the vision God gave us,” said Bellow. He shared that patience is needed as God develops these things in those to whom He has given a special dream but the only way to true contentment is seeking Jesus.
The last of the 10-minute sermons was delivered by Kris Dillard who is the Lead Pastor of Marked Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Dillard challenged the audience to put their faith back in God and reminded them that God is still a mountain moving God as long as believers still have faith in Him. “Whatever you put your faith in is your God,” Dillard stated.
Dillard started his sermon with a memory from his son’s birthday. He explained that his son was thrilled at seeing a gift Dillard and his wife had given to him but, in that moment, God brought to Dillard’s attention how excited he felt to give the gift. The excitement he felt far outweighed the boy’s excitement over the gift. In that moment, he recalled God speaking to him and reminding him how excited God is to give good gifts to His children.
“God wants to bless you,” he said. “but just because you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it isn’t on its way.” Dillard quoted Hebrews 11:1 and stated that faith is the currency of heaven, the only resource you need. “But sometimes our faith is misplaced,” he said. “Storms have a way of diminishing our faith but you don’t have to have strategy, you just have to have faith.” Dillard ended by challenging those at Influence Conference to look at where they had placed their faith, a question he stated was asked by Jesus in Luke 8:25.
Following the four 10-minute speakers, there was a special time to honor Hal Donaldson with the Lifetime Influencer Award. This award is given to those whose lives and ministry have been influential in the AG and who have been exemplary in their service and ministry.
Hal Donaldson, an award-winning journalist, speaker and co-founder of Convoy of Hope, received the Lifetime Influencer Award and was honored for his work with Convoy of Hope and his personal relationships among friends and colleagues. The award was presented by General Superintendent Doug Clay who said of Donaldson, “only eternity will truly reveal the impact of Hal’s life on others.”
In a short video, leaders from the Assemblies of God honored Donaldson and affirmed him and his years of compassion ministry.
After finishing his bachelor’s degree in journalism from San Jose State University and his bachelor’s in biblical studies degree from Bethany University, Donaldson attended Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri.
Donaldson co-founded Convoy of Hope, a faith based humanitarian organization, in 1994. Since its founding, Convoy of Hope has distributed food and supplies to millions of people across the world. A charity assessment organization, Charity Navigator, has given Convoy of Hope a 4-star rating, a rare charity organization achievement.
Upon receiving the award, Donaldson, who was accompanied on stage by his wife, Doree, delivered a quick acceptance speech. He expressed his gratitude for the award and stated that “compassion ministry has no MVPs, only team awards.” Donaldson shared the honor with the staff and volunteers of Convoy of Hope, numerous organizations with which Convoy has partnered in the past, and with his four daughters, Lindsay, Erin-Rae, Lauren, and Haly.
LOWER PHOTO: Hal Donaldson, with wife, Dory, accepts the Lifetime Influencer award.